This is the third part of a short series on Passionate Spirituality. In yesterday’s post, I began looking at Galatians 5:16-25, a passage that identifies passionate spirituality as life in the Spirit of God. When we live in the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit grows in our life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 5:22-23).
How Do We Live in the Spirit?
This sounds great, doesn’t it? Which of us wouldn’t like to be more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient, and so forth? This is spirituality we could be passionate about. So, then, how do we live and keep on living in the Spirit?
Paul gives us a couple of clues in Galatians 5. In verse 18 we read, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law.” “If you are led by the Spirit . . . .” Here we see that the Spirit of God leads us, giving us directions for living, pointing us in God’s way.
In this sense, the Holy Spirit is a little like those newfangled GPS devices that are becoming so popular. How many of you have a GPS device? Maybe a Garmin or a Magellan or whatever came with your new car? When we went back to California last Christmas, a friend loaned me his car, and it had a GPS device. What a wonder! I could see exactly where I was located on a little map in a screen on the dashboard. If I wanted to go somewhere, I could enter the address and, voilà, the GPS device would guide me. It would even tell me in words where to go: “In one-quarter mile, turn right. Go straight for three miles.” I could touch a button and all the gas stations would miraculously appear on the little screen, or the McDonalds, or the Starbucks. (I don’t think they had a button for the Presbyterian churches, however. They have to work on that.)
I found it quite entertaining to have that GPS device in the car . . . but also quite dangerous. I kept wanting to watch the little screen rather than the road. And, no matter how sophisticated a GPS device is, it isn’t able to say, “Watch out! You’re about to hit that man 50 feet in front of you!” I don’t have my own GPS device yet, which is probably good news for those of you who live in Boerne.
When we become a Christian, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit, who is a little like a GPS device. As we pay attention to the Spirit, we receive divine guidance for our actions. This happens in many ways. Maybe you read the Bible and are convicted to forgive somebody against whom you’ve held a grudge. Or you’re listening to a sermon on generosity and are led to help out a friend who’s struggling financially. Or perhaps you see somebody across the room at church and sense in your spirit that God wants you to reach out to that person. Or maybe the Holy Spirit puts a burden on your heart for starving children in Africa. Or . . . you name it.
Be Guided by the Spirit
Another verse in Galatians 5 gives us further insight into how we can live in the Spirit each day. Verse 25 reads, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” The phrase “be guided by the Spirit” suggests something similar to what we’ve already seen about being led by the Spirit. The verb translated here as “be guided” is used elsewhere in Paul’s letters in the sense of “walking in the footsteps of” someone (Rom 4:12). The picture is of the Holy Spirit walking ahead of us, and our following close behind, imitating the Spirit’s steps.
Children do this sort of thing on the beach. You’ll see a dad walking across the sand, leaving large footprints as he walks. Then, several feet behind, a little boy will be following along, stretching his legs in order to put his feet in the footprints of his daddy. Similarly, we can be led by the Holy Spirit, who shows us where to step, helping us to walk in God’s ways each day.
If you want to experience this kind of genuine Spirituality, this life in the Spirit of God, you must begin by putting your faith in Jesus Christ. Trust Jesus as your Lord and Savior, and His Spirit comes to dwell within you.
Then, with the very Spirit of God resident in your heart, you can learn to attend to the Spirit’s voice. The Spirit speaks to us primarily through the Spirit-inspired Scripture. That’s why we study the Bible. That’s why we use Scripture as a basis for preaching, for teaching, and for directing our life as a church. The Spirit also speaks in the community of God’s people as we all use the gifts given to us by the Spirit. The Spirit also speaks in our hearts: urging, leading, prompting, challenging. Sometimes the Spirit’s guidance comes in the form of a thought. Sometimes it’s a powerful emotion, perhaps compassion for someone in pain or concern for a friend who’s facing difficult challenges at work.
So, then, Christian spirituality is life in the Holy Spirit. But how is this passionate spirituality? In answer this question in my next post.