I've been thinking a lot today about what it means to walk in the Spirit, or be led by the Spirit on a day by day, hour by hour basis. The big question for me, is whether it's a one time process that happens when I receive the Spirit, or is it ongoing? And do we have a choice in whether we are led by the Spirit, or is it automatic because the Spirit of Christ lives in us?
Here are some things I know are true - we don't get "more" of God because we are doing good works - the fullness of Christ dwells in us at the moment we receive Him. There isn't anything I can do to get more of God, because He's become one spirit with me. So I have the fullness of God living and dwelling with me.
But, we also know that God gave us the free will to be able to make choices. So, is my one choice to receive Christ all it takes? Or do I need to choose, moment by moment, to allow Him to be the dominant force instead of ruling out of my own mind, will, and emotions?
If we're talking about getting to Heaven, yes, it's a once and done deal. I am Heaven bound because at that moment God literally binds His Spirit to my spirit, and God hates divorce. But as for actually being led by the Spirit, I honestly think that we have a choice. The choice doesn't effect our end result - we will be in His presence for eternity whether we choose to be Spirit-led or not - but does effect our lives right now.
Now, this is not a works mentality. It's not a forced behavior, saying I need to act "right" in order to be pleasing to God, or to get God to love me. I'm not saying that if you want to receive "x" blessing from God, you need to do "y", and if you don't do it well enough then God won't give you "x". I lived that life for long enough, believing that somehow we were "purchasing" God's blessings by good behavior, and if we didn't get what the Bible said we would get, then we were messing up, somehow. It turns God into a vending machine, strips away His power, and puts all the power in the hands of the person.
But, obviously, there are a lot of people walking around this world who know God but are walking around living the same life they always did. The only evidence of God in their lives is that they go to church on Sunday. And most of them are hurting - pain from years before, pain from their lives now, hurts and betrayals and anger and frustration. Fear and depression still reign in their lives
What is the answer? How do we help people walk out of sadness and into joy? A lot of us have though that if we just pretend to be joyful, to have the "joy of the Lord" around other Christians, God will see our attempts and decide that we actually deserve to experience what we are play-acting. We put on masks and talk "faith" in God for health, joy, peace, love, and all the other things the Bible says we should have because we are Christians. We say all the right things, we do all the right things, and eventually we burn out, because saying and doing doesn't actually create what we ultimately desire. I don't want to act loving - I want to experience love. I don't want to seem joyful to other people - I want to actually feel joy. I don't want to say I forgive - I want to have the hurts healed internally so that I can mean what I say.
And that's really what we all want - we just don't seem to know how to get it.
So, I've been posing this question to God - how do we access the reality of being led by the Spirit? How do we experience the exchange our ashes for His beauty, our mourning for His joy? I don't have a fully-formed answer right now - but stick with me for the next few days and we'll see what He reveals.