But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 ESV

Five Steps Toward Walking by the Spirit by John Piper

Let me conclude by mentioning five things that I think we must do so that it can be truly said that we are walking by the Spirit.

1. Acknowledge

First, we must acknowledge from our hearts that we are helpless to do good apart from the enablement of the Holy Spirit. As Paul says in Romans 7:18, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” What did Jesus mean when he said in John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing”? Of course we can do something without Jesus: we can sin! But that’s all we can do. So, the first step of walking by the Spirit is: admit this fact and let it have its devastating effect on our pride. We cannot do anything pleasing to God without the constant enablement of the Spirit.

2. Pray

Second, since it is promised in Ezekiel 36:27 that God will put his Spirit within us and cause us to walk in his statutes, pray that he do it to you by his almighty power. Many of you know the glorious, liberating experience of having an irresistible desire for sin overcome by a new and stronger desire for God and his way. And as you look back, to whom do you attribute that new desire? Where did it come from? It came from the merciful Holy Spirit. Therefore, let us pray like Paul did in 1 Thessalonians 3:12 for that chief fruit of the Spirit: “Now may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men.” And let’s pray like the writer to the Hebrews did in Hebrews 13:21,

And now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ.

If it is God alone who works in us what is pleasing in His sight, then above all, we must pray. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

3. Trust

The third step involved in walking by the Spirit is faith. We must believe that since we have come under the gracious sway of God’s Spirit, “sin will no longer have dominion over us” (Romans 6:14). This confidence is what Paul meant by “reckoning ourselves dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11). We simply count on it that the Spirit who made us alive when we were dead in sin wills our holiness and has the power to achieve what he wills. You may remember in one of my sermons on prayer I said that one of the things we believers can pray for with undoubting faith that God will do it is our sanctification, which is the same as being led by the Spirit. The reason we can is that we know that God will cause his children to be led by the Spirit. And the way we know this is because of Romans 8:14, where Paul says you can’t even be a child of God unless you are led by the Spirit. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” If you are a child of God, you have a solid and unshakable promise that God will give you victory over those powerful desires of the flesh. One word of caution: do not prejudge the timing of the Holy Spirit’s work. Why he liberates one person overnight but brings another to freedom through months of struggle is a mystery concealed for now from our eyes.

4. Act

The fourth step in walking by the Spirit after you have acknowledged your helplessness without him, prayed for his enablement, and trusted in his deliverance is to act the way you know is right. Notice: this is not step number one. If this were step number one, all our actions would be works of the flesh, not fruit of the Spirit. Only after we have appealed for the Spirit’s enablement and thrown ourselves confidently on his promise and power to work in us, do we now work with all our might. Only when we act with that spiritual preparation, will we be able to say with Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:10,

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God which is with me.

Or in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (see also Romans 15:18, 19). A person who has acknowledged his helplessness, prayed for God’s enablement to do right, and yielded himself confidently to the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit has this astonishing incentive to do righteousness, namely, the confidence that, whatever righteous act he does, it is God almighty who is at work in him giving him the will and the power to do it. It is a sign of hasty prejudice when a person says, “Well, if the Spirit is sovereign and I can’t do any good without his enablement, then I may as well just sit here and do nothing.” There are two things wrong with that statement: it is self-contradictory, and it is unbiblical. It is a contradiction to say, “I’ll just sit here and do nothing.” If you choose to sit in your chair while the house burns down, you have chosen to do something, just as much as the person who chooses to get up and save himself and others. Why should you think the one choice any more inconsistent with the sovereignty of God than the other? And such a statement is also unbiblical because Philippians 2:12 and 13 says,

Beloved, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (get out of the chair, the house is on fire!) because (not “in spite of” but “because”) God is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

It is a great incentive, not discouragement, that all our effort to do what is right is the work of almighty God within us. At least for myself, I am greatly encouraged when the going gets rough that any effort I make to do right is a sign of God’s grace at work in me. “Let him who serves serve in the strength which God supplies, that in everything God may get the glory” (1 Peter 4:11). To God be the glory!

5. Thank

The final step in walking by the Spirit is to thank God for any virtue attained or any good deed performed. If without the Spirit we can do no right, then we must not only ask his enablement for it but also thank him whenever we do it. Just one example from 2 Corinthians 8:16. Paul says, “Thanks be to God who puts the same earnest care for you into the heart of Titus.” Titus loved the Corinthians. Where did that come from? God put it in his heart. It was a fruit of the Spirit. So what does Paul do? He thanks God. And Titus should, too. Thanks be to God who puts love in our hearts!

“If we live by the Spirit, then let us also walk by the Spirit.” Let us acknowledge from our heart that we are unable to please God without the Spirit’s constant enablement. Let us pray for that enablement. Let us trust confidently in the Spirit’s power and promise to give that enablement. Then let us do what we know is right. And having done it, let us turn and say with all the saints, “Not I, but the Spirit of Christ within me.” Thanks be to God! To him be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.
Mark 15:42-43 ESV

J.C. Ryle’s insights:

We know not how he had learned to love Christ, and to desire to do Him honor. We know nothing of his subsequent history after our Lord left the world. All we know is the touching collection of facts before us. We are told that he “waited for the kingdom of God,” and that at a time when our Lord’s disciples had all forsaken Him, He “went in boldly unto Pilate, and asked for the body of Jesus,” and buried it honorably in his own tomb.

