These steps would be a hard struggle, even without a world of temptation around me. In fact, without the Spirit that dwells within me, I would find it impossible to see the narrow lane that is the way of God, much less stay anywhere near within its bounds.
Even though the love of Christ makes who I am more important than what I do, the process of being love and goodness is not without obstacles. The television beckons on a daily basis, slipping past me words and actions that would not have passed the censors when I was a child and yet are OK for even day-time airwaves. I still turn the television on. With the boon of electronic publishing, I have thousands of books at my fingertips. Do historical romances count as “clean” fiction? I doubt it. But, you’ll find quite a few of them on my Nook account.
“Do not be deceived,” Paul tells the Corinthians. “‘Bad company corrupts good morals'” (1 Cor 15:33).
The devil doesn’t show up looking like some horrible creature you want to shrink from, but as the appealing figure you only know as a deceiver if you really pay attention.
Which brings me back to the Spirit that dwells within us, the mechanism by which Christ makes “His burden light” (Matt. 11:30). Through the help of concentrating on the Spirit, we will find ourselves more sure-footed on the narrow path:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.
The last part of Paul’s admonition to the Galatians may seem contradictory. What did he mean by not being under the Law? Remember, for one, that in the time that Jesus walked the earth, the Law had become a thing that lost sight of its main goal in overwhelming minutiae. Christ told the Pharisees it was not what was on the outside that made them unclean, but what was in their hearts, remember? In living by the Spirit, what Paul is saying is that we are no longer caught under the minutiae of the Law that gets us focused on the wrong things. Instead, with the Spirit, we are guided by the love and goodness that Christ exhibited while He was on this earth. And this kind of living, rather than losing sight of the Law, inevitably ups the ante.
This piece has turned into one of those “sinners in the hands of an angry God” kind of approaches, when it promised something very different, so let me deliver on the promise of the title. Spending time in the Spirit takes practice, just like any other skill. You build up to it. You have to commit to it. But, the more you do it, the more you realize that it is so much more rewarding than the entertainments or activities that you used to do to fill the voids in your life that simply don’t cut it any more. (And you do still seek television time and good books to read. You just find yourself liking a different variety of entertainment on television more than what once interested you.)
Whenever somebody goes through a great tragedy, we often wish them the “peace that surpasses all understanding,” the peace that comes from God alone because He alone knows the truth about what is (Philipians 4:7) . But I think we get flashes of understanding when we practice our Holy Spirit muscles.
For those of you that own a cat or dog, there is nothing more peaceful than one of these creatures curled up in perfect slumber. How many times during a week do I find myself scurrying around with chores and work, glancing up to see my cats in blissful slumber and envy them their perfect peace?
And yet, if I would just take a page out of their books, stop for a few minutes, or an hour, and go to my Father with a request for that same kind of peace, won’t He grant it? Didn’t Christ give us that very example throughout His time on earth? Look at all the examples of moments when He took Himself aside to be alone in prayer.
So, here’s to knowing the peace that surpasses my cats’ naps, to daily exercises in the Spirit, to a world of wonder when we see through the eyes of God’s love.