Spiritual inhaling is receiving, Spirit-to-spirit, what the living, indwelling God breathes into you – including his life, his word, his grace, his riches, his character, his power, his joy, his mind, his heart. God designed spiritual inhaling to happen continuously from the moment of spiritual birth. (See “Inhaling the breath of God.”)
Spiritual exhaling is releasing what the living, indwelling God breathes into you, for the building of his kingdom and the honor of his name. God designed spiritual exhaling to happen continuously from the moment of spiritual birth.
The Word on exhaling
In Scripture, God cries, “Exhale!” often. He says it many ways. Always, this exhaling imparts life. As you exhale freely – regularly releasing what God is pouring into you, Spirit-to-spirit – the presence of God and the kingdom of God emanating from you touch other people and the world around you.
Hear the exhaling commands and promises in the following verses. Notice that exhaling cannot happen apart from inhaling:
“Freely you have received [you’ve inhaled], freely give [exhale]” (Matt. 10:8).
“Humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls [inhale!]. But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says [exhale!]. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:21-22).
Notice all the inhaling and exhaling going on in this verse:
You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others (2 Tim. 2:2 NLT).
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
And, finally, the great exhaling commission:
So wherever you go, make disciples of all nations: Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to do everything I have commanded you. And remember that I am always with you until the end of time (Matt 28:19-20 GW).
The essence of exhaling
You exhale physically as you release breath. You exhale spiritually as you release the Spirit-life you’re continually receiving in your inmost being. Whether by word, act or presence, you breathe out what comes from God himself and thus imparts life.
In his book, The Release of the Spirit, Watchman Nee says, “Among those who possess the life of the Lord can be found two distinct conditions: one includes those in whom life is confined, restricted, imprisoned and unable to come forth; the other includes those in whom the Lord has forged a way, and life is thus released from them” (p. 11).
Every moment you live in that first condition – where the Spirit within you is constricted – the words and deeds coming out from you may sound and look appropriate, even good, but they carry no life. Every moment you live in that second condition, ahhh, then you’re exhaling the breath of God.
Animated by the breath
The New Testament uses several phrases to describe the kind of going, doing, speaking and living that releases God’s life and breath. Scripture urges:
Live, or walk, according to the Spirit (Rom. 8:4-5): “according to what the Spirit wants” (CJB). “Follow the Spirit” (NLT). “Live by the spiritual nature [the breath!]” (GW). “Live and move … in the ways of the Spirit [our lives … controlled by the Holy Spirit]” (AMP).
Live, or walk, by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16): “Let the Holy Spirit guide your lives” (NLT). “Run your lives by the Spirit” (CJB). “Live your life as your spiritual nature directs you” (GW). “Walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]” (AMP). “Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit” (MSG).
Be led by the Spirit (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18): “God’s Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go!” (Rom. 8:14 MSG).
Walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25): “Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life [From him, we draw our life-breath] …
- “let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day” (CJB).
- “let us keep in step with the Spirit” (NIV).
- “let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit” (NET).
- “let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives” (NLT).
Live freely, animated and motivated by the Breath! Romans 8:5, The Message, says, “Those who think they can do it on their own end up obsessed with measuring their own moral muscle but never get around to exercising it in real life. Those who trust God’s action in them find that God’s Spirit is in them — living and breathing God!”
How astonishing that the Son of God took on flesh and demonstrated in his own body what it looks like to inhale and exhale the breath of God! How incredible that the Son baptizes us with the same Spirit who empowered his earthly life and ministry!
“Then John gave this testimony: ‘I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, “The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One’” (John 1:32-34).
“Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit [to begin his ministry] and news about him spread through the whole countryside” (Luke 4:14).
“Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations” (Matt. 12:18).
Jesus said, “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life” (John 6:63).
“I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen” (Acts 1:1-2).
“You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached – how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him” (Acts 10:37-38).
“In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy” (Acts 2:17-18).
“And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezek. 36:27).
“Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’ And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21-22).
“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 1:8).
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Cor. 2:13).
