Course 1: My Walk with God – Lesson 4

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This is the written transcript for Lesson 4 in this series of study entitled “My Walk with God” —  (it is likely that transcripts will vary somewhat from the actual video recordings).

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Walk in Love

In writing to the Christians who were living in the city of Ephesus, the Apostle said: “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2, NASB).  In this lesson, we’re going to consider just what it means to “walk in love” – and to live the life, and practice the lifestyle, to which God is calling all His Children.

Why it is so important that we listen to, and surrender to, God’s will concerning how we are to live our lives?  Well, do you remember, from our other lessons together, Jesus saying: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (John 14:15)?  And, do your remember Him saying:  “The one who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and the one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will reveal Myself to him” (John 14:21); and “If anyone loves Me, he will follow My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our dwelling with him. The one who does not love Me does not follow My words” (John 14:23-24).  Well, remember, Jesus also said: “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that a person will lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you,” and “This I command you, that you love one another” (John 15:12-14 & 17).

In these passages of scripture, Jesus makes it pretty clear that our love for God requires keeping His commandments and that includes His commandment to love one another.  In fact, Jesus makes our love for one another the number ONE identifier of God’s people when He said: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all people will know that you are My disciples: if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).

How do you recognize the true children of God? By the way the love one another!  How do you recognize the true family of God (or the “church,” as many people refer to it now days)? By the way they love the Lord and each other!  You cannot recognize the true people of God just by some name posted over the doorway of some building or on a sign out front? And it doesn’t even matter how accurate they are in their doctrinal positions or their teaching on one subject or another because even that, without love, is not the true family of God.  LOVE is the number one, first and foremost, identifier of a child of God and the family of God. The Apostle Paul said:

“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.”

(I Corinthians 13:1-3)

The rest of that passage in the book of Ephesians, where the Apostle Paul admonishes us to “walk in love” goes on to say:

“But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore, do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”

(Ephesians 5:3-11, NASB)

You know, all around us, in this old world, there are these great “culture wars” raging. These culture wars include matters of morality that directly impact virtually every single child of God on a daily basis: persistent sexual immorality and violence in the public media and entertainment industry; the constant pursuit of wealth and materialism, and the ensuing greed and idolatry that it generates; the desecration of marriage and the rising percentage of single parents and children with no meaningful father figure in their lives; increasing domestic violence, child abuse, human trafficking, and the exploitation of women and children at every level of society; the ever rising tide of illicit drugs and substance abuse sweeping over western civilization and many other parts of the globe; war, repression, the abuse of human rights and the ensuing poverty and pestilence it promotes; and even the wide-spread propagation of atheism, agnosticism, humanism, evolution, and one lofty philosophy after another seeking to malign the truth of God’s word; and, just, the whole “me first” mindset – the arrogance and pride that seems to permeate and characterize a large part of humanity in today’s Western society. With all of the political, social, and moral upheaval going on today, is easy to see how that, at every turn of the road, our “adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (I Peter 5:8, NASB).

But it’s supposed to be different for the children of God. We are told to, “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification (or holiness) without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14, NASB). So, what does it mean to pursue sanctification? Well, the word “sanctify” means: 1. to set apart (to dedicate or consecrate someone or something) to a sacred purpose or to religious use (or for God’s use), or 2. the state of growing in divine grace as a result of Christian commitment after baptism or conversion.  (Merriam-Webster, 2013)

To be sanctified mean to be “set apart,” or to be “different.”  To be sanctified, or to be “holy” simply means that you are “different” or “unique” because you are set apart for, or dedicated to, a specific purpose or cause. The true children of God are different than other people living in the world all around them in that they are called to live lives of goodness, righteousness, holiness, purity so as to give glory and praise to God.  After all, they belong to HIM now; and so they are called to live lives that are in stark contrast to the darkness, iniquity, pride, greed, and immorality that we see going on all around us in the world today; and we choose to live that kind of a life because we love the Lord. We do it because we want to honor the Lord, show our gratitude and thankfulness for what He had done for us, and worship Him by the ways we live our lives. As the Apostle Paul said, we choose topresent our bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). We do that because it is the natural response to saving love for God and saving faith in Christ; and it all begins with our commitment to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.  Jesus said:

Therefore, everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.  Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.  And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.  He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.

