In 1938 Orson Welles delivered what may have been the most electrifying radio address ever given. He and his Mercury Theater group staged a radio version of H.G. Wells’ “War of the Worlds” that scared people out of their wits. During this program, he portrayed how the earth had just been invaded by the Martians, who, even as he was speaking, were in the process of conquering the United States. Despite his warnings that this was only a fictional broadcast, a large number of people panicked. People packed the roads, hid in cellars, loaded guns, and even wrapped their heads in wet towels as protection from Martian poison gas! How silly! Everyone knows that the proper method is to wear a tin foil hat.
In a similar way, we are all in a War of the Worlds, only it is no mere radio broadcast. We are in the midst of a very real war between good and evil, not something you might see in a movie.
It is the war between God and his enemies.
It is the war between the Spirit and the flesh.
It is the war that Paul describes in Galatians 5.
If Orson Welles’ fictional War of the Worlds panicked people into fleeing from their homes, how much more should this real War of the Worlds make us launch into radical action?
Though you may not always remember it, you are in the middle of a war. Spiritually speaking, there are only 2 kingdoms in this world. You have a choice between the Kingdom of God, which is the Kingdom of the Spirit, and the Kingdom of Satan, which is the Kingdom of the flesh.
When you were baptized, you were drafted into the Lord’s army, and you were issued weapons to use in this spiritual war. The fact is that you are not only at ground zero in this spiritual war: you are Ground Zero. As St. Paul says in Romans 7:15, “What I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate to do, that I do.” In Romans 7:25 he writes, “With my mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.” The fruits of the world are too much with us: St. Paul has given us a partial list in Galatians 5:19-21.
But through the Siamese twin process of mortification and sanctification, the fruits of the flesh are to be changed into fruits of Spirit, and the kingdom of darkness is to be defeated by the kingdom of light. Your job, which you signed up for at your baptism, is to make the Kingdom of God advance and the Kingdom of Satan retreat. For this reason, we pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”
The Holy Spirit is given to you, and your life therefore has a new principle and power to govern it. This is the incredible truth of Pentecost: that you are truly the Temple of the Holy Spirit. But if you live in the Spirit, then you must walk (verse 25) and war in the Spirit. This life in the Spirit, this faith in Christ, must be put into action: life in the Spirit must become walking in the Spirit.
It’s like the difference between potential and kinetic energy. Potential energy is a rock at the top of hill; kinetic energy is the rock rolling down the hill. The Holy Spirit is a kinetic Spirit, one that is always in motion and not inert. Your belief is a kind of potential energy, but this potential energy of belief must be put into the motion of kinetic energy – or else it is not truly belief.
You have the gift of the Spirit in your life, a new principle of life. You have the potential for godly life, Spirit-filled life. But you are required to do something. You must respond to the movings of the Spirit in your life and must not quench the Spirit. God could move without you, but He has arranged things so that you must participate with Him in this life that He has graciously given you.
You are commanded to walk in the Spirit: this assumes that you must do something, which assumes that you are capable of doing it, with the help of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes Jesus Christ present in the Lord’s Supper, but He must be received and received by faith and repentance. In the same way, the Holy Spirit offers His fruits, and you must take the elements of your daily life and receive them with faith, by denying the flesh and affirming the Spirit, in order to receive your daily bread each day.The word for “walking” here in Greek is really more like “to be in line with.” You are to live in a spiritual syzygy (which usually refers to the alignment of the planets) with the Spirit, so that your life lines up with the life of the Holy Spirit. You are to march in line with the Spirit as He directs your life.
You might also say that “walking in the Spirit” = “communicating with the Spirit.” It’s like the Holy Spirit is calling you on the phone every day, many times throughout the day. Only many of you refuse to answer, maybe because you’re afraid it might be the Holy Spirit with a message for you. Maybe you’re “too busy” to answer or hear the phone ringing. Maybe you don’t stay on long enough to hear what the Spirit has to say.
How many times a day does the Spirit call you – and you don’t listen? It amazes me that when someone is receiving a call on his cell phone, he will drop everything else, even interrupting a physical conversation with another person. “Let me get this,” or “I’d better take this.” Of course, 99% of the time it’s not really urgent, and yet we love answering our cell phones.
But the Holy Spirit is calling you all the time. He’s left messages, He’s text messaged you, and He’s paged you. And yet somehow you respond as though those calls are optional and unimportant.
Walking in the Spirit = “Making contact with the Spirit.” Just as electricity needs a closed circuit to flow, the Spirit needs a closed circuit to flow. The Spirit is the energy and the power, always ready to flow, but if you do not respond and make contact with both the Spirit and the opportunities of your daily life, the power of the Spirit will not flow through you. Your life in the Spirit will not result in walking in the Spirit, or abiding in the Spirit, and it will not produce the fruits of the Spirit.
You are in a War of the Worlds. Satan has claimed you as a Son of Adam and of the flesh. He would like nothing more than for you to continue to fall asleep while the flesh has dominion over you. But God has claimed you in baptism, and the Spirit has begun a new life in you. You have been chosen for this very hour and for this very battlefield – your body and soul – to do battle for you Lord.
And now it is time for you to walk in the Spirit, as God has enabled you to do.
St. Paul evidently thought that this life has very high stakes. He says in verse 21 that those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But Pentecost is the reminder in your life of the promised life-giving Spirit that Jesus Christ, after He had ascended to the right hand of the Father, has sent into your life. The Holy Spirit is in your life, speaking to you, urging and encouraging you.
Your spiritual cell phone is ringing, and you know Who’s on the other end: will you answer it?
Prayer: Send, we beseech thee, Almighty God, thy Holy Spirit into our hearts, that he may direct and rule us according to thy will, comfort us in all our afflictions, defend us from all error, and lead us into all truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the same Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen.
Points for Meditation:
- What do you know (or think) the Holy Spirit has been saying to you recently? What are you going to do in response?
- Throughout the day, keep a list of things you think the Holy Spirit is saying to you today.
Resolution: I resolve today to practice listening to the Holy Spirit and responding with faith.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson