Aspects, by David Lampel - An Unnatural Journey

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a monthly devotional journal by David S. Lampel / Issue #91, June 1998, 1998

Living by the Spirit

That's the problem, you see.

Living, for most people, is an essentially physical process consisting of eating, sleeping, working, playing, carrying on a conversation with another physical being, playing softball on a Saturday morning, getting heartburn after too many burritos and a longer belt after the Thanksgiving feast.

Living is part of being human. It is looking into the eyes of a loved one, feeling the touch of a friend, and the loud anger of an enemy. It is rising in the morning to go to work, and returning home at the end of the day to mow the lawn or prepare dinner. It is physical, it is doing. Living is something one can see and touch, hear and smell. It is something played out before all our senses. It is tangible.

The Spirit, on the other hand, represents an intangible process for most people. Spiritual things are mysterious and puzzling, associated with inexplicable dreams and queasy feelings of dread. They fall into the area of prayers and incantations, angel whispers, and small hairs rising on the back of the neck.

Even within the Christian community the Spirit is often referred to as "it." One's next door neighbor is a "she"; the delivery driver is a "he"; even the second member of the Trinity, who once walked the paths of this earth, is certainly a "He." But the Spirit--a mysterious, invisible being without what we would call a proper name--is called an "it." And that perfectly describes the detached manner in which some of us consider all things spiritual.

Even Christians may prefer to segregate these two components into their "spiritual life" and . . . well, all the rest. Spirituality is something exercised only at specified points on the calendar, say, every Sunday morning and every Wednesday night. The really religious, the fanatics in our midst, may even get spiritual more often than that--adding Sunday evening, or an occasional retreat or seminar, or Thursday morning Men's breakfast.

However it is organized, many Christians have drawn an imaginary, yet firm line between what is Spiritual and what is daily living--which leaves us with the problem: How do we reconcile these two seemingly incompatible realms? How does one live by the Spirit? And given that, how does one walk by the Spirit?

Someone Real

A good starting point would be to become better acquainted with the Spirit--the Holy Spirit of God. And we can become acquainted with Him in a personal way, since He's not at all an "it," but a real, living being. Jesus described the Spirit to His disciples on the night He was arrested:

The Spirit is a "he," just like Jesus and God the Father. In fact, the Father and the Spirit are of the same type, as it were. According to Jesus,

The word "spirit" that Jesus used is the same word used in the Bible for the Holy Spirit.[1] So, since God the Father and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence, if we can know and have a relationship with one, we certainly can with the other.


We first meet the Holy Spirit, as an individual, in the second verse of the Bible.

He was there in the beginning, and somehow it's reassuring to know that even then--as far away from us as the beginning of time itself--the Comforter was familiar with the dust from which we would be created. He was the keeper of all the raw elements that made up the earth, hovering over them like a mother bird hovers over her chicks. In the beginning the earth was nothing more than an amorphous blob of dark, watery nothingness, presided over by the third personality of the Godhead, the one who would one day become our great and compassionate counselor.


Subsequent earthly events give cause to display other character traits of the Spirit. In the book of Nehemiah He is described as a teacher.

Isaiah describes the future Messiah by the wisdom He will receive from the Spirit.

And then when it became time for the Messiah to be born on earth, it was accomplished supernaturally by the Spirit.

More Than a Feeling

The work of the Holy Spirit is woven throughout the history of mankind. He was there before the beginning . . .

Though they would be loathe to admit it, some in the body of Christ-- even those claiming special knowledge of, and power through, the Spirit --think of the Holy Spirit more as a feeling than a person. They associate His ministry with ecstasies, religious exuberance, and special momentary glimpses into divine knowledge.

The Spirit certainly is mystical--associated in Scripture with wind and breath, fire, water, words, and a dove--but He is far more than a feeling. He is as vital to the ongoing process of our salvation as the other two members of the Trinity, for without the Spirit we would lose touch with God.

