I enjoy children, and I have had a lot of experience with early childhood and early intervention when I was a music therapist. I became very familiar with developmental stages for the ages of birth through five. Toddlers were always interesting because they always seemed as if they had an inner battle going on. Some toddlers go through a phase where they begin to exercise verbal rebellion even though they may not mean what they say; they are just learning to express themselves and be assertive. I would joke that when a toddler was going through that stage, you could almost offer them their favorite treat and they would say, “NO!” just to say no. The three verses that I read for today made me think of that little toddler and how we must look like that to God at times.
Please read Galatians 5:16-18 and let it sink in. Paul begins this section by explaining that if we live lives that are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law. Was Paul saying that the law doesn’t apply to us? I don’t think so; I think he was pointing out that if we are being led in the Spirit, we will not need the law because we will be doing what God wants. Verse 17 points out that our sinful nature does not want what the Spirit wants. Paul explains it more in depth in Romans 7 and 8. I am going to spend some time in Romans 7 and 8 today exploring the idea of the law and the Spirit. Please read Romans 7:4-6. Once again, Paul was not saying that the law was worthless, he was just pointing out that Christ’s sacrifice and the Spirit in us has given us new direction. Verse 6 says, “But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” Did you notice that verse 4 says we are to “bear fruit for God?” We need to be careful of how we look at the Old Testament law, which Paul warns about in Romans 7:7, “What shall we say, then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law…”
Reading on in Romans 7 we see that Paul describes the inner battle of the sinful nature and the Spirit (Romans 7:15-25). Paul begins to describe what it means to be living in the Spirit in Romans 8:1-11. I love what Paul says in verse 5, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” We have all received the Spirit when we believed that our salvation is only through Christ (I Cor. 6:19), so we have the ability to live by the Spirit. In Romans 8:9, Paul says, “You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.” Basically, God has given us the tools we need to live a life that desires to do what He wants. The Spirit empowers us and motivates us to do what is right, not the law!
It is a different mindset: do what is right, versus don’t do what is wrong. In child development classes, I learned that it was much better to ask the child to do the behavior you are expecting instead of telling them not to do something. For example, when a child is running in an area that is not safe, I would say, “Please walk,” instead of, “No running!” The theory is that the child will respond quicker because they are given a very specific behavior you desire from them and not leave them guessing about what they should do. The Spirit tells us more than the law; we are told what to do, not just what not to do.
I am so excited that I will be looking at the fruits over the next few weeks. I get to see what God wants me to do!
Are you living in the Spirit?