Life in the Spirit is not Straightforward

May 25, 2017

Ray Galea

It is important to understand that life in the Spirit is not a straightforward upward trajectory in which we gain one victory over another. The Christian life is messy, and the reality is that not every day will be better than the one before (although this should always be our aim).

It’s easy to condemn others by disqualifying them from being in Christ based on what we perceive about sin in their life. But we all need to show one another the same patience that our Father in heaven shows to us, especially when we witness a brother or sister in Christ repeatedly fall into the same sin. Such a person was once often referred to as the ‘backslider’.

Regarding ‘backsliding’, Martyn Lloyd-Jones has these wise words to say:

The backslider is not dead; he is still alive. He is behaving very badly as a child of God, but he is still a child of God. In the last analysis a decision as to whether a man is a Christian or not, is not reached only by what he does. The backslider does things he should not do. On the surface he may appear to be much worse than many a good, moral man who does not believe in Christ at all. But that shows the fallacy of judging only by what you see on the surface. The backslider, however grievously he may be sinning, is still a child of God, the seed of life is in him. How do we know that? The final proof is that the backslider always returns, the backslider inevitably repents with a godly repentance. He is miserable in his sin, he cannot revert totally to the ways of the world. All he does is done ‘under condemnation’; he is miserable in it. He is trying to persuade himself that he is enjoying it but he is condemned the whole time. He feels he is a cad, he knows that he is going contrary to his new nature. That is why he touches depths of misery that no one else can know in this life. But it is all because he has life in him. It is there, covered over, held down. Say what you will about it, it is there; and because it is there will re-assert itself, it will manifest itself. It is bound to do so, it always does so.[1]

Careful balance is needed here. On the one hand, those who are genuinely chosen by God will heed the warnings that are sprinkled throughout the Bible. At the same time, as we’ll see in chapter 11, God will glorify all those he has chosen, and we are entitled to experience a powerful sense of assurance as we remember these promises and see God at work in our lives. Through his Son and his Spirit, God has done what people could not do on their own. He will generate newfound desires that were not there before. God is not only for us, but he is also working in us to do his will. God will complete the work he began in us.

Change can happen, and change does happen—but it’s messy.


{1} M Lloyd-Jones, The Exposition of Romans 8:5-17 The Sons of God vol. 7, p. 38.

A reference note for an article shared by Ray in his Pastor’s Corner on 1st, 15th and 22nd March 2017, originally written by Emma Thornett and published on 19th August 2013 titled, Satan’s Lies About Singleness:
This article was first published in The Briefing by Matthias Media, and has been reproduced with permission. For more great ideas for living as a disciple of Jesus, visit