The Ministry of the Spirit

Neh. 9:20 John 14:16-26 2 Cor. 3:17
Job 33:4 John 15:26 2 Cor. 5:5
Psalm 139:7 John 16:7-14 2 Cor. 13:14
Isaiah 11:1-3 John 20:22 Galatians 3:2-3
Isaiah 44:3-4 Acts 1:2 Galatians 4:6
Isaiah 63:10 Acts 1:16 Galatians 5:5
Ezekiel 36:27 Acts 2:2-4 Galatians 5:16-25
Micah 2:7 Acts 2:33 Galatians 6:8
Haggai 2:5 Acts 2:38 Ephes. 1:17
Matthew 1:18-20 Acts 4:8 Ephes. 2:18-22
Matthew 3:11-4:1 Acts 5:3-11 Ephes. 3:16
Matthew 10:20 Acts 5:32 Ephes. 4:3-4
Matthew 12:28 Acts 8:15-17 Ephes. 4:30
Matthew 28:19 Acts 9:31 Ephes. 5:18
Luke 1:15 Acts 10:19-20 Ephes. 6:17-18
Luke 1:35 Acts 16:6-7 1 Thes. 1:6
Luke 1:67 Acts 19:2-6 1 Thes. 5:19
Luke 2:25-27 Romans 8:5-11 2 Thes. 2:13
Luke 3:22 Romans 8:22-27 1 Tim. 4:1
Luke 11:13 Romans 14:17 2 Tim. 1:14
Luke 12:12 Romans 15:13-16 Titus 3:5-6
Luke 24:49 Romans 15:30 Hebrews 2:4
John 1:32-33 1 Cor. 2:10-14 Hebrews 9:14
John 3:5-6 1 Cor. 3:16 1 Peter 1:11-12
John 3:34 1 Cor. 6:11 1 Peter 3:18
John 4:14 1 Cor. 6:19 1 Peter 4:14
John 6:45 1 Cor. 12:3-11 1 John 2:20
John 6:63 2 Cor. 1:22 1 John 3:24
John 7:38-39 2 Cor. 3:3 1 John 4:2-13

Without the Spirit's ministry in our life we would be useless in God's service; anything we did for the Father would be accomplished under our own power and inspiration, and thereby useless to the Kingdom. Without the Spirit there would be no life-change in a believer; we would look and behave like every other soul on earth.

Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest,
Vouchsafe within our souls to rest;
Come with Thy grace and heav'nly aid,
And fill the hearts which Thou has made.

To Thee, the Comforter, we cry;
To Thee, the Gift of God most high;
The Fount of life, the Fire of love,
The soul's Anointing from above.

The sev'nfold gifts of grace are Thine,
O Finger of the Hand Divine;
True Promise of the Father Thou,
Who dost the tongue with speech endow.

Thy light to every sense impart,
And shed Thy love in every heart;
Thy own unfailing might supply
To strengthen our infirmity.

Latin, 9th Century


Moving in Him

So just what does it mean to live by the Spirit?

Once we remove the artificial barrier erected between the spiritual and the corporeal--once we accept the fact that, as a disciple of Christ, we have become a spiritual being--it then becomes easier to take hold of the concept of living by the Spirit. He is kin; through the blood of Christ, we have become like Him.

Though he does not explicitly mention the Holy Spirit, Paul, in his speech to the Areopagus on Mars Hill in Athens, describes an essentially spiritual relationship between God and man.

Because we have been given the gift of free will (or might that be more a curse than a gift?) we are free to live outside of His Spirit. But therein lies only misery. The believer who refuses to live by the Spirit is swimming upstream, against the current. God is committed to pouring His blessings into our life, and He does this through the Spirit connection. When we determine to live outside of that connection, we short-circuit the life He wishes to have flow into our life.

The inhabitation of the Holy Spirit does not ensure that we will proceed under His power. Like the other members of the Godhead, the Spirit is a gracious, courteous dweller. Knowing His way is superior, He patiently waits for us to agree.

