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Stepping by the Spirit

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Dr. David Eckman takes an in-depth look at what it means to keep in step with the Spirit.

So far, Galatians has used the most inclusive term of all, "walking," to describe the over-all work of the Spirit. A part of walking is Spirit leading. That is when we respond to the influence of the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, and other positive qualities—in our lives. Another term appears in Galatians 5:25 that deals with particular, concrete circumstances we need to address spiritually. That is called "Spirit stepping." Now verse 25 says:

And if we are living by the Spirit, also by the Spirit, let's keep in step.

Now that word for step is stoikeo which is different than the Greek word for walk. Stoikeo refers to an inch-by-inch, short step-by-step keeping of principles. Walking refers to organizing our life. With this word stoikeo, we make sure that each step we're taking is in harmony with love, joy and peace. We must apply the ministry of the Spirit to each of our relationships in life. Love, joy and peace should be carried into every aspect of our dealings with people. So if we face a difficult phone call, or an uncomfortable conversation, or a stress at work, we need to be sure we are "putting our best foot forward," in this case it is our spiritual foot.

What this means is that spirituality is a highly subjective business. We've got to be in touch with our emotions. We've got to be able to recognize what a negative mood is, what guilt is, what shame is, we've got to view it as an enemy, we've got to view it as a spiritual issue that we have to take to God the Father. We have to recognize that He views us through the Son, and not the way we feel. We have to stand outside of our emotions and stand in Christ relating to God the Father.

Now why is it so important to be sensitive to what we are feeling? The works of the flesh are highly emotional and the fruit of the Spirit is powerfully emotional. We need to know the source of the different feelings floating through us.

If we went to a psychiatric emergency ward, having an emotional collapse, the first thing they would want to sort out is, "Can this person stand outside their emotions and describe what's going on inside? Or have they just become one big emotion?" If one can still stand outside and describe it, they'll say, "There is hope for this person." In the psychological world, being self-observant is important. In spiritual realities, being self-observant is also critical.
When the person becomes the negative emotion, then the counseling profession will consider using medicines. The brain has become submerged in negative emotions. Spirituality begins when we stop living by negative moods and lust. Life needs to be lived out of a relationship to the Father.

The flesh works with negative feelings. The Spirit leads us along by positive feelings. Being a Spirit-led person simply means that we're habituated to live off of love, joy and peace. The maturing Christian who is becoming familiar with the Spirit's leading knows how to apply, in a detailed way, love, joy and peace to all the relationships of life. The growing person knows how to take a negative mood, like discontent, that comes from the flesh, and knows how to dissipate it by having an intelligent, spiritual conversation with the Father. All of this revolves around emotions.

The flesh has an atmosphere of its own that we need to be able to recognize, and we need to be rather tough with ourselves. We may not be able to shake these things fast, but we've got to be straightforward with ourselves. The flesh produces moods, passivity, negative emotional atmospheres, and strong desires to do wrong. It also produces a perspective. Romans 8:7-8 tells us that the flesh, over time, will produce a perspective:

Therefore the perspective, or the understanding of the flesh is death for it is not subject to the Law of God.

That word "perspective" is the mindset. The flesh will produce a vague, hopeless, passive, negative mindset, that says this is all that life has. The person will be imprisoned in the moods and the strong desires of the flesh, with a limited mindset where God really doesn't practically exist. God is not included, so that perspective of the flesh has to be challenged, radically and bravely challenged. Then the flesh produces works (Galatians 5:19-21). The flesh will produce ways of handling life. For instance, people will handle relationships by becoming sexually active or hating people.

A Christian has to become an expert at spotting the moods of the flesh and skilled at transitioning to the fruit of the Spirit. The presence of the fruit of the Spirit (the essential elements are love - a delight in others, joy - a deep satisfaction with life, and peace - an absence of inner-turmoil) keys us into the fact that we're relating properly to God. If you say to yourself, "I'm not satisfied with life, I'm not peaceful and I really don't like people," I would say your understanding of Christianity and of God as a Father is deficient. You have an improper understanding of who God the Father is, and how God views you in Christ. None of us have a perfect understanding, but we should have a growing understanding.

How do we access this in an emotionally rich way? We first have to understand the doctrine. Christ satisfied God. Secondly, we are worth a Son to this Father. Thirdly, we are in Christ. On the basis of those realities, we can begin to bring the circle of our lives under the Spiritís ministry. As we do so, the Spirit will lead us by emotional promptings, and loving insights. Going through life, we need to learn how to meet individual, concrete problems as we are influenced by the Spirit. This is called taking steps by the Spirit.

Is it okay for a person to be controlled by emotions? Why or why not?

Do you know someone who actively displays the qualities of love, joy and peace in their life? What is this person like? How do you feel when you are around them?

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