Living by the Spirit

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Part of the package when we become Christians is that the Holy Spirit comes and lives inside us. To put it another way, Jesus lives in us by the Spirit.

We could reasonably expect that having the creator and ruler of the universe making his home in us might open up some new possibilities. After organising a jail break, an angel told the apostles, “Go, stand in the temple courts and tell the people the full message of this new life” (Acts 5:20).

A whole new way of life has been made available that we didn’t have access to before. Paul calls it “living by the Spirit,” “being led by the Spirit” or “walking by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16-25, Romans 8:5-14).

There are many examples in Acts where people are prompted by the Spirit to say or do something (Acts 8:29, 8:39, 10:19, 13:4, 16:6, 20:22). But living by the Spirit has a deeper meaning than listening for God’s voice, as valuable as that is.

Paul contrasts living by the Spirit with living by the flesh (sometimes translated “sinful nature”). The flesh is what people have without God: human perspective and human power. This perspective is highly flawed; without God, people are “darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18). And without God’s power to draw on, mere human resources are severely limited.

Spirit is the opposite of flesh: God’s perspective and God’s power. His point of view about reality, ourselves and the issues of life are diametrically opposite to the world’s view. And unlike man’s limited resources, God’s power is infinite (see Ephesians 1:18-19).

So living by the Spirit means getting God’s perspective – renewing our minds (Romans 12:2), thinking on helpful things (Philippians 4:8) and focusing on what lasts forever more than on temporary things (2 Corinthians 4:18) – and depending on God’s power: “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5); “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13).

For reflection:

Grace is not an impersonal force or power, it is God himself coming alongside and helping us. Or from another angle, it is Jesus living his life in and through us:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20)

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