What Does It Mean to Walk in the Spirit?
July 23, 2023

What Does It Mean to Walk in the Spirit?

Preacher:
Series:
Passage: Romans 8:5-13

Introduction

Whenever the Bible speaks about spiritual things, we need to come with a good deal of humility. Because we can’t collect spiritual things in a test tube. We can’t touch them or see them. Spiritual things are beyond the material world – they’re nonphysical. Though at times our inner being has a vague notion that there’s a real, powerful, spiritual force that inhabits the universe, we can’t piece together who this spiritual being is on our own.

We need something more – we need someone who knows all about spiritual things to reveal spiritual truths to us. We need the voice of God. And so we come to the Bible with humility – because this is where God has spoken. This is where God teaches us about His Own Spirit, and what it looks like for us to be spiritual people.

The last time we were together, I explained the flow of thought in this letter to the Romans. The letter explains that humanity is not spiritual, but rather ungodly. None of our hearts are pure and right, and we deserve to be penalized under God’s perfect law. But God himself has provided the solution – Jesus Christ. Jesus lived to perfectly satisfy God’s law on our behalf, and he died to purchase our forgiveness and freedom. Those who trust in Christ are freed from condemnation and death, and are now free to walk according to the Spirit of life.

But what does it look like to walk according to the Spirit? What does this really mean? God reveals the answer to these questions in our text. In our time together, I’d like to point out three things that are true about those who walk according to the Spirit.

First, when we walk in the Spirit, the Spirit shapes our thinking – we see this in verses 5-8. Second, the Spirit lives in us – we see this in verses 9-11. And third, the Spirit helps us put sin to death – which we see in verses 12-13.

The Spirit Shapes Our Thinking

So first – when you walk according to the Spirit, the Spirit shapes our thinking. Verse 5 tells us, “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 set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” In other words, your mind – and as a result, your whole way of life – will be shaped by one of two things. Either your mind will be set on the Spirit, or on the flesh. Either your convictions will be built on divine knowledge, or your convictions will be shaped by human opinion (what you think, or what you feel, or what some other person thinks or feels). You will either have a philosophy of life invented by a human creature, or a philosophy of life informed by a wise Creator.

And at the beginning of time, the first man and woman were faced with these same two paths. Would they listen to the voice of the flesh, or to the voice of the Spirit? Would they receive the authority and trustworthiness of God’s Word, or reject it?

This is the question you’re faced with every day. Before you even get out of bed, you need to decide: will you set your mind on the flesh? Will you get out of bed to live for your own priorities, for your own plans, for your own self-advancement? Or will your whole life be shaped by the Spirit?

Notice carefully what’s at stake. Verse 6 tells us, “to set the mind on the flesh is death. This is because evil isn’t just a problem somewhere outside of us. Our own flesh is tainted by deceitful corruptions – by sin. Our flesh produces ungodly thoughts and cravings. So if our mind is set on the flesh, it’ll lure us into sin, and sin will lead us to death. And verses 7 and 8 say that the mind set on the flesh is fundamentally opposed to God – “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

This hostility against God can take different forms. Some people express their hostility by running from the church and dashing headlong into profanity. But other people show their hostility against God by insisting they’re good without him. They judge themselves to be decent, moral people, and they aren’t willing to accept that God’s perfect law judges them otherwise. They’re unwilling to cry out for Jesus, because they’re unwilling to admit they need him. And so they’re hostile against God and His Word – because they won’t accept what God says is true.

And this won’t end well – because those who are in the flesh cannot please God. To set the mind on the flesh like this is death. That’s the road all of us would still be on if it weren’t for Jesus. But since Jesus died for us, and sends his Spirit to be in us, we don’t have to serve the flesh, sin, and death. We can set our mind on the Spirit. Verse 6 reminds us that “to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

The Spirit Lives In Us

And in verses 9-11, we see the second thing that’s true of those who walk in the Spirit: the Spirit Lives in us – he lives in everyone who belongs to Christ.

Verse 9 says “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit if, in fact, the Spirit of God dwells in you.” In other words, those who are in the Spiritthey have the Spirit living within them. If the Spirit of God lives in you, you’ll live in the Spirit.

But if He isn’t in you, you’ll show signs of spiritual deadness. God will seem irrelevant or irritating to you. Sin will seem lovely instead of loathsome. You’ll think the Scriptures are burdensome rather than beautiful. If this describes you, you should be concerned – these are signs that you’re living in the flesh! But when the Spirit comes and dwells in us, he brings true life to us in two ways.

The first way he gives life is by giving us new spiritual life. In Chapter 3 of John’s gospel, Jesus teaches we must be born again to enter into the kingdom of God. And the Spirit is the one who brings this new birth – this new spiritual life. The Spirit regenerates us, meaning he connects us to the life-giving work of Christ, and he raises us out of our spiritual deadness. This work of the Spirit transforms our thinking, our affections – the whole direction of our lives. Those who walk in the Spirit do so because the Spirit has breathed new life into their souls.

But the Spirit also brings life in a second way. There’s a future day coming when the Spirit will bring new physical life. Verse 10 of our text acknowledges that, at this point, our body is dead because of sin. The new life in our souls has not yet touched or transformed our physical bodies. Our bodies are still fallen in Adam’s sin, still influenced by evil desires. But if Christ is in you – if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies – how? – through his Spirit who dwells in you. (We see this in verse 11).

So if the Spirit lives in you, you have life – not because of anything you bring to the table, but because of what God brings. Through faith in Christ, His Spirit of life lives in us and produces life in us – new life that today renews our souls, and that will tomorrow raise our bodies from the grave.

The Spirit Helps Us Put Sin to Death

When we walk in this new life, though, our old way of life must cease. This is my 3rd point – when we walk in the Spirit, the Spirit helps us put our old sinful deeds to death. Verse 13 explains: “…if you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if – by the Spirit – you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”

The Spirit opposes sin, and wants it to die because sin is harmful and evil. Sin deceives us. It endangers us. It destroys us. Sin is like a great bear, crouching, ready to leap on you, its teeth bared, its claws extended – and those who walk in the Spirit recognize that something has to die. Either the great bear of sin must die, or you must. An old English pastor named John Owen once said, “Be killing sin, or it will be killing you.”

But in God’s great mercy and goodness to us, he hasn’t left us alone to face the bear. Christ has defeated sin and death. And by His Holy Spirit, we can share in that victory – and win victories against our own evil desires and deeds.

But how do we put our sin to death?

Our text suggests that we put sin to death by living more in the Spirit. And we cultivate this new life in the Spirit by using the means of grace – the things God has given us to strengthen and confirm our faith. He’s given us His Word – the Bible. And he’s given us prayer – we have his ear night and day, every day.

When our eyes are set on Jesus, and our hearts are set on his grace, the root of sin doesn’t have soil to grow in. When we see God’s truth in the Bible, we see our sin for what it is, and its ability to deceive us dies. When we marvel in the gospel, how God loves us and is loyal to us, our love and loyalty for sin dies. When we bring our problems to God in prayer, it means we’re no longer turning to sin to find relief, and sin’s influence over our heart dies.

Putting sin to death isn’t a one-time act, or a short, simple process. But putting sin to death is an ongoing indicator that you’re living in the Spirit.

So when you walk in the Spirit, he shapes your thinking, he lives in you, and he helps you put your sin to death. Let’s thank God together for the good gift of His Spirit:

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