Thursday, April 20, 2006

Walking in the Spirit - Alternative Living

If we do not live by the Spirit, what are the alternatives? If we do not live by the Spirit, what are the dynamic principles of life to which we will turn? Answers are easily at hand.

We can live by the flesh – raw human energy. In fact, that is our habit from birth. And our flesh has a certain vitality to it, especially when we are young. We can run, jump and dash about, though as we age, we find that such activities require recovery time, and we begin to face the fact that the flesh has a diminishing vitality. It ends in death. “All flesh is like grass, and all it’s glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers; the flower fades…”

We can also attempt to live by the Law – performance energy that desires to meet and exceed standards, gain approval and merit reward. In Jewish life, this Law took the form of Torah; in our secular society, we can see it in the ladder-climbing of the
corporation (lessons learned on college campuses) and in the one-upmanship that causes us to over-reach for the latest clothes, the bigger house, and the fancier cars. But these rat races are cruel, cut-throat, and often laced with lies. The profit professed doesn’t disclose the hidden costs, and the acquisitions, in the end, do not satisfy. As we proudly clutch today’s prize, we realize that tomorrow’s race has already begun, and that these games will go on until we give up, or die trying.

And so Paul’s letter to the Galatian believers invites us to embrace Christ; and in so doing, our memory verse (Gal. 5:25-26) instructs us concerning this brand new principle of living that, unlike all others, delivers what it promises – the Spirit gives life! Commit to walking (living) by this rule, by the Divine Third Person who right now, right in here (tap your heart) creates resurrection life that becomes ever more lively and Who helps us lay aside silly, human habits of preening and pride.

Walking in the Spirit - Footsteps

We are challenged to “walk in the footsteps” in two passages, one dealing with Abraham, and another with Christ, but both helping us understand what it means to walk in the Spirit.

Abraham is our founding father in the faith according to Paul in Romans 4. He is not only the father of the Jewish people, biologically, but the father of all other believers as well (the uncircumcised). He is the representative figure of faith in the Bible, as Adam is the representative figure of flesh (living independently from God). As humans, we stand in Adam’s shadow, and share in his character(istics). As believers, we stand in Abraham’s shadow, and share in his character (istics). And so we “walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had” (Rom 4:12).

But Abraham is not only a shadow-caster. He also pre-figures our Savior, Jesus Christ. As David, the great Israelite king, pre-figured the greater King,

Christ (though imperfectly), so also Abraham, the father of faith, pre-figures the perfectly Faithful One, (even though Abraham was not perfectly faithful). Abraham teaches us 1) to be faithful, and to take God at His Word. He also taught us 2) to look forward to the One who would be perfectly faithful –

This takes us to Peter’s reference to Christ, who “also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps” (1 Pet 2:21). Peter has just said that suffering for doing good “is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” As we march in Jesus’ parade, following in his steps, we share in the grace that is His, and which he shares, and which we also should share.

So what does it mean to walk in the Spirit (Gal 5:25-26)? It means to take God at His Word, and allow our lives to be shaped by that Word. It means to accept rejection even as we serve others sacrificially. May the Spirit help us become faithful servants.