Spirituality — How to be Spirit-Controlled Rather than Flesh-Ruled
The article is important to me because I was once in bondage to the flesh in my youth and struggled greatly to escape it. With God’s help and His Word, not to mention the teachings/example of spiritual mentors, I slowly learned how to walk free of the flesh and desperately want to share how I did it with anyone who needs it so they too can be set free.
In short, the answer to being in bondage to the flesh is spirituality. That might sound anticlimactic to you — even lame — but let me explain. While ‘spirituality’ is a term that’s thrown around a lot — sometimes by people who aren’t really spiritual — it actually refers to the spirit-controlled life. This merely means being spirit-driven rather than flesh-ruled; it means being controlled by your higher self as opposed to the lower self. To do this you simply have to learn to put off the old self and put on the new:
You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (23) to be made new in the attitude of your minds; (24) and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
This passage contains the antidote to both legalism and libertinism. It’s therefore imperative that we get it. The “old self” is the flesh or sin nature and we are instructed to put it off. Why? Because the old self is corrupted by “deceitful desires.” Your flesh has desires, which means it has a voice, but these desires are deceitful. They promise happiness but they don’t deliver. They can only ultimately bring death and all that goes with it. We are told to “put off” these fleshly desires. In the Greek this means to strip it off. We have to strip off the old way of thinking in favor of a new way. Verse 23 tells us how to do this: we must be made new in the attitude of our minds. What’s the new attitude we should have? We are to count ourselves dead to the old self and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Counting ourselves alive to God includes accepting everything God says we are in Christ, that is, who we are in our new self, the spirit. We’ll address this in the next section.
This results in what verse 24 calls putting “on the new self,” which means living out of our spirits as led of the Holy Spirit. When we do this we’ll be spirit-controlled and naturally produce the fruit thereof.
The New Testament describes this in different ways: When we are spirit-controlled we “live by the spirit” (Galatians 5:16), we “clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14), we “participate in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), we “put on the new self” (Colossians 3:10). How can putting on the new self be described as clothing ourselves with Christ or participating in the divine nature? Because the “new self” refers to our regenerated spirit which was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (verse 24).
If there’s a true righteousness and holiness there’s also a false righteousness and holiness, which is legalism. True righteousness and holiness can only be attained by, first, being born-again spiritually and, second, living out of your spirit rather than the flesh. The latter is a learning process, of course, and takes time, but the more you do it the easier it is and the more fruit you’ll produce. The fruits of the spirit are the fruits of God’s nature. Hence, those who live by their spirit, which is guided by the Holy Spirit, will be “like God” because the spirit naturally produces the fruits of his nature:
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; (20) idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions (21) and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (22) But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, (23) gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
This list of the fruit of the spirit isn’t exhaustive any more than the list of the works of the flesh is exhaustive. God has many other character traits, like righteousness (Philippians 1:11), truth (Ephesians 5:9), power (2 Timothy 1:7), righteous anger (Mark 3:1-6) and boldness (Mark 11:15-18).
The awesome news is that believers can walk free of the works of the flesh and the two ways they manifest in the church – legalism and libertinism – simply by putting off the flesh in favor of participating in the divine nature. If this weren’t possible Paul would never have instructed us to “be imitators of God” in Ephesians 5:1.
Speaking of Ephesians 5:1, Christians are usually blown away by this verse. They ask, “How can I possibly imitate God?” It’s simple: Put off the flesh and learn to live out of your spirit and you’ll automatically participate in the divine nature and produce the very fruit of God’s character!
So how exactly do we walk in the spirit like this? There are three things that we have to do, all corresponding to the three parts of human nature – mind, body and spirit. These are the three keys to walking in the spirit. Let’s look at each key, starting with the mind.
1. Count Yourself Dead to Sin and Alive to God
The first thing believers need to do in order to walk in the spirit has to do with the mind. Paul said that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind in Romans 12:2. The Greek word translated as “transformed” is where we get the English ‘metamorphosis,’ which means to be transformed as the result of a process. A great example of this would be a lowly and not-particularly-good-looking caterpillar being transformed in its cocoon and emerging as a beautiful butterfly. Think about it, caterpillars crawl on the ground and are kind of ugly, whereas butterflies are beautiful and can fly. Believers can have just as stunning of a transformation, but it involves renewing the mind – we must let go of caterpillar-thinking (flesh-ruled thinking) in favor of butterfly-thinking (spirit-ruled thinking).
