“If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” (Romans 8:9)
Paul had a strong academic heritage. He knew both the blessings and the dangers of intellect. We cannot park our brains at the door. Faith and reason can co-exist without conflict. But Christians stand apart from the world not because they have a cogent set of beliefs, but because the Spirit of God — the Spirit of Christ — indwells them.
In the opening words of Romans 8, Paul urges us to “walk according to the Spirit” (verse 4) and to “set our minds on the Spirit, not on the flesh” (verses 5-6). By the power of the Spirit we are to “put to death the deeds of the body” (verse 13) and our lives should be “led by the Spirit” (verse 14).
The work of the Spirit within us, sets us apart. How well do we walk with Him? Are we consciously and knowingly led by Him? Are our minds set on Him?
What does Paul expect? What is he thinking?
In Philippians 3:3, Paul defines the God’s people as those who “worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus.” Perhaps we could paraphrase it this way: “Christians constantly live to honor God because of the Holy Spirit at work within them, and they exalt Christ above all.” It’s not A or B. Both parts of the statement matter. The Spirit shapes us and we exalt Christ above everything and everyone.
Walking by the Spirit assumes that we are both sensitive to the Spirit and yielded to Him. It does not happen accidentally. It requires intentionality. It reflects an attitude of attentiveness.
We listen more than we talk. Every action flows from a prayerful posture. We live each day and enter each conversation with the assumption that God goes before us. Our task is not to work for Him but with Him. We expect that He goes before us. We look and listen for what He has done upstream before we got involved.
We believe that He orchestrates every interruption, every detour, every delay, every change of plans, and every encounter. We have no luck or coincidences. Our eyes look behind the circumstances to see the work of the One — the Spirit — who arranges the sub-plot (and the super-plot) to our lives.
On this Lenten day, may the One who marks us as belonging to Christ, manifestly guide our steps and our conversations.