“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
This is the final post in a series of three about “taking heart”. If you missed the first two, you can read them here:
This post is about the Holy Spirit, the second essential part of taking heart. The interplay between the Word of God and the Spirit of God gives birth to real change in and through us. I see the Word as the “input” and the Holy Spirit as the “output”. This post aims at discussing the practical problems with walking in the Spirit.
The Spirit of God is called by several names in the Scriptures. He is a Guide, Spirit of Truth, Wonderful Counselor, and Friend. The most important realization for us to learn is that the Holy Spirit is a person of God. He is a “He”, not an “it”. We can learn to relate to Him just like we do God as Father and Jesus the Son. The Father, Son, and Spirit are three parts of the One True God. Our relationship with the Triune God may appear somewhat vague and mysterious, especially when you add how Jesus describes the Spirit as being like the wind. “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). The wind is not personal. It is an impersonal force coming and going as it wills. We cannot see it but we feel the wind and know when it is present. Like this, we can develop sensitivity in our spirit to discern the Spirit of God within us. But we can misunderstand the freedom of movement Jesus was talking about here. The coming and going as it pleases is not a license for us to do as we feel. As I stated in the previous posts, our thoughts and feelings are often wrong. Our feelings lead us astray because they are founded in faulty thinking about God and ourselves. The Bible clearly identifies the fact that the Spirit and the flesh are in opposition to one another. Peter says our desires “war against our soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Paul teaches the flesh is disobedient and displeasing to God: “The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, not can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:7-8).
So, how do we learn to move in the Spirit? How do we resist our innate tendencies to move according to our flesh? There is a one word answer that is easier to say than it is to live out:
If we are to keep in step with the Holy Spirit we must give up control to Him. This is not an instant decision we can apply across every area of our lives. We spend a lifetime surrendering to God as He directs. We surrender our desires, hopes, ambitions, dreams, agendas, families, children, work, etc. We surrender pieces of our hearts and ourselves in loving God. Surrendering is taking heart. Jesus said “if you love me you will obey my commands” (John 14:15). Surrender is synonymous with obedience. Not a popular term, or a position we naturally take. But that is the point. The work of the Spirit of God within us is not natural. He and His work are supernatural. The steps He requires are well outside our comfort zone. They go against our grain, against our flow; they are counter-intuitive to us, and counter-cultural in every way.
I have come to see my relationship with the Holy Spirit as a dance. In the dance, the man is supposed to lead. In this case, the man would be the Holy Spirit. We are his dance partner and must relinquish the lead role in order to move with grace and poise. This requires faith on our part. We surrender in love to our Lord as leader of the dance. When we resist and try to lead ourselves, we get nowhere. Our dance becomes a choppy series of missteps, bruised toes (and egos!); a frustrating, futile, contest of wills. The dance devolves into a tangled mess. It is a dizzying roller coaster we no longer want to ride.
There are a couple of extreme positions we naturally take that keep us stuck in this loop: pride and fear. Both sides prevent us from surrendering to the dance. Below I give you a Scriptural basis for each one:
Pride is Chasing Wind: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless” (Ecclesiastes 1:2). These were the words of the wisest and wealthiest King of Israel near the end of his reign. King Solomon was considered the wisest of the wise. In this closing address, he acknowledges, with deep regret tingled in bitterness, that everything he had pursued in his life had no lasting purpose or value. He continues by giving a litany of all ways He pursued wisdom and success in life. His summation of it all was meaningless, “a chasing after the wind”. This took some humility and courage for Solomon to admit. His own pride and arrogance had cost him significantly in living a life of lasting value.
Fear is Blown and Tossed by Wind: “When he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does” (James 1:6-8). Fear is the equivalent of taking one step forward and two backward. We rise in faith and then shrink back in fear, doubt, and unbelief.
Dancing with the Spirit is not chasing wind or being blown away by it. The Holy Spirit knows the dance. He leads us faithfully according to the Father’s will. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). “And He who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). When we surrender in faith and trust Him to lead us, the dance becomes a beautiful display of the outpouring grace of God. Taking heart is learning to dance with the Wind.
The Holy Spirit steps toward us right where we are. He is undaunted by our extreme positions of pride and fear. He extends His gracious hand to us and asks, “May I have this dance?” Will you take His lead today and surrender your heart in faith? Will you learn to dance with the Wind? The beauty of your dance will inspire others to join you on God’s great dance floor.