Here’s a cornerstone passage on renewing the mind and being spirit-controlled:
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.
(11) In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.
Verse 12 reveals the goal of this instruction – not letting sin reign in your body so that you obey its evil desires. In short, the goal is to not be flesh-ruled. Verse 11 shows us how to attain this goal: First, we must count ourselves dead to sin and, second, we must count ourselves alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Concerning the first part, counting ourselves dead to sin involves a new way of thinking. We must start counting ourselves as dead to the sins that normally tempt us if we want to experience freedom. For instance, if you have a weakness for lying, gossip, drunkenness or lust, you have to start making it your mindset that you are dead to these things. I used to have a problem with fits of rage so I had to start making it my mindset that I was dead to fits of rage in order to eventually walk in freedom. Making something your mindset includes making it your confession because words have the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). So I made this my regular confession: “I Dirk Waren am dead to fits of rage.”
The second part of verse 11 is just as important. We have to count ourselves as “alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Being alive to God in Christ Jesus is the opposite of being dead to God in the bondage of the flesh. So if you make it your mindset that you’re dead to sin, be sure to also make it your mindset that you’re alive to the opposite. For example, I made it my belief and confession that I’m dead to fits of rage, but I added that I’m alive to peace and self-control. Or say if a brother has a problem with lying or exaggerating, he would make it his mindset that he’s dead to lying but alive to the truth. Or say if a sister has a problem with gossip and slander (which go hand-and-hand) she would make it her confession that she’s dead to gossip and slander and alive to praying for others and blessing them.
Whatever your sin weakness is, count yourself dead to it and counteract it with the truth of who you already are in your regenerated spirit. You see, this whole instruction is geared to getting the believer spirit-focused instead of flesh-focused, spirit-ruled instead of flesh-ruled. For instance, the brother who has a problem with lying has a problem with lying because his flesh has a problem with lying. The only way for him to escape this condition is to stop being flesh-ruled because he’ll continue to have a problem with lying as long as he’s flesh-ruled. To walk free he’ll have to learn to be spirit-ruled by changing his thinking so that it agrees with who he is in his spirit rather than who he is in his flesh. Remember, our regenerated spirit was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). If you’re a believer your spirit is already righteous and holy; it doesn’t have a sin problem like your lower nature. It’s whole and complete, which is what holiness is. The key to freedom is to line up your thinking with who you are in your spirit rather than who you are in your flesh.
This isn’t merely a “mind over matter” principle, as some might think. If you’re a believer, you can genuinely count yourself dead to sin because you are dead to sin in your spirit. Even if you don’t feel like you’re dead to sin, you are dead to sin. It’s who you already are in your spirit because your spirit is righteous and holy like God!
By the way, renewing your mind in this manner is tied to repentance since ‘repent’ literally means to change your mind for the better. Both the Greek words for ‘repentance’ and ‘repent’ are derived from the Greek word for mind, which is nous (pronounced noos). To repent means to change your thinking, your mindset, your attitude. Any other type of “repentance” is incomplete and ineffective.
Who Are You “In Him”?
Notice that we are to count ourselves alive on to God in Christ Jesus (verse 11). Whenever you see phrases like “in Christ Jesus” or “in him” in the New Testament it’s covenant phraseology. In other words, the passage is stating a fact about the believer who’s in covenant with the Lord. Here’s an example:
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21
Jesus didn’t sin, of course, but the Father made him to be sin for us on the cross so that all those who enter into covenant with him would become the righteousness of God. As noted in chapter 3, the word ‘become’ in the Greek means to come into being, that is, to be born. Hence, we “become” the righteousness of God through spiritual rebirth. If you’re a believer this means that you are already righteous in your spirit and the more spirit-ruled you become the more righteous you will be.
