During this year's fast, God gave me the phrase "keep in step with the spirit" from Galatians 5:25. This is also the title of a book by J.I. Packer about the Spirit-filled life. I own the book and managed to hunt it down in the stacks in the garage (the 1987 edition). I don't think I have read it (no marks in the margins and I'm usually a pen-in-hand reader).
Obey the Impression
I like the way Paul phrases this idea because it demystifies the Spirit-filled life. It took me 25 years to figure out something rather simple. When I have a visual impression in a given moment of me doing something kind or generous, it is usually from the Spirit of God. I may be walking out the door when I see myself turning back to give Shirin a hug before leaving. I walk away from the dishwasher full of clean dishes and then I see myself going back to put them away.
No, these small impressions aren't world-changing. Yes, they form a life that can be. The more we know Him, the more we have his mind. The more permission we give Him, the more we bear his fruit. The more we act upon the impressions He gives, the more impressions we get...and the more substantial they become.
When Jesus said, "the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing," I believe this is how it worked. The Father would give the Son a mental image of what to do in a particular moment and Jesus would follow.
We face "a or b" choices all day. Do I ask God for His plan when my feet hit the floor or do I follow the worn path of doing my own thing? Do I smile at the check out clerk or keep my head down? Do I go upstairs to pray with my daughter when she goes to bed or default to the family room tv?
This morning I was listening to Numbers chapter 9 and was struck with this visual illustration of "keeping in step with the Spirit."
18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out. 21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.
The Israelites were still early in the wilderness experience. They were fresh off their deliverance through the plagues and the Red Sea miracle. They responded to his leading whether it was to stay or to move on. They were enjoying the life of faith. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before they lost step with the Spirit and started acting out of impulse… see Numbers 10 and following.
I was then drawn to John 14:10. Jesus says, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works." As the Father would abide in Jesus, so the Spirit desires to abide in us.
So this is my daily, if not hourly prayer for 2015..."Lord, enable me to keep in step with your Spirit."