In session 7, we discussed why a reverent perspective toward God is so important for our growth in holiness. This week we’ll explore what it means to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, NASB). Our progress in integrity is directly related to the degree to which we learn to submit to and depend on the Holy Spirit.
Walking by the Spirit affects our ability to avoid the seven deadly sins. When we walk by the Spirit, we cannot simultaneously walk in sin. But walking by the Spirit leads to more than avoidance of sin; it leads to a godly life. In this session we will remember that in order to walk by the Spirit, we must see Him as a Person to whom we relate rather than as a lofty concept of goodness and power. In order to walk by the Spirit, we must orient our lives around Him.
- Individual Aim: To explore what it means to walk by the Spirit in everyday life.
- Group Aim: To discuss the challenges that each group member faces in walking by the Spirit and to gain insights from one another about how to rely on the Spirit more fully.
Read Session 8: Spirit.
Complete Biblical Exercise: John 15 and 16 beginning on page 55.
In his article “Who’s Afraid of the Holy Spirit?” Daniel Wallace tells a story that made him profoundly aware of his need for a vital relationship with the Spirit of God. Dr. Wallace is a highly respected professor in the New Testament department at Dallas Theological Seminary. His Greek grammar textbook is used worldwide. In 1992, Dr. Wallace’s eight-year-old son, Andy, was diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma, a dangerous form of kidney cancer rarely found in children. In the midst of his pain and fear, Dr. Wallace sought solace in his faith, only to find that it had become what he calls “Christianity from the neck up.” He writes,
Through this experience I found that the Bible was not adequate. I needed God in a personal way—not as an object of my study, but as friend, guide, and comforter. I needed an existential experience of the Holy One. Quite frankly, I found that the Bible was not the answer. I found the Scriptures to be helpful—even authoritatively helpful—as a guide. But without my feeling God, the Bible gave me little solace....I believe that I had depersonalized God so much that when I really needed him, I didn’t know how to relate.
In describing his own experience, Dr. Wallace has identified a challenge that we all face. We easily allow God to become the subject of our study, a fascinating topic of theoretical investigation, but not the personal Lord to whom we are subject and on whom we are dependent. In the same way, we acquire head knowledge of the third person of the Trinity without experiencing heart connection with the Spirit who comforts us in our sorrow, guides us in our confusion, and enables us in our struggle against the flesh.
Learning to live the spiritual life requires that we move beyond a merely cerebral form of Christianity into a dynamic relationship with the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately for us, there is no simple formula for learning life in the Spirit. In our quest to become people of integrity, people whose lives are characterized by single-hearted devotion and fear of the Lord, we don’t have a concrete set of instructions to follow. Rather, Paul gave us a simple admonition: “Walk by the Spirit.”
In session 3, we examined how the flesh manifests itself in our lives. We saw that Paul identified an ongoing and ever-present struggle between the flesh and the Spirit. When he told the Galatians, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16, NASB), Paul indicated that these two are polar opposites.
If the life of the flesh is “the outlook oriented toward the self,” then we can understand the life of the Spirit as “the outlook oriented toward the Spirit.” If the life of the flesh is “that which pursues its own ends in self-sufficient independence of God,” then the life of the Spirit is “that which pursues God’s ends in complete dependence on the Spirit.” Scot McKnight explains further:
In general, we see something fundamentally important here as to how Paul depicts the Christian life. It is life in the Spirit, the life of a person who is surrendered to letting the Spirit have complete control. But we see here also that one does not gain this life by discipline or by mustering up the energy. One does not huddle with oneself in the morning, gather together his or her forces, and charge onto the battlefield of life full of self-determined direction. Rather, the Christian life is a life of complete surrender to the Spirit.
Read John 15:1-17; 16:5-16. Also, review “A Method for the Biblical Exercises” beginning on page 15.
Observation — “What Do I See?”
1. Who are the persons (including God) in the passage? What is the condition of those persons?
2. What subjects did Jesus (as well as the author, John) discuss in the passage? What did Jesus and John assert?
3. Note the sequence in which Jesus made these assertions. (You might number them in order.)
4. What did Jesus emphasize? Are there repeated ideas and themes? How are the various parts related?
5. Why did Jesus say what He said? (How did He expect His audience to change after hearing it?)
Interpretation Phase 1—“What Did It Mean Then?”
1. Coming to Terms —Are there any words in the passage that you don’t understand? Write down anything you found confusing about the passage.
2. Finding Where It Fits —What clues does the Bible give about the meaning of this passage?
- Immediate Context (the passage being studied)
- Remote Context (passages that come before and after the one being studied)
3. Getting into Their Sandals—An Exercise in Imagination
- What are the main points of this passage? Summarize or write an outline of it.
- What do you think the apostles were supposed to take from this teaching of Christ? How did Jesus want this teaching to affect their thoughts and actions?
Interpretation Phase 2—“What Does It Mean Now?”
1. What is the timeless truth in the passage? In one or two sentences, write down what you learned about God from John 15 and 16.
2. How does that truth work today?
Application — “What Can I Do to Make This Truth Real?”
1. What can I do to make this truth real for myself?
2. For my family?
3. For my friends?
4. For the people who live near me?
5. For the rest of the world?
Read Session 9: Spiritual Disciplines.
Complete the Life Change: Spiritual Disciplines exercise beginning on page 99.