Friday, October 22, 2004

How to Walk in the Spirit - Finding the Right Words

Finding the Right Words to Describe the Experience of Victory or "walking by the Spirit"!!

Galatians 5:16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh

Galatians 5:25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Romans 8:13 For if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

What does walk by the Spirit mean?
What does, "if we by the Spirit", or as all unkept asked a few posts back, "put to death the deeds of the flesh", mean? At least the "by the Spirit part"??

A Story - Our Bible Study
We had another good bible study on Galatians at our house last night (or was it Wednesday). One of the discussions was on what does having a grace-based, as opposed to law-based, relationship with God look like? How do we put into practice what we are learning from Galatians?

One of the young men said, "It is all about your source of power", which is a very good answer. But the question remains, how do I put that "source of power is God" belief into practice? If learning to have our eyes set on the Spirit is the proverbial "double back flip with a double twist" of spirituality, how do you do that?

My wonderful wife said, "It is in our orientation!!". She learns well!! OK, is that really it? And If that is it, what does that mean?

Here is the dilemma. Walking by the spirit cannot mean, "be nice and don't be mean". In other words, walking by the spirit cannot be another rule or law. That would be circular reasoning or a tautology. It tells us nothing. Instead, walking by the Spirit and all that Paul is teaching us in Galatians and Romans 7-8 has to be something we can put into practice that will help us "be nice and not be mean". But what is it?

If getting our source from God in the moment is the key to Christianity, how come we do not know how to do it, and how come no one is teaching us how to do it?

A Confession
I had a rather embarrassing encounter with a philosopher yesterday. I confess I do not know my philosophy very well. I can't tell my rationalists from my empiricists, but I do know my experience. I know this wonderful experience of victory and power and holiness. When I am in this place of "putting to death by the Spirit the deed s of the flesh", I know it. The problem is finding the right words to describe it. Then, having described it properly, this codification of the practice will empower us to repeat the experience.

This very practical teaching is the spiritual person's job!

But how do we find words to explain something so subtle?

Let me tell a story!!
Two things happened to me over the last 24 hours which I think make up this little story. First, I was speaking with someone (who will be un-named), and they were saying that, if they had to choose between God and their family, they would choose their family. Secondly, I had this above mentioned embarrassing moment where I tried to talk philosophy with a philosopher.
I was trying to explain this point I made in (post) about the liberating experience of the choice for radical obedience. And then it struck me.
Kierkegaard's, "Fear and trembling"

Now before I talk about Kierkegaard, don't somebody tell me Kierkegaard was a heretic or a subjectivist that denied this that and the other thing. That is not the point the point is the story.
Way back in 1843, a guy named Soren Kierkegaard published a book titled "Fear and Trembling". The book is about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Kierkegaard says, "There once was this man named Abraham…", and, as Kierkegaard explains, Abraham's story is often told as a sentimental children's story. But oh the dread and the fear of this story. Kierkegaard then goes on to describe the experience of faith that Abraham went through. Faith is a crisis. Faith is a step into an uncertain future. Faith is counter intuitive and counter at least worldly reason. Faith makes no worldly sense. Abraham had to choose between God and his family.

The point is this Kierkegaard is describing an instantaneous moment of inner attitude.

To Kierkegaard, truth is not the description of things (i.e. objects) but the description of the relationship between the subject and the objects. (i.e. subjective truth). The whole point is that this "subjective truth", in this case the reality of faith, is what life is about.

Now, this idea of subjective truth as the only truth is bogus and Kierkegaard went off the cliff (I think) with respect to his description of faith as irrational. But again that is not the point.

The point is and I do believe it is important is that faith (and in my example "walking by the Spirit") is a subjective experience which needs to be described and wrestled with in great detail. Kierkegaard attempted described the elements of the experience. True, I do believed he missed it in his definition (from my limited knowledge of philosophy).

You see Kierkegaard was onto something by attempting to describe the anatomy of this instantaneous experince of faith and we need to likewise learn to map out and disect the elements of the experience of "walking by the Spirit". At least part of "walking by the spirit is an instantaneous orientation of faith in God as our source of power.

I believe there are two part both the focused time of prayer where we cry out for power for the future and the experience of the life as the power enables us in the instantaneous moment.
When I approach the coming moment or the coming day, it is vital to practice in a focused time and then to learn daily to learn the skill of orienting one's attitude toward faith in God as our source of power.

Kurt Schilling as the example
In our home church on Wednesday night, the study began and ended with a discussion of Kurt Schilling. When asked what is the difference between his performance in Game 1 (or 2 or whatever) and his performance in game 6, he said it was a God thing. In game six, Schilling trusted in God to give him strength. The christian has a focused time of prayer and trust and then experinces, getting in the zone, during the performance. While in the performance of life, the chistian experiences some private momnets where one realizes the reality of God's power and pressence. Often, I find this experience is accompanied by a realization that this moment is an answered prayer. I am often brought to tears by these experiences and am always at least brought to a place of joy.

Is this not the heart of our relationship with God. Is this not a subjective experience? But how do we find the right words to describe it so to help others enter into this life with moe and more frequency and consistency. Here is the pastor's job description!! And here is the content of my next few posts!!

1 comment:

Diane said...

This is really heavy. I've read it three times now and I think I will need to read it three more..LOL. Then after that perhaps I can comment...but not sure. But I learned alot about Kirkegaard..thanks.