Walk by the Spirit
Open Your Bible
Galatians 5:1-26, Romans 8:5-17, Micah 6:8, 1 Corinthians 12:1-11
BY Jen Yokel
Chances are that at some point in your life you’ve heard a well-meaning parent, teacher, or leader say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” Terrible advice, if you think about it. We are social beings, imitators. We learn every aspect of our lives by watching those around us. We intuitively understand that a better way lies in another overused phrase: “Practice what you preach.”
Following Jesus means a lifetime invitation to not just do what He said, but live as He lived. But how can twenty-first-century believers imitate a first-century rabbi?
Paul’s letters show us how the early Church navigated these questions just a few decades removed from Jesus’s ministry, death, and resurrection. Galatians was written, in part, to address the issue of rites and rituals to a church who had become divided over the role of the law in salvation. Paul offers this: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Trusting and walking with the Spirit offers freedom. It also makes things a little more complicated.
Instead of chasing shifting norms with an “in or out” mindset, life in the Spirit is a multi-faceted, intuitive path. One Spirit gives “different gifts” for the common good—wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, and discernment, to name a few (1Corinthians 12:4–11) It seems that in God’s wisdom He both gives a variety of gifts as well as incorporates a diversity of personalities, cultures, and styles for worship in His global family. But within this diversity, how do we discern what is actually from the Spirit when some things clearly are not?
Once again, the natural world has a lot to teach us through flowering, fruitful trees—“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Just as an apple tree produces apples, a person rooted in the Spirit produces life and goodness. As the Old Testament prophet Micah asserts, it’s not meticulous rule-keeping God is after, but instead for us “to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
If the Holy Spirit is living in you and me, then we can trust we have everything we need. Sure, there are times when we need to lean on our trusted community to help us discern or humbly receive challenges and critique. Of course, we need to grow our wisdom to recognize rotten fruit, even if it appears to come from someone who claims the same Spirit. And we will need grace, too, for people who think, pray, worship and serve differently from us.
It’s freeing and difficult, and we will not get it right one hundred percent of the time. But thankfully, we never have to walk alone.