The Most Neglected Doctrine – Walking in the Spirit

You haven’t heard of it? That’s because it is more than a doctrine,* it is an experience! That is, it is TOTALLY not understandable intellectually. And there is a HUGE difference between intellectual and experiential. The intellect cannot perceive it, because it is not something that can be known. Therefore, science would reject it, because it is not earthly.

Spirit-walking is not something discoverable, as if it is visible to the naked eye. Do you remember Paul stating, “Eye has not seen,” “spiritual things are spiritually discerned,” and, “we walk by faith, not by sight”? Thus, walking in the Spirit comes by revelation from the Spirit. It requires a very particular FAITH FOCUS. Spirit-walking follows the New Birth. The only way to be reborn is to die. Now, am I stating something you did not already know? It is humanly impossible to die and be reborn!!!

I can assure you from personal experience, I attempted to seek a different, out-of-this-world, experience through certain religious strategies; such as, more spiritual solitude, memorizing Scripture, praying all night, fasting, dying to self. I could list the practice of every spiritual discipline, yet it does not lead to walking in the Spirit. In Colossians 2:20, 21, Paul asks, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? After asking this question, Paul states, “These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence” (Colossians 2:22, 23). Dying to self is a wonderful spiritual discipline, but it does not lead to Spirit-walking–it follows it. As Watchman Nee said, “Dying to our sinful nature takes but a moment. Dying to self takes a lifetime.”

Paul said, “I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” This is ALL that matters!!! Consider all of the so-called great religions of the world. All of them have common ground; that is, rules to abide by if you wish to belong to their particular religious brand. Such rules, or as they choose to refer to them as beliefs, only make one more committed to that particular denomination, but they do not help at all to escape the shackles of sin. Seventh-day Adventist’s believe their unique identity, the Sabbath, sets them apart from the rest of society, and makes them more special to God. However, a day doesn’t make anyone holier or contribute to a more consistent walking in the Spirit! I can tell you from personal experience, rules, such as the Sabbath, only guarantees that Spirit-walking will not happen! Jesus put it this way, “You hypocrites, teachers of the law and religious practitioners! You travel far and wide to recruit a single follower, and when you do, you make that person twice as fit for hell as you are.” Jesus is talking to you and me, because many of us have gone to foreign lands on mission trips to convince the natives that we have the right brand of religion.

Paul, having been raised in Judaism, speaks of his people as having a veil that prevents them from seeing the truth. “But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only IN Christ is it taken away. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away” (2 Corinthians 3:14, 16). Unfortunately, religion generally functions as a veil—or we may prefer the term, filter—but it prevents us from understanding the spiritual reality that is in Christ. Notice how ONLY the veil can be removed: “in Christ.” This term is pregnant with meaning, as it is far more than just a preposition and noun. The negro spiritual, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord?”, encapsulates what it means to be in Christ. In Christ means to be crucified with Him (see Galatians 2:20)! Christians often speak of Jesus as our Substitute. He was more than our Substitute, since His sacrifice was inclusive—we died with Him! Until we realize, by faith, the inclusive fact of the Cross, our religion will remain a very frustrated, up-and-down, experience. That is because our religion, our striving to be good, can only come to an end at Calvary. As Andrew Murray once said, “If we are doing something, then God cannot do everything.”

*Doctrine – The word doctrine is not a biblical word. It came into being through the Catholic Church in the 13th Century. It’s root word comes from the Latin for doctor or teaching. I tend to think of doctrine as static, dead, and lifeless.




Why Isn’t My Religion Working for Me?

Your religion wasn’t meant to work, any more than the Jewish faith worked for the Israelites! I know, you probably call your religion faith, but is it really faith or something else? Do you know the difference between Pseudo-Spirituality and True Spirituality? I will guarantee that most people do not know the difference, yet it is vital that you know!

It is not a matter that is often discussed about Jesus, but He lost a great deal of disciples over a particular teaching. The incident is recorded in John 6:25-69. The 70 disciples, not to be confused with the 12, could not understand and, therefore, tolerate the part about eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to have life. Every time I read this story it is troubling for me, because the 70 lacked spiritual discernment to realize that Jesus was about to radically change their lives and that of the world for the better. I mention this story as a transition—a pause—since I may be about to rock your world. I fully expect most people will struggle with this topic. I am reminded of Paul’s admonition, “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Obviously, an extremely wise practice to follow.

