Practical Christianity: Walking in the spirit – Femi Aribisala
By Femi Aribisala
What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit?” The very idea is bound to be puzzling to “Nicodemus Christians.” When told of the imperative to be “born again,” Nicodemus asks: “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4).
Similarly, how can a man of flesh walk in the Spirit?
God with us
Man has always lived in God. Moses says: “LORD, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. (Psalm 90:1). Paul reiterates this: “In (God) we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28). However, we did not know this because God is spirit and, since Adam, man has been spiritually dead.
But all this changed with the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, which re-ignited spiritual man.
“This mystery has been kept in the dark for a long time, but now it’s out in the open. God wanted everyone, not just Jews, to know this rich and glorious secret inside and out, regardless of their background, regardless of their religious standing. The mystery in a nutshell is just this: Christ is in you; therefore, you can look forward to sharing in God’s glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27).
Accordingly, the man who receives Christ as Lord and Saviour develops a consciousness of God. God becomes a living reality in his life. When this happens, God’s Holy Spirit comes to dwell in his heart. He literally takes up residence in his life. As a result, like the Prodigal Son, he is back where he belongs: at home with God.
“Now you are no longer strangers to God and foreigners to heaven, but you are members of God’s very own family, citizens of God’s country, and you belong in God’s household with every other Christian.” (Ephesians 2:19).
You are born again and can now see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3). You can now see clearly the invisible attributes of God. (Romans 1:20). You become mindful of the things of God, as opposed to the things of men. (Matthew 16:23). You now realise you are living with Immanuel, who is “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23).
Walking in the Spirit
The bible makes a distinction between “living in the Spirit” and “walking in the Spirit.” The difference is similar to that between living with someone but not going out with him, and living with someone and always going everywhere with him. Paul prescribes the latter: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25). Of course, before you can walk in the Holy Spirit, you have to live in the Holy Spirit.
Once the Holy Spirit moves in, he never leaves, but he is such a gentle Spirit that, if we don’t make a point of always interacting with him, he remains silent and we might easily lose consciousness of him. The bible says, in effect, always be aware that God is with you at all times. Involve him in every aspect of your life. Seek his counsel, his protection and his guidance in everything you do.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6).
The bible talks of “walking in the Spirit” because walking is progressive. You are going somewhere. It is an educational journey. There is going to be lots of adventure along the way.
Amos asks: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). The answer is “No!” If you are to walk in the Holy Spirit, then you would have to be in agreement with him. You have to walk in the ways of God. You have to walk in the light of his word. You have to make his word a lamp to your feet and a light to your path. (Psalm 119:105).
Can two walk together unless they are going, at the very least, in the same direction? Again the answer is “No!” God is the destination; he is the Promised Land. Therefore, Jesus must be “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through (him).” (John 14:6).
Mystery of the atonement
Who is Jesus?
John says Jesus was God: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1). If Jesus was God, then Jesus is God: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).
Is Jesus God the Son or is he God the Father? Isaiah says the Son is the Father and the Father is the Son. He says unto us a child is born but this child is also the mighty God. Unto us a son is given but this son is also the everlasting Father. (Isaiah 9:6). Where does God the Father begin and God the Son end? Great is the mystery of godliness. (1 Timothy 3:16). Both the Father and the Son are “the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 1:8).
Jesus says to Phillip: “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I say are not my own but are from my Father who lives in me. And he does his work through me. Just believe it- that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” (John 14:10-11).
At one with God
If Jesus and the Father are one, the same principle applies to Jesus and the believer. Jesus says: “When I come back to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. (John 14:20). In his prayer for the unity of present and future believers, Jesus asks God that: “they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father- that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us.” (John 17:21).
In effect, the atonement means the Holy Spirit makes us one with God. Therefore, the believer is enjoined to lose his self-consciousness and to replace this with a God consciousness; so much so that: “Whatsoever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Colossians 3:17).
When we do this, we find that the Holy Spirit silently overshadows us, with the result that we no longer know where we end and where God begins. David was so focused on God that the psalms he wrote expressed the very sentiments of Jesus: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why do you refuse to help me or even to listen to my groans? (Psalm 22:1).
Paul just wrote letters to Timothy, Titus and Philemon; and yet his letters became canons of scripture. John wrote private letters to a chosen lady, and yet the letters became the word of God. In effect, these men had so walked with God you could no longer distinguish where Christ ended and they began. They understood the inheritance of the atonement and were now at one with Christ and with God.