Walking In The Spirit: Stringing Pearls
These notes from Paul Tothill are based a version of his message preached at Gateway Church on 10/3/19.
I would like to take some time to speak about walking in the Spirit. I would like to look at a number of Scriptures to pull them together to provide a visual idea of how Jesus walked in the Presence of God. Paul borrows this imagery when he tells us to “put off” our old man and “put on Christ” as a way of living, in the same way that one would put off sin and would put on the Presence of God as our new way of life. This idea of “putting off” and “putting on” is perhaps borrowed from the very requirements of the Torah to have tassels on the hems of the garments.
EPHESIANS 4:20 NKJV
But you have not so learned Christ if indeed you have heard Him and been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off concerning your former conduct the old man which grows corrupt according to deceitful lusts and be renewed in your mind and that you put on the new man which was created according to God in the righteousness and holiness.
I want to take you on a bit of a journey first looking at what Jesus would have worn in his day. This becomes important for our visualisation of walking in the Spirit. Every practice of the Torah, even down to tying sandals, was a visualisation of identity, purpose and covenant. We have developed certain western religious ideas about the appearance of Jesus and how he would have dressed that appear not only inconsistent with his ethnicity but also Scripture.
Then I want to take you to Psalm 91 to suggest to you that the secret place is actually a permanent place we live from not the occasional place we visit in prayer. We are to live from our prayers. Our prayers are to be inspired by the Word of God, the Name of God, the ways of God and the grace of God from the Presence of God and indeed we are to carry the presence of God into our daily affairs. Finally, I want to take you to what Paul the apostle wrote to the Galatians about walking in the Spirit so as to “string the pearls” of revelation together so we may have a practical understanding of when we know we are actually walking in the Spirit and when we are not. I am indebted to the scholarship of Shane Willard and many other scholars' work that have assisted me in gaining revelation that I trust you will find practical and useful.
THE HABIT OF WALKING IN THE SPIRIT
Walking in the Spirit is to become a habitual life style for born again believers in the New Testament. When we walk in the Spirit, literally walking hand in hand as one with Jesus as the word halak implies we are able to also keep step with the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is God. He is Holy, and therefore He teaches us and guides us in being holy, fully consecrated to the Lord and our union with Christ. He is the Spirit of truth, revealing to us the Torah of the Spirit which is the fulfilment of the Law and the eternal revelation of Jesus. He is the paraclete, the one who continually comes along side of us as if we were walking every moment and every day with Jesus by our side. He is the Spirit of the Son and He is the Spirit that the Father also sends. He is the one who reveals the glory of God to us and around us. He is the one who is the authority of Christ in the church and when the Spirit moves the government of heaven and the angelic realm is also present. The Holy Spirit is God and the manifestation of His glory in the Son when on earth and through the Son in His glorified kingship.
Because this idea of halak takes place in the Spirit (from Spirit to spirit) and internally manifesting into the seen and natural realm Paul tells the church the kind of behaviour that was once the way they lived without the Spirit, by the flesh, which is a wrong pattern of thinking that produces a wrong or impotent way of living, is at odds with the thinking and the living the Holy Spirit produces in us as we yield or come under the empowering presence of God.
WHAT JESUS WORE AND WHY IT MATTERS
It may seem unusual to ask what Jesus wore. But I can assure you the answer provides plenty of revelation for us today.
In Numbers 15:37-47 the law required that tassels or tzitzit where attached to the hem or corner (kanaph) of their garments. The corner or hem was also known as the wings of the garment. These tassels were of a particular design and had visual and practical significance to God’s covenant people, that in effect help set them apart from the nations that were around them.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel: throughout the generations to come you must make tassels for the hems of your clothing and attach them with a blue chord. When you see the tassels, you will remember and obey all the commands of the Lord instead of following your own desires and defiling yourself as you are prone to do. The tassels will help you remember that you must obey all my commands and be holy to your God. I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt that I might be your God. I am the Lord your God!”
The significance of the tassels or tzitzit and the kanaph the corner of the hem of the garment cannot be over stated.
It was reckoned that the tassels where not only a reminder and to be worn in a particular way they also brought forward life. Indeed, when a man died the tassels were cut from his garment to signify his death and the end of the covenant to obey God’s commands. In this sense commandments, or mitzvoth, were considered as teaching for life. When they are considered as teachings for life, they carry an identifying, protective and empowering reality that as a covenant people God would keep all His promises towards them.
In Malachi 4:2 we gain great insight to the numerous stories involving Jesus healing the sick including the woman with the issue of blood and Jarius’ daughter.
But to you who fear My Name the Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings; and you shall go out and grow fat like stall-fed calves. You shall trample on the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day that I do this” says the Lord of hosts.
