Have you ever seen couple that has been married for many years? You may have one in your neighborhood or at church. You may see them take walks together in the park, hold hands and sit on a park bench while reminiscing about the past and what they would do if they had another 50 years together. You know the couple I am describing. You could characterize them as having a unified mind and spirit about their lives together. They are walking in step with one another. But it didn’t happen overnight. It took their entire marriage to get to this point.
This picture of a unified mind and spirit as the result of a long fruitful marriage is a good description of the kind of relationship Christians should have with God as they walk in the Spirit. In his new book, Walking in the Spirit, Kenneth Berding takes us through Romans 8:1-27 and helps us to gain a better understanding of what Paul means when he tells us to “walk according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4).”
This is not a book offering 7 steps to a new walk with God by next week. Berding is quick to point out that a life of walking/living in the spirit is the result of a life of walking/living with the spirit. “There is no shortcut to learning how to keep in step with the Spirit (p. 19).” There is much to learn about walking in the Spirit but it must be learned as we actually do it. Walking in the Spirit is an active act of obedience. It is not a hands off approach to the Christian life.
In Walking in the Spirit, Berding presents seven principles of living life in the Spirit:
- Walk in the Spirit.
- Set your mind on the things of the Spirit.
- Put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit.
- Be led by the Spirit.
- Know the fatherhood of God by the Spirit.
- Hope in the Spirit.
- Pray in the Spirit.
As a happy marriage of fifty years takes time so it is with the Christian life that is characterized by walking in the Spirit. “The Spirit-ual walk is the sum total of a lot of little steps taken in submission to God’s Holy Spirit (p. 23).” These many little steps over time help to build a strong walk in the Spirit. We must continually set our mind on the things of the Spirit. We must continually say no to sin when tempted. We must continually allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit by following the Spirit when He leads us in one direction or another. Our hope in the redeeming and sin freeing work of Christ as applied to us by the Spirit must remain daily in our hearts and minds. We must never give up on praying for steadfastness in our walk with the Spirit.
There is only one issue I would take with Berding. In his discussion on the leading of the Spirit and how God accomplishes that today he rightly argues that God leads all believers broadly in many of the same ways but also specifically according to His plan to each person. I agree with this 100%! However, he goes on to state that “the Holy Spirit sometimes puts forward more direct communication in various ways, as the Bible records again and again (p. 57).” Some examples he cites are God verbally calling Abraham in Gen. 12:1, Elijah in I Kings 18:1 or Cornelius in Acts 10:5. He also cites references “when God puts something into their hearts or minds to do something” like Nehemiah 2:12 or Paul in Acts 20:22 (p. 58). In response to those who believe that these are special cases for a certain time in redemptive history Berding states, “I believe that God can and does still lead in these ways today, though I don’t know of anywhere in the Bible where the claim is made that God will always do so for every decision we make (p. 58).” I think this is missing the point though and is arguing against a claim that someone like myself is not making. God’s verbally speaking to the saints of old the way He did was necessary in order to communicate His will for their lives because there was no written revelation from God to direct them in those cases. For the New Testament Christian, Hebrews 1:1-4 is clear that though God spoke to the prophets and fathers in many ways “in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son.” What I disagree with is that God still verbally speaks to us today (which seems to be what Berding is implying) as he did to Abraham in Ur, Moses in the wilderness and Paul on the road to Damascus. Christ is the final prophet and is the very word of God. He has given His word to us in Scripture which the Holy Spirit leads us into understanding (John 14:15-31). It is interesting that in all of the personal examples that Berding gives of the Spirit leading his decisions they all fit into the category of God directing his heart or mind and none in the category of God verbally speaking to him.
Despite this small quibble Walking in the Spirit is a good book for any Christian. Berding’s many personal examples as well as those of others he has worked with on this issue are very helpful towards seeing the concept of walking in the spirit more clearly. I would especially recommend this book to a new believer or a more seasoned Christian who is feeling discouraged about their walk with God because of sin in their lives. The book is written in a devotional style and has study questions at the end making itself easy to use in a small group setting.
NOTE: I received this book for free and am under no obligation to provide a favorable review.