My wife Tammy and I have just returned to our home, which is being remodeled, after being away for three weeks. We’ve never been away from our home for nearly that amount of time. During that time, we spent time in five cities in three different states. We both enjoy comfort and control, and this period (as well as the half-finished remodeled home we returned to), has definitely moved us out of our comfort zone.
One of the things I enjoy is taking long walks. For example, I walk about seven miles with my friend Neil each Wednesday morning on our local trail. In each of the locations we visited recently, I had a chance to enjoy long walks. Those walks took me past a beautiful lake, down an isolated unpaved country road, through a friendly neighborhood where everyone waved as you walked or drove by, and the entertainment district of a large city. Thinking about my walks, and the diverse places where my legs have taken me over such a short period of time, led me to think about my own Christian walk.Even though I have been saved by Christ and my eternal destiny is secure, my Christian walk still has ups and downs, as I’m sure that yours does as well. In some ways becoming a Christian is like taking a walk. You start out fresh and strong, full of energy, reading your Bible and having prayer time daily, going to church on a regular basis, but soon you get tired and the spiritual disciplines which once brought you joy now feel like a burden.
Becoming a Christian does not mean that all of your problems instantly go away, as I remember hearing some evangelists say. In fact, it wasn’t until I became a believer that I realized just how sinful I was. Prior to being saved, I used to think I was a pretty decent guy. I would compare myself to others and think “I don’t do that”, and “I’ve never done that”, and think I was just fine; that I was better than most people. But as I read the Bible, I realized that God’s standard is much higher than mine was. God wants us to be holy, as He is holy. In the New Testament, Peter tells us:
But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15-16
One of the first books I read as a new believer was Jerry Bridges’ The Pursuit of Holiness. Bridges writes that “Holiness is not, as is so often thought, adherence to a set of rules. It is conformity to the character of God—nothing more, nothing less.” (Romans 8:29).
Theologians use the term “progressive sanctification” to describe the lifelong process by which we become holy. We could think of our Christian walk as our path toward this type of sanctification. Writer Joe Carter tells us that in progressive sanctification, the Holy Spirit exposes our sin so that we may recognize and turn away from it, illuminates Scripture so that we may understand its meaning, and also helps us to see the glory of Christ.
Matthew, in his gospel, tells us:
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48
The writer of Hebrews tells us:
Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14
You may think that being holy or perfect is an impossible task for you, and of course you are correct. As sinners, we cannot by ourselves live holy lives; we should strive to, through dying to self and spiritual disciplines such as prayer and Bible reading, church attendance, and communion. But as much as we want to live a holy life and be obedient to the Lord – because of our love for Him, and for what He has already done for us, not because we are trying to live a good life to earn His favor so that He will save us – we will always fail if we try to do it on our own. But there is the good news of the gospel, as Paul Tripp tells us, “Because of His grace, God appointed his perfect Son to be the perfect sacrifice for imperfect people. Because of His grace operating within us, we experience both the conviction of sin and a desire to live holy lives.”
So, until the Lord comes, we will continue our journey as imperfect sinners, experiencing both success and setbacks in our Christian walks, being empowered by the Holy Spirit. Like the Apostle Paul, let us “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14). Let us be able to say as he did as he was coming to the end of his walk:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
So, I’ll finish by asking “How is your Christian walk is going?”