About 25 years ago, I had a faith crisis and it took me 10 years to act on it; and, with that said, I temporarily took the wrong course. So, prepare yourself. If it is truly spirituality, Christ-likeness, you seek, then a tough road lies ahead. I think often of God saying He will “shake what can be shaken … so that what cannot be shaken may remain” (Hebrews 12:27). Sanctification means “to set apart for a holy use.”  We are not called to a life of ease. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, the calling of Christ is an invitation “to come and die.” It is a journey toward suffering, but it is more than that—”the cross means rejection and shame as well as suffering” (The Cost of Discipleship, p. 89). Jesus said, “I want to make this very clear, unless a wheat seed falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone. However, if it should die, it bears much fruit. The one who loves their life loses it, and the one who hates (detests, loathes, abhors, extreme repugnance for) his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:24, 25, my paraphrase). I can tell you, it is not in our human nature to die; instead, we are about survival, and it is natural for us to resist dying. God doesn’t ask us to die. He asks us to accept by faith that we already are dead in Christ. This concept of death is not understood doctrinally; it can only be realized by faith.

There are barriers to spirituality: the world, close friendships, self, religion, our wealth, and the desire to help God. “At times, it seems we require more grace to lose our wealth then to lose our life” (Watchman Nee, The Spiritual Man, p. 188)! Here is my question for you, Is anything worth more than genuinely walking with God? Our job, our spouse, or our children? All of us possesses an Isaac. I grew up loving team sports. It was in my DNA. Trust me, the older one gets, the easier it is to sit in the recliner and watch spectator sports. I used to be possessed by sports and it was what I predominantly talked about. Sports was one of my gods!

Let me ask you, is anything worth more than your relationship with God? What about your denominational affiliation? Is your religion—your denomination—prohibiting spiritual maturity? I once struggled the most with this question, as I was totally certain it was not. The reason: I did not view denominationalism as a man-made institution; especially mine. Pseudo-spirituality—hypocrisy—thrives under the cover of religion!!! The common denominator of all religions—rules—prevents Christ-likeness. Yes, each religion is distinguished by its own PECULIAR rules or belief system. We generally mistake progress in our religion for spiritual growth, and that is due to not understanding the true definition of what is spiritual. We usually have a distorted view of the Imago Dei (image or view of God) and this completely influences our definition of what is spiritual. I agree 100% with Bonhoeffer, spiritual has nothing to do with anything that is human. Spiritual is “that which is created only by the Holy Spirit, who puts Jesus into our hearts as Lord and Savior” (Life Together, p. 31). This is actually not Bonhoeffer theology, but Pauline.

The biggest barrier to spirituality (the Holy Spirit working within) is the Law. I expect the vast majority will reject this idea. After all, what’s wrong with the law? Nothing!!! In fact, the law is “holy, and just and good” (Romans 7:12). What is wrong is our understanding of the function of the law! The law is intended to reveal our sinfulness and lead us to our great need of a Savior—and that’s it! Read the books of Romans and Galatians and tell me it isn’t so. So, how does the law—what is holy, just, and good—prohibit growth? Because the law was never given to be obeyed, but to reveal to us that it could not be obeyed. As Paul said, “The laws … were added to increase the failure” (Romans 3:20). “Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions” (Galatians 3:19). Paul is TOO CLEAR. If we think the Ten Commandments are still binding, we are under the condemnation of the law, cursed, not living by faith, but living by the flesh. Because, “the law is not of faith” (Galatians 3:12)! We are literally bound up and hemmed in by the law! As a result, the law is preventing spiritual progression, and this was Paul’s problem in Romans 7. Consequently, most confuse religious progression with spiritual progression; and they are radically diametrically opposed! Because of it, the vast majority of religious people are living out of the flesh, and that is why their spiritual life is full of up and down experiences. It is also why they avoid transparency like the plague. Spiritually, they are frauds! They are not living by faith alone in Jesus Christ. They have not a clue how to walk in the Spirit and avoid walking in sin. They are living a pseudo-spiritual existence according to the brand of their own religion. The solution is faith alone, as outlined in the book of Romans. So, here’s the question: Is your spiritual life being directed by man or by the Word of the Lord?