(The following is the rough draft of a manuscript sermon to be preached on October 9 in Fountains Hills, Arizona. At the end are some application questions for small groups discussion)
Walk With Christ
I have a duty this morning, to teach you what is called a “distinctive” of Harvest Bible Chapel. That means it is something which we emphasize and something which may distinguish our fellowship from other Christian groups.
My point is very simple: God saves us so that we will walk with him. We are saved from sin to obedience. We are saved to walk with Christ. I am going to say something similar over and over: We are saved to walk with Christ.
A week ago, my family and I went to the see the Space Shuttle at the Science Center in Los Angeles. We looked at the tires, and the computers, and control panels and cockpit. We watched movies of take-offs and looked at exhibits, and then walked under and around the actual shuttle. We spent an hour looking at and around the space shuttle, but it was alway the space shuttle which had our attention.
This morning will be like that: we are going to look all sorts of passages and ask all sorts of questions, but in the end our position will be the same: You must walk with Christ. I must walk with Christ. It is our duty, our destiny, our honor and our joy. There is going to be a lot of repetition, but there will also be many parts. Just remember this will be like walking around the great space shuttle exhibit: Here we are looking at the space suits, there we are looking at the giant thrusters, but we are always looking at the space shuttle.
I am going to come back to this idea that we must walk with God. First, I am going to show you that we must walk with God. Then I am going to consider some objections to walking with God. Some people think this is legalism. Some Christians are ignorant of the need to walk with God. Some other Christians — probably most of us — know that we are to walk with God, but it seems beyond us and struggle with hope and despair.
Therefore, I am going to prove all that we must walk with God. I will tell the legalist that walking with God is not error: instead it is the entire point of salvation.
The Christian who just doesn’t know about holiness, who has been confused: for you, I will try to un-confuse you.
And finally, for those who veer between hope and despair, I will seek to bring some comfort and stability.
So on to our main point: You must walk with Christ if you are a Christian.
There are areas where Christians can be distinguished from one-another and still be Christians. Some Christians baptize the infants of believers; some do not. Some Christians believe we are now in the millennium; some think the millennium is still to come. These distinctive are important, but they do not distinguish between those who are Christians and those who are not.
This morning we are going to discuss the distinctive of “walking with Christ”. No Christian can be a Christian who does not walk with Christ. I not know how one can claim to be Christian, a follower of Jesus, if she does not walk with Christ. This must be an emphasize of a Christian Church, but it is sad that it might actually make a Christian Church “distinct” in any manner.
You see, the idea and command to walk with Christ is everywhere in the Scripture. Jesus gave the Church one command, make disciples. You can see this in Matthew 28:19-20, the Great Commission:
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)
Do you see that language, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you”. That means that disciples of Jesus have to do something. It is inherent in the idea of being a disciple: one who is a learner and a follower. A Christian knows Christ, loves Christ and follows Christ:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22 (ESV). To be a Christian is an active, passionate pursuit of holiness:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Hebrews 12:14 (ESV). Or John:
16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1 John 3:16 (ESV). Or Paul in Ephesians:
4 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
Ephesians 4:1 (ESV). It is in the Old Testament also:
1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
Psalm 1:1–2 (ESV). All of these passages and dozens more besides make the point that being a Christian is very much a matter of how we live. Being a Christian is a matter of holiness, of leaving behind sin, or walking with God.
13 Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”
1 Peter 1:13–16 (ESV). You must be holy, you must walk worthy; there is no option, there is no wiggle-room on this point?
As you sit there, I imagine that more than one person is starting to feel a little anxious. On one hand, you’d have to go a long way to get around the mountain of Bible which commands holiness, sanctification, walking with Christ. Some people try this.
First, there are those people who say things like Jesus can be your Savior but not your Lord. This is nonsense. It is an old argument, but it is false. To think that Christ saved us so that may continue in sin is a monstrous impossibility. Some people say that since we are saved by grace, there is no need to worry ourselves about sin. That is an old argument which Paul trashes with a quick reference to slavery:
15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed,
Romans 6:15–17 (ESV). If you are busy sinning, you are a slave to sin. It is nonsense to claim that you have been saved to sin.
