Without the Holy Spirit, it’s impossible to be a Christian. We know that faith in Christ is the non-negotiable means for salvation. Similarly, faith in the indwelling of the Holy Spirit as the essential provision for sanctification, is required. However, if having the Holy Spirit was all that was required, much of the New Testament would be redundant. How do I keep in step with the Spirit? Paul explains, in Galatians 6.
Key Verse:If we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25.
There’s a story about a man who was shovelling snow from his driveway when two boys carrying snow shovels approached him:
“Shovel your now, Mister?” one of them asked. “Only two dollars!”
Puzzled, the man replied, “Can’t you see that I’m doing it myself?”
“Sure,” said the enterprising boys; “that’s why we asked. We get most of our business from people who are half through and feel like quitting.”
In the same way, when it comes to this faith journey, how often do you feel like quitting? How often do you feel like finding some other way? Me too!
We’ve spent 6 weeks talking about faith vs. law. Paul has drilled this into us; if we believe that Christ is Lord; that He died in our place to make atonement for our sins; if we confess Him with our mouths, and repent with our hearts, we WILL be saved! You can’t earn it. I don’t deserve it. There’s no ‘magic’ formula. There is only one means by which we are justified; by faith in Christ.
Taking that into account, if you have truly accepted Christ as your Lord and Saviour, you are off to a good start! However, the race, as Paul so often refers to this faith-life, has just begun. Friend, you and I can start well and never make it across the finish line! (Read Matthew 13).
Since we live by the Spirit
Jesus had been the disciples’ constant companion. Through Him, the disciples had grown in knowledge and understanding of God and His kingdom. Jesus had taught, encouraged, and rebuked these boys. He provided for them physically, too. They had everything they needed.
So, you can image their confusion. As Jesus explained the plan of the cross to His disciples, they grew afraid. Why would Jesus leave them now? What would become of this ministry? How could they carry on without their Leader?
- 1. But I tell you the truth, it is for _________ benefit that I am going away [to Heaven]…
2. How did Jesus reassure His 12 men?
3. What was the benefit that would come from Christ’s death (refer to John 16:7 in your Bible)?
3. Who was to receive this benefit?
4. When you think of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, do you feel confident that you have everything you need? In prayer form, explain your answer in your journal.
In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” If we think of “life” only in the physical, we get it dead-wrong!
Read Genesis 2:7
Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. NKJV.
- 1. What was step 1 in forming man?
2. Having explained the structure and process of man’s created body, what was the next step?
3. At which point did man come alive?
The LORD God, in this verse, refers to plural in number. Elohim! Jesus spoke. God formed. Spirit breathed. The entire Trinity was involved in the intricate, “life-making” of mankind. I’m humbled to think that all of the rest of creation was spoken into existence, but when Elohim formed man, it was all hands on deck.
- 4. Who made man, according to Job 33:4?
The “life” Job refers to in this verse is the spirit-life.
With this in mind, the Holy Spirit’s first order of business is to breathe new life into those who were dead in their trespasses. We see an illustration of this in John 20:22. Jesus breathed on the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit.
As promised, the Holy Spirit was received by the disciples and, subsequently, by the Galatians. The Galatians heard the gospel and believed in Christ. Christ and the Holy Spirit. A packaged deal!
Having begun by the Spirit
In the same way, you and I are born again. At the time we are justified by faith in Christ, we receive the Holy Spirit. There’s no other means. No magic formula exists. Just as Christ is the necessary Person for justification, the Holy Spirit is necessary Agent for the sanctification of all Christians. You don’t get one without the other, you get both!
What is the Spirit’s role?
One of the Holy Spirit’s primary responsibilities is give new life. By the breath of the Spirit, we are made alive. Having begun by the Spirit, we can not continue in the flesh.
If receiving the Holy Spirit was the end goal, we could sit with our feet up until Jesus returned. Yet, just as a baby’s first breath does not guarantee future life, the indwelling of the Spirit neither automatically or inevitably determines future “life” for the Christian. The Spirit is the enabling power, but the Christian must choose to keep on living.
My grandfather used to say, “the surgery went well, too bad the guy died anyway.” It was a random saying that never quite fit the topic of conversation. I can’t help but wonder, however, if God has a similar thought. Do His children seem full of life, or near death? Does God say, “I gave them my living Spirit, too bad they still act as if dead!”
Re-formed by the Spirit
- 1. From this verse, list four promises given to all new believers.
Nothing deadens the Christian’s soul quite like continuing to walk in the flesh. Friend, our human will needs to be crucified. We need a heart transplant. The desires of the flesh are counter-will to the desires of the Spirit and that goes nowhere good.
Death to Self
To put it differently, the hard work we must all do is the hard-work-of-the-soul.
1 Peter 3:18
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
- 1. From that verse, what was the two-fold purpose of Christ’s death?