Indeed, we know the story of David as the anointed future king of Israel being hunted down by the jealous King Saul, his father-in-law in 1 Samuel 24. He had taken 3,000 men to search for David who has fled to the desert. During that time, Saul found a cave to relieve himself. As it happened David and his men were hiding deep in the very cave he was using as a toilet! Encouraged by his men David crept forward and cut the tassels from the corner of the hem of his garment. He was sending a message to King Saul that he was as good as dead as the King: that he held his life in his hands and that he had spared him. His men wanted him to go further, but David’s conscience would not allow him to kill the Lord’s anointed.
As Saul had finished relieving himself and came out the cave, David followed him out at a distance and yelled “My Lord my King”. He bowed before Him. ”Why do you listen to the people who say I am trying to harm you? This very day you see with your own eyes that it isn’t true. The Lord placed you at my mercy back there at the cave….. Look my father what I have in my hand. It is a piece of the hem of your robe. I cut it off but I did not kill you.”
This was a very powerful statement, that not only signalled to Saul that God was being merciful to him but by his actions he had cut himself off from the righteousness of God, and that David held his life in his hands.
WHAT JESUS WOULD HAVE WORN
Jesus himself would have worn a tunic and what we know as a shawl called a tallith. The tallith was quite large. It would have taken a similar image to this tallith that I am showing you. On this tallith are the tassels previously described in Numbers 15. Each knot including the knots on the tassels or Tzitzit joined to the wing or the kanaph of the shawl amounted to 613, which were the sum total of the mitzvoth or commands of the Torah.
The tassels themselves take on particular importance of remembrance. There are five knots which signify the Five books of the bible that make up the Torah. In between the five knots are four spaces that represent the name YHWH the transcendent name of God. The name of God has components, so that the tassels represented the Word of God, the Name of God, the ways of God and the grace of God.
The tallith was worn habitually during the day and most notably by a rabbi or teacher. The Gospel of Mark 6:56 makes reference to this.
The people recognised Jesus at once and they ran throughout the whole area carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. Wherever he went in villages, cities or the countryside- they brought the sick out of the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched it were healed.
Of course, we see the same thing with the story of Jarius’ daughter and the woman with the issue of blood. The woman who was an outsider, and at the threat of death by stoning and being unclean according to the Law, she pushed past the crowd to touch the hem of Jesus' garment. In all likelihood, she was touching the kanaph- the wings of His garment where the tassels would have been. As tradition was at work here, Jesus would have wrapped the tassels around his hands. This in all likelihood was perhaps how he sensed virtue, or life had flown from him. Whilst the woman made a demand on the virtue, the life – the healing in his wings, was drawn from him by her faith. With Jarius’ daughter Jesus would have continued the tradition and touched her hands with the tassels around his hands. What is important is the process that led Jesus to be tame, or legally unclean before he visited Jarius’ daughter. When his hands touched the young girl, the tassels would have been wrapped in his hands as was the custom. When the wings of the garment touched the girl, she rose in resurrection power. This becomes a shadow of what Jesus would do for all of us. He would become sin so that we would rise in resurrection power as a born-again believer.
This helps us incredibly as a visualisation.
CARRYING THE GLORY OF GOD
We have heard so many times that we now carry the fullness of the Godhead within us. We are Spirit filled born again believers. We are to live from the empowering internal presence of God. For Jesus, he was born of the Spirit and the dove of the Spirit as a symbol of the governmental presence of God came upon him. Today it is hard to visualise this reality. But if we borrow what God commanded in the Old Testament concerning tassels and visualise how Jesus walked under the blessing and presence of God wrapping his actions in the Torah or the word of God, the name of God, the ways of God and the grace of God we can see how the glory of God leads us to actions that in the New Testament are actions of “putting on the new nature, or putting on Christ” and walking by the Spirit.
When Jesus walked, he would have had the shawl over his head. He would have lived symbolically remembering and visually under the presence of God in the same way that Israel walked with the covering of the cloud by day and fire by night. The shawl was not worn at night only the day. Jesus visually placed himself under the glory presence of God. He grounded every action in the Name of God, the Word of God, the Ways of God and the grace of God. The glory is anchored in our life by these four things which work with the Torah as God’s teaching for life.
Jesus said he did not come to destroy the law but to fulfil it. Indeed, in one sense or level of meaning by the fulfilment or completion of the law we now have a new Torah which is the Torah of the Spirit. These phrases are idioms or figures of speech that were common between rabbi’s and their talmidim or disciples. It meant that when a talmidim or disciple was asked a question about how to apply the law as Torah to a life situation, if they answered correctly concerning the application of the Torah they were said to fulfil the Torah or the Law. If they answered incorrectly they were said to have destroyed the law.