Some people call this “legalism”, which is a serious, deadly error. To explain this, I need to explain Gospel. We human beings were created to reflect the surpassing beauty of our Creator. We were created in the image of God. We were created to glorify God and fully enjoy God forever. We were created to walk with God.
Genesis 3:8 tells us of God walking in the Garden. Before sin came into the world, we quite literally walked with God. But we chose to rebel. We chose to be our own god: and from that rebellion, that insane, foolish attack upon God, we lost everything:
21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Romans 1:21–23 (ESV). The results have been catastrophic, everything has been overturned. We do not think right, love the right things, hate the right things, do the right things:
10 as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
Romans 3:10–12 (ESV). While we do many wrong and wicked things, the trouble is worse than any one act. The trouble is that we refuse to let God be our God, the Lord is not our Lord. God gave us a written law, but the law did nothing to save us, it only made clear how greatly we sin.
Imagine a room filled with trash, broken furniture, spiders and rats. The floor is slick with sewage flowing from a broken pipe. It is dark, nauseating, sickly, reeking. You gag when you often the door. You know the room needs to be clean, so bring in a brilliant light, as bright as the human eye can stand. You hit the switch and the room fills with light. Now you can clearly see every aspect of the vile, wretched mess. The light exposes the filth, but it does nothing to clean the filth.
Neither the light, nor using the light cleans the room: that it is the human heart and the law of God:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
Romans 3:20 (ESV). Legalism is the bizarre belief that somehow trying one’s best to keep the law will make the room perfectly clean. But the can never happen.
You see the law demands more than just behavior, it demands love. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment of the law.
37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
Matthew 22:37–40 (ESV). The trouble between us and God is deeper far than behavior, it is a problem of relationship: we don’t walk with God. The problem is actually at its worst among those who are best behaved: The person who is well behaved, gracious, appropriate according to whatever measure you may use, thinks that he does not need a savior: such a person rejects God’s most gracious offer of salvation. In an odd sort of way the moralist, the legalist (the person who wants to obey the law) is the one furtherest from God and closest to hell.
You cannot be right with God on your own. Imagine a debt, say rent on a house. You are years behind on your rent. But today, you come into some money, just enough money to pay the rent. If you pay rent diligently for rest of your life, it will be enough to pay the rent which you missed. If you were to perfectly obey the law from this day forward, it would not help you at all. You see, obeying God’s law is merely what you are supposed to do. Obedience does not put God in your debt. Perfect obedience cannot make up for past disobedience.
Legalism can never work.
How then can we possibly become right with God? Certainly, nothing we do can fix the problem. We do not love God —and will not love God unless we receive new hearts. Paul elsewhere describes us “dead”. A dead man cannot bring himself to life. Jesus speaks of being “born again”, but a baby cannot make itself come into existence and be born.
For us to be right with God, God must come to us. This is the great blessing of God. God the Father loved us before the foundation of the world. God the Father loved us when were enemies of God:
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 (ESV).
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV). Our rebellion created a debt, a chasm, a loss which we could not make up. Our hearts are sewers which we cannot clean. But God:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:4–9 (ESV). God in his love saves, but taking from us our death, our sin, our debt and placing it all upon the cross of Christ, and by then giving to us the life, the righteousness, the surpassing wealth of Christ. How does this happen? Well first, it is a gift — that is what grace means: a gift, something given without payment. How is this gift received, by faith. When we trust and believe that God has offered to us this salvation in Christ, it is ours.
Before I married my wife, we were friends, very good friends — but we were both very careful not to be romantic. I fell in love with this girl, but I did not tell because I was fearful it would ruin our friends. She fell in love with me. We were both filled with love for the other, but that love was never shared because we both feared it would be lost and rejected. Then one day, I told my wife I loved her and wanted to marry her. She said yes, and that she loved me. At that moment when we each believed that we were loved, we received the love of the other. The love was always there, but faith, trust and belief, gave us access to that love. Our faith did not create the love, it did not earn the love, it merely received that love.