The key to walking in practical righteousness is to be spirit-focused rather than flesh-focused because, in your spirit, you already are righteous. With this understanding, as you count yourself dead to sin make sure that you’re also counting yourself alive to righteousness. It’s the truth because it’s who you already are in your spirit. Remember, Jesus said it’s the truth that will set you free (John 8:31-32).
There are numerous ways the New Testament describes you in covenant with the LORD. Here are ten:
- You’re holy (Colossians 1:21-22).
- You’re a child of God (John 1:12-13).
- You’re a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).
- You’re the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- You’re dead to sin (Romans 6:11,14,18).
- You’re more than a conqueror (Romans 8:37).
- You’re a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)
- You’re rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
- You’re healed (1 Peter 2:24).
- You’re a royal priest or priestess of the Most High God (1 Peter 2:9)!
These are all “positional truths.” A positional truth is any truth from the Scriptures that reveals your position in covenant with God and therefore how God sees you because of this position. For instance, Colossians 1:22 declares that we are “holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation.” This is how God sees you because this is who you are in Christ. Just be wise to repent when you miss it so that God can faithfully purify you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9). This is “keeping with repentance” (Matthew & Luke 3:8). Don’t allow the build-up of unconfessed sin to block the power and favor of God in your life. A side benefit of this is that it keeps your heart soft and malleable rather than hard and incorrigible.
For the New Testament believer, meaning YOU, these ten descriptions reveal who you are in your spirit, the “new self” (Ephesians 4:22-24).
How do you practice such positional truths? You practice them simply by believing them and not disagreeing with them. Remember, “The tongue has the power of life and death” so utilize this power accordingly. Never speak words that contradict who God says you are. Never! This is tantamount to calling God a liar. Be sure to chew on these amazing positional truths and others as well. Make them your meditation and your confession. Take David, for example. He was diligent to “meditate” on God’s Word, as shown in Psalm 119:15-16. The Hebrew word for ‘meditate’ is siyach (SEE-ahk), which means “to ponder and converse with oneself and, hence, out loud” (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance). As you do this with these positional truths, you’ll grow in understanding and power. The more these truths become a part of you, the more you’ll be set free of the flesh and the more you’ll soar in the spirit free of the limitations of the fleshly plane.
Jesus said in John 8:31-32 that we must “continue” in his word if we are to “know the truth” and be set “free.” Unlike your spiritual rebirth which happened instantaneously, your metamorphosis from caterpillar-thinking to butterfly-thinking is a process; it may not happen overnight, but it will happen, so don’t give up. If you miss it, be quick to repent and God will forgive you, and then keep moving forward. You don’t drown by falling in the water; you drown by staying in the water!
To see a detailed video presentation of this topic go here.
If all you do is change your thinking to focus on who you already are in your spirit – dead to sin, righteous, holy – you’ll be blessed, but there are two other keys to participating in the divine nature and they have to do with your body and your spirit.
2. Offering Your Body as a Living Sacrifice
Let’s go back to Romans 6:11-12 and see what it goes on to say:
In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (12) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (13) Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. (14) For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace.
Since we are dead to sin and alive to God in our spirits, Paul says that we shouldn’t offer the parts of our bodies to sin as instruments of wickedness, but rather to God as instruments of righteousness. We can do this because we’ve been brought from a condition of spiritual death to spiritual life, as verse 13 points out.
All unbelievers are spiritually dead. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have a spirit and the capacity for good, but rather that their spirit is dead to God, which means that the ability to commune with the LORD doesn’t exist. They’re cut off from a relationship with their Creator because their spirit can’t connect or commune with him. Yet it’s precisely because they have a spirit that they desperately want to connect with him, even though it’s impossible. This, of course, gives birth to religion, which is the human attempt to connect with God. Authentic Christianity, by contrast, is God connecting with us through spiritual rebirth in Christ by the Holy Spirit.
