When it first happened, you could hardly understand it. You had been seeking something that was missing in your life — an inner peace, a sense of having found the real meaning of life. You had struggled with your own failures, your foreboding sense of God’s disapproval, and you had struggled to comprehend what Christians were talking about when they said they had found peace with God.
Gradually the Light Dawns
You began to understand that your problems were too great for you to solve, but that God had provided a way of salvation. Somehow Christ in His love had opened the way for forgiveness and renewal when He died on the cross. In His resurrection, Christ proved to you that He was indeed all that He claimed to be; the Son of God and your Savior. Then came the venture of faith, the simple belief that it was so, that Christ actually died for your sins. So you put your trust in Him as your Savior.
Next came that indescribable sense of relief. You had found the secret of life and of a new vital relationship to God. You experienced a wonderful peace. Your sins were forgiven. God had accepted you as His child. You realized what it means to be born again by faith in Jesus Christ. A new chapter in your life had begun. It was a new adventure, a new experience of what it means to walk with God.
Although your experience differed from that of many others who had had similar struggles to find the Truth, the important fact was that you had found Christ and that Christ had found you, and in that new relationship there was promise of the present and for the future. While you still could not define completely all that had happened, the important fact was that now you were a new creature in Christ.
But There Were Questions …
As you observed the lives of others who claimed to be Christians, you saw that all Christians were not the same. Some seemed to have a much closer walk with God than others, and some who claimed to be Christians could hardly be distinguished from those who were not. What was the secret of really walking with God? How could your life be what it ought to be now that you were a Christian?
As you sought answers to these important questions, you discovered that part of the problem was yourself. You soon woke up to the fact that although you were a new creature in Christ, this did not automatically cause you to make the right choices or to have the right desires. There was an empty within. As you studied the Bible, you discovered that the Bible takes this into consideration. Scripture recognizes that Christians are far from perfect and, accordingly, speaks of the “flesh” and “its lusts” as in Romans 13:14.
You discovered that even Paul had a tremendous inner struggle and confessed, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me” (Rom. 7:21*). But when Paul raised the question, “Who will set me free from the body of this death?” he also gave the answer, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom. 7:24-25). Then the way to be delivered from our inner temptation to sin is through the same person who delivered us from the guilt of sin, that is, through Jesus Christ.
You Learned What It Means to Walk with God
As you studied the matter further, you discovered that the secret of overcoming this inner tendency to sin was to “walk by the spirit” as Paul mentions in Galatians 5:16. In other words, the Spirit of God who indwells Christians is able to give them strength to overcome sin and to fulfill the will of God if they will yield their lives to Him.
A milestone in your spiritual experience was when you discovered Romans 12:1-2. There the whole matter was brought into perspective. Paul wrote in verse 1, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Rom. 12:1). You found that even though you were imperfect, God would accept your sacrifice because you belong to Christ.
Walking with the Lord accordingly meant walking in dependence on the Holy Spirit who indwelled you, submitting to the directions which Christ Himself would give as the Spirit guided your life. Unlike your accepting Christ, which was an act once for all, you found that this was to be a daily experience. Even when you failed, if you confessed your sins and yielded yourself to God, He would forgive you and restore you into an intimate walk of fellowship (1 John 1:9).
But Your Struggles Weren’t Over …
But your problems did not stop when you found God’s provision for victory over yourself. You soon learned that your new Christian faith required a standard of life that was very different from what the world around you was following. Here again, Paul came to your rescue and in Romans 12:2 he wrote, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
You discovered that the secret of living as Christians in a world that is hostile to Christian standards and values was twofold. First, you could not conform to the world outwardly. This did not mean that you had to dress in a peculiar way as some Christians have done, or that you had to label everything that the world says and does as evil. For instance, it was not wrong to use an automobile instead of a horse and buggy. But you did have to sort out what is good and evil in the world, and as Paul indicates, you were not to shape your life according to the pattern the world offers.
Not only should there be nonconformity to the world outwardly, but second, the real secret was an inner change, a renewed mind, a new insight into the real values and goals and meanings of life. The Bible became more important than the newspaper, and prayer more important than the latest newscast. Now you had to look at things from God’s point of view, and realize that you were out of step with the world about you because you were in step with an unseen world that related to heaven.
Your Goals Changed
The goals of the world — to acquire material wealth and material things, to attain position and cater to pride — were not to be your goals. The tendency to satisfy the desires the body that were evil and opposed to walking with God had to be replaced by the desire to be pleasing to God and to live for things which endure in the life to come. It affected how you spent your time, how you spent your energy, how you spent your money, and how you related to people. You were in the world, but you were not of the world; and God d planned this so that you could be a light to the world that was without light.
Your Christian experience matured and you learned something else that you had not realized before. There were not only problems with yourself and problems with your world, but you were also involved in a spiritual conflict. Here again you found that Paul’s experience corresponded to your own when he wrote, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). You found that all Christians are in a spiritual conflict where they were not only at war with themselves and the world, but they were also contending against an unseen enemy, the devil and forces of evil.
You Learned that the Bible Anticipated Your Struggles
Surprising as this is, you discovered that here again the Word of God anticipated this problem. Paul again revealed the divine plan to enable Christians to conquer Satan and resist all his temptations. He described it in Ephesians 6 as putting on the armor of God, and followed with the exhortation which sums it all up; “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:14-17).
Your defenses against Satan were: the Truth which God provides, a righteous life made possible by the power of the Spirit, and relating your life to the proclamation of the gospel. Satan especially hates soul winners, and anyone using the shield of faith thereby trusting God for protection from him. In the battle you would need to hide again and again behind the fact that you were saved by, in effect, putting on the helmet of salvation. Above all, you were to use the sword of the Spirit—the Word of God—which Christ Himself used so effectively in resisting Satan’s temptations.
You Are Walking with God!
Walking with God involved so many diverse experiences and scriptural truths that it was not easy to put it all together. But the important point is that you are walking with God. While walking by its nature is trusting your limbs to carry you, and involves effort on your part, you are not walking alone. As you walk with God, you are able to overcome your own sinful tendencies and live a life that is pleasing to God. Walking with God you are conformed to His will, not being conformed to the world but being transformed within. Walking with God you are able to face the temptations of Satan by putting on the armor of God, resisting him and having victory in your spiritual life.
You now know that walking with God is a supernatural experience in which every Christian can sense God’s presence and power — even though you cannot see Him with your physical eyes. It is God’s plan that as you walk with God in this present evil world, you will be prepared for your walk with God through eternity. Then you will be in His holy presence and earth’s temptations will be far removed.
Right now, however, the most crucial issue of your life is whether you are really walking with God. This is more important than what you are doing for Him, what you give to Him, or what you attain by way of earthly recognition for achievement.
God is more interested in you and your relationship to Him than in anything you are doing or experiencing. So as you walk through this world, be sure you are walking with God and not foolishly attempting to walk like a Christian without the Spirit of Christ as your faithful companion.
John F. Walvoord