Others had honored and confessed our Lord when they saw Him working miracles, but Joseph honored Him and confessed himself a disciple, when he saw Him a cold, blood-sprinkled corpse. Others had shown love to Jesus while He was speaking and living, but Joseph showed love when He was silent and dead.

John Piper comments on Psalm 117:

“Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples!” This is God’s purpose: that he be praised by all the peoples – that he be much of; that he be seen and savored and shown to be great.

MissionsMissions is a cross-cultural movement aimed at helping people stop making much of themselves and start making much of their Creator. Missions is a cross-cultural effort to transform people’s hearts so that God is felt to be more praiseworthy than sport stars or military might or artistic achievements or anything else that God has made. Missions is a cross-cultural endeavor to help people experience God as their Treasure above all earthly treasures forever. It is a life and death struggle to give people eternal life, which consists in knowing and enjoying God forever.

Missions is telling the nations to praise God and then giving them evidences that this is good to do and showing them how God has made a way for sinners to do it because of the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. Missionaries don’t just say Psalm 117:1, “Praise the LORD, all nations!” They also say Psalm 147:1, “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” We don’t just say, “Praise the true God, through his Son Jesus!” We give reasons. We explain who he is and what he is like and how he has worked in history and spoken to us in the Bible and in his Son. We give reasons for why praising God is the only safe and satisfying response to God. We make clear: Not to praise is to perish.

Let’s face a problem here. Not everyone hears Psalm 117:1 as good news. God’s command to praise God sounds really vain to lots of people. For example, Michael Prowse, writing in the London Financial Times March 31, last year said:

Worship is an aspect of religion that I always found difficult to understand. Suppose we postulate an omnipotent being who, for reasons inscrutable to us, decided to create something other than himself. Why should he . . . expect us to worship him? We didn’t ask to be created. Our lives are often troubled. We know that human tyrants, puffed up with pride, crave adulation and homage. But a morally perfect God would surely have no character defects. So why are all those people on their knees every Sunday? (Financial Times, March 30/March 31, 2002, p. 2.)

In other words, the only incentive that Prowse can think of for God to demand praise from us is that he has need – a defect. But what if we have the need, and the need is to see infinite beauty and enjoy it so much that is spills over in authentic praise. What if admiration really is the highest pleasure and God is the most admirable being in the universe? If that were the case, wouldn’t God’s demand that we praise him be a demand for our maximum joy. And do we not call that love? C. S. Lewis struggled with the same thing, and made the great discovery:

But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least.…

I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise whatever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: “Isn’t she lovely? Wasn’t it glorious? Don’t you think that magnificent?” The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.

I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958, pp. 93-95)

The reason God seeks our praise is not because he won’t be complete until he gets it. He is seeking our praise because we won’t be happy until we give it. “Praise the LORD! For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant” (Psalm 147:1). Therefore when we say that missions is the cross-cultural effort to help the peoples praise God, we mean that missions is love not arrogance.

Missions is calling the world do what they were created to do, namely, to enjoy making much of God forever. If missions does not reach a people with the gospel of the glory of God in the face of Christ, God will be dishonored and the people will be miserable – for ever. Therefore we are driven by two motives (which turn out to be one): the glory of God, and the good of man. They are one because praise to God is the consummation of pleasure in God.

To read or listen to the rest of the sermon, please click here:

In 2 Samuel 22, David praises God for being his Rescuer, his Refuge, his source of strength and success.  You may notice that Psalm 18 is nearly the same, and meant as worship to our awesome God.

    This God—his way is perfect;
        the word of the LORD proves true;
        he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
    “For who is God, but the LORD?
        And who is a rock, except our God?
    This God is my strong refuge
        and has made my way blameless.
2 Samuel 22:31-33 ESV

Bob Deffinbaugh comments at Bible.org:

David’s “successes” are ultimately God’s doing. As David reflects on his rise to the throne, he understands that his rise to power and prominence is due to divine grace. He recalls the peril he was in and the death that seemed inevitable and unavoidable, and he praises God as his rescuer, his refuge, his source of strength and success. It is not as though David did nothing and waited for God to do everything; rather in spite of all David did, he knew it was God who preserved his life and God who promoted him to be the King of Israel. David exemplifies true humility here. Let us learn from him. If a man of his stature and spiritual intensity can give God the glory, certainly we should as well. As Paul once put it,

For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

May 24

Galatians 5:13-26 (ESV)

13 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Walk by the Spirit

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, [1] drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

May 24

Mark 15:42-47 (ESV)

Jesus Is Buried

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the Council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. [1] And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph [2] bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

May 24

Psalm 117 (ESV)

The Lord‘s Faithfulness Endures Forever

117:1 Praise the Lord, all nations!
Extol him, all peoples!
2 For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!