In this passage Paul reasons that, since we’ve been brought from a condition of spiritual death to spiritual life, we are to offer the parts of our bodies to God’s service as instruments of righteousness. This refers to two things: (1.) Put into practice the truths you discover in God’s Word, whether from your own studies or through receiving from others. In other words, line up your body with what God’s Word teaches. This doesn’t just include practical truths like “Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”, but positional truths as well. How so? Because it takes your brain and your tongue to practice positional truth and both are parts of your body. If your brain and tongue aren’t lining up with what God’s Word says about you then you’re not offering these parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness. (2.) Put into practice whatever instruction God gives you, which includes serving in any role he calls you to or moving toward any objective he gives you. Seek the Lord in prayer concerning your purpose, both short-range and long-range. What are you inspired to do for God? What area of service really stirs you? Colossians 3:15 says to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” What do you have a peace about doing? In other words, what do you have a good feeling about? Identify your strengths and then major in them. Grasp the unique task God has called you to do in each season of your life. Whatever it is, start doing it and ask for God’s strength and direction. A journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step.
When you begin utilizing the parts of your body as instruments of righteousness in God’s service the law of displacement comes into play. Light displaces darkness, righteousness displaces wickedness, spirit replaces flesh. Sin shall not be your master for you are not under law (legalism) but under grace (spirituality)!
A Living Sacrifice in Worship
There’s even more to offering yourself to God:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. (2) Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.
This passage plainly details the first two steps to spirituality; that is, being spirit-controlled. Verse 2 instructs us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, which we’ve already addressed. Verse 1 tells us to offer our bodies to God as “living sacrifices” and adds “this is your spiritual act of worship.” ‘Worship’ means to “reverently honor or adore.” We can worship in two ways: Through our actions and through our communion. Actions have to do with practice. When we sincerely practice the truths of God’s Word we are also honoring the LORD, which is worship. It’s the same thing when we start lining up our lives with his assignment, big or small, we’re worshipping him. Either way, our actions give glory to God. Communion, however, has to do with communication. Prayer is communion with God and we specifically honor him through the type of prayer known as praise & worship.
What exactly is praise & worship? The two go hand and hand. Praise is celebration and includes thanksgiving, raving and boasting; whereas worship is adoration. Praise naturally attracts God’s presence and is in accordance with the law of respect: What you respect moves toward you while what you don’t respect moves away from you. Worship, on the other hand, is adoration or awe, and is the response to being in his presence. See Psalm 95:1-7 and Psalm 100 for verification.
You’ll see this principle at work in relationships all the time. Take, for instance, romantic relationships. Say if a woman is interested in a man and she praises his work, how will this make him feel? He’ll feel important and respected. He’ll feel like the “king of the world” and will naturally be more inclined to the woman, even if she’s someone he might not have noticed otherwise. It’s the same principle with God. When you start praising him and boasting of him he’ll naturally be more inclined toward you. It’s a simple principle.
We can further differentiate praise & worship as such: Praise celebrates God whereas worship humbly reveres him; praise lifts Godup while worship bows when he is lifted; praise dances before God whereas worship pulls off his shoes; praise extols God for what he’s done while worship adores him for who he is; praise says “Praise the Lord” whereas worship demonstrates that he is Lord; praise is thanksgiving for being a co-heir in Christ while worship lays the crown at His feet.
Many believers are more comfortable with worshipping God through what they do rather than through communion, but I encourage you to excel in both. I run across a lot of wives who complain that their husbands rarely tell them that they love them, if ever. They hardly even compliment them. When confronted, the husband typically argues that he loves his wife by doing things for her, including working hard to bring home the bread. This is wonderful, of course, but the wife still wants to hear him communicate it to her. Do you think it’s any different with God?
Some men tend to veer away from praise & worship because they think it’s somehow girly. But, let me tell you something, David is one of the most passionate praise & worship warriors recorded in the Bible and he was wholly masculine. As a teenager he had the great faith and boldness to challenge the hulking Goliath with a slingshot when the entire army of Israel was shrinking back in terror (1 Samuel 17:24)! He went on to become one of the greatest kings of Israel, but God wouldn’t allow him to build the temple because he was a warrior king and had too much blood on his hands! See 1 Chronicles 28:3. Does this sound like a girly man? Or consider Moses’ aide, Joshua. After Moses spoke with God in the tent of meeting, Joshua would stay and linger in God’s presence (Exodus 33:11). Guess who God later chose to lead the Israelites in the conquest of Canaan? Joshua. There’s clearly a link between those who choose to be mighty praise & worship warriors for God and those who are mighty warriors in his service. Those who are “ever praising” the LORD and who dwell in his presence “go from strength to strength” (Psalm 84:4-7). They are “transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). In light of all this, anyone who claims that praise & worship is worthless or sissified is grossly ignorant.
