Walk in the Spirit

When I hiked on the Appalachian Trail I was drawn by the  immensity and splendor of the wilderness. I also think I was trying to prove to myself what a man in his sixties could do. I doubt if I will again be able to do extended hikes as I did then, but I have great memories of mountain scenery, backpacking, the kindness of strangers (“trail angels”), and the therapy of solitude.

A hike is a very long walk. It is an apt description of the Christian life. Eugene Peterson called it, in his book title, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” The apostle Paul referred to it as walking in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to walk by means of the Holy Spirit, or in the sphere of the Holy Spirit.

It is not possible to live as a Christian should live apart from the Holy Spirit. Here I quote from the English Standard Version of Paul’s letter to the Galatians: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16 ESV). Walking in the realm of the Spirit has been compared to the atmosphere in which a fish survives: water. A fish has the freedom to act like a fish only in the environment for which he was created. Likewise, a Christian can live as a Christian should live only by and in the Holy Spirit.

Paul mentions the Holy Spirit seven times by name in Galatians 5:16-25. This highlights the Spirit’s role in us, subduing sinful influences, guiding us in right living, and helping us enjoy the freedom of God’s grace. These verses teach that there is an inward conflict between the lower nature (the “flesh”) and the Spirit.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatians 5:17 ESV). This reminds me of the inner struggle against sin Paul described in Romans 7! If you read Galatians 5:19-21 you see a sad litany of destructive habits and sinful offenses which are described as “works of the flesh.” They represent gross distortions of sex, of religious spirituality, and of human relationships.

Walking in the Spirit steers clear of these. Instead, the Spirit’s ministry in the life of a Christian  is described as “fruit.” In the following verses Paul describes the Spirit-controlled life: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23  ESV). This is what walking in the Spirit looks like. If we are walking in the Spirit we will not be gratifying the desires of the lower nature, but we will be demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in our everyday lives.

Of course this means that as we walk by the Spirit we will be led by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit does the leading and we do the walking. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14). He takes the initiative to help us walk worthy of the Lord (Colossians 1:10) and walk by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7) and walk in good works (Ephesians 2:10) and walk in wisdom (Colossians 4:5).

The Appalachian Trail is a carefully-marked path through the mountains. The Holy Spirit intends to lead God’s people in the carefully-marked path of God’s will. “If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25 ESV). If we sincerely follow the Spirit’s leading, it will influence everything in our way of life: marriage and family relationships, friendships, vocation, leisure activities, proper use of wealth, prayer and devotion, keeping of the Lord’s Day, and concern for our neighbors.

“You make known to me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11 ESV).

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Walking in Truth and Love

I like to walk. When I was a pastor I took an early Sunday prayer walk for a couple of miles to prepare myself for the day’s ministry. I prayed for the people of the church and I prayed for myself. There was something about the rhythm of walking that lent itself to prayer.

Our Christian life is compared to a walk. The Christian walk is not an aimless shamble but a resolute trek in the right direction. The direction is determined by our companion. Scripture tells us that our companion should be the Lord and we are to “walk as Jesus did” ( 1 John 2:6) and “follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).

Jesus is the embodiment of both truth and love. The Bible tells us that we are to walk in truth and we are to walk in love. If we are walking with Christ we will do both. They are not contradictory; they are complementary.

There are those who seem to emphasize one without the other. Some people ask us to accept and promote practices which the Bible calls sinful, for example, in the name of love. That is love at the expense of truth. Some people pour forth fire-and-brimstone visions of hell without a corresponding emphasis on God’s compassion. That is truth at the expense of love.

Walking in Truth

“It has given me great joy to find some of your children walking in the truth” (2 John 4). Truth, along with love, was a priority with the apostle John. He said the truth “lives in us and will be with us forever” (2 John 2). What did he mean? I think he was referring to the embodiment of truth, Jesus himself (John 14:6). As long as we are walking with Jesus we will walk in truth. The truth of Jesus is the direction we are to follow on our pilgrimage through life.

John’s friend Gaius was an example of one who walked in truth. He did not merely profess faith in Christ, he demonstrated his faith by his loving ministry to some first century travelling missionaries (3 John 5-8). John’s third letter was a commendation of Gaius: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).

Walking in Love

The kind of love referred to here is the essence of unselfishness. It is the kind of love that caused the Lord Jesus to give himself up as a sacrifice on the cross. Because he loved us so much, we are called to follow his example and walk in love.

Paul wrote, “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us, and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV).

Here we see what it means to walk in love. It means to be self-giving and generous in giving ourselves up for others just as Jesus gave himself up for for us. This unselfish love is pleasing to God. In my fifty-two years of pastoral ministry I have witnessed many examples of this unselfish love: devoted marriage partners faithfully caring for invalid spouses, Christians serving the poor, generous support of international missions, older mentors discipling the  younger generation of believers, for example.

