by the Spirit
THERE are two kinds of progression: the progression in godliness and the progression in evil. Every individual will either be progressing into godliness or evil throughout the duration of his or her life. The life of a true Christian is marked by a progression into godliness—of leaving the tendencies and traits of sinful humanity behind and going on to reflect those of holy Divinity. He progresses from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) and from “strength to strength.” (Psalm 84:7) In contrast, we read of those that progress “from evil to evil.” (Jeremiah 9:3) The course of life of the unconverted is one of progression on the pathway of evil and moral corruption; and as the Christian is turning away from the unholy tendencies and traits of his humanity toward the cleanness and righteousness of His Maker, so the unconverted soul is progressively turning away from all that is of the cleanness and righteousness of God towards the ways of fallen humanity.
What is the reason for this difference in behavior and conduct? It depends upon the presence of one specific element in the heart of an individual. If one is lacking this element, he will choose the way of evil; but if one possesses it, the way of godliness. That element is: submission to the Spirit of God. Whether one is led by God’s Spirit or not is the basis for such difference in behavior. God’s Spirit will move upon the heart of man to abandon all that is of ungodliness and to choose rather conformity to holiness. But will man obey and surrender? If one rejects this motivational, holy influence—and this rejection is maintained on a regular basis, thus leaving the Spirit no choice but to turn away from him—there will be no godly progression. We read:
“But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
Man is changed from a vile existence into that which is holy and righteous by “the Spirit of the Lord.” But he must yield himself. When God delivered His ancient people out of land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, “this thing,” He said, “commanded I them, saying, Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people: and walk ye in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well unto you.” (Jeremiah 7:23) One of the very first things God commanded of His people was obedience. Yet, God does not demand obedience because He is a harsh and tyrannical ruler. On the contrary, “God is love.” (1 John 4:8) His motives are pure and righteous. When God gives instruction to His child, it does not arise from an unholy motive, or because He delights in ordering and commanding His creation to action. Rather—because of the wisdom He possesses, and the ability to perceive what is truly good for that child and what is not—God gives instruction that the child may know the way in which he will find good and that health may be brought to his soul. In the above verse (Jeremiah 7:23), notice the reason God gave for obedience to Him. “That it may be well unto you.” He gives—not just any instruction—but only those that will specifically result in being “well unto us” when, and if, obeyed. God cares about the prosperity and well-being of our soul. If this was not so, He would not have consented to the death of His Son, for it was to save our soul from eternal destruction that God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all.” (Romans 8:32) This demonstrates—with absolute certainty—that the well-being of our soul is of great concern and importance to God our Maker. And so, when God moves upon our heart by His Spirit, bidding us to do this, or walk in this way, or to forsake and abandon some specific thing, it must be known that He is not seeking to add restraint and restriction to our lives or keep us from some good thing, but specifically for the health and prosperity of the soul.
“But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear, but walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart, and went backward, and not forward. Since the day that your fathers came forth out of the land of Egypt unto this day I have even sent unto you all my servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them: yet they hearkened not unto me, nor inclined their ear, but hardened their neck: they did worse than their fathers.” Jeremiah 7:24-26.
The ancient children of Israel were a rebellious and hardhearted people. (See also 2 Chronicles 30:8; Jeremiah 5:23; Ezekiel 3:7 & Psalm 81:6-16) How the heart of God must have grieved as He beheld the people whom He had chosen above all the nations of the earth to be His “peculiar treasure” manifest this behavior of rebellion and disobedience towards Him. Their hearts were so calloused, so set upon the way of iniquity. God has had their conduct recorded in His Word that we might “learn” from their experiences and avoid committing the same errors. (See Romans 15:4 & 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11) What will we do with the leading of the Spirit of God? Will our behavior be like that of the Israelites? Will we harden our hearts or will we heed the counsel of the Spirit? (See Psalm 95:7-11)
Often, it is because we believe our own way will give us more pleasure than the way to which God is leading that we choose to reject His instruction. I ask, “Do we know better than God?” Concerning the house of Israel God said,
“I have spread out my hands all the day unto a rebellious people, which walketh in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts [or plans and intentions].” Isaiah 65:2
The Israelites walked after the way of self and the way of the human nature. We have read that they “walked in the counsels and in the imagination of their evil heart.” (Jeremiah 7:24) Yet consider where this course brought them. Many texts have been listed that speak of Israel’s rebellion, defiance and disobedience towards God. These were but the fruits of walking after the flesh; and that rebellion, defiance and disobedience was the very cause of Israel’s downfall. How true is God’s pronouncement that their course was “a way that was not good.” When a man is led and guided by the “evil heart” that is in him—that is, his nature, “the flesh”—he will proceed in no other way but “from evil to evil.” This will be the result when it is the wishes of our fallen humanity that we obey instead of the leading of God’s Spirit. But the instruction that brings health and prosperity to our soul is that we walk not after “the flesh” but “the Spirit.”
“For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.” Galatians 6:8
“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” Romans 8:13
“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24
So then, having put all rebellion aside, let us have in our hearts submission to the Spirit of God. Ask God to circumcise your heart (See Deuteronomy 10:16) that you would not “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51) and may progress in the way of godliness, being changed into the image of Christ. It will be well with your soul.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:14