Living in the spirit is not easily nailed down to a definition everyone accepts. That the application of the meaning of the word cannot be reduced to a system supported by policies and procedures is the attribute of this sublime spiritual state which reveals being in the spirit means to be alive with God and waiting on Him. He, as the Holy Spirit, is the definition of the word.
I rarely find any discussion on how one learns to walk in the spirit. It is an accepted phrase which gets much use with limited depth of mutual understanding between believers. Often, when I’ve attempted to move a discussion in this direction—and I have been making this attempt for over twenty years—I get one of three reactions: the person or group gets all excited and wants to talk about the presumed effects of being in the spirit, usually the spiritual gift list of I Corinthians 12; the eyes, that window into the soul, retreat somewhat and heads nod while the conversation dwindles after a few simple truisms; or a list of expectations about behavior follow with legalistic undertones. I hear very little practical substance. It raises the question, “Can a supernatural reality have a practical explanation?”
Of course behavior is the issue, since the behavior of a Christian is expected to have the savor of the Savior as described in Galatians 5: 22-23. Christians sing, “God, create in me a new heart;” study the Word seeking understanding of what it says to live accordingly; listen to sermons; or participate in discussions in a class or home-group meeting format. All this "spiritual” activity is intended to be a part of developing a walk with God. Why do we think such is true? What evidence supports the conclusion that doing these or other activities develops the spiritual state the Bible calls "in spirit" or "in the spirit"?
Perhaps some intend to seek the path of righteousness but actually are guided by simply doing what the group does. More often, I think it is believed these activities are choosing the path to righteousness, and as such the activities and the group are the support system needed. People being who they are, many may even become refined in Christ-like behavior and rest securely there; but many secretly wonder if these efforts are the wood, hay and stubble kind of work or the work of gold the Father will praise. All of the sincerest efforts to grow more deeply in the way of Christ and all the insecurities over measuring up rest on what is or is not truly in the heart which only the Lord sees.
This post is not a complaint or charge against anyone or any group. The current state of affairs within the Body of Christ is certainly more profoundly complex, broader and more significant than I can describe in even a series of posts on a blog. Yet, I write today because I wonder, “What can simplify the issues between believers, reduce the tensions which arise over disagreements, bring life to the soul and spirit of individuals, develop more unity within our Christ-family, and ultimately increase the effectiveness of communicating the gospel?”
The answer, the only conclusion I can draw is learning a deeper, more authentic walk in the spirit.
It is a topic that cannot be denied. In the NAS New Testament, there are 380 total uses of the Greek word pneuma which translates seven ways. Of those seven translations, “spirit” is the translation 345 times. We just celebrated Christmas with its message of “Emmanuel, God with us.” We teach and believe that our very bodies are the earthly temple of God. This is the meaning of Christianity.
Or so I see it, in this wild wood of a world so desperately sick with sin.