Now, I want you to imagine that my wife and I exchanged our vows, went on a honeymoon, then immediately after we came back to Los Angeles, we parted ways. I returned to my old home, she to hers. We might talk on occasion. We would tell people we were married. But we did’t live together. We both went on dates with others, we took separate vacations, but we were careful to trade notes and occasions phone calls and ask for help. In short, we claimed to be married but we refused to walk together, to live together. What would think of us?
That is what many Christians do. The legalist would argue that living together isn’t what makes you married: the ceremony is makes you married: you are married when you exchange vows. That is completely true. But the ceremony is meant to begin one’s life together. We have the ceremony so that we can live together.
Now let’s some back to the feeling of confusion or anxiety which you may feel when you realize that you must walk with Christ. For someone of you it may be that you simply aren’t sure about this. Maybe you have heard the accusation of legalism, but didn’t understand it. Other Christians, a great many —probably not here, but I have met them elsewhere – simply don’t understand the importance of holiness. They think, well if I’m saved it is really not that important what I do.
For you, I hope you can see that unless you strive after holiness, you will not see God. James says that you are deceiving yourself.
In fact, it was precisely because you are redeemed by grace that should and will walk with God. This is the last point which we are going to develop at some length: Our justification entails our sanctification: Those are rather theological words, so I will restate this in English: God saves us for the very purpose that we will walk with Christ. And because of that we not only must walk with Christ, we will walk with Christ. The first thing I wan to you to see is we were saved for the purpose of walking with Christ:
Just a bit ago I quoted Ephesians 2:4-9. That passage lays out the unmerited utterly free and gracious salvation which we have in Jesus Christ. But that is not the end of the passage. Having set forth our freedom in Christ, Paul continues. Why does God save us, what is God doing:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10 (ESV). So here is the first thing to see. You were saved for the purpose of walking in good works. You were saved so that your life would be a life dedicated to holiness. You were not saved so that you would live the same life into which you were born.
Think of like this: Someone is arrested and spends years in jail. Finally, they are released on parole. The government does not free the prisoner so that the prisoner can return to crime. The prisoner is freed so that the prisoner can lead the life of a law-abiding citizen.
Or take adoption — which is another metaphor for the Christian life. You determine to adopt a child and so you travel across the world to find a poor lonely child. You set your love upon that child, and take her into your own home. But then you find that your child keeps sneaking out and tries to return to the orphanage. That would be insanity. You adopted the child so that she could live with you in your home.
We have been adopted, so that we may call God Father; so that we can be joint-heirs with Christ. We have been adopted so that we can live forever with the Lord. We have not been redeemed so that we can return to the slavery of sin from which were taken.
You were saved to walk.
Look at Romans 6:4, we are going start reading at verse one for a little context:
6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:1–4 (ESV). Now almost every word Romans — and certainly in Romans 6 — has been examined to the point of exhaustion. There are many questions in even this short passage which we cannot consider: I am saying that only for the person who reads and asks, “What about baptism?” Or, “How exactly have we been buried with Christ?” Perhaps if you invite me back, we can think about such things.
For this morning we have only this idea: Look at verse 4, I want you to see that the sentence has two halves which are divided by the words “In order that”. The first half tells us of an event, and the second half tells us the purpose or result of that event.
The first half, look down at verse 4:
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death,
Christ’s death is our death. This is all quite strange: We are alive, but God says that we are dead, dead in trespasses and sins. John Stott has a useful way of understanding this. When Paul writes of death here, he is not precisely speaking about a dead body: Death is the penalty for sin. To die is to be condemned for sin, standing condemned and guilty. When Jesus died, it was more than just his breath stopped: Jesus died means that Jesus was condemned as guilty for sin — my sin and your sin. Peter explains that Jesus bore our sin his body while on the cross.
