Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part One
Topic: Holy Spirit Passage: Galatians 5:25–5:26
Grace Community Church
Oct. 3, 2021
Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part One
25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Gal. 5:25-26(Pray)
Verse 25 drops us into a bigger conversation that Paul is having with the Galatian church and we’ll be touching on points from that bigger conversation as we go. But Paul begins verse 25 with an indicative: a statement of what’s true. We live by the Spirit.
When Paul says “if we live by the Spirit“ that “if” isn’t questioning whether we live by the Spirit, it’s saying because we do, we should therefore do something else. The NIV translates it since we live by the Spirit. The Christian is spiritually alive because of the Spirt.
The Spirit giving life is a consistent theme in scripture. Last week we saw in Ezekiel 37 that it’s the breath of God (Spirit) that gives the dry bones and dead corpses life. Jesus said we must be born again of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God. It is the power of the Spirit that transforms us from being dead in our sins to being alive to Christ. The Biblical word for going from death to life is regeneration. Titus 3 says,
But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior…Titus 3:4-6
If you are a Christian, there was a point when you went from spiritually dead to spiritually alive. You may not be able to point to an exact day or time, it may have felt like a gradual process to you. I can’t point to the moment when I was saved, I was about 14 years old, but I went from wanting nothing to do with Jesus to trusting in him as my Lord and Savior.
We may not know the moment, but it happened. We were dead in our trespasses but our merciful God made us alive with Christ and He did that by the agency of the Holy Spirit. We live by the Spirit. Praise God for His mercy and kindness!
But Paul reminds us, new life in the Spirit is the beginning, not the end. The Spirit is always moving, and He invites us to join Him: since we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
The Greek word translated “keep in step with the Spirit” means to walk in cadence with
the Spirit. Walking at the same pace, walking in the same direction as the Spirit.
And I want you to notice it’s a command, an imperative. Because we live by the Spirit (that’s what God has done), let us keep in step with the Spirit (what we do). It’s possible to live by the Spirit and be out of step with the Spirit. It’s not automatic, it’s a command we need to obey.
And it’s a new life we are invited to enjoy!
What’s it mean to keep in step with the Spirit? When I was in Bible school one speaker had a cool way of talking about the keeping in step with the Spirit: he would snap his fingers and say, “you’ve got to get into the rhythm of the Spirit.” It was very cool. Obviously memorable, since I remember it to this day. But I’m not sure it helped us know what keeping in step with the Spirit looked like in daily life. What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like to ordinary Christians living ordinary lives?
I’m not saying I fully know, in fact, there’s more I don’t know than I do know. I have a lot to learn, but we are going to drop into that bigger conversation I mentioned and learn from Paul what he means by keeping in step with the Spirit.
What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like when you’re working a boring 9 to 5? Or dealing with a boss who’s out to get you? What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like when your life seems like constantly changing dirty diapers or dealing with an angry teenager? What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like when you’re working through conflict in your marriage? What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like when our lives and values don’t look any different than the person who doesn’t believe in Christ? When our hearts long for something more? What does keeping in step with the Spirit look like in ordinary lives at ordinary moments?
Think direction. Paul constantly contrasts the flesh with the Spirit. Keeping in step with the Spirit will never lead us in the direction of the flesh. Keeping in step with the flesh will never lead us in the direction of the Spirit. The two are opposed to each other and in every Christian’s life there is a constant war going on between what our flesh wants and what the Spirit wants.
- The Spirit leads us to live by faith in His power, not faith in our own strength
The Galatians started out strong. They believed in Jesus, they saw the power of the Spirit at work. They were running the race well. Then Judaizers came in and convinced them to add their own good works to their salvation. Legalism.
Our flesh loves legalism. You’d think the flesh would love the gospel of grace and hate legalism but it doesn’t The idea that we can be good enough to earn God’s approval is actually very attractive to our flesh. If I can be good enough for God by keeping 5 or 10 or whatever number rules, it may be hard, but it’s tangible. It gives me control. And it gives me credit. The flesh loves the credit.
