When we think about our walk with God, it is important to remember both our position in Christ and our relationship with Christ. Salvation makes us secure in our position: “We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). But our walk with God is a matter of our ongoing relationship with Him: “For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication” (1 Thes. 4:3). So our walk with God will center largely on how we respond to His instructions as believers. John said to the elect lady, “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is his commandment, that, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it” (2 Jn. 6).
Our walk with Christ is set in a larger theological picture in Scripture. Human beings were the only creatures made in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:26). When Adam and Eve fell into sin, though they retained their image of God as human beings, they were separated from God and became dead in trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1). This deathly separation is passed on to all of their posterity, even to you and me (Rom. 5:12). Unless our sins are forgiven, we will be separated from God forever in the lake of fire. But the wonderful good news (i.e., the “gospel”) is that through faith in Christ and His righteousness we can be born again and have our standing with God restored (John 3:1-5).
But the problem with our walk with God is that we still must pay our last debt to sin and die in this flesh, even though we are alive in our spirit to God. Therefore though we are made right with Him, we are still broken until resurrection day when we will be raised incorruptible. The walk that we seek in our lives takes place during this time of having a secure position in Christ while also needing a progressive relationship with Him, “For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
We still live in an industrial age. We are used to having machines of various sorts that do things for us, even if that is a computer or smart phone that gives us information. The last hundred years and more have been an amazing time to be alive and see what man can do and build. The danger, of course, is that man also built the tower of Babel as a monument to himself rather than to his Creator. Machines, however, do not run themselves. They need power. (As a note, seeds, which only God can make, receive power from their Creator and grow on their own, so to speak). The wheel might be called the first machine. But without power the wheel is just an odd shaped hunk of material. One might as well make a square wheel if there is no power to make it move. A wagon with wheels needs someone or something to pull or push it. Now a so-called self-powered mobile machine like a car (an “auto-mobile”) is also a hunk of material unless it has a powerful battery to start it and gasoline to maintain it. An electric motor must also have a power source for its plug or it is of no use.
So it is with human beings. Because we are made in the image and likeness of God, we need to be powered by Him or we are spiritually dead. But even if we have been made alive in Him, we also need a maintenance schedule or we will run down and stop.
The power to run
Human beings are amazing creatures. Even people who are not born again have been able to accomplish magnificent things because God has made all of us to “have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Gen. 1:26). God has even allowed us to make machines that fly like birds, that swim like fish, that soar into outer space, that climb into the human body and repair the tiniest things that are broken. We are amazing creatures.
But God says that these human beings are “dead.” They are doing all of this while “dead.” The day Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree they “died.” How is this so? Death is always a separation. On that day Adam died spiritually. He was separated from his fellowship with God and became “dead in trespasses and sins.” This kind of death can only be remedied by a new birth, a new creation created in Christ Jesus. Adam also began to die physically because of sin. This is why every person who lives will also die. This death is a separation of the spirit from the body. “Then shall the dust return unto the earth as it was, and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” (Ecc. 12:7). The only remedy for this kind of death will be resurrection. The final death is an eternal separation from God in the lake of fire. This separation can never be undone.
The human being who is unsaved and dead spiritually, has not yet died physically or eternally. Therefore he is capable of doing many wonderful things, even with his spiritual deadness. What he cannot do is worship God. He cannot experience fellowship with his Creator. He cannot enjoy Christian fellowship, prayer, singing, or even contemplation. He is unplugged from his spiritual power source. He can appear to have spiritual power for a short time but this will not last. It is hypocritical. The true state of powerlessness will eventually be made plain. He is like a man-made wind-up toy that can be wound up on its own, but it will only go so far and then have no ability to go further.
Looks can be deceiving
We are left on earth with two kinds of people: the natural man (1 Cor. 2:14) who is lost and without God’s power; and the spiritual man (1 Cor. 2:15) who is saved and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The natural man lives in the flesh but can occasionally appear to be a spiritual man. The spiritual man lives in the Spirit but can occasionally appear to be a natural man. Of course, the natural man (a lost man) only appears to be spiritual but is a hypocrite. We cannot help this man by trying to encourage him to live spiritually. He has no power to do that because he is dead to that kind of life. When he attempts to be spiritual, this is a manifestation of true legalism, a working of the flesh to be spiritual. At the same time, the spiritual man (a true believer) can be carnal because he still lives in the fleshly body which has not died and been resurrected. However, because he possesses the Spirit of God he can be encouraged to repent of his carnality and walk with God. A sign of a true believer is remorse for sin and repentance of known sin.
Looks can be deceiving because the natural man and the carnal Christian look exactly alike. They both have moments of spiritual works but they also have moments of carnality. Some natural people believe they are Christians and will say so, but many will not. We may preach godliness to both men for we are not sure which is which. But we know that the natural man who is playing the hypocrite will not be able to hear and the spiritual man can and should because he has God’s Spirit. Often the Spirit of God will use this kind of preaching to begin the conviction process toward salvation in the natural man.
