Putting your faith in Jesus and trusting in Him as your savior is a monumental decision. It changes everything. When you surrender, admit your brokenness, and believe in His sacrifice for your sins, you receive new life. A spiritual resurrection takes place and from that point forward, the Bible says that you are a new creation.
We spend a lot of time thinking about, reflecting on, and celebrating our salvation. Rightly so. There is no more radical and powerful story than the perfect God leaving His throne to provide a way back home to lost and hurting sons and daughters. It is the miracle of all miracles. We’re meant to never get over it, keeping the truth of our transformation close as we go about our lives. Because we are made new through the blood of Jesus, we have new power to live differently. Purposefully. Joyfully.
When we’re saved and our sin’s penalty is paid, we are clean. And because of that cleansing, our redeemed hearts are now able to welcome and host the Holy Spirit. Sin no longer reigns in our earthly bodies, so the Spirit moves in and takes up residence within us, giving us intimate and daily access to God the Father. And not only access, but help, motivation, guidance, and counsel. He is the seal, the guarantee of our heavenly inheritance and new bloodline (Eph. 1:13-14).
The Holy Spirit comes in and coaxes the spark of faith that was set alight in our hearts and slowly feeds the fire, day by day. If our salvation is a new seed planted in our hearts, the Holy Spirit is the Master Gardener as He waters, prunes, and brings forth new fruit from a holy and righteous vine.
For many of us, this process that we call sanctification can feel shrouded and mysterious. It can feel hard to define and even more difficult to measure. How does the Holy Spirit live within us? How does He work, both in us and through us? What does He do and what are we responsible for? If we’re saved and have the Holy Spirit living within us, why do we still sin?
If you’ve ever felt yourself asking questions like this, you’re not alone. While the Bible says that there is only one way to God, one truth, one name by which all men and women must be saved, once we’re saved, the path of sanctification (or becoming more like Jesus) looks slightly different for each of us.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 and 2 Corinthians 3:18 that we all share the same goal: being transformed into the image, or likeness, of Jesus. But the way we do that is by moving from one degree of glory to another, or put another way, at our own pace.
If salvation is the start of our spiritual life and eternity is the culmination and perfection of the process of becoming more like Jesus, then what are the mile markers along the path that are consistent for each of us, no matter if our journey is 3 hours or 30 years? How can we come alongside the Holy Spirit and aid, not grieve or hinder, His progress? The answers to these questions will help us craft a working definition of what it means when it says in Galatians to “walk by the Spirit” or to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16, 25).
First, let’s address the mile markers of Spirit-driven, grace-fueled living. Remember that while the call to work out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12) will likely result in a personal and unique journey towards godliness, there are elements of the Spiritual Life that we all share in common. When we are led by the Spirit, attuned to His guidance and familiar with His methods, we find a common commitment to both confront temptation and to battle against our former way of living that was contrary to God’s law. We’re called to play both defense and offense, blocking potential attacks that could come our way, while also actively working to renew our minds (Rom. 12:1-2) and stop our sinful tendencies. This is serious and important work, so much so that the Scripture writers often refer to this offensive attack as “putting to death the deeds of the body.”
But before this raises the alarm bells of legalism or rule-following, we see another common mile marker in our Spiritual Life – the call to measure our “success” by grace instead of the law (Rom. 6:14).
Since we have been saved once and for all, we have nothing to prove. We are already seen as righteous in the eyes of God, who is never changing, and therefore, neither is our spiritual legal status.
Praise God! We are sons and daughters, now and forevermore. Armed with that truth, we fight back sin, not to impress, accumulate favor, or earn a particular spiritual pedigree. We fight because we trust that if God calls us to it, the work is in our best interest, both now and in Eternity.
Confronting temptation, battling against our former way of living, and measuring our growth with grace are consistent markers of every person’s journey and Spiritual Life. While we keep these truths as our guideposts, we also work to stay in step with the Spirit. He leads us and empowers us to become like Jesus one step at a time.
So how do you take a step? You pray. You practice generosity. You confess when you sin. You prioritize community. You read the Scriptures. You rest and cease striving. You love selflessly. You choose joy. You quiet anxiety by speaking Scripture over your worries. You trust in the promises of our all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful God. Each thought, word, or action that looks like Jesus is a step on your journey towards becoming more like Him.
When you spend time with anyone that you respect, you unconsciously begin to emulate that person. It might be small at first, but spend enough time and you’ll notice that you start to talk like them, walk like them, even think like them. It’s the same way with the Spiritual Life.
Through the help of the Holy Spirit, we become what we behold. It might be slow going at first. You might not feel like a saint and there definitely will still be a struggle. But over time, with concentration and intentionality, you’ll bear what Paul calls “the fruit of the Spirit.” You’ll see your life less defined by the former things and more defined by the things of God.
You’ve likely heard it said that the Spiritual Life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. This is an apt metaphor, but if I may, I want to change this picture just slightly. I think for you and me, the greatest wonder of the Spirit led-life is that we even get to run at all. It’s not as much about the distance, because while you might have 50 years, the thief on the cross next to Jesus only had 5 minutes. It’s not about your running gear because you’ve already been given all that you need for life and Godliness. It’s not even really about how in-shape you are, because we’re all learning to become more spiritually in shape the longer and further that we run.
What is most amazing, what is most breath-taking and mind-blowing, is that we’ve been given the chance to run. When you think about the graves from which we started, the fact that we are spiritually alive, with worship in our lungs and Scripture in our minds is unfathomable. You, son or daughter of God are held-up, sustained, empowered, and led by the Holy Spirit who is the very same God who put you on this course. So let’s run. Until we all become like Jesus.