Thursday, August 14, 2014

Not by obeying the law, but by walking in the Spirit

I was reading Galatians 3 with my family last night, and gained some new understanding on a crucial question for the Christian life. The Galatians had been justified by believing the Gospel, by grace through faith according to the power of Holy Spirit regeneration, not by feeble - or even mighty - attempts to obey the law. Why then, Paul asks, were they trying to proceed through obedience to the law instead of by that same Holy Spirit power?

I've long pondered the step-by-step method of living in the Spirit, or keeping in step with the Spirit. How do I live in the present by the Spirit, not trusting my own efforts to follow Christ? I think it has to do with "being" rather than "doing." It's not so much that I need to obey the law - for Christ did that for me; rather, I need to pursue the fruit of the Spirit. I need to be loving, joyful, patient, kind, gentle, self-controlled, etc... In "being," I will find the "doing" follows naturally - or perhaps supernaturally - as the Holy Spirit conforms not merely my behavior but my very character to that of Jesus.

There was some good family discussion around this topic, and we concluded, hopefully rightly, that justification comes by grace through faith by the logically primary regenerating action of the Hoy Spirit, and sanctification follows in the same manner. Our failures and setbacks in the sanctification process come when we concern ourselves more with "doing," instead of focusing on "being." We will always and inevitably fail at the "doing," because that comes through our own efforts, even when we think we are cooperating with the Spirit. But a greater level of success - though not perfection in this life - will come as we keep in step with the Spirit, by "being."

Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control.

So it's not, "I need to obey better today." Instead, it's, "I need to be more like this today." Lord willing, I will be.