Needless to say, every believer is called to deeper praise & worship. It will literally revolutionize your life, as it has mine and continues to do so.
If all we did was practice these first two keys to being spirit-controlled we’d be greatly blessed and experience freedom to a higher degree than ever. But there’s one more step and it has to do with our spirit. It’s what the Bible calls praying in the spirit.
3. Praying in the Spirit and Charging Yourself Up
Let’s look at a couple of key passages about praying in the spirit:
But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.
This verse shows that believers in general should “build themselves up” in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit. It gives the impression of charging up our faith like a battery. In the Greek “build yourselves up” means “to build upon.” You see, every believer has a measure of faith at the time of salvation (Romans 12:3), but this measure can be built upon as the believer grows. In other words, believers should increase in faith as they mature. How do we do this? One way is through God’s Word (Romans 10:17), another is by spending time in God’s presence through praise & worship; after all, God is full of faith and therefore those who hang around him will develop the same faith he has. It’s the law of association. Jude 20 shows that praying in the Spirit is also essential for increasing in faith.
Here’s another passage on praying in the spirit:
And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.
This verse appears right after Paul details the six pieces of the “armor of God,” which shows that praying in the spirit is actually the seventh piece of the armor even though he doesn’t analogize it like he does with the other six pieces (for instance, faith is a “shield” and the Word of God is a “sword” and so on). I liken praying in the spirit to artillery or a missile since you can pray in the spirit for people and situations a long distance away, even on the other side of the planet.
So we’re clearly instructed in the Scriptures to charge our faith up by praying in the spirit and also to pray in the spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. The question now is, what is “praying in the Spirit”? After all, we can’t very well pray in the spirit if we don’t even know what it is. Thankfully, the Bible tells us exactly what it is:
For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. (15) So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.
1 Corinthians 14:14-15
By saying “if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays” Paul was defining praying in the spirit. If he prayed in a tongue his spirit was praying, led of the Holy Spirit, and therefore he was praying in the spirit
or praying in the Spirit (capitalized*). Praying in the spirit is synonymous with speaking in tongues, which is also known as glossolalia. What is speaking in tongues? It’s when a believer prays from his spirit rather than his mind and therefore speaks in a language unknown to him. We see this in verse 15 where Paul notes two types of prayer – praying with his spirit and praying with his mind, singing with his spirit and singing with his mind.
*NOTE: Since there is no capitalization in the original Greek text translators have to determine if the word for spirit, pneuma, refers to the human spirit (un-capitalized) or the Holy Spirit (capitalized). Either/or works in this case since the human spirit prays as led of the Holy Spirit due to the fact that the believer’s human spirit (un-capitalized) is birthed and indwelt by the Spirit (capitalized).
Praying with your mind is obvious, it’s praying with a language you understand, which is typically the language you most often speak. For me it would be English. When I pray in English I’m praying with my mind because it’s a language I know and understand. Praying with one’s mind is wonderful and this is usually what people think of when they think of prayer, but when we pray in this manner we are limited to our own understanding. Whatever it is we’re praying for – whether a person, people, place or situation – we’re limited to our own understanding. This is where praying in the spirit comes into play. Praying in the spirit – speaking in tongues – bypasses the limitations of our understanding as led of the Holy Spirit. For instance, say if I’m praying for a believer who’s struggling with a certain sin and has backslid to some degree. If I pray with my mind – my understanding – I am limited to what I know about the situation, but if I pray in the spirit for him I can address things beyond my understanding as led of the Holy Spirit. Or say if you’re going to lose your job due to budget cuts or whatever in six months, but you don’t know about it. You can’t pray about this with your mind because you don’t even know it’s going to happen. But the Holy Spirit knows everything because he’s God and he indwells your spirit; he guides you. So when you pray in the spirit the Holy Spirit will likely guide your spirit to pray for your encouragement and a new job opportunity when you lose your current one in six months. You may not know about it, but the Holy Spirit does. As such, you were able to address something in prayer that your mind didn’t even know about through praying in the spirit. You bypassed the limitations of your understanding.
