What Does It Mean to Walk in the Spirit?
This week’s Q&A is hosted by Pastor Chuck Musselwhite, from Village Chapel of Lompoc, CA. He also serves as a board member of Enduring Word.
What Does It Mean to Walk in the Spirit?
Paul says several times in the New Testament that believers should not walk according to the flesh, but rather should walk according to the Spirit. People don’t tend to think often about what it means to walk in the Spirit. When I was in college, more than 25 years ago, a lot of people took that verse differently. I knew one guy who walked around campus constantly speaking in tongues under his breath. He was a little different. But I never saw that as what it truly meant to be walking in the Spirit.
In the Gospel of John, Jesus promised that He was going to send a Helper or a Counselor to guide us. He’ll convict us of sin; He’ll illuminate Scripture to us. He will also speak to our hearts to show us what we are to do as believers. I believe that more people need to walk according to the Spirit, not according to the flesh.
What does it look like to walk in the Spirit? Let’s start with the basics. We need to get into God’s Word on a daily basis. We need to spend time in prayer; that could mean scheduled time, but Paul wrote in 1 Thessalonians 5 to, “Pray without ceasing.” I think that’s why my friend from college thought he should be speaking in tongues all the time; to not ever stop praying. I think he was a little too literal on that. But as we go through our days, and as things comes up in our heart, we notice what we need to be praying about. We need to have be in constant communication with the Lord, when the need arises, or the situation presents itself.
There are times when we need to rely not just upon the truth of the Word, but also to follow God’s leading upon our heart. If He prompts you to go speak to somebody, to encourage them or speak a word of truth to them, because maybe they’re getting off the right path. I believe that walking in the Spirit means being led by the Spirit.
What prevents us from walking in or being led by the Spirit? Oftentimes it’s our own personal life. To draw upon an Old Testament verse, David asks in Psalm 15:1-2, “Who can be in the presence of the Lord? Who can be on the mountain of the Lord?” The Bible’s answer is really clear: it’s the person who walks in integrity and who’s obedient to the Lord. Now, a lot of people see the Old Testament as the law, as being works-based. But the New Testament is full of Old Testament references. If you were to remove the Old Testament references from it, your New Testaments would look like Swiss cheese.
We need to take both the Old Testament and the New Testament, and I want to encourage you to do that. David in this passage wanted to be in the presence of Lord. He says elsewhere that, “Better is a day in the courts of the Lord than thousands elsewhere.”
In a similar way, we want to be in God’s presence. We want the Holy Spirit speaking to us, we want to be open and alert to however God is leading us. I think that the church would do really well if more people walked according to the Spirit. I want to encourage you in that today: as you’re going about your life, ask for the Holy Spirit to lead you.
The Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity. He is a Person you can ask, to whom you can pray, “Lord, I want to walk according to You today. Fill me with your Holy Spirit; lead me, lead my mind, my thoughts, my tongue, and help me respond to that.”
How much room should the church give to the teaching on the Holy Spirit, especially with the filling of the Holy Spirit?
I think that the church should give a lot of room for the Holy Spirit, especially the filling of the Holy Spirit. Many people shy away from that. There are certain denominations, who teach from the position of cessationism, which basically means that the gifts of the Holy Spirit, things like speaking in tongues and prophecy, stopped when the last apostle died. They take that from 1 Corinthians 13, but I just don’t see that passage teaching such a position. I do, however, believe that the church should be teaching a lot more, as I referenced above, about walking in the Spirit. I think there needs to be a lot more discussion about that.
Now, is there a lot of abuse associated with the Holy Spirit? Yes, there’s a whole lot of abuse that happens in the name of the Holy Spirit. I think a lot of people do things wrong. I can speak from experience, because I grew up in Pentecostal churches and attended a Pentecostal liberal arts college. I’ve seen a lot of crazy stuff. I grew up in a Foursquare church. We would go to Sunday night services, and the services would go on for a long time. I remember being a young kid, and my mom telling me that if I got tired, I could sleep underneath a pew. We sat pretty close to the front of the church, and I remember some Sunday nights falling asleep under the pew, and seeing people slain in the spirit. I was just lying there and saw people lay on the floor nearby and start speaking in tongues, and other things like that. But there was a lot of excess and a lot of wrong theology there.
The church needs some strong teaching of the Word on what the Holy Spirit does, but I believe that gifts are for today. I believe that people need to and should operate in those gifts. There has been much abuse of that sort of thing, but also a lot of teaching which resists the work of the Spirit, and makes people afraid about the things of the Spirit.
In 1 John 5:16, what are the sins that lead to death and what kind of death is he referring to? Is it physical or spiritual death?
