Walking by faith
To walk by faith and understand the Holy Spirit’s pattern of life, we need to comprehend how the first sin came into being. Sin diverted man from God’s standard and if we understand how this came about, we can more easily determine the way back to His pattern. The problem with the flesh started when Adam and Eve began to doubt God’s Word. Now for us to enter into the dimension of the Spirit we need to fulfill the first condition. To walk in the Spirit implies walking by faith. If we do not walk by faith, we are not walking in the Spirit.
Walking in the spirit and walking by faith are interchangeable terms in the bible. The Word of God says, “Without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11.6) and that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8.8). Observe these two passages: in the Letter to the Hebrews, Paul says that unbelievers cannot please God, and in the Letter to the Romans, the apostle says that the carnal Christian cannot please Him either. Therefore, the carnal Christian is also a type of unbeliever.
Eve doubted the Word of God and thus became the first unbeliever. Now, for us to enter into the dimension of the spirit we have to walk by faith. Unbelief is one of the manifestations of carnality and those who are in the flesh are easily recognizable; they are unbelievers, indifferent and insensitive. At this point, it is important to recognize that we are not dealing with belief for salvation but belief for walking in the spirit. Many Christians have sufficient faith for salvation because the Bible teaches that saving faith is a gift (Ephesians 2:8, 9) whereas faith for God’s provision and guidance is a command for those who already possess eternal life and must move forward to maturity.
To walk by faith is to be full of the Spirit
If someone walks in the spirit, he will be full of the Holy Spirit. A person that walks in the spirit can easily be identified because everything that he does overflows with life. When we talk about life we are not referring to the deeds and works of righteousness and integrity and everything that one would expect from a good Christian, we are talking about something more subtle, intuitive, something that although we don’t know where it comes from or where it is going, we can see that it is powerful. When we see someone who is full of the Spirit, we sense something different about that person.
The first miracle that Jesus performed was turning water into wine. In the Scriptures, wine is a symbol of life. It is easy to see if a person has been drinking wine. The first thing you notice is the change in their complexion; their skin appears healthier. Secondly, their eyes begin to sparkle as if full of joy; however it is a natural joy, coming from the alcohol of the wine. Thirdly, they were filled with excitement and a sensation of strength. The person starts to feel like a lion; a smile easily forms on their lips and they seem full of life. Wine is a symbol of life because it brings the sensations of life, even though it is superficial and temporary.
When we drink of the Lord and come under the influence of the Holy Spirit, something similar happens to us, but it is something much more profound. We smile easier and become less inhibited feeling free to praise, jump or shout before the Lord. It is not an external joy, from jokes or from upbeat music but it is well founded, coming from the inside, from the Spirit; it is permanent; a fire from the Lord that burns inside our hearts, transforming our perspective of life as something beautiful and different. This fire is the living presence of the Lord within us.
What does it mean to walk by faith?
To walk by faith implies placing no dependence on what you see, what you can do, or what you understand. Walking in the spirit implies renouncing these three things: walking by sight, by your own ability and by your own understanding.
Walk not by sight
We live by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7)
The second most important aspect of walking in the spirit is to walk by faith and not by sight. We should adopt the following rule: “If what I see agrees with the Word of God, I keep looking at it; but if it does not agree with the Word of God, I ignore what I’m seeing and choose to believe only what the Word of God tells me. This seems like an imprudent way to live – to the world it is simply madness.
If there is one type of circumstance in which we are tempted to walk by sight it has to be when we deal with illnesses and diseases. Many times, we insist on looking at the symptoms of the disease instead of looking at what the Word of God says concerning sickness and diseases. If the Word of God says that the Lord Himself took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses on the cross (Mat. 8:17), then we must reject the symptoms and hold to the truth of the Word, no matter what we see or feel. Walking by sight is a characteristic of the carnal Christian. If we insist on walking by sight, we will be slaves to the natural realm. Circumstances will easily knock us down and our confidence will collapse. We must learn to see in the spirit and walk by what we believe God will do, not by what the devil suggests will happen by provoking us to focus on present circumstances.