This is why Paul encouraged us to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” in Ephesians 6:18 and it’s why he stressed that he would pray and sing with both his mind and his spirit. Both are important.
The gift of personal tongues is for all believers, which is why these passages on praying in the spirit refer to all believers and not just to some who have a special gift. Note how none of these passages say anything like “Now, if you have the gift of tongues, pray in the spirit on all occasions” or “If you can speak in tongues build yourself up in faith by praying in the Holy Spirit.” Back when these passages were written it was assumed that all believers had the gift of personal tongues. Virtually every believer had it because leaders in the church didn’t shy away from emphasizing the importance of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, as they do today, unfortunately.
I describe praying in the spirit as “personal tongues” to distinguish it from the gift of tongues utilized in a church environment, which is followed by an interpretation in the common language. Not everyone has this gift, which Paul made clear in 1 Corinthians 12:30. The kind of speaking in tongues I’m talking about is different and refers to the believer praying to God with his or her spirit as led of the Holy Spirit. This is for all believers. Public tongues, on the other hand, isn’t actually praying in the spirit because the believer who is functioning in this gift isn’t praying to God, but is rather giving a message from God to the group of believers for their exhortation and encouragement, which isn’t prayer at all. One refers to the believer praying to God with his/her spirit and the other refers to God speaking to the congregation. They’re quite different. All believers can have the gift of personal tongues, but not all believers have the gift of public tongues. It’s important to distinguish the two.
If every believer can have the gift of personal tongues, how do we get it? We receive it through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, which you can read about here.
Recapping the Three Keys to Walking in the Spirit
So the three keys to being spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled are as follows:
- Renew your mind. Make it your mindset that you’re dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. This includes making it your confession. Say: “I [state your name] am dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” Renewing your mind effectively includes lining up your thoughts and words with who God’s Word says you already are in Christ. For instance, the Bible says that you’re dead to sin, holy, righteous and more than a conqueror in covenant with the Lord. These all describe who you are in your spirit as opposed to the flesh. You may not feel like you are these things, but you already are in your spirit. By accepting these positional truths by faith you’re being spirit-focused rather than flesh-focused. Do it.
- Offer the parts of your body to God as instruments of righteousness. This includes both serving the Lord – doing what God wants you to do (both general instructions from the Scriptures and specific instructions from the Spirit) – and praise & worship. Each of these puts into motion the law of displacement. By moving forward in the spirit you aren’t slipping backwards in the flesh. By spending time in the light of God’s presence through regular praise & worship darkness has no recourse but to flee. How do you get the darkness out of a room? You simple turn on the lights!
- Pray (and sing) in the spirit regularly. This will keep you charged up and built-up in faith. It’ll produce the power you need to walk in the full life Jesus came to give us; it’ll empower you to love people you don’t have warm feelings toward, including your enemies who hate you without cause. It’ll enable you to walk in tough love when necessary, including righteous radicalness, like when Paul radically rebuked an arrogant sorcerer and temporarily cursed him with blindness to humble him, as led of the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:8-12). It’ll provide the self-discipline necessary to overcome personal weaknesses, including lack of confidence, depression and various sin problems, like alcoholism, drugs, lying, gossip and slander.
Practicing these three principles is simply a matter of wisdom and love. The first and greatest command is to love God with all your heart and the second is to love people as you love yourself (Matthew 22:34-39). In a sense there are three commands since we are commanded to love others as we love ourselves, which means you have to love yourself first. I mean that in a healthy sense, of course, and not a narcissistic one. If you genuinely love yourself you’ll put these principles into practice on a regular basis. After all, if you fail to implement them you won’t have a victorious Christian life and you won’t be intimate with God. You’ll be encumbered and limited by personal weaknesses or areas of the flesh. This will not bless you, it won’t bless those linked to you, and it won’t bless God.