1 John 5:16 ESV– If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.
What does it mean when John says, “If you see one of your brothers or sisters in Christ committing a sin that does not lead to death”? John is encouraging people that, if they see somebody getting off the path, we need them to love them enough to have a hard conversation.
Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians is largely about restoration and reconciliation. He had a lot of hard conversations with that church. Much of it had to do with a person that they had to discipline. In 1 Corinthians, there was a man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul told the Corinthian church they needed to deal with him; they needed to have that hard conversation. And they did it; they performed the discipline, but afterwards didn’t know what to do.
When Christian people fall away, and head into a destructive lifestyle, we need to love them enough to go and have that conversation with them. We need to tell them, “Hey, this is a sin.” It may not lead them to death, but there are sins that do lead to death.
For example, people who are caught up in prescription drugs, with each new dose, they don’t know if they’re going to survive. They could OD; and if they don’t get the proper medicine in them right afterwards, they could die. It happens all the time. So, there are sins that do lead to death. It’s pertains to both the physical and the spiritual. There can be spiritual sins that lead to death also. And we need to be able to have that conversation.
How can I practice praying in the Spirit and being led by the Spirit in prayer for others?
When the Holy Spirit leads us to pray for others, it just effortlessly flows. I stumbled terribly in my own prayer. How can I improve this?
I’m going to offer two suggestions. The first is very practical, and practice makes perfect. You get better at prayer by just praying. Andrew Murray has some great books on prayer. There are a lot of great resources on prayer. There’s a lot of good teaching on YouTube about prayer as well. But I want to encourage you just to practice it.
We can also just ask God for help. The disciples asked, “Lord, teach us to pray,” and He taught them the Lord’s Prayer. Some people have taken that literally and concluded that one should only pray the Lord’s Prayer. But I believe that God gave it to us as an outline for the different things that we should pray. Adoration, confession, supplications, thanksgiving. These are areas that we can focus on.
It’s a great goal to start by trying to pray for five minutes. Writing a list can help. Every morning, I read two chapters in the Old Testament and two in the New Testament and take notes in my phone on the Evernote app. I copy the verses that God speaking to me and at the very end of my time, I create a list. I have certain things that I’m praying for, concerning my church and my family. None of those prayers are redundant. But I’ve found that when I write a list before I go to prayer, it’s much easier to pray. There are many great resources out there concerning what to pray for and how to build a prayer life.
Why do we follow some Old Testament laws, but not all of them?
In Deuteronomy 14, God tells the Israelites which animals they are allowed to eat, and which animals they are forbidden to eat. A lot of people have taken that as their reason for keeping a kosher diet. In Deuteronomy 14:2, God says, “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God, and the LORD has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” They are to be God’s treasured possession, and He doesn’t want them to be like the Canaanites. They are set apart to Himself, and He wants them to love Him only.
While there are some cultural and specific rules for the Jews, there are some great principles that we can draw out of this passage. The Jews still keep the kosher diet. But remember the story in Acts 10, when Peter is in Joppa, up on the roof, taking a nap while lunch is being prepared. Suddenly he has a dream, a vision of a sheet coming down from heaven, filled with all unclean animals. And God says, “Rise up; kill and eat.” Peter says, “No; I’ve never eaten anything unclean.” The vision happens three times, and God says, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” (Acts 10:15)
There are some specific things which we are to follow in the Old Testament law. But ultimately, we’re supposed to look at the principles of what’s written. First of all, the principle is that we are sanctified and set apart, and we are not to be like the world.
Many of the rules and laws God commanded in the Old Testament were to prevent the Jews from being like the Canaanites. For example, in Deuteronomy 14:1, God says, “You are the sons of the LORD your God. You shall not cut yourselves or make any baldness on your foreheads for the dead.” He didn’t want them cutting themselves or shaving their foreheads as an act of mourning the loss at a funeral. We don’t know exactly what that means, but we can surmise that the Canaanites would often cut themselves during their funeral processions and mourning periods, or they would shave a part of their forehead to show that they’re mourning. God did not want His people to be like that. Why? Because He knew the Israelites were susceptible and easily swayed to worship a foreign god; we read about that happening in the wilderness.
Later on, the Pharisees took all of the Old Testament laws and took them to the extreme, which we don’t want to do. But neither have we been set free from obeying God at all. When Jesus came, we were set free from keeping merely the letter of the Law.
Is it ever heretical to infer the spirit or pneuma of God in Scripture as anything other than the person of the Trinity? For example, the difference between “walking in the Spirit” and “walking with the spirit.”
