Tag Archives: walking after the Spirit

Walking in Heavenly Places

“No one has ascended to heaven but he who came down from heaven, that is, the son of man who is in heaven.“ (John 3: 13)

Jesus spoke these words to Nicodemus, and he was clearly on the Earth. Yes He tells him both that He has come down from heaven and also that He is in heaven. this can only mean one thing: Jesus was on Earth and in heaven at the same time.

Have we really got the significance of this? We are raised up with Him, and we are seated with Him in heavenly places. We know the Scriptures. But as we walk around on Earth, how often do we remember where we are at the same time? Jesus could do what His father did, hear what His Father said and see what His father saw, because He was there in heaven with him. It’s not difficult to hear someone’s words or see what they’re looking at if you are sitting next to them.

Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of heaven is “within us.“  This idea seemed like a mystery to me for many years, because somehow I think I was trying to reconcile earthly dimensions with the heavenly infinite. But now I see it like this: the Kingdom of Heaven is within us because our spirits are within us, and since our spirits are seated in heavenly places, the heavenly places are within us as well. Wherever we are, the Kingdom really is at hand; as much now as when Jesus first told the disciples to preach that message 2000 years ago. This is hardly an original thought, I know; but I suspect for many of us the fullness of the truth that we are the carriers of the Kingdom still has to penetrate our hearts.

So of course, the big question is this: why don’t we see more of the kingdom around us if we carry within us wherever we go? I think one of the reasons maybe found in Matthew 11:12: “ The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Who are the violent? Certainly not people who start fights and carry weapons. The “violent” are people who are determined and forceful, those who push their way in. You can’t force your way into something  by just reading about it, thinking about it or even writing about it. I think Jesus may have been thinking about the “violent” when He said to the church at Laodicea that they were lukewarm, and that He would rather they were hot or cold. And He told the Ephesian church that they had to regain their first love – the love for Jesus that Paul had obviously stirred in them just one generation earlier. They had lost their violence.

Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever our understanding of those keys may be, one thing is true: we are not going to grasp hold of them if are holding onto the world. if we don’t actually walk that narrow difficult way (Jesus’s words, not mine – Matt 7:14)  where they are to be found, we cannot really expect the windows of heaven to open in such a way that the treasures held within will pour through and enrich the barrenness of our patch of Earth. We need to be “violent” to stick to the path. We need to be like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim, not the man at the pool of Bethesda (John 5: 2-8) , who saw the water move but only for other people. Like him,  we can lie on our beds (or sit on our sofas) and wonder why it don’t seem to be moving around us and around our churches in the way it is apparently moving in other places. But what did Jesus say to the man who was healed? It wasn’t “Get up and jump into the pool;” it was “Pick up your bed and walk.“ His healing came from walking.

There is only one way that the Bible says God’s children are to walk: that is after the Spirit, by faith, and yes, on water. (See “Stepping out of the boat.”) We can only walk after the Spirit (think of Him in front of us, and we are following after!) if we can see where He is walking, and that is only possible when we have pushed through the distractions and temptations of the world and the flesh to be connected to Him in  the heavenly places that we carry around in our hearts.

The Lord said to Joshua, and therefore to us, in Christ:

“’If you will walk in My ways,
And if you will keep My command,
Then you shall also judge My house,
And likewise have charge of My courts;
I will give you places to walk
Among these who stand here.”
(Zech 3:7)

Jesus was on Earth and in Heaven at the same time, and so are we; and it’s when we consciously walk in both places at once that the will of Heaven can be done on Earth. We often ask the Lord in our prayers  and our worship songs to “come down.“ However, this is the prayer of the man who waits by the pool of Bethesda; it’s not for the child of God. We need to remember that we have been lifted up, and start to walk in the place to which we have been lifted.

I will Guide You WiTh My Eye

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye.

Do not be like the horse or like the mule,
Which have no understanding,
Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle,
Else they will not come near you.

(Ps 32:8-9)

The essence of walking with God is knowing where God wants us to walk. We “walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh” because we are born-again children of God, with new hearts that have His Law of Love inscribed upon them, and so, as I have already written, our inclination is to walk in the light and not in the darkness. But how often do we stay on that path – or return to it – because we have been “harnessed with bit and bridle,” not because we have an understanding of where the Holy Spirit is wanting to lead us, but because we are responding to the tug on the reins and the pressure of the bit in our mouths that is pulling us away from the trajectory that we are on?

A horse cannot see its rider; it can only see what is in front of its nose. All of us who are serious about following Jesus want to be people who will respond quickly to the lightest touch on the reins from the Holy Spirit. But when I read this psalm again recently I realised how my responses to the Holy Spirit’s prompts are often the response of that horse or mule being led back onto the right path, rather than of someone who is choosing God’s direction of his own volition.

To be like the animal with “no understanding” who needs to be guided by the bit and bridle is to consistently behave in a self-centred way that does not direct God’s love into the lives of those with whom He has put us. Yet as people whose lives are, by our own confession, committed to being God-centred, we could be expected to understand that this is not why Jesus died for our sins and called us into His Kingdom. If I am walking with an understanding of the Holy Spirit’s purposes for my life I will not react to people in a manner that is in any way damaging, hurtful or otherwise destructive. This is all the work of the evil one, the thief who only came to “kill, steal and destroy,” and whose work Jesus came to eradicate. If we are living through Christ, everything we do and say will in some way “bring life, and that in abundance.” (John 10:10; 1 John 3:8) If we understand this, we should not need a tug on the reins to remind us.

So how does God say He will teach us in the way we should go? He says He will guide us with His eye. If someone is guiding me with their eye they do not need to speak: they just need to see that I am looking at them and direct their gaze to the thing or person that they want me to notice, so that I  look where they are looking. It’s a universal form of communication between people who know each other well.

Psalm 32 tells us that this is God’s intention. He wants us to live lives that are focussed on Him, and to know Him so well that we can see what He is showing us with just a look, and to walk in that direction with an understanding of His purpose. God is love, and God is light: that is who He us, so the general trajectory of His purpose is never difficult to understand. We may not know how He is going to accomplish His purpose on that occasion, but if we are walking in faith we will know that He will give us what we need to know when we need to know it, because

“the eyes of (our) understanding (will be) enlightened; that (we will) know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.” (Eph 1: 18-21)

All in all, this is a far preferable alternative to a tug on the reins.