When Jesus died upon the cross, he died the death reserved for sinners; Jesus died my death, my sins were in his body. In Colossians 2:14, Paul explains that the sentence of death against us was nailed to the cross.
You see when God forgives us, he does not merely ignore sin. God forgives because the sin has already been punished. My sin was punished in Christ’s death. What does this mean? It means that we done with the law which exists to condemn sin.
Remember before, we spoke of how the law is like a light which exposes sin. The light goes on and sin stands condemned. The law is a light which finds guilty sin. But when sin has been punished, there is nothing left for the law to do. After the criminal has been executed, there is no need to keep bringing up and trying the criminal’s guilt. It is all over, the prisoner is dead.
When our sin was condemned in Christ’s death, we were finished with the law. The law has nothing more to do with us, there is nothing left to condemn. The law could not save us, the law can only condemn to death. And so sin had to be punished with death: It is exactly like God promised Adam in the Garden: If you rebel against me, if you break my law, you will die.
So God, because he loves us, gave himself for us: Sin cost God. God bears the punishment we could not bear. And I know I am being ambiguous here. But I want you to understand something, we sometimes think of the Father as angry at sin and the Son taking a penalty. And, if for some reason we should peak around the corner of Jesus’ robe the Father would strike us with lightening bolts.
That is all wrong. It was the Father’s love which is the fountain of all redemption. The Son gives his life. The Father gives his Son. When we look to Jesus’ death we must see the Father’s love. Jesus willing bears our death, and extinguishes the curse of the law.
There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Romans 8:1. When Christ died, our condemnation died. But what does this mean? What comes from being freed from condemnation. Look back at Romans 6:4 and start in the middle with the words “in order that”
in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life
In order that … we too might walk in the newness of life. Christ died. He was buried, he raised from the dead. And what was the result: That we too might walk in the newness of life. Here again we see that the reason for our salvation is that we might walk with Christ.
Now look to verse 6 of chapter 6:
We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.
Romans 6:6 (ESV). You died with Christ so that, for the purpose that, with the result that, you would no longer be a slave of sin. You see, sin — walking with the wicked as Psalm 1 calls it — is the manner of life of those who stand condemned by the law. It is a strange thing, but to be under the law’s condemnation shows up in our lives as perpetual sin. I can’t explain just now how that insanity works, but it does.
However, when your sin was condemned and crucified with Christ, when you were crucified and buried with Christ, you were freed from sin. And what is the result: you are no longer enslaved to sin.
Look down just a bit in your Bible to Romans 7:5-6 and you see this again:
For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.
Romans 7:5–6 (ESV). I could repeat this a dozen times over again: You were saved for the very purpose that you might walk with Christ.
Now I am going to come back to a question I posed a bit ago, to hear, to know without excuse that you have been saved to walk with God, to know without question that you must walk with God — that, that may make you anxious. I know, I know that I am called to walk with God, but the burden seems to great for me. Someone here is thinking, I know that God calls me to holiness. I know that there is no excuse for sin. I know that I must be holy as God is holy. I know that I must be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect. I know this, I read this in my Bible, but it seems to hard for me.
Brother, sister, do not despair. It is hard, it so hard that it is above human strength. Holiness is not a flower which grows in this world. Holiness does not grow naturally in the human heart — not since Adam fell. But know this: God did not save you to fail you. He has taken away your heart of stone and has given you a heart of flesh. He has given you life where there was death.
Look back at Romans 6:4, and I want to you notice something:
4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4. Look at those words just after the words “in order that”
In order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life.
Our walking in the newness of life is just as certain as the fact that God the Father raised Christ from the dead:
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.
Romans 6:5 (ESV). His death is our death, his life is our life. Therefore, walking in the newness of life is not something for which we are left alone to struggle to achieve. It is no longer something beyond you. Yes, you must walk: but you can do this.