It's always a little dangerous to draw upon the peculiar wisdom of Hollywood for understanding the mysteries of God, but there is a moment in the first Star Wars film that perfectly illustrates how we are to live by the Spirit.

Our hero, Luke Skywalker, has just learned that he has in his genes the makings of a Jedi Knight. In their ship flying through space, Luke's mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is trying to teach him about the pervasive, mysterious Force. The young Skywalker is jousting with a small round remote which periodically fires a stinging blast at him, and he's doing a poor job of fending off the blasts with his light saber--a futuristic version of a swashbuckler's sword.

As Luke is once again stung by the remote's blast, Obi-Wan reminds him, "Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him." To further prove the power of this mysterious, invisible Force, Obi-Wan places a helmet over Luke's head--a helmet that completely covers his eyes. "Try it again, Luke. This time let go your conscious self."

Luke is incredulous. "With the blast shield down, I can't even see. How am I supposed to fight?"

Obi-Wan replies, "Your eyes can deceive you. Don't trust them."

Frustrated by his inability to master this more spiritual side of being a Jedi Knight, Luke still cannot fend off the remote's attacks.

"Stretch out with your feelings, Luke," Obi-Wan says.

Luke centers himself and calmly raises his weapon. We see that he is now relying less on himself than on the guiding Force. The remote turns and fires once, twice, three times--and each strike is effortlessly rebuffed by Luke's flashing light saber.

"You see," Obi-Wan says, "you can do it. You've taken your first step into a larger world."

Embracing Reality

God's Holy Spirit is certainly not identical to George Lucas' imaginative Force, but the method by which one taps into His power is similar. We do not live by the Spirit by depending on our own power and abilities, but rather by giving up those gifts to a higher power. The key to living by the Spirit is surrender.

Ah, and there's the rub. If there is anything that stands against the popular philosophy of today it is the concept of surrendering one's independence to a greater authority. It's simply not done. But our lives will not become spiritual until we let go of the physical. We will not tap into the power of God--who is a Spirit--until we become a part of the limitless spiritual world that surrounds us. As Tozer points out, it is within reach, but it waits.

From my desk I look out over a short slope that goes down to the pond behind our home. Beyond the pond is the woods--at this time of year a dense jungle of green-leafed trees, bushes, and tall weeds and grass. In the woods live myriad birds, deer, raccoon, possums, squirrels and chipmunks, wild turkeys, and other beasts of which I am not yet aware. From my desk I don't see them; I see only a heavy curtain of green. But I know they live in there because they emerge from time to time.

If one day I decide to pay the animals a visit, I could open the gate behind the barn and go crashing through the underbrush astride my tractor. The tractor would conveniently smash through the brush, making my progress easier. In fact, if it really becomes too dense even for it, I could take along my chain saw; it would make short work of the low branches that impede my progress.

All that might get me in to where the beasts live, but once I were there I would find myself very much alone. Entering the woods on my own, very physical terms would virtually guarantee a solitary vigil.

I could, however, choose to enter the woods more on the terms of its inhabitants. I could climb over the gate and quietly enter the dense stand of trees on foot. I would carefully go around obstacles instead of crashing through them, and even step where my footfalls would make little noise. I would be silent and move cautiously, becoming one with the dense vitality of the forest.

Soon I would be serenaded by songbirds and the melodic croaking of frogs. Pheasants would screech from the neighboring field and turkeys would gobble and strut within a few yards of my position. Deer would browse the lower branches in my line of sight, and possums would waddle by dragging their naked, rat-like tails. Antic squirrels would leap from branch to branch overhead, complaining and scolding, but making me feel at home in their world. Quietly, a little at a time, I would become one with my surroundings.

We do not "live by the Spirit" by physical means. Jesus told the woman at the well that human beings do not choose the manner by which they acceptably worship the Lord God, but must, instead, offer their worship in a manner pleasing to its object.


