Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:25 (NIV)
Since I grew up in a time when we just did not talk about the Spirit except to fill out the Trinity—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—I was quite surprised when I finally learned what it meant to keep in step with him. I have a vivid memory of the day when I was deeply changed by his power for the first time. That day I stopped being an angry man. Let me be clear, the Spirit’s presence and his work in me were not because I was special. His empowering presence is in every believer because God made it part of the covenant He gave us through Jesus.
John the Baptizer had made such a stir among the Jews that the politically powerful sent out a delegation to check him out to see if he had Messiah credentials. He quickly shot down their mission by denying he was any of the following: 1) the Messiah; 2) Elijah; or 3) the Prophet (which refers to Moses’ prediction in Deuteronomy 18 about a prophet like him showing up when God needed to speak to Israel). Instead, John made a clear distinction between his ministry to prepare the way and the One he was preparing the way for. “I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 1:8)
The living presence of the Spirit is what distinguishes the New Covenant through Jesus from the Old Covenant given through Moses. If you do not have the Spirit, you do not belong to Jesus (Romans 8:9).
So let’s dive deeper into what it means to keep in step with the Spirit.
Have you ever seen a mother dragging her child to where he needs to go? I have. The little guy was certain he had no interest in leaving the mall, but his mom had other plans. So he did what all children try to do when they want their own way. He went limp. I suppose he expected his weight would defeat his mom’s strength. But she kept heading for the exit, his body in tow—every now and then pulling him back up to his feet, after which he promptly went limp again. But despite his best resistance, he ended up in the car on his way home. Why? —Because regardless of his cooperation, he was being led to where he needed to go.
Why did his mom do this? Well, foremost, because his life belonged to her. He was her precious son regardless of his tantrum. Looking after his best interest was an expression of her love for him, even though he was not necessarily feeling the love as he was dragged along. But for the mom, abandonment would be the loss or even the death of her child. She loved him too much (and was bigger than him, too) to let him destroy his life by having his own way.
The picture I just shared is contained in Paul’s counsel. Keeping in step with the Spirit is our choice because we already live in the Spirit. The Spirit living in us started the day we put our faith in Jesus, the cross and the resurrection. We belong. God has come to live in us. That is settled for eternity.
But you have a choice whether or not you are going to cooperate with the Spirit. You can go willingly, trusting that where he is leading you is best. Or you can flop down, dig in your heels and resist every step of the way. But you are going where the Spirit is taking you no matter what. Maybe a little more bruised and dusty because of the way you choose to respond, but God will not let go of you.
As I mentioned in another blog months ago, being led by the Spirit can be likened to a train engine. Every car attached to it will go to the destination it is heading because it has the power to get them there. You have been hitched to a powerful engine. Your choice is no longer where you are going, but how you will go. Go willingly. Go humbly. Go thankfully. And when you get there, you will find that you have become the person God created you to be.