A man, blind from birth, learns of an operation that will give him the gift of sight. Encouraged by his friends and family, he undergoes the procedure. The operation is a success and for the first time in his life he can see.
However, he finds himself disoriented and confused. He recognizes nothing and is unable to process light and distance. Everything appears alien to him so he begins to walk with his eyes shut. Darkness is the world he knows and can navigate. After some time, he begins to act in every way like the blind man he used to be. Although his eyes are perfectly normal, he never uses them.
This is how it is for those of us who are born of the spirit but who have not learned how to walk after the spirit. When we were in the flesh we walked after the flesh. Spiritually dead, the natural world was the only world we knew and we relied on our five senses to live.
But when we were born again we were given a new life with new senses. Like the blind man in the story, we can now live in two worlds: the natural world and the spiritual world; the seen realm and the unseen realm (Heb 11:3).
We use our natural senses to navigate the natural world but in the spiritual world we walk by faith. It is only by faith that we can make sense of things we do not see (Heb 11:1).
The trouble is faith often runs contrary to our natural senses. This is why the Bible challenges us to live by faith rather than by sight (2 Cor 5:7). Lean on your own understanding and you will never live the abundant life that God has promised. It is only by faith that you can receive what he offers.
To walk after the flesh is to be mindful of natural things – what we see, hear, touch, etc. But to walk after the spirit means we are mindful of spiritual things – what God has said and is now saying, what God has done is now doing. I’m not talking about being born again. Your new birth was a one-time work of the Spirit (Jn 3:5). But once you have been born of the Spirit, you need to learn how to walk in the spirit. It’s a completely different way to live.
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal 5:25)
You have a choice
The person unacquainted with the Holy Spirit cannot walk in the spirit. The natural world is the only world he knows. But when you have been born of the Spirit you have a choice. You can interpret any situation with your natural senses or with faith.
Let me illustrate. Suppose you go to the doctor and he shows you an x-ray of your brain, says you have a tumor, and tells you that you have a week to live. If the natural world is all you know, you’d better start wrapping up your affairs. Everything you have heard and seen is telling you that you’re going to die. You can choose how you’re going to die – bravely or fearfully – but that’s about the only choice you have.
The spirit-conscious person, on the other hand, has options. She will not accept the doctor’s report as the last word. She might say, “I need a second opinion. What does Dr. Jesus say?”
See what she’s doing? She’s switching her attention from the natural realm to the spiritual. She’s looked at the x-ray and now she is fixing her eyes on something unseen and eternal. Her spirit is one with the Lord and through that connection she is being reminded of life-giving promises pertaining to healing (e.g., Is 53:4, Ps 103:3).
Although she may be battling anxiety, she strives to enter that rest which is found only in Jesus. She begins to think about Jesus who carried her infirmities. And as she sets his mind on things above she begins to sense supernatural peace and faith stirring within.
When you walk according to the flesh, life always has the last word. The circumstances of your life will tell you when to be sick, poor, and anxious. Enemies of sickness and poverty will seek to rob you of your appetite, sleep, and joy.
But when you walk according to the spirit you will find yourself talking back to your circumstances. You’ll argue with doctors. You’ll speak to your bank account. You may even shout at sickness.
If you think that’s weird, consider Jesus. He spoke to trees and storms and said we’d speak to mountains! The spirit-conscious believer talks back because she knows that life does not have the last word. She refuses to let her circumstances dictate her actions.
Walk the talk
Learning how to walk is a skill. It takes practice. In my next article I’ll give you some examples of walking in the spirit from the Bible and then I’ll give you three keys from Watchman Nee help you on your way. But I know you can’t wait. You want to know how to walk in the spirit now. Here’s the short version:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. (Pro 3:5-6, NIV)
The operative word in this passage is “acknowledge.” It does not mean tipping your hat to Jesus whenever you go charging off on a scheme of your own invention. Neither is it saying “I want to thank the Lord Jesus” in all the victory speeches of life. Acknowledging the Lord means knowing him in all your ways. Here’s the same verse in a literal translation:
In all thy ways know thou him, and he doth make straight thy paths. (Pro 3:6, YLT)
When the doctor has just pronounced the sentence of death, you want to know the Lord – what does he say on the matter? It’s his word that counts.
When you’ve been offered a promotion or you’ve just met the perfect man or woman and it all seems good to you, you want to know the Lord – what does he think about this?
The spirit-conscious believer is not the slightest bit interested in what her experience or natural understanding is telling her. Her sole desire is to know and follow Jesus.
Knowing the Lord as you walk through life will make a crooked path straight.
When you know the Lord you’ll walk through the valley of shadow without fear. You’ll feast in the presence of your enemies.