"God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth." John 4:24

In the same way we cannot choose the manner by which we live by the Spirit; it is a spiritual world that must be entered on its own terms. This means that living by the Spirit is not accomplished by attending church, serving on the Building and Grounds Committee, teaching Sunday School, or taking your favorite casserole to the potluck dinner. Living by the Spirit is not accomplished by forcing oneself to read through the Bible in a year, or by stopping work every day at ten o'clock to pray.


If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. 1 Cor. 3:12-15

All of these activities may be associated with the Spiritual life, but they are not--in themselves--Spiritual. Spirit-living means that we are energized by the Holy Spirit; that is the first milestone of the journey, not the last. Church activities do not guarantee spirituality any more than driving a four-wheel drive vehicle into the woods guarantees a chance to listen to wildlife. Busy-ness--even at church-- more often drives away spirituality.

Works do not lead to a Spirit-filled life, but are, instead, its result.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until my will is one with Thine,
To do and to endure.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Till I am wholly Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.

Breathe on me, Breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Edwin Hatch


There is a close relationship between worship of God and the Spirit-energized life. Both are spiritual pursuits, and both have the same enemy: Self.

Worship of God and Spirit-living do not come naturally to a people preoccupied with self. Like the disciples waiting for Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, our spirit may want to worship, but our natural body--and natural inclination--will not be in that direction. So when our own pleasure and convenience are our priorities, we will never walk by the Spirit.


Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Mark 14:37-38

Worship and walking by the Spirit are developed, practiced skills. They do not happen accidentally; they happen because we have set our minds on them as something worthwhile and profitable--first for God, then for ourselves. Both pursuits are centered on God.

Unfortunately we have devalued Spiritual living to the point that any illustration of it sounds like a vignette out of the Sixties, told to the accompaniment of finger cymbals and the wafting of incense. Spiritual living has become synonymous in our day with empty-headedness. To live by the Spirit denotes laziness, a lack of common sense and gumption--or it denotes Eastern mysticism lived under a crystal pyramid somewhere in the arid vastness of Arizona.

Even in the church, living by the Spirit is often associated more with ecstasies than day-to-day Christian living. For many it is the antithesis of such things as evangelism, sound Biblical instruction, witnessing, and "traditional" doctrine. What those who hold to this position fail to realize is that none of those other activities are even possible without the ministry of the Spirit in a life. The true Spirit-quickened life is not one of lazy self-indulgence, but one packed with vitality, intelligence, and supernatural wisdom.

The world in which we live, and, sadly, many in the body of Christ, are uncomfortable with things of the Spirit because they are uncomfortable with the knowledge brought by the Spirit. In our world, the truth is multiple choice. Anything that declares any one truth--to the exclusion of all the rest--is either dismissed or ridiculed. We live in a society in which all the sharp edges have been rounded off. The Spirit has sharp edges, and that is why He is so unpopular. That is why a life lived in Him can be so inconvenient.


"But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth." John 16:13a

So the main mark of a life "walking by the Spirit" is that it is conducted according to the truth of God's word. The Spirit wrote the words, and it is the Spirit who dispenses their truth to the one in whom He dwells.

The Holy Spirit has no agenda of His own; He speaks only the truth from the Father and Jesus Christ. Seeking no glory for Himself, He always, unselfishly, points us toward the Father and the Son. So a life filled and motivated by the Holy Spirit will always be a life that points to God.

Any spirit that does not point us to God the Father and Jesus Christ will not be the one, true Holy Spirit.


Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

Living a life that is moved by the Spirit of God is, essentially, a deep and powerful joining of our spirit to His. Tozer writes that

We shouldn't make the mistake, however, of assigning the Spirit world to the fragile, fleeting land of our emotions. C.S. Lewis writes that our emotions are valid, but that we should

Spirit living is no more complicated, and no less grand, than simply taking God at His word and living as close to Him on a regular basis as is humanly possible. It is not the product of cold reason, but it is brokenness, it is humility and dependency, it is bowing before Him in utter honesty and openness to declare our love and devotion.