Renouncing our own effort
Every carnal Christian walks in his own strength and effort. Faith implies dependence on God. If we walk in our own strength, we do not need to use our faith. The principal characteristic of the life of faith is rest. Paul says in Hebrews 4:3 “For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said.” Those who walk in the spirit walk in rest. They are like sailboats in the middle of the sea; they do not need to make any effort, they just allow the wind to take them. We are like the sailboat and the wind acts like the Spirit. Observe that this rest is not leisure, not a retreat or vacation. We could go to the most beautiful and pleasant places in the world searching for rest and still not find it. Our body may be resting but we may remain restless. True rest is being able to say, “Lord, I know it is you who does the work, not me. I am not the one who saves, you are, Lord. I am not the one who makes holy, but you are, Lord. I am not the one who does it, but you are.” If we lose our rest and anguish every time we have to do something like preach, work or any other activity, and if our anxiety increases to the point of losing our joy, then there is a lack of such rest. We must not do God’s work in tiredness, fatigue or through sweat: we must do it by depending on the Lord. Ezekiel gives us a clear idea of just who serves in the temple:
In addition, it shall be, whenever they enter the gates of the inner court that they shall put on linen garments; no wool shall come upon them while they minister within the gates of the inner court or within the house. They shall have linen turbans on their heads and linen trousers on their bodies; they shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat. (Ezekiel 44:17, 18)
When we do the work of God, we must not sweat. We are the Levite priests in charge of serving in the house of the Lord and when we are serving Him, we must not produce sweat.
It is vital that we understand what sweat represents in the Bible. In Genesis 3:19 God included sweat as part of the curse of sin. Sweat is the symbol of the curse, but thankfully, God delivered us from the curse of sin through Jesus Christ. It is so great to serve God. We do not have to sweat and be tired.
Those who draw near to serve in the temple of God’s presence must not work in and through their own strength thus producing sweat. We no longer have to live with the curse of sin. The Lord Jesus sweated great drops of blood in Gethsemane in our place so that we do not have to sweat. Now we can enter His rest. His Spirit works in us. Walking by faith means that we must give up our own efforts and enter the rest of God. If we walk in the spirit, we will also walk in His rest.
Renouncing our own understanding
Some Christians walk by their own effort, some walk by sight and others walk by their own understanding. After man ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he became full of his own opinions. In order to enjoy God’s best today man needs to break free from his natural understanding and independence of God.
God called Abraham and told him that he would be the father of multitudes. He and his wife could not have children so they decided to help God by having a child with Sarah’s maidservant Hagar (Genesis 16:1-4). The name of the child was Ishmael who represented the fruit of Abraham’s own understanding and natural strength in an effort to accomplish the God’s will. However, the Lord did not accept it. God rejects the efforts of those who do things that do not please Him, but He also rejects the efforts of those who do things to please Him through their own will and understanding.
Another example of a person who walked in his own understanding is Saul. The Lord commanded him to destroy the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3), but what did Saul do? Seeing the healthy cattle and the fat sheep, he decided to separate them as an offering to the Lord. His natural understanding was that it would have been a waste to kill them all and after all he would be offering them to God. However, God’s verdict is that whoever is of the flesh cannot please Him.
God rejects many things that are not wrong in the eyes of man. Although we should not be slaves of codes of conduct and the rules of right and wrong, the important thing is to learn to walk in the spirit.
If we correctly hear the Spirit, naturally we will do God’s will. If we walk by our own understanding, we are not walking by faith and dependence on the Spirit; that is why those who walk in their own understanding cannot please God; the things that they do not come from faith but from the flesh.
When we are counseling someone, we should not give him or her all the answers up front; we should stimulate them to use their own spirit in order to discern God’s direction for them. When God speaks, there is growth. Human words can be good, but when God speaks, there is transformation and life.
Growth comes when we learn to hear from God directly. Many leaders stimulate their disciples to be dependent on them. Real spiritual leaders teach their disciples to hear and depend on God. If the leader always reveals what the will of God is, the disciple will never learn to discern on his own.
To live in the flesh is to walk in your own strength, by your own sight and by leaning on your own understanding. The walk of faith on the other hand, is to walk in God’s rest, ignoring the visible and renouncing your own understanding whenever necessary.