In the future, I am going to budget $30 every May for a steroid shot.
And I’ll arrange to pick it up two days after Memorial Day.
Just when everyone is picnic-ing and playing cornhole and eating hamburgers, I am over in a corner shoving as many three-leafed poison ivy plants into my mouth and making clothes out of their vines.
Whether it be death by weeding my flower beds, or on this occasion, sleeping next to my husband, I am doomed to suffer by its miserable tongue.
And this is how I celebrate summer. A steroid shot, followed by three weeks of NO SUN EXPOSURE. Can you say torture?! The sun, the beautiful sun, has come to visit, and I am cursed to remain indoors.
In hindsight, if I had known that I would catch the contagious thing simply by laying on the same sheets as my infectious husband, I would most definitely have cocooned myself at night. Or worn long sleeves. Or hunkered up next to the bed on a sleeping bag. ANYTHING. But there is just something weird about sleeping in a California King-size bed by yourself. (Who am I kidding? It’s AWESOME.)
The familiar is often the reason why we curl up next to the enemy and don’t sense the threat.
There are things that we are okay with simply because “we have always done it”, or it brings back good memories, or it’s all we know.
Maybe we don’t need to second-guess everything we do, but there are some areas of our lives that we all could benefit from this looking-inside and asking the Spirit whether the activity we habitually turn to for comfort or enjoyment is the best choice.
In the book of Galatians, Paul explains the difference between living by the law and living by the Spirit. This means we no longer need to box things in, building fences miles away from the sin in order to eliminate all questionable behavior. This is perhaps the easiest way to live the Christian life, because it requires no thought, no self-inspection. No searching the heart and realigning our motives and thoughts with God’s Word. If we stay out of the flower bed altogether, we won’t have to pull the weeds we find there.
This is where the work comes in. It is far harder to examine our hearts and seek the Scriptures to find an answer rather than relying on a man-made standard to dictate our lives.
What does walking in the Spirit look like? Is there a time when setting rules and boundaries is appropriate? Absolutely. Sin is ALWAYS an established fence in Scripture, and for our own good. It is built so that we can know what to stay away from. The Bible is clear on these things, and no way you look at it can compromise the boundary. Exodus lists ten things that are such boundaries.
But in the New Testament, another fence appears to have been build even further back than the first one. This fence says that not only is murder wrong, but hating someone is the same thing. Not only is being in bed with someone who is not your spouse adultery, but so is looking at someone and thinking about being in bed with them. This new fence indicates a shift in priorities…. no longer does just the behavior require attention. The motive and thought and intent behind the behavior do, too.
Because the Spirit of the law says that our words and actions proceed from our hearts (Matthew 12:34), we must keep our heart with all diligence (Proverbs 4:23). If we tend to our hearts and ask the Lord to seek us and know us, then we won’t have to so rigidly examine our actions and behaviors. They will naturally align with the state of our heart. This doesn’t mean we will never make a wrong choice or need to ask forgiveness for something. Our heart is, at its basest form, deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9). It will not always naturally want to do the right thing. But the way the fruit of the Spirit will be manifested in our lives is if we abide in the Lord.
This passage brings me great comfort:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5).
So in the areas of dress, music, even what we put in our mouths and how much… if instead of cozying up to the comfortable or familiar and doing what we’ve always done, let’s ask the Spirit to show us the places where danger is lurking. Even the places that are good…. like church attendance and tithing… where are our hearts? Are they in a good place? Are we doing these things for the right reason, or to get praise from men? Are we missing opportunities to minister because we have drawn a line so far back that we don’t associate with anyone who is “beneath us” spiritually? Are we seeking the Lord and His Word about our activities, or relying on our pastor to tell us what is righteous?
Living by the Spirit is a higher standard. It may require us to come out of our comfort zone and lovingly confront. It may mean drawing a larger boundary than anyone else around us thinks is necessary. It may mean avoiding places or movies that affect us in the wrong way. It may mean starting conversations that would normally be awkward for the purpose of spreading the Gospel.
It will certainly be mean being more quiet. Listening more to the Holy Spirit’s voice. Let’s invite Him in to every area of our lives. Let’s learn to walk by the Spirit.
Let’s get so familiar with the Spirit that we will sense the threats around us.