2. For whom did Christ die?
3. The “unjust” are those yet not saved. The “just” includes those who have been redeemed by His blood, but are not yet safely home. In other words, Christ’s blood is still working on our behalf, even after we have been born again.
4. What is being put to death?
The flesh! The human nature of mankind must be crucified. It is that nature that displeases the LORD.
- 5. Again, how are we made alive?
The visible works of the flesh
Though not an exhaustive list, make a note of the “obvious” soul-killing fleshly behaviours. Please! I urge you! Do NOT ignore, or skim read this section. You and I are doing this study, not all the others we might think need to hear this. God has chosen to speak to you and me, at this time!
- 1. From this list, which fleshly-practices are you most tempted make provisions for, or to rationalize?
2. What warning did Paul issue to the Galatians regarding these behaviours?
3. In a non-law-keeping way, how important is it to follow in obedience?
4. Are you ready to nail your sin(s) to the cross?
My friend, the Holy Spirit stands ready. He is more than able to put to death the old and bring to life the new. The choice belongs to you.
The overwhelming evidence of new life
Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control. My heart longs for THIS freedom! How ’bout you? The new nature stands totally apart from the law. You can’t enforce it, nor can you muster up enough will power. How would you have the means to produce this fruit? It’s the by-products of our relinquished human nature. Only a heart fully submitted to God yields such beautiful fruit. My friend, the Holy Spirit is able. Will you trust Him?
In step with the Spirit
What qualities or gifts come to your mind when you think of those who are Spirit-led? Do you think of the Spiritual icons in recent past? Maybe C.S. Lewis, A.W. Tozer, or Billy Graham? Is it certain spiritual gifts put into effect, like when the early Apostles were able to heal, restore, and drive out demons? Those are, for sure, some examples. However, we are not all equipped and gifted in such a public way.
One thing is for sure, we are each called to live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led life, daily! What does that look like for the common Christina? On a practical level, Paul gives us a snap-shot for personal application.
- 1. According to verse 2, how does the Spirit-led person react to the sin of other brothers and sisters?
a) Turn a blind eye. b) Get advice from others.
c) Just keep praying for them. d) Come alongside and provide Biblical support.
NOTE: the word “caught” implies a foreseeing of the danger, by someone spiritual. Those who are spiritual foresee that a brother or sister in Christ is about to be overtaken by sin. It does not imply someone being caught in the act of sin.
- 3. Who is the “you who are Spiritual” referring to, in this passage?
a). The Church Pastor. b). A small group leader. c). You.
4. What is the end goal in confronting those who are entangled in a sinful lifestyle (end of first sentence in verse 1)?
5. In what manner are we to address the seriousness of the situation (verse 1)?
6. Why do you suppose Paul gave the warning, “but watch yourself? (verse 1)
Out of step
Recently, a local family lost a daughter to drug-overdose. It was heartbreaking. Shortly after her death, a woman approached a grieving family member. She expressed her condolences, for which he was grateful. Until, however, the closed with these words; “but you know, that’s what happens when…” Her comment was cold-hearted, arrogant, and completely unhelpful.
In the same way, too often we are quick to judge those who are stuck in sinful patterns. Galatians 6:1 refers to obvious behaviours such as are listed in Galatians 5:19; alternative-lifestyle choices, drinking parties, overconsumption of alcohol, sexual promiscuity, swearing, witchcraft etc.
We tend to forget that we are all still caught in our own secret-sins of the heart. Sure, ours sins are less visible. However, those that lie deep, in the dark recess of our hearts; selfish ambition, envy, idolatry, un-forgiveness and the like, are no less grievous to the Lord.
Reflect on the state of the present cultural and global issues.
- 1. What issues drive you crazy – the most?
2. Do you ever make comparisons between the way you would do things and the way they are currently being done by others?
3. Ever congratulate yourself for not being like “them”?
We are all prone to self-righteous indignation. It’s our human nature. The moment we begin to think, “I would never…” or, “how could they…”, we have forgotten the law of Christ. He carried our burdens (our sin and shame) on the cross, gently restoring us! Are we not called to do the same for others?
How do I stay in step with the Spirit?
Martin Luther said, “the difficult work of burden bearing requires that a Christian have broad shoulders and husky bones because the burden of another’s sin isn’t easy to carry. It’s not for the weak and half-hearted, but for the spiritually strong and mature.”
Having begun by the Spirit, we must live by the Sprit. Living by the Spirit, we must keep in step with the Spirit. It’s not easy. It’s not best. It’s the only way.
Paul begins to close his letter to the Galatians with a strong warning: Do not be deceived, God can not be mocked… Then he follows it up with this promise: all who live by the Spirit will reap a harvest. Friend, don’t become weary in doing good. At the proper time, you WILL reap your reward.
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