Two Guides in Every Man

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Question: I’m embarrassed to ask this, but what does it really mean to walk in the Spirit?

Response: First of all, there is absolutely no need for any embarrassment here. The truth is, having a humble, honest, and teachable heart, one that is willing to confess its ignorance and be a fool before both God and man, is the ONLY way that we will ever grow in the truth. The natural man knows NOTHING that is spiritual, despite what he thinks or claims. And the heart of man receives light and spiritual understanding from God only when he is willing to “put his hand over his mouth,” and confess, “Behold, I am vile.” (Job 40:4).

Only the Lord can teach you how to walk in His Spirit, but I can try to share a few things on this subject that have been helpful to me. First of all, I think it is important to understand that the engine (so to speak) that drives all mankind is DESIRE. Every man and woman wakes up every morning, and as far as they are able to do so, they begin to seek after what they desire. Desire moves them, calls them, motivates them, pulls them, and inspires them. Desire governs all that man does. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that the soul of man IS a desire. It is a living, individual, intellectual creation of God that was made both to desire and to receive all goodness, life, truth, wisdom, righteousness, love, etc. from God. And this is why, apart from God, it experiences itself to be constant LACK of, and DESIRE for, these things. Apart from the life of God abiding and reigning in us, our souls are a deep emptiness, an aching hunger, a desperate thirst, a dark chaos, a painful lack, a longing for what we do not have but cannot live without. Everybody who lives in the flesh feels these relentless desires because everybody was created to have all desire met and satisfied in the life, light, and love of Jesus Christ.

Desire is not evil in itself. The problem with desire has to do with where it comes from, and what it aims at. For a short time, the first man had all his desire aimed at the one Fountain of goodness. He felt his true needs, and found them perfectly fulfilled and satisfied in the person and power of God. The desires of his soul were created by God, and they were also met by the life of God, by the love of God, the wisdom, righteousness, truth, and power of God. And the desires of the outward man remained in their proper place, abiding in a happy submission to the righteousness, goodness, and provision of God.

But as I mentioned in another blog post, the great lie of the serpent turned the eye of man’s desire towards another kind of goodness. Instead of finding the real desires of his soul met by the Tree of Life, man turned outward and downward, letting out his desires after the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. When he believed that goodness could be had apart from God, he turned his heart, and reached to the world for the benefit of SELF. In the words of Jeremiah, this was a “forsaking of the fountain of living waters, to hew for themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” (Jer 2:13) This was a setting of the gaze on things below, or a looking at things that were seen and not at those that were unseen. And the immediate result was a great and terrible FALL or DEPARTURE from the life, glory, and purpose of God, into an outward, natural, animal life that feels and chases all sorts of deceptive desires that come from the flesh, and that only aim at the selfish pleasures of body and mind.

I mention this now because here we see the origin of all false desire. Or in the words of Paul, this is why man “grows corrupt according to deceitful lusts.” (Eph 4:22) And this is also the reason why man now finds TWO sources of desire, or two contrary wills at work within him. Because, on the one hand, we all find in ourselves the selfish desires of the natural man, which come from the fallen nature of flesh and mix with the dark lies and influences of Satan. Everyone feels the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of self-life. And when these desires are obeyed and followed, it is called walking in the flesh. Walking in the flesh, or living in the flesh, simply means living in willful submission to the will or desire of the flesh, or first birth. And though this may procure for man some of the passing pleasures of sin, it nevertheless brings greater and greater death and darkness upon the immortal part of man, and produces all of the horrible consequences and curses that are mentioned throughout Scripture. For example:

  • Rom 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
  • Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing.
  • Rom 8:8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
  • Rom 8:13 For 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.
  • Rom 9:8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.
  • 1Co 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.
  • Gal 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
  • Gal 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
  • Gal 6:8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
  • Eph 2:3 We all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
  • 2 Pet 2:10 The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority.
  • 1Jn 2:16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

And this is precisely the reason why Jesus said things like, “That which is born of flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.” “You must be born again.” “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing.” Because, as I started to say before, though on the one hand man finds in himself an incredible force of deceptive desire arising from his flesh and aiming at the world, he ALSO finds in himself the stirring, moving, convicting, and calling of another desire or will that comes from a very different source. This second will or desire is a heavenly thing, sown into the heart of man as a seed or gift of grace, a measure of heavenly light and life, a living Word that awakens in us a deeper desire for what is good and right, pure and true and living and wise and clean. The one comes from the flesh, calling us to remain in the flesh and to selfishly seek the things of this world. The other comes from the Spirit of God, inviting the soul to be born of the Spirit, and to grow and live and walk in the Spirit. Regarding these two Paul says, “I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Rom 7:21-23)

Feeling and understanding this distinction is all that we need to learn to walk in the Spirit. Because just as walking in the flesh means following and obeying the will of the flesh that comes from self and does all for self; so walking in the Spirit means following and obeying the will of the Spirit, that comes from God and does all for God.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” This is a well-known Scripture. But have you ever considered how nonsensical this statement would be if there were not something OTHER THAN SELF working in man? I mean, what would it mean to deny self, if self were the only life or will that man could find in himself? That would be like telling a cat to deny itself, to deny all feline influences and desires. This clearly doesn’t make sense because a cat experiences no other life or will. However, since there is also a seed of the kingdom in man, a gift of heavenly life and light, or in Paul’s words, something of “God who works in you both to WILL and to do for His good pleasure,” (Phil 2:13) then it makes perfect sense that Jesus would tell us to deny the one and to learn to walk in the other.

