Jack Graham - Walking in the Spirit
Take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Romans chapter 8. We're taking time in the great 8, the eighth chapter of Romans. And it is a such a powerful passage of Scripture that begins with no condemnation and closes with no separation. It's a chapter about security and the Spirit of God, right in the Spirit. The title of the message today is "Walking in the Spirit". Beginning in verse 5, Romans 8, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the things of the Spirit is life and peace".
Do you want life? I’m talking about life with a capital "L". Real life! This life is Christ; it is life in the Spirit. And with this Life comes peace; the peace of God and with God. Verse 7, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however", you meaning you who are followers and believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you".
Life in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit. You know, it's a healthy thing to walk. In fact, on my watch and perhaps you have some kind of data that you can track your steps each day. And I don't know how many you're supposed to take, 10,000, 7500, but more than most of us are taking I assure you. And we need to keep moving and keep walking. And it is very, very healthy. But I can tell you this: In Christ we're walking in a journey with Jesus and the Bible describes this walk, the Christian life as a walk. That's a good thing, because walking is one of the most basic things that we do, and we learn it as small children and we begin to walk throughout our lives, and it is a picture, therefore, of a Christian life.
Walking is a normal experience of life, and the Christian life, the Christian walk, walking in the Spirit. This is a normal thing as well. Sometimes you may get the idea that the spiritual life is so supernatural, and it is supernatural, but that it is so supernatural it's only reserved to our walk from the parking lot to the church, to worship or perhaps those special occasions when you are walking in service to Christ, and that the walk is only reserved for religious pilgrimage and so on. But, no, the Christian life, the walk that we have in Christ is an everyday walk. It's something we do each day. And if you're taking notes, and I hope you are, to walk in the Spirit is to walk, here it is, in obedience and dependence upon the Spirit of God. Let me say it again: To walk in the Spirit is to walk in obedience and dependence upon the Spirit of God who lives in our lives.
Now quickly, let's review what we've learned in Romans 8 thus far. That is, it begins with the fact that we no longer live in sin and shame and condemnation, not then and there, but here and now. There is now no condemnation of those who are in Christ Jesus. You have a "therefore" in your life. "Therefore, there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus". Has the "therefore", the change that Christ makes in your life, has it happened to you? There's no condemnation. We no longer live under the weight and the guilt of sin; we're living under grace. No condemnation. We're also learning in Romans chapter 8 that we are not left along to live this Christian life, but God has given us the ability and the agility to walk with Him by His Spirit; His living Spirit is alive in us.
In fact, we just read it, we just saw it in Scripture, that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead, raises our mortal bodies also. Think about it. The same power that rolled away the stone, the same power that breathed life into the body, the dead, crucified body of Jesus, that same power, the power that wholes the universe together by Him, "All things hold together and consist", that power is in you! That power is the power of the Holy Spirit. And this presence, this power of the Spirit is available to all of us, not just the super saints or those called to specific missionary or ministerial calling, but this is for everyone in all that we do. Again, not just for the religious things we do, or "spiritual" things that we do, but all the things that we do. We’re walking in the Spirit. We’re living out the Christian life in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The great devotional writer, Oswald J. Chambers, put it this way. He said: "The Christian life is supernaturally natural and naturally supernatural". In other words, in all things supernatural, we're to be natural. This is the normal Christian life and experience for the believer. This is not abnormal. It's abnormal not to walk in the Spirit. So in all things supernatural we are to be natural. And in all things natural, the normal activities and daily functions of life, we're to be supernatural. That is, it all comes from God, whether we're serving God or serving our family, whether we're working and fulfilling a career, or whether we are praying or whether we are washing dishes. Whatever we're doing, we're to do this walking in the Spirit.
And, of course the way you walk is one step at a time. And in once sense when we're walking, it's risky, isn't it? You're putting one step down, all your weight, and then you're lifting another one and you're going down. So you learn balance while you are walking. And when you have trouble walking, maybe we have to find our balance on something that we're holding. But it's risks, and the faith life, the Christian life, our walk with Jesus, it is risky in the sense that we must live by faith and take one step at a time. Romans chapter 8 is dominated by the presence and the power of the Holy Spirit, showing us how we can live the Christian life. If you are a follower of Jesus, if you are a believer, this is a theology test, if you are a believer, you don't get the Spirit later. You receive the Spirit of God the moment you come to Christ. You're baptized into His body.
In fact, Paul says here as we read just a moment ago: if you don't have the Holy Spirit. If you belong to Jesus, you have the Holy Spirit. If you don't have the Holy Spirit, it means you don't belong to Jesus. So we now have this Spirit, the Holy Spirit. But the question that I want to ask you today is this: Does the Holy Spirit have you? Does He have all of you? Have you given Him His rightful place, not a prominence but preeminence in your life. The same Spirit who gave you life is walking with you every day and you never walk alone. Amen? We never walk alone. And we are in effect to walk in the Spirit, I like to think of it as staying in step with the Spirit, staying in step. Being led by the Spirit.
