16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.–Gal. 5:16-18 (NIV)
What does Paul mean when he says “walk by the Spirit”? To understand what Paul is talking about, we have to understand that every word we say and every conscious action we take is a direct result of a decision we have made. The decisions we make are a direct result of our thought patterns. Our thought patterns are controlled by what we spend the most time thinking about. We spend the most time thinking about what we feel is most important to us. The more we think about one thing, the more important it becomes to us. It becomes a cycle of our thoughts producing actions that produce more thoughts about the same thing. We are born in sin into a world that is saturated in sin. so we are going to have sinful thoughts. More and more of the things we hear and see are designed to tempt us to satisfy the flesh. But the flesh wants the things that are contrary to what the Holy Spirit knows that we need. The indwelling Spirit is there to guide us and help us break the sinful thought pattern. Does the Holy Spirit audibly speak to us? Yes, sometimes He does. But most of the time, He just nudges us with a whisper that we sometimes think is our own thought. Sometimes He has other Christians speak to us. Sometimes, He speaks to us through God’s Word. When we have humbled ourselves and seek His guidance, He will get the message to us. If we listen to, hear and obey the message, we are being led by or “walking by the Spirit”.