Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Worthy Walk
...what it means to daily follow Jesus

"...but the blameless in their walk are His delight." Proverbs 11:20b

Obtaining salvation or sustaining the Christian life by "law-keeping" is an effort in futility. The Law was never meant to be given as a Savior, was never intended to provide forgiveness or a demonstration of love and hope for the eradication of the sinful nature of man. The Law was given as a tutor to point us to Christ (Gal. 3:24). The tutor (GK: paidagogos) was a slave commissioned by Greek and Roman families whose responsibility was to instruct young boys on behalf of their parents. They were to educate them and train them in their studies. They were strict disciplinarians who were to care for the children until adulthood. When the boy reached the age of maturity (barmitzvah) they no longer lived under the authority of the tutor, but were set free from their instruction and thus accountable for their own actions.

In addition to pointing the Jews to the messiah - the Christ, the Law also brought about the wrath of God (Roms. 4:14; 7:7, 10-25). God hates sin and will not tolerate its existence. His holiness must be satisfied. Though "the Law is holy and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Roms. 7:12), the Law was God's plumbline to show the sinfulness of man and his inability to live up to God's holy standard of righteousness. Jesus Christ is the standard of God who fulfilled the Law and its demands and then bettered it. He did not leave us under a tutor or shut up to sin under the wrath of God, but He embraced the cross and became the sin offering for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor. 5:21). He was both the perfect priest (satisfying the Law) and the perfect sacrifice - the spotless Lamb (satisfying God's wrath) (Heb. 1:3) - the propitiation of our sins (Roms. 5:1-10; Heb. 12:1-3; 1 John 2:2, 4:10).

John MacArthur pointedly assures us when he says, "holy living doesn't come from our performance for God, but from His performance through us by His Spirit."

Christianity is not a religion
of human achievement,

but of divine accomplishment.

What did Jesus mean then when He said to the crowds that wanted to be His disciples, "...follow me"? Two words that sum up the Christian life... follow Him. He was calling them and us today to walk as He walked. To leave the old life we have been associated with, abandon all and follow Him.

I haven't arrived at this "walk" in my life... have you? I need His grace everyday to try and honor the Lord and please Him. For on my best day in my own strength, I will fail miserably to carry on for Him. Even if I have done everything to be obedient to Him, I am still an unworthy servant. But by His unfailing love and instructive grace, each of us can take another step of worship, praise, service and sacrifice to God and His glory.

I call this: the worthy walk.

There are five greek words that are associated with the worthy walk in Scripture. Let's look at each one and gain insight from God's Word how we are to walk as Christians in order to please God and fulfill the command of our Lord to follow Him.

1. Peripateo - to walk consistently.

The Word of God has been denied, debated and defended, but what it needs to done is demonstrated! This is evidence of the authentic believer. Life and belief coming together as one singular expression of the work of God's grace in our lives.

This is what peripateo means. The life of the believer brought in submission to the Spirit of God in Christ. It signifies that our supreme desire and duty is to keep his commandments and please Him in all respects (Col. 1:10). "...we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that... you ought to walk and please God..." (1 Thes.4:1). This is our goal though we fall short everyday.

Because this Greek word is in the present tense it represents the continuous action of the Christian. In other words, a habitual way of life. Furthermore, the word is in the imperative - it is a command. IOW, to walk consistenly before God is a great privilege and the fruit of genuine salvation.

Here are a few verses which give perspicacity in the habits of a true believer in Christ. We are to walk in: "newness of life" (Rom. 6:4); "worthy of our calling" (Eph. 4:1); "in good works" (Eph. 2:10); "by faith" (2 Cor. 5:7); "in Christ" (Col. 2:6); "circumspectly" (Eph. 5:15); "in wisdom, in truth and in the light" (Col. 4:5; 2 John 1:6; 1 John 5:7). These character traits mark us as believers in Christ and communicate to others genuine faith. This is normal Christianity not some utopia that is unattainable, but our pattern for living.

But this word also is used in the negative as well. As we walk in love, faith, good works, truth etc, we are also exhorted not to "walk after the flesh" (Rom. 8:8), to walk "in darkness" (John 8:12), nor to walk "in the council of the ungodly" (Psalm 1:1).

2. Stoicheo - to walk orderly.
Consistency leads to orderliness. I have been privileged through the years to travel to some of the great military bases overseas and minister there. One thing that I never tire of is the thrill of seeing a squadron of soldiers performing their close order drills in perfect sync. The precision and meticulousness is a thing of magnificence. Can you imagine how chaotic it would be to see each soldier parading in any way each one felt they should? They would look more like the Keystone Cops or a troop of clumsy Gomer Piles than a highly trained company of disciplined serviceman.