Romans 8 says that, "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the children of God". So we are guided, we are guarded in step and security with the Holy Spirit and by the Holy Spirit. And we're to stay in step with the Spirit, no matter what. You may or you may not know that I play the drums. I really kind of play at the drums. We have a real drummer up here. I'm just, you know, I can still keep some rhythm but, but at one time I was a young drummer, an aspiring drummer. And was even in a little band. You know, the Beatles were in the late 60's and the mid 60's and we all thought we were going to be the next big band. So I was a drummer and then one of my goals when I got to high school was to play in the Eastern Hills High School Highlander band. And so, stage band, rather. I wanted to play in the stage band.
Now the stage band was cool. I mean you had you whole set, you had your drums on the platform. You're playing with great horns, sax, playing jazz. It's a jazz band. So I wanted to be in the jazz band, in the stage band. In order to be in the stage band, I discovered when I became a high school sophomore which was the first year of high school back in the day of the Neanderthals when I went to school, way back then. So I was a sophomore in high school my first year so get a little insecure anyway. So I found out in order to try out and to be in the stage band you were required to be in the marching band. I wasn't necessarily opposed to being in the marching band. It's kind of cool; you got the uniform and all that. And would have my drum and to play. But what I didn't realize is that I was not going to play.
Our first marching episode I was not going to play in our first marching show the snare drum but they, in fact, gave me a bass drum. Now I wasn't really happy about that. Because when you're marching with a bass drum, first of all, you know, I was about 5'9" or 10 at that time and I could barely see over the thing and it's heavy, and I'm not playing the snare drum. So I'm thinking, you know, I'm not getting to the place I want to be. So I wasn't paying much attention when we were doing our routines and getting up before school, before dawn and getting out there; walking. You know, I'm kind of, you know, I'm just kind of going through the motions. Not paying that much attention to the steps and the turns and not being mathematically inclined, I didn't understand the angles that much anyway. And by then, you know, baseball is starting in the fall and I'm more interested in that actually.
And so I wasn't all that good. So when they gave me my uniform, they gave me my band uniform, I didn't even try it on until the day of, about 2 hours before our performance at Farrington Field in west Fort Worth. And when I put it on the pants were about 8 sizes too big! Must have been the tuba player from the last band. I don't know! You know, tuba players are big guys. So big pants! So as always, mom comes to the rescue. My mother, you know, she says okay. So we got pins. Every pin we had in the house. We're taping them up. We got electrical tape. We're taping it up. And we're putting belts, we got it all cinched up here. And so off I go to Farrington Field. We get on the field at halftime. I get my line, I got my band, my pants are all cinched up and we're walking, boom, boom, boom, boom.
I go and I'm staying in step. I'm just kind of watching people next to me, in front of me to know where to go because, remember, I wasn't paying that much attention. And so we're marching and watching. And we get to the fifty- yard line of Farrington Field, in front of God, in front of all my friends, my pants go straight to my ankles! If I'm lying, I'm dying! Now the question is: I mean I'm now marching in my whitey tidies. I just got to be honest. But with these pants down around my ankles! I'm not walking, I'm stumbling but I'm keeping that beat going.
You say, "Pastor, what did you do"? I really don't know. I think I kind of blacked out at the moment. I tried to block this out of my mind but it was something of kind of pulling them up with one hand and beating that drum with the other hand. And, of course, I never heard the end of it from all my friends, the cat calls and the mockery and it's not good on your ego when you're 15 years old and you're marching with the band with your pants around your ankles in the middle of everything. And I'm telling you this crazy embarrassing story and I'm putting it to bed for the rest of my life. It's the last time I'm telling this story. Somehow I kept going. Pants around my ankles and all.
Now I can apply this in a lot of ways, you know. One thing is when we're in the race, in the walk with God, you know, not let anything entangle us. And the Scripture says "Pull up and gird up as you walk with God and walk in holiness". There's a lot of application there, but what I'm trying to say to you, is stay in step with the drumbeat of God. It's so very important that we not yield to the flesh but that we yield to the Spirit of God. And you says, "What do you mean, the flesh"? Not talking about the skin that is on our body but the skin and the self that still resides within us. When you become a believer, heads up now. Very important! When you become a believer and a follower of Jesus, your old nature remains. The memories, former desires, your inclinations, the influences in your life passed.