Paul gives us an another example of unselfish love when he writes about areas of potential disagreement among believers. It is in the form of a warning. He says if another Christian is hurt or offended by your careless  disregard for his conscience or his scruples then “you are no longer walking in love” (Romans 14:15 ESV). In other words, mature, unselfish love limits its own liberty for the sake of those who are less mature in the faith.

Walking in truth. Walking in love. That is what it means to walk with Jesus.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Walk in the Light

The electrical power went out in our apartment building the other night. The hallways were lit by generator but our rooms were utterly dark. Darkness like that can be disorienting and potentially dangerous. It can lead to stubbed toes, skinned shins, or worse, a fall with injury. It was a relief when the lights came on again.

On our walking pilgrimage through life, the New Testament tells us to avoid moral and spiritual darkness. Rather, we are instructed to walk in the light. The word picture of walking is a favorite metaphor of John the apostle. He wrote, “This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out 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” (1 John 1:5-7).

Here are two lifestyles, represented by darkness and light. One means to walk, or to live in sin, and the other is to walk, or to live in fellowship with God, who is righteous. This is possible only through faith in Jesus who shed his blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

God is light.

This means that his nature is holy and perfect. In him there is nothing evil or false. When Israel was being forged as a nation, God led them by a pillar of fire on their forty-year walk through the wilderness. The light assured them of his holy presence and guided them (Exodus 13:21). This may be what informed John’s emphasis on walking in the light as a picture of Christian discipleship.

Christ is the light of the world.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, 9:5). To walk in the light is to walk in fellowship with Jesus. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” ( 1 John 2:6). If we remain in fellowship with Jesus, walking with him, we will reflect the light that comes from him. Jesus told his followers that they, too are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

God’s word is a light.

If we love the Lord we will “walk in obedience to his commands” (2 John 6). For us this means faithful adherence to the guidance of holy scripture. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path” (Psalm 119:105). The light of God’s revealed word scatters our darkness and illuminates the path of life before us. C.S. Lewis made this point when he said that we believe the sun has risen, not because we see it, but because by it we see everything else.

I am profoundly grateful for 1 John 1:7 because it tells me that I may walk in the light of fellowship with God and his Son. If I fail to stay in step with them and slip into darkness, I may confess my sin and know that the blood of Jesus  cleanses me from all sin. As the light of God reveals my sin I may keep on appropriating the benefits of Christ’s death on the cross by repentance and faith.

It is an amazing and wonderful truth that the God who is light created us for fellowship with himself. Jesus has made this possible. His word is our guide to walking in the light. That’s walking with God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Walking With God

“Walk in newness of life.”

Knowing  that the exercise is good for us, Connie and I enjoyed a walk around our neighborhood the other day. Birds were singing, the air was balmy, and there was a gentle breeze. It was a pleasure to walk with her on a lovely day. In fact there is nobody on earth I would rather be with.

The next time you take a stroll or a hike, ask yourself what it would be like to  walk with God.

The patriarch Enoch enjoyed the companionship of God on his walk through life (Genesis 5:21-24). That is an amazing statement. I think it means that Enoch was going in the same direction as God, that he lived by God’s values, and that he loved and worshipped God.

In the Bible, “walking” is a frequent metaphor for living life. The New Testament uses it a lot to distinguish a life lived with Christ from a life lived for merely worldly or selfish interests. It tells us how we, too, may walk in fellowship with God.

Paul the apostle wrote that walking with God represents a new kind of life, or a new quality of life. “Therefore we have been buried with Him, through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4, NASB). The word “walk” is a translation of the Greek word peripateo. Some English translations render the phrase “live a new life.”

Walking with God, then, means to be dead to the old, pre-Christian life of sin. This is a spiritual baptism, or identification with Christ. This is what Paul described as being “united with Him in the likeness of His death” (Romans 6:5, Galatians 2:20). It is symbolized by baptism, or immersion in water, a picture of a believer’s death and resurrection with Christ.

To walk with God with a new life, one must experience a resurrection. This is what happens when one believes in Jesus Christ. Jesus’ ministry provides us with an illustration (John 11). His friend Lazarus had died and the Lord went to his graveside to weep with his family. In a miraculous demonstration of divine power, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead! Even though he had been dead for four days, Lazarus walked out of the tomb wrapped in graveclothes. Physically, he was raised to walk in newness of life. Spiritually, this what happens to a person who believes the gospel and is raised from spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-10).

Paul shows us another aspect of walking with God. Walking in newness of life means that the same glorious power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us to enable us to live with with a new lifestyle. If we rely on our natural ability, we cannot overcome temptation and sin. It is the Holy Spirit who enables us to please God as we live with him and for him in this world (Hebrews 11:5).

The early chapters of Genesis tell us that there were two Enochs. The one who walked with God descended from the godly line of Seth, those who called on the Lord in worship (Genesis 4:26). The other Enoch (Genesis 4:17) was a representative of the ungodly line of Cain, the first murderer. This illustrates the difference between those who walk in newness of life and those who do not. I want to be one of those who do.

Pastor Randy Faulkner