(Matthew 10:32-39, NASB)

We see, from these passages of scripture, that Jesus knew and understood that it would, sometimes, be very difficult to live as one of His disciples. He knew that the lifestyle and attitudes that characterize the world are in direct opposition to His holiness; and that calling people to follow Him and live holy lives, while still living and functioning in this old world, would sometimes result in heartache and hardship.  Still, He calls us to become His disciples because He knows that, ultimately, it is all worthwhile.

We also see from these passages that to experience the intimate, personal relationship with Jesus that He is calling us to requires that our relationship with Him becomes the highest possible priority in our lives. Our relationship with Him must take priority over our attachment to any physical possessions or competing relationships; and even over our own mortal lives. Only when we are willing to give up anything and everything that may be necessary in order to please God and preserve our relationship with Jesus our Lord, will we find the mindset and motivation necessary to “pursue… the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).  Here are some passages of scripture that help us understand something of what it means to pursue that sanctification:

Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said, “I will dwell in them and walk among them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.  “And do not touch what is unclean; and I will welcome you.  And I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to Me,” says the Lord Almighty.

(2 Corinthians 6:14-18, NASB)

For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.  So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.

(I Thessalonians 4:1-8, NASB)

These verses show us that our walk with Christ, as a reflection of our union with Christ, must extend to a life of holy living. When we accept the sacrifice of Jesus for our sins and surrender to the Lordship of Christ, we acknowledge that we have chosen to set aside all selfish desires and not to pursue a sinful lifestyle; but to live the way that God wants us to live. Our very lives have become a perpetual act of sacrifice and praise to give glory to God.

Now, I want us to understand the seriousness of this matter.  We need to know that the pursuit of sanctification—holy living—is not something that is optional.  It’s not something to be toyed with.  We can’t just, “take it or leave it!” In fact, Jesus told a little story about what it’s going to be like for some people on that great final day of judgement; people who claimed the Christian faith, but didn’t want to actually live the life that God is calling us to.  He said:

Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.  Many will say to Me on that day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

(Matthew 7:21-23, NASB)

And so, what is God looking for from us?  Well, He’s looking for authenticity.  He’s not interested in people playing the “religion” game, or just toying with the Christian faith. He’s not interested in people simply going to church, or saying the right words, or even participating in all the right religious ceremonies and observances. He’s looking for hearts that are truly dedicated to Him, hearts that are authentically pursuing the sanctification to which He is calls us, and hearts that will remain faithful to Him to the very end. The Hebrew writer says:

Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”

(Hebrews 3:12-15, NASB)

For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame…  But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way.  For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints.  And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

(Hebrews 6:4-5, 9-12, NASB)

For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.  Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.”  It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

(Hebrews 10:26-31, NASB)

In these passages of scripture, the Hebrew writer expresses much concern over the possibility that some Christians would choose to turn away from the life to which Christ calls us and go back into a life of sin and rebellion against God. These passages can be frightening because the danger is very real.  Just as our Christian walk does not end at baptism, it only begins there, neither does one’s personal battle against temptation and sin in this world. God does not force people to be part of His family, and He doesn’t force anyone to remain a part of it, either.  God created each of us with our own free will.  We have the option, each day, of continuing to surrender our hearts and lives to the will of God or of turning away, falling away, by rejecting Christ—even after we have been united with Him in baptism.

But, let’s be clear now – we’re not talking here about losing our salvation because we are sometimes weak and we happen to stumble and fall along the way, or because we don’t get all the “doctrine” just right and practice every facet of the Word of God exactly as prescribed in scripture.  In the Bible we read: “For we all stumble in many ways” (James 3:2, NASB); and, remember, the Apostle Paul told us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23, NASB), and also the Apostle John tells us that, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (I John 1:8, NASB).  It is not simply sinning in ignorance, or sinning in a moment of weakness, that destroys our life-giving relationship with God. We need not live our lives in fear of the consequences of past mistakes and failures that we make along the way.  We need not live lives of anxiety or worry that maybe we’re not doing enough or being good enough to warrant a continued walk with God. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NASB).  Jesus wants us to walk with Him in the joy and confidence of knowing that, if our faith in Him and love for Him is real, our relationship with Him is secure.