One day some years ago Janice decided to mow our lawn, but she got less than a quarter of it done before she was exhausted. When I got home she was like, how do you do it? It’s so hard to push. I asked, did you throw the lever to engage the self-propelling gears on the mower? She was pushing it totally in her own strength when it had self-propelling power.
Mowing the lawn without throwing the self-propelling gear is legalism. Mowing the lawn with the self-propelling gear engaged is what I call Christian legalism. That’s where the Galatians were at. They weren’t rejecting Christ’s saving work, they were adding to Christ’s saving work. A little help from God, a lot of effort on their part.
Christian legalism sings all the songs of saving grace. Christian legalism preaches that Jesus alone saves…and then sets up a list of rules we need to keep to be right with God. We pride ourselves on all the things we do right. Or we condemn ourselves because of all the things we’re not doing right.
Christian living becomes something we can do with a little help from God.
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Gal. 3:1-3
They received the power and the life of the Spirit not by works but by faith. They were trying to finish the job in the flesh. Perfect what Jesus did by their own efforts.
The Christian life isn’t stagnant, the Spirit is always moving, we are urged to keep in step with Him. So the alternative to trying to live holier by our own efforts isn’t just accepting a life of sin and stagnation. The Spirit has so much more than that for us!
But that life, that abundant life, isn’t something we can get by our own efforts. See, Christian life isn’t mowing our patch of lawn with or without the self-propelling help of God. The Christian life is you mowing every lawn in America in a week. It’s not about effort it’s about amount. The amount of righteousness we can produce compared to the amount of righteousness God requires is the difference between a third of an acre and millions and millions of acres.
We received the gift of eternal salvation and the power of the Spirit by faith in Jesus Christ, we would be foolish to think we can perfect the Christian life in our own strength.
The gospel cadence of the Spirit leads us to put all our faith, all our trust, all our hope in Jesus Christ and none in our flesh. No one can confess Jesus as Lord except by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:3) The Holy Spirit is always shining the light on Jesus and saying “trust him! Believe in him! Depend on him!”
Keeping in step with the Spirit leads us to a day by day, moment by moment trust in Christ and dependence on the Holy Spirit to impart spiritual life, which means that the Spirit leads us in the direction of our weakness, not the direction of our strength. We learn to boast in our weakness knowing that God’s power in us is perfected in weakness. So we are going in the direction of strength and weakness at the same time: keeping in step with the Spirit is moving towards our weakness and God’s strength.
Don’t mistake the weakness the Spirit leads us to for the weakness our flesh leads us to. Our flesh loves to lead us to weakness, as long as that weakness is all about us. Self-pity, whining and complaining, all exhibit weakness, but it’s fleshly weakness.
Keeping in step with the Spirit leads us to recognize our weakness, but He doesn’t park at our weakness. The Spirit is always about forward motion in our lives. He leads us from our weakness to faith. When we’re keeping step with the Spirit weakness doesn’t lead to paralysis, it leads to prayer! Faith releases God’s strength in our lives. So we grow weaker and stronger at the same time.
With eyes of faith we begin to see God working in the ordinary moments of our lives. There’s no formula, life is messy. But we are coming at it from a different direction: the direction of faith. The direction of the Spirit.
When we look at that baby and are overwhelmed with the demands and responsibility of raising and protecting him or her; when we have no idea how to help our angry or hurting teenager; when we’re stuck in a job we hate; when we feel hopeless that our marriage will ever change, or that we’ll ever change, we see those realities but we see more: we see God at work. And we are asking, Spirit, help me keep in step with you in this moment in my life.
What’s Your pace Spirit? What direction are you going in, Spirit? Are you teaching me patience? Are you killing my pride and working humility into the depths of my heart? Are you loosening the grip material things have on my heart so that I treasure Christ more and change my lifestyle to live for his kingdom priorities rather than the priorities of the world?
Brothers and sisters, we live by the Spirit. Let us also keep in step with the Spirit.
Embrace your weakness and let it drive you to God for strength. Embrace your weakness and let it fuel your prayers. Embrace your weakness and let it humble you.
More in Holy Spirit
October 17, 2021Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part Three: Sowing to the Spirit
October 10, 2021Keeping in Step with the Spirit Part Two
September 26, 2021Can These Bones Live? The Resurrection Power of God’s Spirit