Jesus was indeed fulfilling the law and the prophets. The imagery, however, is quite interesting when we come to Psalm 91. Keep in mind the visualisation of the shawl over the head of Jesus and the tassels wrapped around his hands so that the manifest presence of God and the words of God, the Name of God, the ways of God and the grace of God all work together. To act outside of the Torah, the grace of God, the Name of God and the presence of God, one would have to unravel themselves from God himself. They would have to put off the Name of God, the Torah, the ways of God and the grace of God and step out from God’s presence.
What a powerful shadow and visual reminder of how we walk by the Spirit as one with Jesus!
Those who live (or dwell) in the shelter of the Most High will find rest is the shadow of the Almighty.
The Passion translation translates the verse: When you sit enthroned under the shadow of Shaddai, you are hidden in the strength of God most high.
What is important is the language that we live or dwell in the shadow, the very presence of God. When we do that, the revelation is that we are in a safe and protected place, an empowered place and a place where angels are activated around us and towards us. Obviously without some visualisation this is difficult for us to grasp or imagine. But this is where our previous discussion become very helpful.
The language that David uses is very interesting. He says that “under his wings you will take refuge”. Under the four corners of the garment the kanaph, we will take refuge.
When we live our lives within the shadow of God Most High, our secret hiding place, we will always be shielded from harm.
How then could evil prevail against us or disease infect us. God sends angels with special orders to protect you wherever you go, defending you from all harm (of the enemy). If you fall into a trap, they’ll be there for you and keep you from stumbling. You will even walk unharmed among the fiercest powers of darkness, trampling every one of them beneath your feet.
This is what Paul draws upon I believe when he speaks of being filled with the Spirit in Ephesians 5 and when he speaks of walking by the Spirit in Galatians 5.
So be very careful how you live, not being like those with no understanding, but live honourably with true wisdom, for we are living in evil times. Take full advantage of every day as you spend your life for his purposes. And don’t live foolishly for then you will have discernment to fully understand God’s will.
And don’t get drunk with wine, which is rebellion, instead be filled with the fullness of the Holy Spirit.
EPHESIANS 6 NLT
A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
Now beloved ones I have saved these most important truths for last: Be supernaturally infused with strength through your life union with the Lord Jesus. Stand victorious with the force of his explosive power flowing in and through you.
This is of course the indwelling Holy Spirit. The imagery as a parallel can be Psalm 91.
by dwelling in the shadow of God we are spiritually living fully immersed in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. cf Matthew 28:18
Pray passionately in the Spirit as you constantly intercede with every form of prayer at all times. Pray the blessings of God upon all his believers.
Paul identifies behaviour that flows from the flesh, the old way of thinking and living that does not inherit the Kingdom of God. We can safely say that when we behave that way we have not renewed our mind to the words of God revealed in Jesus Christ, the name of God, the ways of God or the grace of God. We are most certainly not walking by the Spirit.
But when we walk by the Spirit we are dwelling under the shadow of the almighty. We can now string Psalm 91 to what Jesus wore and the importance of grounding out the glory of God in our lives. We are not to use our freedom in Christ to go back to this kind of behaviour that is inconsistent with who we are in union with Christ and dwelling in the shadow of the Almighty. We can use the previous visualisation that we continually wrap our selves in God as we "put on" our new life.
The flesh or the self-life causes us to step out from under the covering of the shadow of the Almighty. We do not step outside a covenant that is not based on our performance. But we do not live in the dwelling place of the Most High. The covenant promises are that God will not leave us nor forsake us, and whilst we remain in covenant we step outside the shelter of the shadow of His presence. We literally unwrap ourselves, or put off, the name of God, the ways of God, the words of God and the grace of God instead of putting on Christ.
Paul teaches us we have a continuing wrestle with the old thinking of the flesh that disempowers us and causes us to become vulnerable to the enemy. We step outside of God’s protection that we have when we shelter in His presence and walk by the Spirit.
So Paul teaches by revelation of Christ:
As you yield freely and fully to the dynamic life and power of the Holy Spirit, you will abandon the craving of the self-life…And the Holy Spirit’s intense cravings hinder your old self life from dominating you!... But when you are brought into the full freedom of the Spirit of grace, you will no longer be living under the domination of the law, but rising about it!
We can understand that when we live habitually as Jesus visually showed us, grounding out the glory of God in actions that are consistent with the teaching of Jesus, the ways of God revealed in Jesus, the grace of God revealed in the Holy Spirit, and the name of God revealed in Jesus, we pray and live effectively giving life to anyone who touches our life.
Walking by the Spirit is the revelation of dwelling habitually in the secret place of God and thereby bringing all the promises of that reality into our lives.
Want to get the latest from Paul Tothill delivered to your inbox? Submit your details here, and Paul will send you a regular digest of thoughts, news and content.