This is not primarily a matter of what you feel. You may not feel crucified, you may not feel raised, you may not feel that you are walking in the newness of life. This is an objective fact which is true about you. That is why Paul is insisting upon this work; this is why he also instructs the Romans:
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11 (ESV). Take this objective fact and realize that it is true. You must believe this to be true, because it is true. You must reckon this thing so. Imagine an accountant, he has a receipt before. He takes the receipt and enters it into his accounting books: he reckons the receipt in his ledger and it is.
When we are married or when we adopt we reckon a relationship to be true between us and another person. When it comes to this matter of our death, burial and resurrection with Christ, we must reckon it to be true. It is true, so we must write it down in the ledger:
I have been buried with Christ, I have been raised with Christ. Christ has died to the law and sin; so, I have died to the law and sin. Christ walks in the newness of life, so I walk in the newness of life:
7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:7–11 (ESV). This death and burial, this resurrection and walking is true of Christ and so it is true of you. This is not matter of how you feel. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts it like this:
If we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall also be in the likeness of his resurrection.’ Let hell say ‘No’, let everything within you and without say ‘No’, it does not matter. Stand on the food of God, plan your feet on this great and glorious promise, because it is true…. (Sermons on Romans 6, p. 67)
Now look at your life, if you are believer — not a snapshot, not a moment: any single moment of your life may terribly wrong. Do not consider the moments. Look at your life like a story, like a movie not a photograph. If you are believer, there is change, there is life. You must see some evidence of walking with Christ.
There may be a thousand set backs, but you are here again this morning. Yesterday may have been a mess. The van ride here with the children may have been a mess, but look at the story: do you see change, do you see life? Here two images of the Christian life which will help you to understand.
David Powlison says that the movement of the Christian life looks like a child walking upstairs and playing with a yo-yo. At any one minute you may be going down, but the overall movement of the yo-yo is up the stairs.
Another image from a friend of my — and a friend of Justin’s, — Jack Hughes is that of someone walking a little yappy dog on a long tractable leash. At anyone moment, the dog may be going any direction. It runs up and runs down, it gets tangled around a tree and then dashes into traffic. Yet, over time, the dog has gone from one end of the block to the next.
That is what you must look for. Dr. Lloyd-Jones continues:
I am aware of this, that I am walking in a new life. I can give proofs of new life within me. But at this point that is not what matters. What I must hold on to is this, that I have been put into Christ, and that therefore these things are true of me. It is because of this that my salvation is so sure. It because God Himself, by the Spirit, has but me into Christ that nothing can take me out of Christ. My future, my eternal future, my final glorification is guaranteed and certain and sure. ‘Whom he called, them he also justified, and whom he justified, them he also glorified.’ [Romans 8:30.] (p. 67)
And so what do we know? We know that everyone who is a Christian must walk with Christ, must strive for holiness. The Scripture does not know anything about Christians who do not walk with Christ. This is certain.
We know that this command to walk with Christ sounds beyond us, because perfect holiness is beyond us. But think again about the command, we are to walk in newness of life, we are to walk with Christ. Do you think the God who raises the dead, who sustains his people in the wilderness, who conquered the gods of Egypt, who calls into existence the things which are not would call you to walk with him and then not sustain you? You who are worried and anxious over this command to walk with Christ, do not be. It is not burden, it is a joy, it is a privilege.
And when the way seems most difficult, when the weight of this world weighs most profoundly against you, when walking seems beyond you, listen to the Savior’s call:
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28–30 (ESV).
Have you ever felt the desire for an excuse, for some way out of this command to walk with Christ? Have you ever used an excuse to avoid walking with Christ? What excuse and why?
Does the command to walk with Christ seem beyond you? Does it sound fearful and difficult?
In what ways do you find obstruction to your walking with Christ? What keeps from doing so — or desiring to do so?
What does it mean to walk with Christ? Romans 12, Ephesians 4-6, Colossians 3.
What are the results of walking with Christ (being led by the Spirit) — and failing to walk with Christ? How would I know what that looks like? Galatians 5:16-24