You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

But it is also not the result of riding the precipice of high emotions, where the bottomless pit is so near at hand, one false step away. It is thanksgiving for the beauty that surrounds us, it is reminding ourselves of His hand in everything that comes our way, it is considering Him to be our highest and best teacher of everything there is to know.

In one sense, "living by the Spirit" is coming to grips with the fact that God, through the Holy Spirit, is the root source of and sustaining power behind our very existence; "walking by the Spirit" is how that knowledge is played out in our daily life.

And in both, God is preeminent.


The easiest description of living and walking by the Spirit is a human life so absorbed into the life of God that His presence pervades every component, every nook and cranny of that life. It doesn't guarantee--or even suggest--sinless perfection, but rather a supernatural perspective on the natural. It means living every day, seeing every object and event, interacting with every person from an unnatural, Spiritual perspective.


And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. 1 Cor. 6:11

Walking by the Spirit means seeing even ourselves as something set apart from the natural. It means seeing not only those things that happen around us from the Spirit's perspective, but even our own thoughts, actions, and desires as somehow detached from earthly considerations. This is not to say that we robe ourselves in sackcloth and ashes, and check out from all responsibilities and earthly experience, but that we understand that everything we are and accomplish--from the exalted to the mundane--are now part of someone higher than ourselves.

Seeing God In It

There are aspects of Kingdom living that are nearly impossible to explain to those without. Indeed, they can be difficult enough to explain to some within.

This week, save for a few remaining trim boards, we finished the construction of our new barn. The doors and windows are in place, the wiring done; the power saws and heavy ladders have been removed; and the floor has been swept clean and the two tree frogs who had taken up residence removed. Yesterday, as a reward, I began moving in all the garden tools and machines.

For a barn it is, admittedly, a small barn, measuring only 16x24 feet (roughly the floor space of a 1 1/2 car garage), but by design and use it is and will be, clearly, a barn.

In a human, physical sense we did it all ourselves. After professionals poured the slab, my father-in-law and I cut every board and nailed it into place. We built each rafter and lifted it over our heads to drop it onto the two outside walls. We were the ones clinging to the tops of the tall ladders to lay every shingle in place. We hammered and measured and sawed; we groaned and grunted and sweat away more than a few pounds; and when something failed to fit as planned, we were the ones who had to do it over. Linda and her mom painted all the trim boards with primer and two coats of Barcelona Brown, then Linda and I painted all the outside panels with two coats of Berber Ivory. Likewise, in a human, financial sense, the money to pay for it all came from our own pocket-- specifically, from Linda's long hours at the office.

So why is it, when I stand outside and lift my gaze to this new building, that my heart fills with thanksgiving to God? Why is it, when I consider this barn built by human effort from beginning to end, that I rejoice that the Lord has been so generous as to give us this thing?

I have no answer to the paradox, save this:

When we become a son or daughter of the living God through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ; when we begin and sustain the never-completed process of conforming to His image; when we ingest His mind, and strive for His vision; when we tune our hearing to His voice, tuning out the clamor of the world; when we give our lives over to His invasive yet comforting Spirit--then, and only then, are we able to see the powerful hand and gentle grace of God even in our own efforts.

The Battle is the Lord's

There are lives scattered throughout Scripture that afford us glimpses of what it means to walk by the Spirit, but there is surely no finer example of a life conducted from beginning to end by the Spirit of God than that of King David.

While still a teenager, this remarkable boy was confronted with a situation that was making grown men cower in fear.

David hadn't come to fight, but had been sent to the front lines to deliver food to his brothers, who were among the rest of the Israelites quaking with fear at the sight of the giant Goliath. Young David, however, wasn't at all impressed with the Philistine blowhard.