To put it simply, walking in the Spirit has to do with living in, and walking according to the light, will, desire, or purpose of the Holy Spirit of God. Now, people sometimes think that this sounds strange or mystical, or that it is only for prophets, apostles, and heavenly angels. But the truth is that it only sounds strange to us because we have paid little or no attention to something that we have all experienced countless times. What have we all experienced countless times? We have all experienced the stirring, moving, convicting, teaching, and reproving of a SECOND will in our hearts that contradicts the will of our flesh, and shows us (beyond a doubt) that our actions, or words, or desires are evil. This, to be sure, is not the will of the flesh opposing itself. This is not the kingdom of Satan divided against itself. This is the presence and power of a CONTRARY seed, a God-given witness, a measure of heavenly leaven that has power (when followed) to leaven all three measures of meal.

What I’m trying to say is that walking in the Spirit is not a listening for the outward voice of God to give verbal instructions to our outward ears. Walking in the Spirit has to do with the denial of self (the will and desires of the fallen fleshly man), and the continual turning, watching, and submitting to whatever measure of light, truth, and righteousness the Spirit of God is making manifest to your heart.

Now, before I say more about this, let me try to head off a common misunderstanding or deception on this point. People often love to talk about spiritual things, and they love to feel like they are spiritual people. And the whole concept of being “spiritual” now has almost as many definitions as there are people in the world. People who have no belief in God, no desire after righteousness, and no willingness to be corrected by their Creator, talk just as much about being “spiritual” as those who do. They love to talk about man’s “spiritual side,” or the importance of “spiritual health,” or the greatness of spiritual wisdom and experience. And (sadly) people who do believe in God often use the word spiritual to describe almost anything that is emotional, sentimental, or profound. But let me tell you in the strongest way that I know how, that the TRUE Spirit of God—the Spirit that comes from God, and works in man according to the will, nature, and power of God—is a Spirit of truth and righteousness who testifies in man AGAINST the passion, will and nature of flesh. In other words, He is a HOLY Spirit, who never consents to or mixes with sin, but always testifies against it, inviting men to die to themselves and to find new life in Christ.

Jer 23:17 “They continually say to those who despise Me, ‘The LORD has said, You shall have peace’; And to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, ‘No evil shall come upon you.’ For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard His word? Who has marked His word and heard it? 21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they would have turned them from their evil way and from the evil of their doings.” 26 “How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart.” “‘The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?’ says the LORD. ‘Is not My word like a fire?’ says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

God’s Spirit has God’s nature and purity and perfection. His living Word is like a fire in the heart that first brings light and then destruction upon every root and branch of sin; that is, upon every will and way of man that has broken off from God in order to find a life in self. When the Spirit of God makes Himself manifest in man, it is never first to affirm or praise what or where he is, but rather to expose what he has become, “convicting the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8) I stress this because there are many who claim to follow the Spirit, but their guide is not a Holy Spirit that exposes, reproves, and calls them out of sinful flesh. There are many who say they want to be led by the Spirit of God, but the spirit they follow affirms, accepts, and even praises them while they walk according to the dictates of their own evil hearts.

So again, when Scripture talks about walking in the Spirit, or living in the Spirit, it is talking about a continual turning to, following, and submitting to the Spirit and will of Him who crosses or CONTRADICTS the will of our flesh, and shows us that the actions, words, and desires of flesh are evil. Now, this is not the only thing that the Spirit does, nor is it the only thing that it means to walk in the Spirit. But this is where it starts, and it is incredibly important to start with the right Guide, and facing the right direction. And then (in time, and with faithfulness) we will find that the Spirit of God also changes our heart, gives us His life, fills us with His righteousness, wisdom, truth, and love, and allows us progressively to grow and walk in these things that come from Him and belong to Him. As we grow, walking in the Spirit comes to mean seeing more and more in His light, feeling more of what He feels, loving with His love, hating what He hates, drawing all from His sap and bearing His fruit. It means abiding in His vine, eating His flesh and drinking His blood, doing nothing against Him, and doing all things in Him and for Him. But it starts, as Jesus says, with a recognition and denial of the will and ways of the fallen, fleshly life of self. It starts with staying under His yoke, learning from Him, and surrendering entirely to the power of His grace, that “appears to every man, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11).

There are a few other things on my mind relative to this subject, having to do with where the Spirit leads us, and why so few stay close to Him, but I will leave those for now, and maybe talk about them in another email.