The apostle Paul had a common pattern of discipleship. Once someone got saved, he would lead them through water baptism and teach them about putting off the old man and rising to the new man. Then he would lead them to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit, which usually came after water baptism (If you want to know more about these two subjects see Water Baptism And Baptism in the Holy Spirit). Once the new believer received Holy Spirit, Paul would then teach them how to walk in the Spirit.
Walking in the Spirit is the key to success in the Christian life. It is a foundational teaching that we will never mature out of. In fact, walking in the Holy Spirit is the very process of maturity.
If we desire to grow in holiness, or to walk in love toward others, or to develop our relationship with God, we must learn to walk in the Spirit. Just as Paul says in the letter to the Galatian church.
“Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law..” (Galatians 5:16-25).
But before we go any further in this article I want to establish the differences between the old and new covenant so we can better understand the importance of this teaching.
The Law v. The Spirit Walk
In the old covenant, God’s people lived by the law. In the new covenant, God’s people live by the Spirit. The former gives a list of do’s and do not’s, with no empowerment to accomplish holiness. The latter invokes relationship to empower holiness. This is what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians chapter 3.
“Our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
The “letter” Paul is referring to here is the old covenant. See the very next verse.
“But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?”(2 Corinthians 3:7-8).
Notice that the law is referred to as a minister of death! It’s called this because there is no way to fulfill it in your own strength. Now you may ask the question, “why would God give a law that we cannot fulfill?”
God gave the law to tutor us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law’s purpose is to expose our need for a savior (Romans 3:20). It was never made for us to obey perfectly, but for us to fall on God’s mercy.
But the new covenant is not based upon the letter but upon the Spirit of God. So to walk out this new life in Christ is to walk in the Spirit.
If we walk in the Holy Spirit, He will transform our lives without us striving. This is why it’s called the fruit of the Spirit because He does the transforming work, not us. As 2 Corinthians goes on to say,
“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Living in the Spirit vs. Walking in the Spirit
When the Bible refers to living in the Spirit, it is stating a positional fact about the person who has accepted Christ. It means this person has received eternal life through the new birth and the Holy Spirit lives on the inside of them.
When the Bible refers to walking in the Spirit, it is referring to the act of walking out your salvation through setting your mind on spiritual things and bearing the fruit thereof.
The former has to do with the fact that we received salvation, and the latter has to do with the transformative work of the Holy Spirit now that we are saved.
If you want to know more about this topic you can check out my article on it. It covers the subject much more thoroughly. Living in the Spirit vs. Walking in the Spirit: What is the difference?
What is Walking in the Spirit?
It is simply setting our minds on the things of the Spirit.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:5-6).
In our old life, before Christ, we filled our minds with the things of this world, but now that we have received Christ, we are to fill our minds with His world.
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2).
You may have heard the saying, “don’t be so heavenly-minded that you’re no earthly good”, that saying is not from God. The word of God teaches that you should be so heavenly-minded that you’re earthly incredible.
How to Walk in the Spirit
So how do we do set our mind on the things of the Spirit and not the flesh? Here are some practical tips:
Read the word of God daily.
The word and the Spirit are inseparable. The word of God is inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20-21), and is called the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). Even Jesus said “the words I speak to you are spirit and are life” (John 6:63). If you need help to begin reading the word of God, check out How to Start Reading the Bible.
Talk with the Holy Spirit often.
Paul says to walk in the Spirit. If you were walking with someone down the street somewhere it would be kind of awkward if you didn’t talk to each other. The Holy Spirit is with us all the time, so we should probably stop being awkward. This is why the scripture says, “and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).
Spend time with God in secret prayer.
Jesus told us that when we pray we are to get alone and pray to the Father in the secret place (Matthew 6:6). Spending time every day with God in secret prayer is huge when it comes to walking in the Spirit because it helps us remove distractions in our life and solely focus on God. (Related articles: How to Pray Like Jesus and The Prayer Life of Jesus & How to Pray Like Him) .
Refocus your mind often
There are times when life distracts us and cause thoughts to rise up that are not from Christ. Maybe it’s because work got really busy, the kids are acting wilder than normal, or the tire just flattened as you were running late to an appointment.
Whatever the case may be, for us to keep our minds stayed on the things of the Spirit and not the flesh, we need to learn how to refocus our attention back to the Lord.
The apostle Paul gave us a tip for this in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ“
Paul was using this passage of scripture to explain how he ministers to other people, but the same can be used in how minister to ourselves. Whenever we have a thought rise up that is against the fruit of the Spirit or truth we should cast it down with the only weapon that we have been given, which is the sword of the Spirit; the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
[Related article: 10 Ways to Keep Your Mind Stayed on God]
Have God’s kind of love for the person in front of you
The scriptures reveal that if we will abide in love we will abide in God, for God is love (1 John 4:16). Basically, this is just another way of saying to walk in the Spirit because walking in the Spirit is nothing more than setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. For what can be more spiritual than the love of God? (Related article: How to Walk in Love According to the Bible).
Speak in tongues.
Speaking in tongues is called “praying in the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 14:14-15). If we continually pray in the Spirit throughout our day, it will be easier to be aware of the Spirit in our daily lives. (Related articles: Praying in the Spirit: What it is & How to do it and How to Pray in the Spirit at all times).
Worship the Lord through Song and thanksgiving
We are constantly exhorted throughout the New Testament to give thanks for all things, and to sing to the Lord often.
“Be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-20)
Notice that the apostle Paul gives the command for us to be filled with the Spirit, and then he tells us how we can do this; by singing to the Lord from the heart and by giving thanks always. The more that we are filled with the Spirit, the easier it will be to be aware of Him.
Turn away from sin.
If you want to walk in the Spirit you have to turn away from sin. I left this tip last because if you practice the above tips, it’ll be hard to practice sin.
Walking in the Spirit is so important because it is the way we live this new life that Christ gave to us. If you take anything from this article please take this: the Holy Spirit is a Person, and living life in close fellowship with this Person is walking in the Holy Spirit.