Walking by the Spirit means that life is lived in total reliance on Holy Spirit to guide our choices, empower our actions and transform our hearts.
Understanding What Is Meant
In Romans, Paul sets walking by the Spirit in contrast to walking by the flesh (gratifying our own natural desires and impulses) and walking by the law (trying to follow God by sticking to an external code).
There is real transformation available to Christians, but it does not come from a ‘try harder by your own strength’ mentality but rather by total reliance on the Holy Spirt in all of life: living by his strength, seeking his guidance and following his lead. As we live this way, there is a power to see real transformation and breakthrough in lives that are otherwise stuck. The power of the flesh is broken and the grip of the law is loosened as we live lives of freedom and joy guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In Galatians 5:16-26, Paul again gives the instruction to walk by the Spirit and contrasts the ‘works of the flesh’ with the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ – this is the kind of character that comes about through walking by the Spirit. It is important to note that this is not a passive thing on our part, but that we must keep in step with the Spirit in order to see this fruit.
In the words of John Piper, “‘Walk by the Spirit’ means do what you do each day by the Spirit; live your life in all its details from waking up in the morning until going to sleep at night by the enabling power of the Spirit.”
In particular, we want to encourage people to grow in three practices for walking by the Spirit:
- Listen to the Spirit – Both in extended times of focussed prayer and regularly through the day, to learn to discern the voice of the Spirit and understand his leadings.
- Rely on the Spirit – In all activities of life to recognise the need for the Holy Spirit’s help, to ask for his empowering enablement and to engage in those activities with trust in him.
- Obey the Spirit – To be ready to follow the promptings of the Spirit as he guides us and speaks to us in life.