This is why when we read the scripture you heard me, you heard Paul use the word the mindset, the way we think. So the old way of thinking, the passed programs that are in our heads before Christ, they're still there. And many new Christians think why are these old desires still there? Why am I still dealing with the same old temptations and struggles in my life? Why? Why is that? Well, some of you, you were outside of Christ long before you are now inside of Christ, and Christian growth takes time and nurturing and nourishing. And there are normal, human, natural desires that are God given. Temptation is the solicitation to fulfill and God-given desire in a God-forbidden way. So Satan takes the desires of the flesh, of our humanity and wants to destroy it. It brings death. It will kill you.
Someone said, John Calvin, I believe, "You be killing sin or it will be killing you". So the old flesh, the old nature still, the residue, the dregs of the past, the drag of what we were, what we used to be is still in us. And if we continue to feed that flesh, if we continue to allow this flesh to control our minds, our thinking, then we're never going to learn what it means to live in the liberty and the victory of walking in the Spirit. So I live by a maxim from Scripture, which is: "To starve the flesh and feed the Spirit". The way we walk in the Spirit is to starve the flesh and nourish the Spirit.
Let's take a garden. If you have a garden, you know it can be beautiful with flowers and beautiful plants and all the rest. But if you don't tend the garden, you don't take care of the garden, then what happens? It's more than just turning on the sprinkler and, you know, planting some seed. It has to be nourished. So what do we do when the weeds come up. You have to take the weeds out. Have the weed the garden for the plants to be beautiful and bountiful. You are the gardener and the weeds that crop up in our garden, the beautiful life that Christ has given us wherein we are to show the beautiful life of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit, the weeds, If we don't take them out and cut them out, then they will overrun the garden and choke out the life of all things beautiful. That makes sense, doesn't it?
So God said, "Don't walk in the flesh but in the fruit of the Spirit". Galatians 5:22 and 23. "Don't yield to the flesh and works of the flesh, but let the fruit of the Spirit live in you. And the fruit of the Spirit is love and joy and peace, and patience and kindness and goodness and gentleness and faithfulness and self-control". One fruit, nine luscious flavors, the fruit of the Spirit. And what the Holy Spirit will do as we allow Him to do it, as we nourish and feed the Spirit, how? Takes some work. If you just let it go, what's going to happen? The weeds are going grow.
So opening your heart to reading and reflecting upon the word of God. Praying, obeying God, worshiping, serving, all the things the spiritual, you say, "Is this legalism? No, it is life in the Spirit. It is doing the things that cultivate, that nourishes the work of the Spirit of God so that we can grow this beautiful life. Because the goal is this for the glory of God. It's not about us; all about Him, and that we would lives, walk honorably before Him, that we would walk worthy of the calling. And I can tell you after trekking with the Lord all these years that it's worth it because Jesus never fails.
I close with this: I had an opportunity this week to take a walk down memory lane in that I was invited to go out to my alma mater Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene Texas and to speak at the convocation, the opening convocation of the faculty and students. And I have to tell you, once we got to Hardin-Simmons and let me just say parenthetically that Hardin-Simmons is doing very well under the fantastic presidential leadership of Dr. Eric Bruntmyer, and if you have a student then you should take a look at Hardin-Simmons University and be a Cowboy, the original Cowboys, not in Dallas, not out at the Star, not in Wyoming- Jason Snyder, not even in Coppell, Coppell Cowboys, but the Hardin-Simmons University Cowboys!
So take a look at being a Cowboy. But when I got there it was such a rush of memories and gratitude for the way that God has led me all the way. One of the first things I did was go in the Sub, the student union building. I don't know what they call it now. And I went right into the lunch room and I walked right over to the spot where I first laid eyes on a young freshman by the name of Deb Peters who became my wife. Went out to the ball field and all the rest, preached in chapel where I stood as a student. They gave me the opportunity to preach in the chapel.
I think that was the most nervous that I've ever been when I preached at chapel to my fellow students then. But just all the memories, the very fact that I ended up at Hardin-Simmons instead of another university, that's another story for another day. But seeing how God through a series not of circumstances, but providences, led me all the way. And throughout my life I can tell you it wasn't all that purposeful or planned in the sense that, you know, I had this huge vision or mission for my life, I just said, "Yes, Lord," and step by step, Half the time I didn't know what I was doing. But I would hear a voice behind me as the Scripture says, saying, "This is the way; walk in it".
And if you are listening to the Spirit, you will be led by the Spirit. And God will open doors and no one will shut, and close doors that you can never open. And He will guide you and guard you all the days of your life. And what is true for Jack Graham is true for you as a Christian and a follower of Jesus. If you will stay in step with the Spirit, even when you're pants are down around your ankles, if you'll just keep beating the drum and keep staying in step, and doing what God has told you to do, you will find that God will take you places that you could have never dreamed or imagined! Amen? Amen!