“Walking by the Spirit” is a phrase that Believers love to quote but find difficult to explain or obey. While scripture talks about the battle between the ‘flesh man' and the ‘spirit man,' it can at times be difficult to know what falls under which category. Rather than focusing on what we do not know, we want to take the time to go back to scripture, building a foundation that empowers each Believer to walk by the Spirit.
Characteristics of the Spirit
It might be tempting to use the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians to neatly package up what it looks like to walk by the Spirit, but to truly understand what scripture means, it is important to recognize the work and role of the Holy Spirit throughout scripture.
Below are five characteristics of the Spirit and how we see them manifested in scripture.
First, it is important for us to keep in mind that the Holy Spirit has been in unity with God the Father, and God the Son, for all eternity.
- “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”—Genesis 1:1-2
Therefore, walking by the Spirit means you are walking in agreement with the one true God, the Creator. Understand this is a process…
The Spirit of God is what brings abundant life. In the Hebrew, the word ‘breath' is the same word used for ‘spirit’. The word is ‘ruah’ (or ’ruach’).
In order to understand the purpose of life, the heart of God, and to enjoy the life He has given us, we need to be pursuing unity with the Spirit.
Scriptures about the Breath and Spirit of God
- “Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath or spirit of life, and man became a living being.”—Genesis 2:7 (AMPC)
- “You hide Your face, they are troubled; You take away their breath [spirit], they die and return to their dust. You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the earth.”—Psalm 104:29-30 (NKJV)
Scriptures about Operating in the Spirit
God the Father has used the Holy Spirit to work through His people throughout scripture to reconcile others to Himself in Yeshua. God desires to partner with His children, which requires agreement in the Spirit.
- “And the Lord said to Moses: ‘Take Joshua the son of Nun with you, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him;’”—Numbers 27:18
- “But the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon; then he blew the trumpet, and the Abiezrites gathered behind him.”—Judges 6:34
- “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him…”—Judges 13:24-25
Scriptures about the Role of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is referred throughout scripture as our teacher, advocate, constant companion, and a supernatural source of strength and hope. Oftentimes, the desire to do great things in His name overshadows the importance of why and how God desires to use us in His ministry.
- “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”—John 14:26
- “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth…”—John 14:16-17
- “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”—Acts 1:8
Scriptures about the Holy Spirit’s Ministry of Freedom
Where the Spirit goes, there is freedom and reconciliation. Our hearts become tender to what is dear to God's heart. Therefore, as ambassadors, these are characteristics of the Kingdom we are establishing.
- “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”—2 Corinthians 3:17
- “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”—Isaiah 61:1
How to Walk by the Spirit | Applying Him to Daily Life
So, how do we apply what we know of the Holy Spirit to our lives? How does this translate into “walking by the Spirit?”
Step 1. Cultivate a Deep Love for God
It is clear that an active, Spirit-filled life comes from an overflowing, loving relationship with God. The Word is clear that it is the love of God and willingness to submit to the Holy Spirit that brings the change from within, transforming the body and soul.
This love between God and His children is the foundation of our faith. This covenant relationship is what keeps our faith alive. Whether you are a new Believer or are mature in the faith, this is your action step. The love of God is what inspires us to grow, to move, and be lions in His Kingdom.
Step 2. Grow Your Dependence on the Spirit
It is easy to start moving independently of the Holy Spirit. This weakens our desire to be fed, comforted, and taught by the Holy Spirit.
Rather, the answer is to consistently study and declare the Word. This grows confidence in our faith, answers doubts, and deepens our understanding of the Father’s identity.
Your confidence must come from a solid understanding and knowledge of the Word (see Hosea 4:6), and a deep abiding relationship with the Holy Spirit. This keeps you on the path of life (see Proverbs 4:11, Psalm 25:4, and Acts 2:28).
Step 3. Learning the Discipline of Discernment
Finally, the discipline of discernment grows as we walk by the Spirit. As stated above, the Holy Spirit keeps us in alignment with the Word and God’s paths of life. The Holy Spirit testifies of Yeshua and helps us recognize His voice. In order to do this, we must have the ability to discern the voice of the Holy Spirit from any other voice.
Journaling, mentor guidance, and peer accountability are all great ways to develop the gift of discernment. Use the Word to test the spirits (see 1 John 4:1-6). Examining what you believe, learn, hear, and are led to according to the Word is walking by the Spirit (see James 1:22-25).
Keep This in Mind…
If you find that walking by the Spirit is a challenge, don’t be discouraged. Like all relationships, your relationship with the Holy Spirit must be fed and tended in order to stay aflame and grow larger. Take time to remember the first moments of your faith, what drew you into the presence of God, and meditate on this.
“I say then: 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 if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.”—Galatians 5:16-18, 22-25
Learning to walk by the Spirit is a continuous journey. As you grow in your love for the Lord, your dependence on the Spirit, and your discernment, walking by the Spirit becomes easier.
Our Father is not in a rush to teach us these things that we might be more useful to Him, but rather He enjoys sharing this journey with us, and delights in a child who earnestly surrenders to Him daily and who strives to be more like Him.
He longs for our hearts to belong to Him.