The Christian Walk: Lesson 2 – How Not to Walk part 1

The Christian Walk: Lesson 2

Part 1: How Not to Walk

We’ll begin our study of the Christian walk with an examination of how not to walk. The Bible tells us both how to live and how not to live. We’ll start with the negative first—how not to walk as a Christian. The Bible presents many examples and admonitions to avoid walking in certain ways.

  1. Do Not Walk in the Way of the Ungodly
    1. Texts: Lev 18:3, 20:23; 1 Kings 16:31; 2 Chron 28:2; Ps 1:1; Prov 1:10-15; Isa 8:11; Ezek 11:12
    2. Principles
      1. A significant difference should exist between the walk of the Christian and the walk of the surrounding pagans. Christians are not supposed to imitate the lifestyle of the wicked. Believers must not adopt or adapt to the “statutes” or rules of living the heathen follow. God abhors the corrupt behavior of the wicked, and we should, too.

Jer 10:2Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way [lit. “path, road; i.e., manner of life] of the heathen …

  1. It is not a trivial thing to live like the pagans. God hates idolatry, which is what Jeroboam promoted in Israel. The idols of the heathen should hold no attraction for us. Cf. 2 Cor 6:14-18
  2. The person who wants God’s blessing must reject the lifestyle of the wicked. He does not go to them for advice, participate with them in their sinful activities, or become like them in their attitude. Those who accept the counsel of the wicked eventually start living like them and end up being one of them. This is the danger of trying to adapt secular thinking into a biblical/Christian worldview (cf. how evolutionary and psychological ideas slowly creep into Christian thinking). Conformity to the wicked world leads to corruption (cf. 1 Cor 15:33).
  3. Christians must not yield to the enticements that the wicked use to entrap the unwary. Wickedness may look appealing, but the Christian must keep his foot from that path. Those who follow the wicked into their sin will find that “the way of transgressors is hard” (Prov 13:15).
  4. The ungodly world seeks to conform everyone to its own viewpoint and lifestyle. As our society becomes increasingly pagan/heathen, we must progressively distance ourselves from its evil influence and refuse to be forced into its mold (cf. Rom 12:2). Our delight should be in the law of the Lord (Ps 1:2), not in the lifestyles of the rich and famous (and wicked).

Question: Are we advocating Christian isolationism or a fortress mentality where we separate ourselves completely from unbelievers? No, we are to be separate from sin yet still be salt and light, in the world but not of the world. We have to shine as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, holding forth the word of life (Phil 2:15-16). Jesus never avoided contact with sinners and neither should we. However, we must not allow the ungodly to influence us for evil.

  1. Do Not Walk in Darkness
    1. Texts: Ps 82:5; Prov 2:13; Ecc 2:14; John 8:12, 11:10; 1 John 1:6; 2:11
    2. Principles
      1. Darkness in the Bible is a metaphor representing sin, corruption, and falsehood. Light, of course, signifies truth, godliness, and the presence of spiritual life. Darkness is the absence of light and the opposite of light.
      2. To “walk in the light” implies living in fellowship with God (i.e., spiritual life [regeneration]), leading a godly life, seeking to follow Christ, and living righteously.
      3. To “walk in darkness/night” implies living in sin and/or believing error (i.e., failure to walk in light and truth). Rejecting the truth leads to accepting falsehood. Those walking in darkness do not understand; their eyes are blind and they fail to see reality. Walking in darkness results in “stumbling” (John 11:10), i.e., error, falsehood, and destruction. Essentially, walking in darkness implies spiritual death (“no light”) because of rejecting the light of the world, Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:19-20).
      4. Paul affirms that “the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not” (2 Cor 4:4). “Our adversary, the devil” (1 Pet 5:8) is doing everything he can to keep unbelievers shrouded in the darkness of sin and enslaved to sin (Rom 6:16). Unbelievers walk in darkness because they are ignorant and deceived.
      5. Those professing faith in Christ, yet habitually walking in darkness, are deceived and do not possess genuine salvation. The biblical expectation for believers is that they walk in the light (1 John 1:5f) and produce good fruit (Mt 7:17). If one continues to live like an unbeliever (i.e., in darkness), he is not converted, no matter what he may profess about Jesus.
      6. Those professing Christ must not live like unbelievers. The darkness of sin, ignorance, and error must not characterize the life of a Christian. John mentions the particular sin of hating one’s brother (1 John 2:11) as an evidence of walking in darkness (i.e., spiritual death). Hatred for others is incompatible with genuine Christianity. A lifestyle of unrepentant, habitual sin denies “the light of the glorious gospel of Christ” (2 Cor 4:4).
  1. Do Not Walk After The Flesh
    1. Texts: Deut 29:19; Job 31:7; Ps 81:12;Isa 65:2;Jer 7:24, 13:10,18:12; Rom. 8:1, 4; 1 Cor 3:3; 2 Cor 5:7; 2 Pet 2:10, 3:3; Jude 16, 18
    2. Principles
      1. Do not walk according to the sinful inclinations of the flesh.
        1. The “flesh” in the Bible can signify the natural human body, but in many cases, the reference is to the sinful human nature, i.e., “unredeemed humanness.”[1] The flesh is the nature of humankind, apart from the supernatural influences of the Holy Spirit.[2] Walking according to the flesh, then, means allowing one’s corrupt, selfish, unredeemed human appetites to control his behavior. Living according to the flesh signifies an immoral lifestyle (often with connotations of sexual sin).