However, what is so dangerous and even destructive to our Christian faith is the CONTINUAL PRACTICE of sin because, as the Book of Hebrews has just told us, sin can harden people’s hearts; so much so that, eventually, they even give up their faith and turn away from Christ altogether. And it is for THIS reason that we as Christians should never relax our guard against the sin and iniquity that assails us. Rather, we must pursue sanctification.  That is, we must prepare ourselves for the struggles that lie before us and strive to make holy living a priority in our lives; because this sinful world all around us can be very pervasive. Consider these warnings from scripture:

And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.  Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.  You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.  No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.  Little children, make sure no one deceives you; the one who PRACTICES righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who PRACTICES sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.  No one who is born of God PRACTICES sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.  By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious:  anyone who does not PRACTICE righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother.

(I John 3:3-10, NASB)

The Apostle John teaches here that those who desire to be holy, and who claim to be children of God, cannot make a practice of sinning any longer; as habitual sin is the practice of a child of the devil, while the pursuit of holiness is the practice of a child of God. Note, again, that John is talking about a “lifestyle” here. He is contrasting the perpetual practice of sin and iniquity as opposed to a lifestyle of pursuing sanctification.

Because none of us can ever claim to be sinless, we need to understand that practicing righteousness, or pursuing sanctification, involves acknowledging our weaknesses and failures, admitting that we stumble and fall short of God’s glory, and confessing our sins to God whenever we do stumble and fall short of His glory; rather than trying to deny our sins, or hide them, or make excuses and justify them so that we can continue to embrace them and practice sin.  A person is not practicing righteousness or pursuing sanctification if they are full of “self-righteousness,” or if they are convinced that they have no sin; and therefore, they cannot, or will not, confess their sins to God.

God knows our hearts, and what He requires from us is an authentic, heartfelt commitment to holiness—to the pursuit of sanctification.  The Apostle Peter admonishes us, saying:

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

(I Peter 1:14-16, NASB)

The way we act, the things we say and do, the stands we take or refuse to take, and especially the way we treat other people, reveals our faith and allegiance to Christ and our love for God. That’s why Jesus says, “I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds” (Revelation 2:23, NASB).

We are not fooling the Lord by professing one thing while practicing another.  And, you know what, there is no “middle ground” with regard to our commitment to Him:  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot.  So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16, NASB).

So, while it is true that all people are weak at times, that we all stumble and fall along the way and, therefore, cannot claim to be without sin; still, we must decide which path we are going to follow—do we want to walk in LOVE – and pursue the path of light, holiness, faithfulness, and commitment to righteousness, or do we choose to pursue the path of darkness, wickedness, selfishness, sinful indulgence, and habitual rebellion toward God.  Jesus said: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14, NASB).

In closing, I want us to look at one more passage of scripture from the book of Revelation; and, this time, Jesus is speaking to the Christians who lived in the city of Smyrna.  He says:

 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.  Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.

(Revelation 2:10-11, NIV)

Walking in love – love for God and love toward others – is not always going to be easy; in fact, it may even cost us, dearly. But what we stand to gain by seeking to please God and being a part of His forever family is far greater, in light of eternity, than the temporary struggles we may have to endure in this life or any sacrifices we may have to make. If we choose to pursue sanctification and remain committed to Christ, even to the point of death, should it ever come to that, then we will have nothing to fear on that great day when all will stand before God in judgment.

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References:

Merriam-Webster. (2021). Sanctify. In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary.  Retrieved from http://www.merriam-webster.com/ dictionary/sanctify

Scripture taken from:

THE NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963,  1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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Copyright © 2021 Salty Sails

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