Whenever Paul talks about walking in the Spirit, he isn’t referring to actual physical steps. He’s always talking about our daily life. He referred to us as sojourners on our ways. We’re not citizens of this earth, we’re citizens of heaven. When I say walking in the Spirit, I don’t literally mean stepping and praying in tongues or anything like that. I’m talking about being led by the Holy Spirit, being convicted, and so forth. Now, you can take that too far. You can take it literally, like my friend did who walked around praying in tongues; perhaps that was too literal an interpretation. I knew another lady who took the idea of first fruits a little too far in her practice of prayer. She would take the first ten minutes of every hour to pray to the Lord. But how could a person do that if they have a job? You don’t get a 10 minute break every hour at work. People can kind of take things too far. We need to align our practices with the Scripture.
Mark 16:16 says that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. I know baptism is not essential for salvation. But why is Jesus putting so much emphasis on it?
There are two reasons why people baptize with water. First of all, it symbolizes our death to our old life. We lay the people back into the water, and then then we raise them back up, and that creates a picture of the death and resurrection. It associates us with the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
As believers we are to be baptized, but does that mean we have to be baptized to be saved? No; but baptism is a sign to us that we have died to the old self, and we are resurrected in Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says that we are new creations in Christ; no longer our old person, but we have a new life in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, baptism is a public profession of our faith to everybody outside. A lot of Calvary Chapels like to do baptisms at a beach, because there are hundreds of people around who see your public profession of faith in Jesus. When you get baptized, you’re telling the world, “I am closely associated with the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. I am a believer, and so I’m getting baptized to tell everybody that I’m following after Jesus Christ.”
Baptism is not essential for salvation, but Jesus does want us to identify with Him, and to be transformed and conformed into His image.
What is spiritual death? And what is the second death?
I’ll start with the second question: What is the second death? Let’s take it in terms of judgment. There is a physical death, when we actually are laid in a grave; the second death comes if we aren’t following Jesus Christ. That second death means eternal damnation to Hell.
For the first question: spiritual death is when we reject Jesus Christ, and we choose not to follow Him. We choose that; we send in our sentence ourselves because we’re not following Jesus Christ.
Because of grace, can a believing person live an ungodly life but still go to Heaven?
This is the famous, “Once saved, always saved?” question. I believe that we will be judged by the fruit of our life. I believe that non-believers will be judged on whether they accepted or rejected Jesus Christ, and believers will be judged by the fruit of their life. Believers are to produce fruit; that might turn out to be good fruit, or it might be bad fruit. But our lives will produce fruit.
I don’t want to get into debates about this question today, but I was kind of anticipating this question when it came. Can a person live an ungodly life and go to heaven, even though they accepted Jesus Christ? I don’t have the definitive answer on that. God is the one who judges. I do believe what the Scripture says, that “If you believe in your heart, and profess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord, you shall be saved.” I believe that grace is there, and that grace is going to cover you as a believer.
But when it comes to judging your life, that’s up to God. A lot of people believe that once you accept Jesus Christ, you can’t lose your salvation. The Bible says that no one can steal your salvation from you.
I have seen a lot of people who accept Jesus Christ, and live for Him for a while, but later they totally rejected Him. By that I mean not only did they walk away and live another life, but they denied what Jesus said. I have a hard time expecting them to go to Heaven after that. That’s just my personal opinion.
Like I said, I grew up Pentecostal. I was not a Calvinist; in fact, I was the opposite of a Calvinist. I grew up very Arminian. I remember a lot of pastors preaching that if you sinned, you had to get re-saved; I don’t believe that whatsoever. There are some believers who may now be living an ungodly life, but they’re not rejecting God; they’re just not living for the Lord. I believe they are saved.
What do you think of Unitarian teaching?
I don’t think much of it. A lot of Unitarians believe that God is love and everybody is going to heaven. If you really believe that God gave us His Word in the form of the Bible, and you believe it truly is His Word spoken through man, then you have to believe what His Word says. And although He does love everybody, He is also a holy God. Oftentimes we put love above His holiness. God is holy, first and foremost, and His love comes from that holiness; His holiness doesn’t come from His love.
There will be a judgment. The Bible talks about two judgments: the Great White Throne judgment, and the judgment seat of Christ. The Great White Throne Judgment is for those who have rejected Jesus Christ. The judgment seat of Christ is for those who’ve received Jesus Christ. Each person will be judged accordingly.
So, will everybody go to heaven because God is love? No. When I talk to Unitarians, it seems that they’re more concerned with trying to conform God’s Word and the church in Jesus to the popular views of that day than they are with being obedient and conformed into the image of Jesus Christ.
What do you say about baptism when it comes to confession? Are we to confess our iniquities, turn, and then be baptized?
I will answer this within the context of salvation. Yes, we are to confess our sins to the Lord. Forgiveness comes when we receive Jesus Christ. At that moment of salvation He comes, and cleans house, and does all that work. So yes, we need to confess those sins. But do we have to go through a confession thing before we get baptized? No, not at all.
