WALKING WITH GOD
As you know, I have spent a lot of time walking during the past year, often alone but also with others. I sometimes think I must have walked the equivalent of Land’s End to John O’Groats. But it has kept me fit and in a good state mentally.
Walking is such a good picture for how we are to live the Christian life – one step at a time, at a steady pace, and heading in the right direction. Perhaps you have heard of Enoch in the Old Testament? Apart from being the father of the oldest man in the Bible (Methuselah, 969 when he died), Enoch is remembered because throughout his life he walked faithfully with God (a modest 365 years). See Genesis 5:21-24.
I think of Jesus and his disciples walking the dusty roads of Galilee, trekking up and down the pilgrim path to Jerusalem. The miles they must have covered on foot. Did their feet hurt, or their shoes wear out? I imagine them in conversation, laughing and joking as they went, taking in the scenery, stopping to eat and drink, enjoy each other’s company. And always thinking together about the kingdom, an informal mentoring programme with Jesus their Teacher.
God has invited us into a relationship with himself, and to walk with him through the course of our daily lives. This suggests a closeness, a companionship, a fellowship of shared experience forged in the ups and down of life in this fallen world. Is that how you see your life? Is it for you a journey with God, following where he leads you, knowing his presence every step of the way? That is what he calls us to.
Now, where are my walking boots? Time for another trek around a local beauty spot. Perhaps I will take a picnic with me today since the sun is shining and the forecast good.
WALK IN THE SPIRIT
I’m not sure exactly why the Three Legged Race has never been included in the Olympics, but if skateboarding can be there I think this exciting event from my childhood should be adopted too.
The idea was that 2 children, arm in arm, with their adjacent legs tied together at the ankles, raced against other pairs with a similar restriction. Of course, there was a lot of falling down, and progress was slower than expected, but the key to success was to move in harmony with each other, to think as one, to keep in step.
This picture comes into my mind whenever I hear Paul’s exhortation to walk in the Spirit, or as it is translated, to ‘keep in step with the Spirit’ (Galatians 5:25). If we are to rise above the downward pull of the flesh (that part of us with a tendency to towards sin and living independently of God) we will need a power stronger than our own, the power of God’s Spirit. For that power to be effective we need to move in harmony with what the Spirit says to us, not running ahead or lagging behind. At first we may stumble, but eventually we will get into harmony with him – not quenching his nudges to action, not resisting his restraining influence and not going against his good desires for our life. We will learn to live by the Spirit.
God has not left us to live the Christian life under our own steam. When we try to live independently, we fail miserably. Rather, he has given us his Spirit, to be with us and to be in us, so we can live this new life. Walking with God involves walking in the Spirit – receiving his strength, listening to his voice, going where he leads.
WALK IN LOVE
Most people agree that the answer to the world’s troubles is for there to be more love, right? As the song says, ‘What the world needs now, is love, sweet love.’ It’s hard to argue with that. But what do we mean by love? And where do we find such a love?
I guess for most people love means being nice to everyone, being kind when we can, doing as much good as we can, not hurting other people, smiling at everyone we meet, playing nicely and not falling out. But will that change the world? And is it actually possible for any of us to be loving all the time?
Walking with God involves us in walking in love. Paul is clear about this: ‘Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love (walk in love), just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2).’
The first step to being a more loving person is to know that we are loved – and the evidence of that is seen at the cross where, as an act of pure love, Jesus gave himself to die for us, to reconcile us to God. The cross is the demonstration of true love, sacrificial love, and you and I are the objects of that love. I am loved. You are loved.
The second step is to receive that love experientially, to come to the awareness that we are God’s dearly loved children, and to allow the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with that divine love (Romans 5:5). The love of God is to be experienced as a daily reality. Yes, it is a fact – I am loved. But it is also something to be known and felt, a joyous assurance in our hearts. If we ask, we will receive. This can be a daily reality.
The final step is to allow that love to flow from us in service and ministry to others, in whatever way God call us to be involved. Love cannot be contained; it must be expressed. As we allow love to flow from us in compassionate and merciful deeds, more love flows into us. Over time, we become more loving, and sacrificial love becomes the chief characteristic of our lives. That is the only way by which the world can be changed.
WALKING IN THE LIGHT
The prophet Amos famously asked the question, ‘Can two walk together unless they are agreed (3:3)? We don’t really walk with someone by accident or chance. Usually we have made an arrangement and we walk together because we enjoy each other’s company. We don’t choose to walk with someone we don’t get on with.
Walking with God requires that we are on the same wavelength as him, that we are in agreement with him, sharing his values and embracing his goals. Because he is a holy God this means that we also aspire to be holy. The apostle John brings this out clearly when he writes: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (1John 1:5-7).
Walking in the light was a feature of the East African revival of the 1930s and 40s which emphasised the importance of being open and honest before God and before others. This transparency is the opposite of play-acting or wearing a mask. It sees the importance of being real before God and of dealing with sin quickly and decisively. It also emphasises the need to keep our relationships with others in good order, humbly asking forgiveness when we have offended someone, freely giving forgiveness when we have been wronged.
Darkness is the opposite of light. Living deceitfully, being dishonest, allowing secret sin to play a part in our life is contrary to the practice of walking in the light. What gives us hope when we are aware of our sin and shortcoming is the blood of Jesus, and the knowledge that when we confess our sin forgiveness is freely and instantly available. Grace meets us at our point of need time and again, breaking the power of guilt and shame.
It takes courage to walk in the light, but it is the way to blessing, personal revival, and the strengthening of the church. Only a church that is walking in the light will be able to withstand the powers of darkness in the evil days in which we are living.
It is a real privilege to walk with God. It is a relationship that is enabled by the Spirit (walk in the Spirit), expressed in genuine love for God and others (walk in love) and maintained by a commitment to live a holy life (walk in the light). This is the life to which God calls us, and to which he invites us every day.