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 spoke about when they said they had found peace with God.
Gradually the light dawned. 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 had proved that He was indeed all that He claimed to be: the Son of God and the Savior of those who put their trust in Him. Then came the venture of faith, the simple belief that it was so, that Christ had actually died for your sins and that you had 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. Now you had a wonderful peace. Your sins were forgiven. God had accepted you as His child. You had experienced 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 for 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 of them were not the same. Some seemed to have a much closer walk with God than others, and some who claimed to be Christian 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 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 enemy within. As you studied the Bible, you discovered that God’s Word 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, the one who wants to do good” (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). 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.
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, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodiesa 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 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 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, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The secret of living as Christians in a world that is hostile to Christian standards and values, you discovered, was twofold. First, you should not conform to the world outwardly. This does 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.
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 of 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 eternal things. 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 had 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.
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 it 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 arrows 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.
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 was that you were walking with God. While walking, by its nature, is trusting your limbs to carry you, and involves effort on your part, you did not walk alone. As you walked with God, you were able to overcome your own sinful tendencies and live a life that was well pleasing to God.
Walking with God you would be conformed to His will, not being conformed to the world, but being transformed within. Walking with God you would be able to face the temptations of Satan by putting on the armor of God, resisting him and having victory in your spiritual life.
As you thought it all through, you realized that walking with God is a supernatural experience in which every Christian can sense God’s presence and power—even though we cannot see Him with our physical eyes. It is God’s plan that as we walk with Him in this present evil world, we will be prepared for our walk with God through eternity. Then we will be in His holy presence and earth’s temptations will be far removed.
Right now, however, the most crucial issue of our life is whether we are really walking with God. This is more important than what we are doing for Him, what we give to Him, or what we attain by way of earthly recognition for achievement. God is more interested in us and our relationship to Him than in anything we are doing or experiencing. Accordingly, as we walk through this world, let’s be sure we are walking with God and not foolishly attempting to walk without Him.
*All Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, ©The Lockman Foundation, 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973. Used by permission.