That is what stoicheo is referring to. It is used in Scripture in a military sense... to walk in single rank and file. It pictures a group of soldiers in a straight line marching in perfect unison. This describes the unity that we are to have in the body of Christ. Not each of us living any way we choose to, but to live "in sync" with each other. Unity with each other can only be achieved by being conformed to Jesus Christ. This is accomplished through God's Word which is able to sanctify and mold us to godliness (John 17:17). Truth is the tie that binds us together in unity. That is why it is so essential that we have unity on the essenstials of the faith ground in sound doctrine.

Stoicheo literally means "to keep step with Christ." And how do we do that? By living by His grace in submission and obedience to His Word. Following Jesus is keeping step with Him (Rom. 4:12; Gal. 5:25; Gal. 6:16). As the Apostle Peter says, "follow in His footsteps" (1 Pt. 2:21).

This word also conveys the rich expression of virtue. As we keep step with Christ, live according to His word, have unity and oneness with other Christians, we live what may be called the virtuous life. A life of holiness. That doesn't mean that Christians don't sin, but it does mean that when we do sin we settle it right then. We repent of it (turning from sin and turning to God) and ask forgiveness for it. Martin Luther said that his thought life alone could condemn a whole generation of people to hell. I know mine could do just as much damage. That is why everyday I need to come to the Lord and make sure I am up to date in my obedience with Him. If I am not, I need to ask forgiveness from the Lord and/or go to those I have offended and make it right. As Paul says, "let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained" (Phil. 3:16). This is not easy for people often see issues from two different perspectives arriving at two different conclusions. But still, we ask forgiveness of others where we have wronged another; and be ready to forgive one another as we stand forgiven by Christ in God. That is the virtuous, orderly walk that keeps step with Christ!

3. Emperipateo - the holy walk.
As we have been talking about our responsibility before God to keep step with Him, we must also be cognizant of the fact that God "walks" among His people. This is the meaning of emperipateo. Our Lord lives in us, doesn't He... "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27).

This word signifies all the activities of God in the believer. Space does not allow to describe all that the Lord has done for us and continues to do in us. Some of those great mercies are:
  • He has adopted us (Rom. 8:15);
  • justified us (Rom. 8:30);
  • sanctifies us (1 Pt. 1:2; Eph. 5:26),
  • purifies us (Titus 2:14);
  • convicts us of sin (John 16:8-13);
  • forgives us (1 John 1:9);
  • renews us daily (2 Cor. 4:16);
  • sheds His love abroad in our hearts (Rom. 5:5);
  • He will glorify us (Rom. 8:30);
  • prevents us from stumbling and present us faultless (Jude 24);
  • keeps us (Jude 1);
  • guards us (John 17:9-12);
  • prays for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25);
  • chooses us (Eph. 1:4);
  • seals us (Eph. 1:13-14);
  • secures us (Phil. 1:6);
  • indwells us (Rom. 8:11);
  • fills us (Eph. 5:17-20);
  • makes us new creations (2 Cor. 5:17);
  • disciplines us (Heb. 12:5-11);
  • and imputes His righteousness to us (1 Cor. 1:30).
2 Cor. 6:16 profoundly says, "...I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people." He has brought us into relationship with Himself. Such spiritual intimacy entreats love, duty, joy, allegiance and compliance. Jesus is described as "the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands..." (Rev. 2:1). He is not only the God of mercy and compassion, but we must remember that He is also the One whose "eyes were like a flame of fire; and His feet were like burnished bronze" (Rev. 1:14b-15a). He is a God of judgment and justice. He walks in and among us and that His eye never closes to our actions, His ears are never deaf to our words, and that He knows our every thought, motive and impulse of heart before it comes to be; nothing is hidden from His sight (Psalm 139).

This should manifest in our lives a godly fear (reverential respect) that causes us to honor Him. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Prov. 1:7) It surprises me today that many in the body of Christ do not have a healthy fear of God in their lives. One sure sign of this is how they refer to our Lord in name. Some call Him "buddy", "pal", the "big guy", "boss-man" or "the man upstairs." This shows an utter lack of respect for who our Lord is. This casual "slapping of the Almighty on the back," as Vance Havner would put it, cheapens the name of our Lord and is a slam against His character.

"Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body" (1 Cor. 6:19-20). Those verses bring the holy walk to right where we live and struggle. As Peter says, "...for you shall be holy, for I am holy" (1 Pt. 1:16). We are a people set apart for holiness. To be in the world but not of it (John 15:18-20). To come out from among them and be holy! (2 Cor. 6:17). Let us this day be aware that our Lord is in us and walks among us. "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments..." (Eccl. 12:13). This is the holy walk.

4. Orthopodeo - the upright walk.
This is the greek word from which we would get the english word for orthopedics. As an orthodontist straightens crooked teeth and an orthopedic surgeon straightens crooked limbs, the word of God can straighten crooked lives. Hebrews 12:13 says, "...make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame will not be put our of joint, but rather be healed." A life lived in obedience to the Lord will be an upright life. One that is free from impediment and lived straight on for Him.

When one has lived a life of crime and violence in our society, we say that that person is "crooked." In the same way, when that person has served his time in jail and been rehabilitated we say, "he has gone straight." This is what the Christian life resembles for us. A life that was crooked in sin and downtrodden by rebellion, has been now made new and alive -straight and upright for the Lord. It was said of Job that he was a "...blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil." (Job 1:9). Psalm 11:7 promises, "The Lord is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will behold His face." This is the character of one who is erect, honorable, trustworthy and honest in his life.

5. Poreumai - the intent walk.
This is the most common of all the words for walking in the New Testament. It is used approximately 195 times and has the general meaning of departing, going, leaving and travelling. It refers to someone who is plotting a specific course after something - a destiny charted to the finish. This is how the Holy Spirit sometimes uses this word to show a predetermined, premeditated life - not after godliness, but rather following after sin.

In 2 Peter 2:10 we read the following description of a false prophet, "and especially those who indulge [go after] the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority..." Here Peter uses this word to show that there is an indulgence, an agressive seeking after the flesh. The outcome is corruption and insubordination! This is not an accident but an intent 'going after' of the these things. Sin is always corrupt - it is dishonest and fraudulent at its core. One definition of sin is: missing the mark of God's holiness! All sin misses the mark - all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) ...all miss the mark! However, there are some who seek it belligerently and delight in its corrupt desires. Martin Luther boldly comments on this verse that to embrace sin in this way "is to live like an irrational beast according to ones own notion and all lust."

Jude 18 refers to those who will "in the last time...following after their ungodly lusts." Peter encourages the scattered, suffering saints in Asia Minor to not live the rest of their days according to the flesh nor for the lusts of men, but after the will of God (1 Pt. 4:2). The message to us is clear. As the world maps out a course for sin, with predetermined, hostile, insatiable thirst for the things of this world, we are to pursue the will of God.

The intent walk is a walk of daily repentance, turning from sin and turning to God. Paul told a young, timid Timothy to "flee youthful lust, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart." (2 Tim. 2:22). And this can only happen as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in a manner worthy of our calling, for in our own strength, we cannot do so.

There are only five commands in all the Word in relation to the Spirit of God:
1. Pray in the Spirit - Jude 20; Eph. 6:18-19
2. Be filled with the Spirit - Eph. 5:18
3. Walk by the Spirit - Gal. 5:16
4. Do not quench the Spirit - 1 Thes. 5:19
5. Do not grieve the Spirit - Eph. 4:30
The end result of all our walking is to please Him; to be His delight! Are you living a life that is consistent, orderly, upright, holy and intent on the things of God? Your life lived will say more than your words spoken. May our desire today echo the words of the Psalmist "Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity; and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Examine me, O Lord, and try me; test my mind and my heart. For Thy lovingkindness is before my eyes; and I have walked in Thy truth...But as for me, I shall walk in my integrity; redeem me, and be gracious to me."(Psalm 26:1-3,11)

Life Application:

1.) How are the five aspects of walking interdependent on each other for healthy communion with God? (unpack Gal. 5:16)

2.) How did the life of Jesus reflect each of these ways? Paul?

3.) How are we not to walk as Christians? (define with Scripture)

4.) Just as you would plan to jog or walk each day for your physical health, how will you set a course of action to implement the worthy walk before God?

5.) Consider someone you respect as a man or woman of God who exemplifies the worthy walk. How have they demonstrated this faithful life to you?

6.) Explain the impact of a life submitted to the Spirit of God on the practical issues we face in our culture (i.e. politics, economics, abortion, aids, art, family education, etc.). Do you have a biblical world view? (read Romans 12)

1 comment:

Carla Rolfe said...


I sure appreciated this post today. As I read through it and found myself nodding my head I was also pleased to see the Life Application points/questions at the end. Very helpful.

Thanks for this.