How do we live the Spirit-filled life? How do we walk by the Spirit? How do we make decisions that are in God’s will? These questions are answered in the following passages:
(Ephesians 5:15-18) – 15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, ESV
NET — 15 Therefore be very careful how you live – not as unwise but as wise, 16 taking advantage of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 For this reason do not be foolish, but be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is. 18 And do not get drunk with wine, which is debauchery, but be filled by the Spirit,
(Galatians 5:16-26) – 16 But I say, Walk by the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these: fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, parties, 21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 meekness, self-control; against such there is no law. 24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof. 25 If we live by the Spirit, by the Spirit let us also walk. 26 Let us not become vainglorious, provoking one another, envying one another. ASV
As Christians, we’re to walk in wisdom, and that applies to both how we live our lives and the decisions we make. The walk of wisdom is directly related to walking by the Spirit, living a Spirit-filled life. We cannot walk in obedience, we cannot make wise decisions, we cannot live well-ordered lives unless we have a Spirit-filled relationship with God.
In the above Ephesians passage, wisdom and understanding of God’s will is linked to being “filled with the Spirit.” Paul tells us that we’re to “walk” as wise, and this is in connection to being filled with the Spirit. Notice also that in the Galatians passage, Paul tells us to “walk” by the Spirit. Thus it’s clear that those who walk by the Spirit are those who walk in wisdom.
To “walk by the Spirit,” means to walk in yieldedness to the Spirit. It means to allow the Holy Spirit to empower and lead our lives. It means to walk within the sphere of the Spirit’s influence. Those who are “filled with the Spirit,” walk by the Spirit. Those who walk by the Spirit, “walk as wise,” and “understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Christians want to know how we walk by the Spirit, and rightly so. I believe many Christians view it as something mysterious, but I believe the Bible is clear that it’s more about walking in the wisdom of God. Yes, the Holy Spirit empowers us and gives us victory over sin, but He does so in the context of wisdom. In the Galatians passage above, we see that the “fruit of the Spirit” is in connection to “walking by the Spirit.” We also learned that walking by the Spirit means to be walking in wisdom.
Therefore those who walk in the wisdom of God will see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. No one who walks in foolishness will see the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Walking in God’s wisdom always produces the fruit of the Spirit. The two cannot be separated. The Holy Spirit provides both the enabling power and the wisdom to live out God’s will for our lives. He not only gives us power over sin, but gives us the wisdom to make right choices regarding holy living and decision-making.
Furthermore, living a Spirit-filled life of wisdom comes through a renewed mind:
(Romans 12:1-2) – 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual Service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God. ASV
Learning to live wisely takes time. Learning to identify wisdom is a growing process, just as every other area of the Christian life is a growing process. But we must start where we’re at. Learning to think wisely can only come from the Lord, and can only be obtained by a renewed mind. As the Holy Spirit renews our mind in the likeness of God’s own mind, we’re enabled to identify wisdom and make right decisions. A renewed mind comes only through a close walk with God, which is via much time in God’s Word and prayer, and living a life that is devoted to doing God’s will. As we grow in our understanding of God’s Word, as we grow in our relationship with the Lord, our minds are being renewed, thereby becoming more like Jesus. As our minds are being renewed, the discernment needed to make wise decisions also grows. It’s a lifelong process.
We also see a connection between knowing God’s will and wisdom in the following verse:
(Colossians 1:9) – 9 For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray and make request for you, that ye may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, ASV
Paul prayed that the Colossian Christians would be “filled with the knowledge of God’s will,” but he didn’t stop there. He also revealed where to find God’s will, and that’s in “spiritual wisdom” and “understanding.” God’s will is ALWAYS in the context of wisdom, and in this case, Paul refers to it as spiritual wisdom. There’s the wisdom of the world, and then there’s the wisdom from God, and that’s what spiritual wisdom is. God reveals His will according to the sound wisdom that He Himself provides.
The longer I live and the more I experience and the more I see in the lives of other Christians, the more saddened and grieved I become that Christians aren’t being taught properly how to determine God’s will for their lives, or even in the many decisions we have to make throughout our day. Christians are being deceived with the teaching that we’re to simply listen for God’s inner voice, and make our decisions according to how we believe God is speaking to us—without any kind of filter. They may believe that they’re walking in God’s will, but you look at their lives and it’s filled with foolish choices and foolish pursuits and foolish practices—which results in many regrets. And I speak from experience.
Yes, God does speak to our hearts, but there has to be a filter to ensure that the voice we’re hearing, is in fact, God’s. We hear many voices that can easily deceive us. The filters God has given us is His Word and sound wisdom. His voice will never contradict either. Christians are to live wisely. We’re to make all of our decisions according to godly wisdom. When we seek the will of God for our lives, we will find it in the path of wisdom. Godly decision-making is always in the sphere of wisdom.
We’re to think objectively. When faced with a decision, especially when feelings or emotions are high, we have to step back and look at the situation with an objective point of view. We have to continually be asking, “what does wisdom look like in this situation? Is this wise? What is the likely outcome of this decision? What are the likely consequences of this decision? Am I allowing my feelings or fears influence my decision? Will it honor or dishonor the name of Christ? Etc.”
Paul tells us to, “make the best use of the time” (Eph 5:16). I think many Christians have to pray and wait until they’ve heard from God via an inner voice, or perhaps via miraculous revelation before they make any kind of move. But I believe God’s will is normally found in simply taking advantage of the opportunities that God gives to us. If there’s a good opportunity to do good, to serve, to help someone, to make a difference, to be useful, etc, then just do it. If it reflects the love of Christ, if it’s a good witness for Christ, if it honors His name, then just do it. That’s wisdom. Furthermore, in regard to major decisions, a path to take in life, we’re to carefully evaluate our gifting and the way God has wired us. We’re to consider carefully every option before us. We’re to look at our situation through the eyes of wisdom. We’re to make the best use of the time and talents and opportunities that God has given to us. God’s will is not so hard to figure out when we seek to live wisely.
I think there are many Christians who spend years waiting on God to reveal His will to them, while many others blow past them as they order their lives according to the wisdom that God gives. While some Christians are waiting to hear God’s voice, or waiting for some miraculous revelation, others are living wisely and successfully in God’s will—succeeding where the others don’t. To live useful and well-ordered lives before God, it must be in the context of wisdom, in the context of wise decision-making.