“What the Law could not do, because human nature was weak, God did. He condemned sin in human nature by sending his own Son, who came with a nature like our sinful nature, to do away with sin. God did this so that the righteous demands of the Law might be fully satisfied in us who live according to the Spirit, and not according to human nature. Those who live as their human nature tells them to, have their minds controlled by what human nature wants. Those who live as the Spirit tells them to, have their minds controlled by what the Spirit wants. To be controlled by human nature results in death; to be controlled by the Spirit results in life and peace” (Rom. 8:3-6 GNT).
“Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day” (Gal. 5:25 CJB).
The wonder and the challenge
As you exhale spiritually, breathing out moment-by-moment the life of God:
- More and more, you understand and walk in what is truly righteous, just and God-honoring. You recognize and turn from paths you may have thought right, but now realize are not. You recognize and turn toward right and good paths you had shunned due to fear or pride, or personal or generational wounding. You walk in the truth. You walk in the light. You walk in love.
- More and more, you speak the truth in Spirit-taught words. Whether you prophecy, testify, comfort, encourage, challenge, teach or simply converse, your words are life-giving to those who hear.
- More and more, you do what carries Spirit-authority and builds the kingdom of God. Anointed with the Holy Spirit and power, you go around doing good and healing. People are truly, deeply helped. God’s name is honored and his kingdom, advanced.
- More and more, you shine. Even when you’re not doing or saying anything, the life of God you’re continually receiving is also continually flowing out. Your Spirit-filled spirit touches the spirits of others, and they encounter the breath of God.
That sounds wonderful. But you may think it impractical. You may not even want to touch lives in ways that sound so mystical and abstract. You may think you can determine which paths are good by mentally studying Scripture and using a little common sense. You may believe anyone can figure out how to do good deeds. Maybe you’ve attempted some of the more popular ways:
- Pour time, effort or money (maybe a little, maybe a lot) where you see a need.
- Become a rescuer extraordinaire, doing everything for everybody.
- Roll up your shirt sleeves, jump into your chosen ministry and work till you drop.
You may believe that speaking powerfully requires intelligence, charisma, training and a platform. You may believe that having influence hinges on gaining degrees, titles, social networks, admiration or a well-known name. You may have thought kingdom authority rests automatically and solely on those who hold the choice positions in a church or ministry structure.
In next week’s post, we’ll take a look at Breathing Problems that can leave us hopeless, ineffectual and dispirited. But for now, know this: Any of the above – intelligence, hard work, charisma, positions or platforms – might be a tool in God’s hand. But none of it carries any life apart from the breath. And every bit of it quickly turns deadly when substituted for the breath.
Indeed, to the degree you seek to gain clout and do exploits through anything other than your true identity in Christ and your intimate relationship with him, to that degree you drain the life-breath within you and suck the life from the atmosphere around you.
Exhaling, by its nature, is a relinquishing, a giving up, a letting go, a giving out that holds nothing back. Exhaling requires selflessly, relentlessly risking everything by faith. It’s not forced effort. It’s released breath. And each breath you release means that survival itself, as well as the ability to breathe out one more time, rests solely in this: The life-Breath flows in again.
You don’t inhale water to gain strength to save a drowning person. In fact, if you inhale water, you won’t have breath for yourself, much less strength to help someone else. As obvious as that sounds and as easy to prove, it’s incredibly hard for us to believe the spiritual counterpart. But it’s just as true: If you try to draw on some form of validation or power other than that which comes by the Spirit of God, it’s like trying to breathe water. You cut off the breath that’s vital for doing what is truly good and what profoundly gives life. Seeking to help, you flail, go down – and take others with you.
Walking by the Spirit – living freely, animated and motivated by God the Spirit – you freely pour out what the Spirit is freely pouring into you. Moment by moment, you release God’s life.
. . . . . . .
Watchman Nee, The Release of the Spirit (Indianapolis, IN: Sure Foundation Publishers, 1965), 11.
Posts in the Life and Breath series:
- #1 – A Matter of Life and Breath
- #2 – Inhaling the Breath of God
- #3 – Exhaling the Breath of God
- #4 – Breathing Problems
- #5 – God’s Call to the Breath-filled
- #6 – God’s Cry to the Breathless
- #7 – Breath of God