One of the greatest challenges I’ve encountered as a believer is learning to walk in, or by, the Spirit. Though I didn’t grow up in church, I’ve been in it long enough to have heard the admonition to be led by the Spirit many times. However, I don’t remember anyone ever telling me how to do it. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what that phrase meant. Several years ago I came across a little book by Graham Cooke called, Towards a Powerful Inner Life. Though it is small, it is packed with wisdom and truth that greatly helped me. I highly encourage you to read his books and listen to his teachings, they are amazing!
Just as God is triune (three parts) in nature, so is man. We are made up of spirit, soul, and body. (1 Thess. 5:23) Our spirit is dead at birth, but is reborn at salvation. (John 3:3-8) Our spirit then becomes one with His indwelling Spirit, which is how we commune with Him. God releases revelation to our spirit, which is then processed through our mind and applied to our soul. Our spirit is always in agreement with God because we are one with Him through the Spirit.
Our soul is made up of three parts: our mind, will, and emotions. Obviously, we think with our minds, feel with our emotions, and make choices with our wills. Unbelievers live entirely from this realm. (1 Cor. 2:14) After the Fall of man, the spirit died and we lost our communion with, and the true knowledge of, God. This is clearly seen when Adam and Eve tried to hide in fear and shame from the One they once walked and talked with freely in the Garden. Ever since then, man came under the dominion of his soul rather than his spirit. The soul is the part of us that is influenced by the enemy.
Our body is the vehicle that carries our spirit and soul, and follows the dictates of whichever one we allow to be in charge of our decisions. If we live from our soul, we will indulge in fleshly passions that can bring great harm to our bodies, even if we are “born again.” When we live from our spirit, the Spirit will influence our decisions and we will put our fleshly desires to death, by God’s empowering grace. (Gal. 5:16, 24)
God has given us free will; we can choose whether we are going to listen to, and follow, our soul or our spirit. Since our soul is used to calling the shots, we must put forth the effort to build up our spirit. We can do this through communing with God in His Word, in worship, and prayer. We must take responsibility for renewing our minds, according to Romans 12:2. In time, this will bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, and whatever we make agreement with, we empower. When we agree with the enemy’s lies, we give him power over us.
The carnal soul is self-absorbed. I think of it as a spoiled child – it wants what it wants, and it wants it now! It is influenced by our ungodly thoughts, our damaged emotions, and the enemy who tempts us to indulge our flesh. Our soul loves God, but wants Him on our terms, not His. It is stubborn, independent, and rebellious, and must be disciplined in order to come into submission to our spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit is self-control, a soul that has been trained to submit to the indwelling Spirit, in union with our human spirit. As we bring our thoughts into agreement with God’s, allow Him to heal our damaged emotions, and resist the temptations of the enemy, we can bring our soul into submission to our spirit. This is how we learn to walk by the Spirit.
What has God taught you about walking by the Spirit? Please comment below.