What Does It Mean to Walk By the Holy Spirit? (Article 20-2)
If you live a Christian life, love is not an option. It is commanded and, it’s a command we can find tough to follow. To love others as we would want to be loved (Matthew 22:39) runs contrary to our natural human inclinations and sometimes feels to be impossible to achieve – that being, we should get up each morning and feel as much concern for others’ needs as our own. Caring for others as we would want to be cared for is hard, indeed, and we may feel hopeless to live it out as a disciple of Christ.
There is Hope. However, we find encouragement and help in knowing how to love in the Book of Galatians. In Galatians 5:16-18, Paul writes that we are not to be led by our flesh, but rather “walk by the Spirit.” Note the careful wording Paul uses when he says “walk by” the Spirit. Walking by the Spirit means to be “led," thus requiring us to yield to, and wait on the Holy Spirit to lead us. See, when our Christian walk seems to get too difficult, God reminds us that we are not to travel the journey alone. We must live by the His Spirit, and not our own human spirit, for if we try to live by our mind, we will indeed fail. In short, we are not to lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5), but rather God’s. In fact, if we even try to love others without relying on God’s Spirit, we will find ourselves addressing our own emptiness, thus running contrary to our call to love others. Therefore our call to love ceases to be love. Even Christ, upon His baptism, was led by the Spirit to confront Satan on the Mount of Temptation. It was by the Holy Spirit’s power, He was able to conquer the temptations of the flesh in preparation for His ministry.
In sum, we must be led (walk by) God’s Spirit, that being the Holy Spirit. And, to do otherwise leads to self-gratification – that being our efforts to satisfy our flesh, which is contrary to God’s will, thus our demise – in scriptural terms, our destruction.
What Do We Gain With the Holy Spirit Leading Us? When we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, God’s spirits are given to us, and they are many. These spirits are the Spirit of the Lord, His love and all that it entails by way of patience, compassion, and forgiveness. We are given the Spirit of Knowledge, that being to have the intellect to know and be aware of our surroundings and those things that exist, both in the visible and invisible realms. God gives us the Spirit of Understanding, which is the interpretation of our knowledge. The Spirit of Wisdom is given to us, which is the application of our understanding of what we know and with it insights to life occurrences and outcomes. God gives us the Spirit of Strength, the ability to experience and endure trials and troubling times with thanks and joy. We are given the Spirit of Counsel, the ability to apply our knowledge, understanding, and wisdom in meaningful ways and in ways that lead us to be active and effective disciples of Christ. Finally, we are given the Spirit of Fear – the knowledge of God’s Holiness and Almightiness and the fear of His absence in our life. If we do not “walk in the Spirit,” we lose the ability to have the Spirits mentioned above in our lives. Now imagine if this was so, what our human existence would be like in their absence. But there is even more to lose by not walking in the Spirit.
How to “Walk By the Spirit?” To “walk by (led by) the Spirit” also means to bear the “Fruits of the Spirit,” which are to have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). But again, we must remember that it is the Spirit’s work that is emphasized, not ours. He bears the fruit, not us. It is the Fruits of the Spirit that bring us to better understand why we must abide in Christ (John 15:4-5) for all things: 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” So, by abiding in Christ, we can assume His Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit.
Summary. Without God's Spirit, we’re incapable of managing our lives, with no hope of ever having the peace, rest, and happiness we seek. So, as “the branch,” stay attached to the vine (Christ) and never allow yourself to be cut away. For if we invite or allow our cutting away from Christ, our loss is great, with the most significant loss being our ability to be one with our Creator and loving Father.