Living in the Spirit
MARCH 4, 2023
by J.D. Greear
God did not leave us on our own to try and figure out this Christian life thing on our own. He gave us the Spirit. If we fail to lean into him, we’ll never make it. Paul says,
“If you live according to the flesh [that is, by the power of the flesh] you will die. But if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
We can only defeat the power of sin by the superior force of the Spirit. Trying to fight sin in the power of your flesh is like open-hand-slapping a bear—it doesn’t matter how well you start, it isn’t going to end pretty. To overcome the power of death in you takes the power of resurrection life.
Maybe you ask, “What does it mean, practically speaking, to live by the power of the Spirit?” How do we access that power? Do you close your eyes and channel your energy, like Luke Skywalker summoned the Force in Star Wars? Do you quote Bible verses, recite prayers, and hum worship songs?
Living in the Spirit simply means walking with the Spirit, and here are four things the New Testament tells us must be part of our lives if we are to do that.
Confession: God can heal any sin, but we must first expose it. Sin is like mildew: it grows in darkness, but bring it into the sun and it goes away. We trigger the power of the Spirit by confessing our sin—first to God and then to each other.
Surrender: The Spirit is not a force to master that we can deploy like a weapon. The Spirit is a person we must surrender to. When we say no to him, even about small things, we cut ourselves off from his power. Disobedience is like unplugging an appliance from an electric outlet. The moment the connection is severed, the power is gone.
Saturation: This is an important one. The Spirit breaks sin’s hold on us by reminding us of our full acceptance with the Father. Re-believing the gospel releases in us the power of the Spirit. That’s why Paul started his section in Romans on the Spirit by reminding us that “there is … no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). As we dwell on the “no condemnation” that God has given us in Christ, the Spirit’s power surges in us. The deeper we go in the gospel, the stronger we grow in the Spirit.
Memorization: This enables us to call to mind gospel promises when we need them. When Jesus fought the devil, he confronted particular temptations with specific phrases from the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1-11). It’s how he stayed “in the Spirit.” Paul calls Scripture the “sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17), and quoting it is how we leverage the power of the Spirit against our enemy. Trying to do battle with sin without a thorough knowledge of Scripture is like going into a gunfight without bullets.
Those four things—confession, surrender, saturation, and memorization—are how a Christian keeps in step with the Spirit and experiences his power.
This article is an excerpt from Essential Christianity by J.D. Greear. J.D. Greear is the pastor at The Summit Church and served as the 62nd president of the Southern Baptist Convention. He is married to Veronica and they have four children. J.D. is the author of several books including Searching for Christmas, Gospel, and Above All.