Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3:17
While I believe the Bible to be relevant to our lives, I’ve found that it doesn’t always explicitly explain some things to my satisfaction. In Galatians 5:16 for instance, Paul said, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. In today’s passage, we’re told that we may find freedom in the Spirit. As someone who’s known addiction, I’ve desperately needed to understand this concept. What does freedom in the Spirit mean? Where do I find it? How do I walk by the Spirit?
I’ve heard from some Christians that the answer lies in believing wholeheartedly in these verses to make them true in our lives. We must name it and claim it, wrangling all doubt out of our brains, while engaging in such positive thinking and prayer that we cause those verses to become real. If I keep telling myself I’m free, eventually I’ll come to believe it and then maybe I’ll quit wanting to do drugs, right?
I tried this. I attempted to engage in positive thinking. I prayed. I claimed the truth in those passages. But I changed nothing, and nothing changed. I claimed to be sober and living in recovery, while putting the pills in my mouth. I wanted God to change my appetite, after which I told him I’d change my behavior. It didn’t matter if I whispered all the right words and prayers though, as long as I kept living the same life, I was never going to get sober. Living in recovery and walking by the Spirit are not just positive thoughts that I repeat to myself.
I had it backwards, asking God to change my desires before I changed my behavior. First, I had to learn to follow God, radically changing my behavior. I had to obey him, which is what walking by the Spirit means, and then I found freedom. Living in the Spirit isn’t just a thought in my head. It’s a way of life. I don’t always feel like doing this. I still often want to follow my way. If, however, I want to continue to experience freedom in my life, I must daily abandon my way to walk by the Spirit.
These are our two choices. We can walk by the flesh (following our way) or we can walk by the Spirit (following God’s way). This isn’t just about drugs. This is about the inherently self-destructive nature in all of us. Our way leads to continued addiction and slavery, while the Spirit leads to life and freedom. The daily choice is ours.