Remember, confession is between us and the Lord. Should we confess our sins to one another, in order to bear each other’s burdens? Yes. But that doesn’t mean we have to confess all our sins to everybody all the time. It’s good to find a small group of people and have them do that, especially if there are besetting sins, or lifestyle sins that you continue struggling with; it’s great to find some mature saints to walk with you and hold you accountable. But you don’t need to do it before baptism
Should a Christian get involved in politics?
If the Lord leads you to be involved, okay. That being said, there are a lot of people in the church today who should not be involved in politics, because their politics are molded and shaped by things like CNN, Fox News, Newsmax, and all these different places. They become very opinionated and have a habit of spewing things out on social media. Oftentimes it is not done with the attitude of Christ.
But if God leads people to be involved, like if they want to help volunteer with campaigns, or further causes like propositions such as we have here in the state of California, and God’s leading them – heck yeah, go for it. I think we need more Christians in politics. If they want to work for a politician who is running for office, we need more godly people in our politics. I’m not called to do that. But if you are called to it and God is saying to go for it, then trust Him as you take that step of faith. Yes, I think it’s okay ffor Christians to be involved in politics, as long as they are a reflection of God’s glory and a representation of Jesus Christ as they do so.
I want to know who should not take communion. At times our pastor tells us God wants us all to take it, and at other times that some should not participate.
In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says that if you have an unconfessed sin in your heart, you should not take communion until you get right with the Lord. That could be as simple as praying and asking the Lord then and there for forgiveness of that sin and making things right between you and God. Other things might require further action. Jesus said that if you bring your offering but realize you have something against your brother, to lay down the offering, go and make things right, then come back to offer your offering. Each issue could be totally different. It’s not about pleasing the pastor; their sin is between themselves and God. Believers need to clear up their sin with God before they take communion.
How do we tell the difference whether we’re being touched by the Spirit during worship, or if it’s an emotion that’s making us cry?
I’ve seen a lot of things that have posed as the Spirit but are in fact not the Spirit. One time I took a bunch of youth to a youth conference, and we had a wonderful time of worship, and the Holy Spirit was moving. But when the speaker got up to speak, there a girl who for some reason felt like she wanted to continue her experience during the message. She had fallen on the ground during the worship time, and she was praying and crying. And it was a huge distraction to all of us around her.
Paul talks about order in the church. The fact is, the Holy Spirit is not going to interrupt Himself. If somebody feels God working on their heart, they can get up and move someplace where they’re not a distraction, so that when the Word of God is taught the people can receive it. The people in the area around the girl in this example didn’t receive much of the Word being spoken that night, because she felt the need to continue in whatever she was doing, and it was a distraction.
Now, does God touch people in the Spirit? Definitely. Why? Because He says, “Where two or three are gathered in my presence, there I am.” If we come with a pure heart and an open heart to worship, God can minister to us. When it’s time for the teaching of God’s word, if the Holy Spirit is still moving on you, you need to be sensitive to that but also not be a distraction to the people who are going to hear the Word of God. God wants us to hear His Word being taught. There can be emotions that make us cry; I see people crying all the time. That’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with emotions. We just need to be mindful of whether our emotions create a distraction which prevents other people from either worshipping or hearing the Word of God.
What is a Biblical example of modeling a church based on “Sola Scriptura” rather religious tradition, such as Catholicism?
Acts 2:42 says the believers devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to breaking bread, to prayer, and to fellowship. Believers need to be in a church where God’s word is taught. I am a proponent of verse-by-verse teaching, but there also needs to be a recognition of communion. I think what happened in the New Testament Church was this: they would go to the temple about three o’clock because that was like their break time, their siesta time. In the early days of the church, a lot of people would go to the temple around 3pm and hear Peter and John and the other Apostles teach, and then they’d go back to work. Later in the evening, they would meet in smaller groups at all the different believers’ houses, and they would have food, and there would be ministry there. At the end of the meal, they would break bread, and they would take communion to remember Jesus Christ. They would do this every night.
Because the Spirit was working through the teaching, and through the fellowship, through the breaking of bread, and through prayer, the church just exploded.
Is Abraham the father of just all the Jews or all of us?
Great question. Physically or biologically, Abraham is the father of all the Jews. Spiritually, he is our father. In Romans 11, Paul talks about how the Gentiles have been grafted in. We as Gentiles were wild olive branches that were grafted into the original olive tree, which is Israel. That is why, as believers, we can’t reject Israel or the Jews, because they’re still God’s chosen people. Abraham is our spiritual father, and we’ve been grafted into God’s people, but we are not biologically Jewish.