Part 4 – What are we to do?
CHAPTER 5 – Living The Christian Life continued…
Our Conduct Or Behavior As Believers
The Christian life is
A WALK, A RACE, A WARFARE, FRUITFUL,
A LIFE OF PEACE, A REST, A LIFE OF PRAYER.
WALKING DEPENDS ON GROWING
Just as a newborn baby does not begin to walk in the natural realm, so a newborn believer in Christ may not be able to walk in the Spirit in regard to the spiritual realm. (At the time of the new birth, the new believer is initially filled with the Spirit, Eph. 5:18.) Of necessity, there is a growth process that will, in time, permit the believing child of God to be able to walk in the Spirit consistently.
This spiritual growth process is emphasized in the letters of Peter and I, II, and III John, and is in Paul’s thinking in Philippians 2:10-14. In I Peter 2:2, it says, As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that ye may grow by it. Thus, the first thing a babe in Christ needs is not to walk, but to be nourished through the milk of the Word, that is, through those things that he is able to understand that will begin his growth in spiritual living. (It is recommended that the reading of the Gospel of John or the Gospel of Mark be his starting point.)
The milk, which is spiritual food to the newborn believer, will be those initial truths gained from reading the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit gives the newborn believer enlightenment. It may be minimal at the first reading, but each time a particular gospel is read, more truth will be understandable. Thus, the believer begins to grow through the reading of God’s Word and eventually will move beyond the milk state, i.e., to the basics of faith.
Next, then, in I John 2:12-14, the Apostle John indicates there are three additional levels of growth in the spiritual life of the believer. John speaks of little children (v. 12,13), young men (v. 13,14), and fathers (v. 13,14).
It would be expected that when a person is past the level of only the milk stage of nourishment in God’s Word, he is able to feed on solid food, to walk, and to talk, thus moving from infancy to young childhood. Note Paul’s warning to the Corinthians in I Corinthians 3:1-4, of the failure that they had experienced of remaining as babes (which is carnality), when they could and should have been beyond that stage at the time he was writing to them. A similar condition is dealt with by the writer of Hebrews 5:11-13, which further states that everyone that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness. We see, therefore, that as a person is encouraged to begin his spiritual growth by feeding on God’s Word, the Bible, he will eventually be able to be skillful in the principle of righteousness, including that principle in the manner in which he is to live. The idea of “feeding” on God’s Word comes from two Scripture verses, Matthew 4:4, where Jesus said, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, and Jeremiah 15:16,
Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart; for I am called by Thy name, O LORD God of hosts.
“Feeding” includes reading the Bible, studying it, and integrating its truths into one’s daily living. A person who fails to develop such skills will remain a babe, and thus may never walk.
On the other hand, Hebrews 5:14 says,
But solid food belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
There can be no stronger reason given why the believer should want to grow spiritually than to be able to experience the blessing of a mature life of freedom from sin’s mastery and the joy of experiencing righteous living. The same Word, which serves as milk to babes in Christ, now becomes solid food to the person who is able, in time, to gain discernment between good and evil because the Word of God has provided him with that ability. Thus, he is allowing the righteousness which is spoken of in Scripture to be the standard for him to determine the good or evil of his behaviour.
As a young child begins walking, he may stumble time and time again, but the excitement of being able to move from one place to another prevails over any feeling of frustration or futility in his attempts. How clearly this should speak to the child of God to pursue his opportunity to walk in the Spirit with great diligence and not to be discouraged because of any times of stumbling. I John 1:7 is pertinent in regard to this need:
But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.
In this Scripture, we are shown that our part is to walk in the light, that is, in the way which is God’s way, the way that is in agreement with God’s character as the light (See v. 5.).
Even as the child of God walks in the light, there is need for the cleansing blood of Christ (I Jn. 1:7), because the person will become cognizant that sins occur and that he does not walk perfectly. The cleansing is God’s part, and it is applied when the individual is aware of the presence of sin in the course of his walk and confesses the sin as sin. Thus, I John 1:9 assures us,
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Again, we can see the part the individual must do, confess his sins. To confess is to say the same thing as God does regarding each act of sin – calling each sin, sin. Confession involves more than just saying mere words. It is an honest admission that we agree with God in what He regards as sin. Confession allows that which was already accomplished at the cross by Jesus’ shed blood to restore the repentant person to fellowship with God, and to walk in the light, I John 1:7. Confessing does not mean asking for forgiveness. God will be faithful to forgive if we confess. Therefore, in his Christian “walk”, the child of God can focus his attention on his walking, dealing immediately with sins as they occur, and continue walking without experiencing long times of grieving because of stumbling.
Once a person begins the walk in the Spirit and continues in it consistently, he will recognize that growth is taking place, and he moves from spiritual childhood (I Jn. 2:12,13) to being a young man. Whereas “children” are identified as those whose sins are forgiven (v. 12), and those who have known the Father (v. 13), the “young men” are those who have overcome the wicked one (v. 13) because they are strong and the Word of God is abiding in them (v. 14).
“Fathers,” who have been most experienced in walking, are identified in verses 13 and 14 as those that have known Him that is from the beginning. The significance in this phrase seems to refer to God as eternal. Those who have much experience of walking with God are able to relate to God as the One who is eternal. They have an understanding of God’s ways, which ways go beyond time and are unchanging. “Fathers” are the ones best able to nurture and parent the “little children” and to give stability to the zeal and courage of the “young men”.
Next Week: Part Five continued: Scriptures regarding the Walk of Believers in Christ
Copyright © 1996 A. Ward Brandenstein
Used with permission.
A. Ward Brandenstein
Pastor Ward earned an M.A. in Guidance and Counselling from Eastern Michigan University after taking special courses in psychology at Wayne State University, and earned a Bachelor of Theology (Th.B.) from Baptist Bible College and Seminary with Greek and Hebrew studies, and earned a diploma from Philadelphia Bible Institute (now Cairn U.), including New Testament Greek studies. His knowledge of the Bible and close walk with God are appreciated by all who know him and have sat under his teaching. Pastor Brandenstein and his wife Rose Ann reside in California, teaching college level singles and married couples, young professionals, and retired pastors and missionaries.