Keep In Step With the Spirit (Jul-Aug 2003)

By Matt Dabbs

by Greg Taylor
July – August, 2003

Christian Spirituality claims there is a Reality that lies beyond “our reality.” Yet unlike all other spiritualities, Christian Spirituality claims that this Reality morphed into a man named Jesus Christ and dwelled among us.

While other spiritualities claim body less and spirit more, a major dimension of Christian Spirituality is the journey toward experiencing this incarnation of God into our bodily lives. God confirms the incarnation of the Holy Spirit in us the same way a tree confirms the roots are in real soil: buds form, flowers blossom, fruit grows and weighs the branches down with abundance.

Great peace and joy has washed over me since the day I realized that the fruit of the Spirit is not a watermelon I carry by my power but fruit that is produced in me by the power of the Holy Spirit. And Paul exhorts believers to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). We keep in step (and exercise Christian Spirituality) not by producing our own fruit but by the faithful following of the one who is producing fruit in us. When I prayed for the gift of patience, I looked up years later and found perhaps the partial answer to that prayer was three children. Paul’s exhortation in this sense says, “You are getting the Spirit’s fruit of patience in your life. Now keep in step and learn how to use that patience as a father and beyond.”

My four-year-old son illustrates this dimension of my spirituality in Christ. One day he said, “Dad, I like to follow you around. Can I follow you around?”

The feeling of my son tagging along is the image I have of the Spirit of God and me. By God’s gracious acceptance of us in partnership with his Spirit, we are allowed to tag along in a Father-child relationship. The Spirit provides the fruit, and we try to keep in step. I’ve had enough of the frustration of trying to produce the fruit myself! My sons and daughters can’t claim they produced themselves any more than I can claim I produce the Spirit’s fruit.

Jesus never asked his disciples, “How’s your spiritual life?” We seem to have made that phrase up. Paul doesn’t write the churches asking about their spiritual lives. Instead, Jesus cursed a fruitless fig tree in the view of his disciples. And Paul asks about what the churches are doing with their mealtimes and sex lives. Christian Spirituality of Jesus and Paul claims that the Holy Spirit produces this fruit in the daily grind of believers.

God’s spiritual presence is visible when we see someone love another human being. Wherever you find peace, it’s likely not another treaty that has been signed but somehow the Spirit has broken in.

Every time patience rules the spirit of anger in your heart, consider that the Spirit’s concrete presence, and step up the pace. When you are treated with kindness in a restaurant, don’t assume that a person is trying to make a profit from you. Perhaps that person has nourished the fruit of kindness in her heart, and not just capitalism. Goodness of creation is a gift from the Lord. Faithfulness comes from the Spirit. Next time you read about a 50th Anniversary of a couple, thank God for his faithfulness manifest in his creatures.

When we treat someone with gentleness, might that be the Spirit and not just mere patronizing? The Spirit provides the fruit of gentleness, and we keep in step as my son keeps in step with me. And when you feel like pulling your hair out, then you remember that you have none, maybe that’s…the Spirit’s sense of humor and the winds of self-control blowing on your head.

The first inclination of my heart when I think of Christian Spirituality is to think of myself as a child, asking my Father in Heaven, “Can I follow you around?” There is no greater journey or adventure to be found on the earth or in heaven than trying to keep in step with God’s Spirit.

Greg Taylor is managing editor of New Wineskins magazine. He has co-authored with John Mark Hicks the new Leafwood Publishers release, Down in the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work.

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1584 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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