May 24

2 Samuel 22 (ESV)

David’s Song of Deliverance

22:1 And David spoke to the Lord the words of this song on the day when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul. 2 He said,

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
3 my [1] God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior; you save me from violence.
4 I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
and I am saved from my enemies.

5 “For the waves of death encompassed me,
the torrents of destruction assailed me; [2]
6 the cords of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me.

7 “In my distress I called upon the Lord;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears.

8 “Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations of the heavens trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
9 Smoke went up from his nostrils, [3]
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
10 He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
11 He rode on a cherub and flew;
he was seen on the wings of the wind.
12 He made darkness around him his canopy,
thick clouds, a gathering of water.
13 Out of the brightness before him
coals of fire flamed forth.
14 The Lord thundered from heaven,
and the Most High uttered his voice.
15 And he sent out arrows and scattered them;
lightning, and routed them.
16 Then the channels of the sea were seen;
the foundations of the world were laid bare,
at the rebuke of the Lord,
at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.

17 “He sent from on high, he took me;
he drew me out of many waters.
18 He rescued me from my strong enemy,
from those who hated me,
for they were too mighty for me.
19 They confronted me in the day of my calamity,
but the Lord was my support.
20 He brought me out into a broad place;
he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

21 “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness;
according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.
22 For I have kept the ways of the Lord
and have not wickedly departed from my God.
23 For all his rules were before me,
and from his statutes I did not turn aside.
24 I was blameless before him,
and I kept myself from guilt.
25 And the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness,
according to my cleanness in his sight.

26 “With the merciful you show yourself merciful;
with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;
27 with the purified you deal purely,
and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.
28 You save a humble people,
but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.
29 For you are my lamp, O Lord,
and my God lightens my darkness.
30 For by you I can run against a troop,
and by my God I can leap over a wall.
31 This God—his way is perfect;
the word of the Lord proves true;
he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

32 “For who is God, but the Lord?
And who is a rock, except our God?
33 This God is my strong refuge
and has made my [4] way blameless. [5]
34 He made my feet like the feet of a deer
and set me secure on the heights.
35 He trains my hands for war,
so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.
36 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
and your gentleness made me great.
37 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
and my feet [6] did not slip;
38 I pursued my enemies and destroyed them,
and did not turn back until they were consumed.
39 I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise;
they fell under my feet.
40 For you equipped me with strength for the battle;
you made those who rise against me sink under me.
41 You made my enemies turn their backs to me, [7]
those who hated me, and I destroyed them.
42 They looked, but there was none to save;
they cried to the Lord, but he did not answer them.
43 I beat them fine as the dust of the earth;
I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.

44 “You delivered me from strife with my people; [8]
you kept me as the head of the nations;
people whom I had not known served me.
45 Foreigners came cringing to me;
as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.
46 Foreigners lost heart
and came trembling [9] out of their fortresses.

47 “The Lord lives, and blessed be my rock,
and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,
48 the God who gave me vengeance
and brought down peoples under me,
49 who brought me out from my enemies;
you exalted me above those who rose against me;
you delivered me from men of violence.

50 “For this I will praise you, O Lord, among the nations,
and sing praises to your name.
51 Great salvation he brings [10] to his king,
and shows steadfast love to his anointed,
to David and his offspring forever.”

The Bible uses some harsh and pointed language.  In Galatians 5, for example:

5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.  I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.  You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.  For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.

You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?  This persuasion is not from him who calls you.  A little leaven leavens the whole lump.  I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is. But if I, brothers,still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.  I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!

Mark Driscoll, on the use of harsh language in the Bible:

Mark 15:33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

J.C. Ryle comments:

veilLet us observe, in these verses, the visible signs and wonders which accompanied our Lord’s death. Mark mentions two in particular, which demand our attention. One is the darkening of the sun for the space of three hours. The other is the rending of the veil which divided the holy of holies from the holy place in the temple. Both were miraculous events. Both had, no doubt, a deep meaning about them. Both were calculated to arrest the attention of the whole multitude assembled at Jerusalem. The darkness would strike even thoughtless Gentiles, like Pilate and the Roman soldiers. The rent veil would strike even Annas and Caiaphas and their unbelieving companions. There were probably few houses in Jerusalem that evening in which men would not say, “we have heard and seen unusual things today.”

What did the MIRACULOUS DARKNESS teach? It taught the exceeding wickedness of the Jewish nation. They were actually crucifying their own Messiah, and slaying their own King. The sun himself hid his face at the sight. It taught the exceeding sinfulness of sin in the eyes of God. The Son of God himself must needs be left without the cheering light of day, when He became sin for us and carried our transgressions.

What did the miraculous RENDING OF THE VEIL mean? It taught the abolition and termination of the whole Jewish law of ceremonies. It taught that the way into the holiest of all was now thrown open to all mankind by Christ’s death. (Heb. 9:8.) It taught that Gentiles as well as Jews might now draw near to God with boldness, through Jesus the one High Priest, and that all barriers between man and God were for ever cast down.