All those around him, from the lowliest recruit to King Saul himself, were only thinking in natural, physical terms. They sized up the enemy, compared it to themselves, and decided that cowardice was the better part of valor. But David thought in Spiritual terms. He was more embarrassed by the cowardice of his own people than he was afraid of the enemy. Israel was God's chosen people; He had promised to protect them. So why be afraid of this lowly Philistine? How could his size and strength ever compare to the limitless power of Almighty God?


Later in his life, after he had succeeded Saul as the King of Israel, and had enjoyed success in battle, David reached the conclusion that since the Lord had been good to him, he would like to do something good for the Lord. The King thought it wasn't right that he should live in a palace built of cedar while the ark of God was still housed in a tent. In fact, as David's son Solomon said later, the Lord was pleased that the king would have such noble intentions.

David was to be disappointed, however, for God had chosen Solomon to be the builder of His temple--not David.

To put this moment in contemporary terms, say a grown son scrimped and saved to buy his elderly father an expensive gift out of gratitude for the fine way he had been raised. Now more mature, the son realizes that he enjoys a good life because of the splendid job his father did in bringing him up, so he wants to do something really nice for him. So the son writes a check large enough to cover the cost of a brand new car, places it in an envelope and hands it to his dad.

The father opens the gift and is suitably surprised, but instead of thanking his generous son and heading for the nearest showroom, he says, "Well, that's very nice, but no thank you." He hands the check back to his stupefied son. "I'd rather have your son buy me a new car. Thanks anyway."

We can well imagine the hurt feelings, even anger that this would create in the heart of the son. How dare his father be so ungrateful! After all, the old man's present car is getting ready to die; he really does need a new one. Why not just be gracious and accept the gift. And what's this nonsense about waiting for the next generation?

No one would have found fault with King David if he had had a similar response to God's rejection of his gift. It would have been perfectly natural from an earthly, human perspective. But David was someone who lived and walked by the Spirit. His perspective was unnatural.

David's response was remarkable. Instead of pouting, or stomping off in angry disgust, he went in and sat before the Lord. In quiet humility he expressed his gratitude for the good life God had given him.

Then, with his heart filled with praise and adoration for his God, he finished,

That's what it is to live by the Spirit. That's what it is to walk through life empowered by God through His Holy Spirit. Good and positive events are not clutched too tightly, and painful, disappointing events are not spurned. Through the power of the Spirit, we happily release from our grasp the Father's pleasant blessings, and take hold of any unpleasantness that will draw us closer to Him.

Spirit of God, descend upon my heart;
Wean it from earth, through all its pulses move;
Stoop to my weakness, mighty as Thou art,
And make me love Thee as I ought to love.

I ask no dream, no prophet ecstasies,
No sudden rending of the veil of clay,
No angel visitant, no opening skies;
But take the dimness of my soul away.

Teach me to feel that Thou art always nigh;
Teach me the struggles of the soul to bear,
To check the rising doubt, the rebel sigh;
Teach me the patience of unanswered prayer.

Teach me to love Thee as Thine angels love,
One holy passion filling all my frame;
The baptism of the heaven-descended Dove,
My heart an altar, and Thy love the flame.

George Croly


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1. pneuma, pnyoo'-mah, Greek Stg 4151; from Greek 4154 (pneo); a current of air, i.e. breath (blast) or a breeze; by analogy or figurative a spirit, i.e. (human) the rational soul, (by implication) vital principle, mental disposition, etc., or (superhuman) an angel, d'mon, or (divine) God, Christ's spirit, the Holy Spirit :- ghost, life, spirit (-ual, -ually), mind. Compare Greek 5590 (psuche).

2. The Divine Conquest (Christian Publications, 1978), p126f.

3. So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. 1 Cor. 15:45.

4. Flying Closer to the Flame (WORD, 1993), p248.

5. af-fla-tus: (Latin pp. of afflare, to blow on); inspiration or powerful impulse, as of an artist or poet.

6. August 27, 1997 Reflections by the Pond, a weekly Internet column by David S. Lampel. To subscribe, send your e-mail request to


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