For the whole story, read this, beginning with Part 1. The condensed version can be found in Part 6. Links to the entire series can be found on the blog sidebar.
What does it mean to walk in or by the Spirit?
Subject: Rambling thoughts
Date: 4/12/99 12:32
Mike, there's a lot I've been mulling through lately. Part of it had to do with what you said recently the whole Law/Grace thing impacting the heart, deep down...and how once the heart gets straightened out, everything else does too.
I've been reading Gordon Fee's "Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God". Powerful stuff. (So far the only remotely Pentecostal thing was some footnote where he mentions his upbringing and the types of gospel songs they sang.) I was talking with Daddy recently about some of it and, wouldn't you know it, we ended up back in Galatians. Daddy was making the point that Galatians expresses so clearly that walking in/by the Spirit is the only antidote to both legalism and licentiousness. That's it, of course---the answer to my cry of "But I don't know how to do this type of Christianity!" But then it raises the question of HOW---how do I walk by the Spirit? How am I led by Him?
I read this gem from Fee: "By the presence of the Spirit, God's love, played out to the full in Christ, is an experienced reality in the heart of the believer. This is what the Spirit has so richly 'shed abroad in our hearts'...God's love for us has been 'poured out' as a prodigal, experienced reality by the presence of the Holy Spirit, whom God has also lavishly poured out into our hearts."
That overwhelming sense of being undone by the love of God---that was the Spirit's presence all along. I began in the Spirit, but then tried to live by my own efforts (Galatians 3:3). I stopped being led by the Spirit, but put myself under Law (Gal 5:18). It's not like the Spirit left me; I just had very little awareness of His presence. And a lot of the stuff that has been happening and that I've been studying so much may be less about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and far, far more about a renewed sense of His presence, a greater yielding on my part, a deeper filling---and learning to be led by Him and walk in Him.
Legalism and walking in the Spirit are so antithetical. How could I have not seen that? I understand even more why [those caught up in legalism] reacted so strongly against the very idea of the Spirit writing the law on our hearts and why they saw this more as something they did, through study. I understand why Reformed Theology so often quenches the Spirit---even ignores the Spirit to the point of practical binitarianism.
What I don't understand is how Pentecostal and Charismatic types can be legalistic. They of all people should know better---aren't they supposed to be all about letting the Spirit have control of their lives? It can only arise, I think, when the focus shifts from the Giver to the gifts...when they cease being led by the Spirit and instead get involved in outward "stuff". The Spirit will never lead us into legalism.