Driving around the Calgary ring road is simple, at least going south, but returning on the north route not so much. Two times out of four, I take a wrong exit somewhere and wind up going through most of the middle of the city. My problem is lack of familiarity since I make that trip two times a year at most, not enough for me to automatically know where I am going.
Walking with Christ is like that. In the beginning, the route seems clear, but taking a wrong turn was far easier than I first realized. Now, after many years of becoming familiar with the way, I know what it looks like and am more quickly aware when I drift off on some other trail. The following passage of Scripture has become a road map for me . . .
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16–25)
For instance, if impure thoughts enter my head, or I am jealous of someone, I know that I’m either on the edge of a slippery slope or already walking in the flesh (taking my own route).
The Bible has several lists like this one. Some include gossip, slander, lying, self-indulgence, selfish ambition — enough to cover most of the sins that I now know the Holy Spirit would never initiate. They all come from my old nature and are prompted by temptations from the world, the flesh and the devil.
In the above passage, the second list is what the Holy Spirit produces. If these qualities are in my life, I know I am on the right track. I might not have a clue what comes next, but God will give me the right attitude to keep my hand in His and do whatever that situation might require. This is called ‘walking in the Spirit’ but it is also described in other ways. Galatians 6 expands on the idea of fruitfulness by depicting a sower of seed.
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:7–10)
If I sow the seed of spiritual fruit, then my life displays the stuff of eternal life, the fruit of the Spirit, the things that please God. This is evidence that I’m walking on the right path, walking with Jesus and not going my own way.
If I sow the stuff of the flesh, all that is will come from that is called “corruption” — a word that describes decomposition, rottenness, stuff that will not last forever but is separated from God and dead to Him. In other words, these verses DO NOT describe eternal life as something I make happen, but something that God produces in me — and it becomes evident when I am filled with the Holy Spirit and walking on the right path. Then I am like a sower of good seed and out of that comes the fruits of eternal life, something I already have in Christ, but must walk in to make it appear and grow.
The best part is that when that happens, I don’t need to think about it or work at it. I go along in life with His love and joy, alert to His voice and alert to any danger of going off the path.
Jesus, walking with You is delightful. I know that when that delight is replaced by worry, grumbling, anger, or any other fleshy stuff, then I have strayed off the path. I also know that if I confess it, You refill me with Your Spirit and bring me right back to where You want me to be. This is a walk of faith not sight. I am to keep my thoughts on You and not myself, yet have the mirrors of Your Word and You to show me when I get lost. You call me by grace into forgiveness and point the way so I can get back on track where I belong.