17 Nov How to Walk in the Spirit
Jesus was always led by the Holy Spirit. Even when He was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, it was the Holy Spirit who was leading Him. Being led by the Holy Spirit is nothing but freedom, the freedom of a child of God.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
‘The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.’ (John 14:26) Nowadays, you can take notes when you listen to talks, but when Jesus was preaching there were no notebooks and most people were illiterate. They had to rely on memory, which is why Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would remind them everything that He had taught them. This is how the gospels were written and why there are four; each author adds things that the others missed out and provides a different perspective.
After Jesus ascended into heaven, the disciples stayed in Jerusalem in the upper room and prayed. When the day of Pentecost arrived, the Holy Spirit came upon them like tongues of fire and they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. After this, the disciples did many signs and wonders among the people, but the Sadducees became jealous of them and put them in prison. ‘But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors, brought them out, and said, “Go, stand in the temple and tell the people the whole message about this life.”’ (Acts 5:19-20) This angel of the Lord was the Holy Spirit, whom Philip also had an encounter with.
‘Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him.’ (Acts 8:26-31) Then Philip explained the passage and proclaimed the good news about Jesus, and when the eunuch saw water, he asked Philip to baptise him. ‘When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.’ (Acts 8:39-40) The Holy Spirit miraculously transported Philip from a wilderness between Jerusalem and Gaza to the city of Azotus about 30 miles away. All the spiritual gifts (e.g. visions, word of knowledge, gift of healing, gift of tongues etc) manifested in the lives of early Christians are still active today. God is not partial to the people of any one century; we all received the Holy Spirit at baptism, so we’re all entitled to these spiritual gifts. He wants to give us these gifts more than we want to receive them; all we have to do is ask in faith.
‘Now there was a disciple in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.” The Lord said to him, “Get up and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul. At this moment he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” When you kneel and pray, God works to answer your prayers, just like He answered Saul’s prayers through Ananias. When you’re led by the Holy Spirit, God reveals things to you, just like He revealed Saul’s location to Ananias. This is the power of the Holy Spirit.
HOW TO BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
Every human being is made up of 3 parts:
- Mind & Heart, which put together is Emotion
This is what sets humans apart from other creatures, and when there’s coordination between the body, emotion and spirit, there’s order and perfection. ‘When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved.’ (John 11:33) Whenever something happens, Jesus’ spirit reacts first, then His emotion supports it and His body acts accordingly. Another example: ‘Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth.’ (Luke 10:21)
This is why Jesus is perfect, because there is order in him. First His spirit responds, then His emotion supports and His body acts. He doesn’t have inner conflict. However, this is not the case with us. We react emotionally and physically first, for example in anger, and then our spirit acts and we realise we shouldn’t have reacted like that. This is what causes inner conflict, when your spirit is telling you how to behave but you’ve already responded physically and emotionally. Things like irritation and depression are simply a reflection of your inner conflict. ‘For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.’ (Romans 7:14-18) St. Paul is speaking of inner conflict; we all have it and it’s the reason why we overreact, get angry easily, and find it hard to forgive.
‘Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.’ (1 Corinthians 2:14) Who are the unspiritual? Everyone has a spirit, but those who do not feed their spirit supress it. We all eat at least 3 times a day – this is food for our body, to make it grow stronger. We search for things like love and acceptance from others, because this is food for our emotions. And if we can’t get these things from others, we feed our emotions by doing the things that make us happy, so our emotions grow stronger too. But how do we feed our spirit?
During retreats, people receive basic food for their body and emotions but plenty of food for their spirit. From morning to evening their spirit is fed with confession, Holy Eucharist, inner healing, adoration, personal prayer, and praise and worship. Their spirit puts on weight and becomes stronger, while their body and emotion lose weight and become weaker. By the end of the retreat, the people are full of spirit and if their spirit tells them to kneel and pray, their body obeys. When our spirit is stronger, our body and emotion obey it and we are led by the spirit.
THE SECRET TO LEADING A SPIRITUAL LIFE
After the retreat there’s order in you, so you go home in peace. And you continue to be led by the spirit for maybe a week or a month, but then you find yourself back to where you started. How does this happen? After the retreat, you continue to feed to your spirit by praying and reading the Bible, but at the same time you also start feeding your body and emotion. When you get home, you start eating all the delicious food you couldn’t eat in the retreat centre and start watching all the movies you couldn’t watch and do all the things you couldn’t do. This is not a sin, but it feeds your body and emotion until they become more powerful than your spirit. And it gets to a point where your spirit tells you to kneel and pray, but your body doesn’t feel like doing it and your emotion tells you you’re sleepy, so you put it off until tomorrow.
When your body and emotion become more powerful than your spirit, they take control and are no longer obedient to your spirit, and you start living for the flesh. You might still be feeding your spirit, but it’s not enough. Sunday Mass alone is not enough for your spirit, just like eating only one meal a week is not enough. ‘Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh.’ (Galatians 5:16) Pray daily, read the Bible daily. If you want to live by the spirit, you need to feed your spirit more than your body and emotion.
The secret to leading a spiritual life is to feed your spirit at least 51% of the food and your body and emotion the remaining 49%. The more you feed your spirit, the more spiritual you become. But how much is 51%? How would we know it’s enough? First, we need to understand that there’s a difference between cravings and hunger, and a difference between want and need. A craving pushes you to eat even when your body doesn’t need to, and a want is usually something you don’t need. This is why St Paul said, ‘“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.’ (1 Corinthians 6:12) We’re allowed to do everything, but not everything we do is good for us. If you’re able to eat and do only what is needed for you, your spirit will become stronger than your body and emotion, and you will be led by the spirit.