b)  Paul lists the “works of the flesh” in Gal 5:19-21 and describes what it means to live according to the flesh in Rom 8:4-6, 12-13. No one habitually living according to these descriptions is saved.

c)  Is it possible for a Christian to live according to the flesh? In certain ways, yes, at least temporarily. Scriptural admonitions not to live according to the flesh would be meaningless otherwise. Anytime we behave according to the lusts of the “old man” instead of the godly inclinations of the “new man” (Eph 4:22-24), we are walking according to the flesh. If we persist in living according to the flesh, it proves that our salvation is invalid (cf. Rom 8:7-9).

Note: Some conceive of three categories of human existence:[3] 1) Unbelievers are “natural,” i.e., without spiritual life; 2) New believers or immature believers are “carnal”; 3) Mature believers are “spiritual.” Those living in carnality have never matured as Christians and should not be held to the same standards as those who have become “spiritual.” They continue to live much like the surrounding pagan world, yet they should be thought of as genuine believers.

In reality, only two divisions exist among people. Men are saved or lost, sheep or goats, wheat or tares, light or darkness, etc. The true division is between spiritual man (saved) and natural man (unsaved). To describe a group of bickering, bitter Christians as “carnal” is not to establish a new sub-category of Christian existence. Christians may behave like unbelievers in certain cases, and for that they deserve sharp rebuke. But we should not see “carnal” as a label excusing Christians from biblical standards.

By describing believers as “carnal,” Paul is using strong language to force his readers to face up to the inherent inconsistency of their position. They have the Spirit, but at this junction they are neither thinking nor acting as if they do.[4]

We certainly acknowledge that among believers, some are “babes” while others are spiritually mature in the faith. We expect to see different degrees of progress in believers’ Christian experience (i.e., their walk). But those living a habitually ungodly lifestyle must not excuse themselves with the thought that they are merely carnal Christians. If someone exhibits no evidence of regeneration, his condition is not “carnal,” it is “natural,” i.e., unsaved.

d)  Walking “after the flesh” is contrasted in the Bible with walking “in/after the Spirit” (cf. Rom 8:4). You can’t do both. You either follow your own depraved heart or follow the Holy Spirit. Christians strive to bring greater areas of their lives under the Spirit’s control and to give in less frequently to the lust of the flesh.

  1. Do not follow your corrupt heart.

a)                  The biblical writers describe this error as walking after the imagination of your own heart, walking in your own counsels, walking in your own thoughts, and walking after your own devices. In each case, the error is following the counsels of your own mind (rationalism) without considering God’s instructions.

b)                  What’s wrong with following your own heart? Jeremiah tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked” (i.e., terminally ill, Jer 17:9). The psalmist concludes, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Pr 28:26). One sign of a lost spiritual condition is the determination to go one’s own way like a dim-witted sheep (cf. Isa 53:6).

c)                  When one refuses to “retain God” in his knowledge, God in response gives him over to a reprobate mind (Rom 1:28). The natural inclination of a mind darkened by sin is to reject the Gospel as foolishness (1 Cor 1:18-21).

d)                 Following your own way amounts to rejecting the way of the Lord. One listens either to God or to the counsels of one’s own heart. One’s own way is the wide road that leads to destruction (Mt 7:13f). Believers are those who have left their own way, entered the narrow gate, and now walk along the narrow way that leads to life. Cf. Prov 3:5-6.

e)                  The Christian’s duty is to bring every thought under submission to the Lordship of Christ (2 Cor 10:5). The corrupt human heart will lead us astray. Our primary source of truth and wisdom is God’s Word.

  1. Do not walk by sight.

a)                  Don’t judge by external human senses alone. Our senses may give us an accurate picture of the physical world, but they cannot perceive spiritual things. Spiritual things are “spiritually discerned” (1 Cor 2:14). Our physical senses/feelings give us little insight into the invisible and eternal realm. Instead of trusting in our own senses or powers of discernment, we are to submit ourselves to Christ and his word.

b)                  Don’t judge by outward appearances. Man naturally looks at the outward appearance (cf. 1 Sam 16:7; 2 Cor 10:7), but looks can be deceiving. Satan himself may appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:14). External appearance (grace, beauty) is far less important than inner character (cf. Prov 31:30).

c)                  Don’t be materialistic. Walking by sight amounts to following the “lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16). Many things appeal to our sight, and many people pursue such things. The objects we can see often deceive us and provide no lasting satisfaction.

d)                 Don’t focus on the things of this world. Instead of loving the world and the things of it, we must focus on eternal realities, the “things above” (Col 3:1-3).

[1] The MacArthur Topical Bible

[2] Wesley L. Gerig

[3] Popularized by Lewis Sperry Chafer’s book He That Is Spiritual, 1918.

[4] D. A. Carson 1—WTJ 54 (Spring 1992) 1-29

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