I have two cars in my driveway. One has a battery in it and the other does not but my wife doesn’t know which is which. They are both beautiful machines and, if powered, are capable of wonderful things. I have keys to both and I let her choose which one she wants to drive and go out to start it. I could even laugh if she takes the wrong key because I know what will, or rather what will not, happen when she turns the key and expects it to run (If this were a true scenario the result might be my early demise!). The moral of the story is clear: we are fearfully and wonderfully made but without life from God, though we may look wonderful, we are dead in trespasses and sins. Yet with God’s power we can do great things.
Time to learn to drive
The true believer, our spiritual man, is secure in Christ because of his positional sanctification. But because he is capable of carnality he needs to practice ongoing or progressive sanctification. He looks forward to resurrection day when he will be made complete physically as well as spiritually, and he should because the Bible is full of such encouragements. Yet for the rest of his time on earth, living in an unresurrected body, though a secure child of God, he must work, war, and wait.
Our day of salvation is like the first day we get our driver’s license and we get into the driver’s seat of dad’s car. The car has power and we are legally ready to operate it, but it is a brand new experience for us. It takes some time to learn how to drive a car! (I know, we should have had driver’s education by now, but you get the point.) An accident could happen the first time we attempt to drive because we aren’t familiar with such a powerful machine.
In a believer’s life, tragic things can happen from bad theology or bad advice. A new believer has not had the time and experience necessary to walk the Christian life. He has all the power and the legal right to do it but he knows little or nothing of what the Bible says or how the Spirit works in his life. It is critical that he lives around spiritually minded and biblically grounded Christians and not around carnally minded ones. Seeing a new believer have an “accident” that could have been avoided is a sad thing. Learning to walk with God is not an instantaneous act. We start slowly, observe all the warning signs, and proceed with caution knowing that we are operating a wonderful life that God has given.
Time for maintenance
All machines need maintenance because man-made things wear down, grow old, and eventually quit. We eventually learn that we can slow this process down with added care and proper use of the machine. We’ve all seen an old ‘32 Ford, or some such car, sitting out in a farmer’s field red from rust but having the shape or resemblance of its glory days. It’s kind of beautiful but kind of sad. At the same time we may walk into a car museum and see a perfectly restored (or preserved) ‘32 Ford still in all its glory. What is the difference between the two? Maintenance! They were both made of the same material at the same time, they both had the same potential for long life but one got proper care and one did not.
An automobile will run for a long time without maintenance and can appear to be invincible. Gasoline is necessary but you can go hundreds of miles without worrying about it. Gas is the most constant form of maintenance and must be tended to on a regular basis. There is even a gauge on the dash and you ignore it to your own peril. In the Christian life we have those things that take constant maintenance. We must have fellowship with other believers who are in the body of Christ, the local church. We must begin to read our Bible and to go to God in prayer daily. Without these we will run out of spiritual gas.
Some things in a car take longer range maintenance. Oil, lubricants, and coolant will last a lot longer than a tank of gas, but they won’t last the length of the car’s life without updating. In fact, if the oil light or heat light comes on you may have already ruined the engine. One of the first things Jesus taught His disciples was the importance of the Lord’s Supper. We don’t do this on a daily basis like prayer and Bible reading, but it is absolutely necessary for our Christian life and longevity. We are only baptized once to show our faith in Christ but we cannot live in fellowship with God without that one-time action. There may be times of surrender to God that change your whole life’s direction. There are levels of learning that we pass and go on to higher things.
Some forms of maintenance may or may not come. These are repairs that must be made when something breaks. Unlike the other forms of maintenance, one car may break down while another never does. There are some breakdowns that could have been prevented with proper maintenance, and there are some breakdowns that we just couldn’t see coming. In the Christian life we are all prone to breakdowns. Proper maintenance on the periodic level will prevent most if not all of these. We are constantly attacked by Satan and his demons but constant fellowship with God will overcome that. We are continually lured away by the lusts of our flesh but constant Bible reading and prayer will give us strength to overcome them. The pride of life is built into our system and listening to the Holy Spirit will keep us humble.
The final restoration
The new believer needs to learn how to walk with God. Walking with God is an experience for the whole man, body and soul, the outside material person, and the inside immaterial person. Our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16, 6:19-20) and belong to God. God will one day reclaim even the body and resurrect it to incorruptible and immortal life (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Our spirits are also God’s (Col. 3:3-4) and we possess the Holy Spirit Who guides, convicts, warns, and teaches us on our way. When the body returns to the dust (at physical death), our spirits will go to be with God. This “intermediate state,” as it is called, will be a blessed experience also because we will be alive (Jesus said, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”) and enjoying the presence of the Lord though absent from the body (2 Cor. 5:8). Until then we must take care of the life that we have on this earth.
All people, lost or saved, will one day be reunited with a resurrected body and will live forever in heaven or hell. For the believer, this will be an existence with indescribable joy and blessedness. All of the difficulties of maintaining our walk with God in this life will be more than worth while.
And so . . .
We are fallible creatures. We are made in God’s image but fallen in sin and susceptible to all kinds of problems in this world. We do not work at walking with God in order to gain eternal life. We have that in Christ. Rather we learn that there is no greater joy for the believer than to maintain close fellowship with his Lord. John wrote, “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the father, and with his Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:4).
This fellowship requires regular maintenance on our part. This is not a legalistic work but a willing and rewarding work that results in the sweet fellowship with our Creator. May we continue in this great work of walking with God.