Practicing these three principles is the key to walking in the spirit or participating in the divine nature. It’s the key to producing the fruit of the spirit and, therefore, being spiritual rather than carnal. Simply put, it’s the key to being spirit-controlled rather than flesh-ruled. The former gives life while the latter brings death.
This is the key to having a vital, active relationship with God, which is the antidote to all forms of legalism. By “active relationship” I don’t mean thinking about God once or twice a day, but rather 24/7 God-consciousness where you’re in constant connection and communion. This makes sense of Paul’s instruction to “pray without ceasing” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (KJV). How can anyone possibly “pray without ceasing”? By participating in the divine nature and walking in 24/7 God-consciousness. A close relationship with your heavenly Father requires the same time and attention that any close relationship requires. Like those relationships, it’s not a chore, but a joy and an honor. It develops over time. David said, “Taste and see that the LORD is good” (Psalm 34:8). Once you’ve genuinely tasted of a relationship with God nothing else in life compares. It’s the ultimate high!
It’s your choice. You’ve been granted the awesome power of DECISION, which is volition. Whether you know it or not, you operated in this power to receive eternal salvation (Romans 10:9-10). Use this God-given gift to your advantage in your Christian walk. You’re not a loser, you’re a winner. Go forth and walk in the freedom and victory that God has bought for you at great cost! Rise up O man of God, rise up O woman of God, and soar on the heights in the spirit far above the limitations of the mental realm and the flesh! Amen.
“Put Off the Old Man”
One last exhortation before closing: It’s imperative that you put off the “old man” – the flesh – for this to work. This is the very first thing we are instructed to do in Ephesians 4:22-24. We see the same instruction in this passage:
Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, (10) and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him,
Colossians 3:9-10 (NKJV)
Before you can put on the new man – that is, effectively walk in the spirit – you have to be willing to put off the old man and “his” fleshly deeds. This means repenting of any area of the flesh once it is revealed to you as sin. You see, God deals with his children according to the light we have. Once we have revelation of something we are responsible for living according to it. See John 9:39-41 and 15:22 for verification. And, no, this isn’t an excuse to stay in ignorance.
Let me give a widespread example. In Westernized cultures today fornication is viewed as a normal lifestyle, but it’s a sin according to God’s Word. When the average male turns to the Lord he’ll often come into the kingdom with the attitude that there’s nothing wrong with fornication since it’s such a prominent activity. Besides, “everyone does it,” he might reason. As he grows spiritually, however, he comes to realize that it’s wrong and God has something better for him. Up until this point God would automatically overlook transgressions in this area because he was corrupted by worldly culture and just didn’t know any better. Once he knows the truth, however, he’s obligated to walk according to it.
This is simply a matter of loving God, the first and greatest command (1 John 2:15-17). It’s also a matter of wisdom or common sense. Yet I’m surprised at how many people refuse to give up fornication after becoming believers and discovering it’s a sin. Then they wonder why they don’t feel close to the LORD and they’re not blessed. I’ll tell you why – they’re not putting off the old man! They’re being stubborn and stupid.
Think about it like this: Say you’re a parent and have a baby who soiled her diaper. You take the old diaper off, clean her up, and then put on the new diaper. Wouldn’t it be absurd to put the new diaper over the old diaper? Yet this is what many Christians do in effect when they refuse to put off the old man before putting on the new. They try to put the new man over the old man and it doesn’t work. No wonder they’re frustrated!
So please be sure to put off the deceitful desires of the flesh by keeping in repentance (Matthew & Luke 3:8).
Repentance and Faith
To repent, by the way, simply means to change one’s mind for the positive. This doesn’t mean a meaningless mental exercise, but rather a change of mind with the corresponding actions, like the revolve to fulfill God’s will (Acts 26:20) and turn from that which is opposed to God’s will, i.e. sin (Acts 8:22 & 2 Corinthians 12:21). Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin (see Acts 20:21) and so for repentance to be effective it must be combined with faith, otherwise repentance is just a dead exercise. Is it any wonder that repentance and faith are the first two of the six basic doctrines of Christianity? See Hebrews 6:1-2. It is of the utmost importance to your spiritual health to grasp this.
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