Living Under Grace

Dan Lenington on November 5, 2013

I've thought a lot over the last few months about what it means to "walk in the Spirit" or "by the Spirit" as some would interpret Gal. 5:16. Practically speaking, though, I've wondered what my role in this would look like. I've realized that living the Christian life is not dependant upon me simply trying really hard and disciplining myself. While this may sound spiritual and commendable, it is unbiblical. Paul warns the Galatians that they must not try to attain spiritual maturity through the effort of the flesh (Gal. 3:2-3). He even highlights the frustration and defeat of anyone (saved or unsaved I believe) who tries to force himself to be subject to God's law through the power of his own will (Rom. 7:14-25). I remember reading the testimony of Benjamin Franklin when I was in high school. As a moral but unsaved man, he tried to master a list of virtues which he felt would make him into a better person. His plan was to master one before moving on to the next. However, he found that as soon as he left one virtue to focus on the next, the first would begin to slip. Ultimately, he had to give up his plan and admit defeat. Franklin failed to acknowledge the depravity of man. We cannot be good without God. Otherwise, we will establishing our own lesser standard of goodness. So I've been trying to learn how to walk in the Spirit and what that means in my daily choices.

Recently, I was reading the book The Ministry of Intercessory Prayer by Andrew Murray. He highlights in one chapter the difference between living under grace and living under the law. This peaked my interest in how this contrast related to the contrast of living in the flesh or living in the Spirit. Paul makes it clear that while we were living in the realm of law, our standing with God was totally based upon the efforts of our own flesh. However, when we move to the realm of grace, our standing with God is totally based upon His grace which is administered through His Spirit. Andrew Murry emphasizes that most Christians champion the teaching of salvation by grace but often neglect the teaching of sanctification by God's grace. Just as we had no ability to earn God's salvation by our own efforts, we also have no ability to progress in holiness by our own efforts. We must depend on his grace because "in our flesh is no good thing" (Rom. 7:18). So where does that leave me? Do I just sit back on the couch and tell God to make me holy while I relax, watch whatever and eat whatever I want? NO! But does this then mean that I need to devise all sorts of strategies to defeat the flesh. NO! That would be fighting a spiritual battle with fleshly weapons (2 Cor. 10:4). Paul says specifically in Romans 8:13, "...If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live." So we must kill the sinful deeds of the body through the Spririt not through the flesh. How then do we do this? Romans 8:14 tells us, "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God." I understand the phrase "sons of God" here to mean the mature Christian as opposed to babes in Christ who are carnal Christians (1 Cor. 3:1). The mature Christian is led by the Spirit and walks after the Spirit. He does not walk after the flesh. So how are we to be "led by the Spirit"? First, we must be clean so that the Spirit will not be grieved and distant from us. Then, whatever the Spirit prompts us to do at a given moment (providing it agrees with Scripture which is one way to test the spirits) that is what we should do. No need to stress about memorizing every rule in the book, or every strategy known to man for mortifying the deeds of the body. Just stay in fellowship through confession and yield your members as instruments of righteousness (Rom. 6:13).

Let my provide a personal illustration. Two weeks ago, I was driving home in rush hour traffic. I naturally revert to my video game instincts and proceed to pass anyone possible or gain any advantage available. However, quickly the Spirit asked me the question, "Are you driving selfishly?" This of course convicted me and I had to make a choice. Will I continue driving in the selfish fleshly way I am or submit to the leading of the Spirit? I could have ignored the Spirit, grieved Him, and lost His leading until I confessed it and repented. So walking in the Spirit is simply yielding to the Spirit's leading in each moment. This relieves the burden of the law and promotes the joy of living under grace. The Spirit will over time introduce new areas for us to yield to Him from Scripture. As long as we yield, we will grow in grace!