Do You Walk the Christian Walk?
“By this we may be sure that we are in Him: he who says he abides in Him ought to walk in the same way in which He walked.” 1 John 2: 5-6
There’s an analogy that we use today for applying a test to people who claim to be something that they are not. We say, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s a duck.” Jesus said essentially the same thing but from a different analogy when He said something along these lines: “You will know a tree by its fruit.” Here’s the quote from Matthew:
“You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit.” Matthew 7:16-17
People can claim to be followers of Christ, but the true test of Christianity is not in the words that people speak, but in their actions. It is a good saying that “actions speak louder than words.” Even here, though, we must also be careful to test for the right actions. Some of us have been fooled by smiling faces and a lot of religious, ceremonial activities that equates to external fluff. The real litmus test is a person’s actions when under the pressures and duress of life, when their real character is exposed, internally, whether they are truly walking in love.
The fruit we are looking for is love; and this is clearly indicated in the Scriptures as the true test of being a Christian. The Epistle of 1 John is explicit on this topic. Consider the following portions from that letter:
“He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness still. He who loves his brother abides in the light and in it there is no cause for stumbling.” 1 John 2: 9-10
“For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, and not like Cain who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous. Do not wonder, brethren, that the world hates you. We know that we have passed out of death into life because we love the brethren. He who does not love remains in death. Any one who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” 1 John 3: 11 – 16
“Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the expiation (atonement or satisfaction) for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No man has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us. 1 John 4: 7 – 12
“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” 1 John 4: 20 – 21
At this point I would like to make it clear that not only do we need to be aware of those who falsely claim to be Christians, but perhaps more importantly, we need to look to ourselves and make sure that we are continuing to produce the required fruit in our own lives. Consider this exhortation from Paul in his letter to the Corinthian church:
“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are holding to your faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” 2 Cor. 13: 5
We are first and foremost responsible for our own growth in love. We must be careful about how we judge others for in so doing we may bring a greater condemnation upon ourselves. Jesus addressed this problem:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7: 1-5
We must remember also that there is a direct correlation between walking in love and not having sin in our lives. It’s this: if we are truly walking in love, then we will not be in sin, because sin is an offense against love. In other words, if we have sin in our lives then it is an indication that we are not perfected in love. All of God’s commandments and regulations that expose sin are summed up, or completely covered, in these two commandments: to love God with all of your being, and to love your neighbor as yourself.
“And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, to test Him, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ and He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” Matthew 22: 36-40
“The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” Romans 13: 8-10
Unfortunately, there is a very serious problem surrounding this situation, and that is, that we may sincerely desire to love and to be perfected in love, but we cannot just will ourselves to do this. No matter how strong our will power and how deeply we are committed to walking in love, we will find that it is impossible to accomplish this in our own strength.
The reason for this has been revealed in the Scriptures. I’ll sum it up like this: Love is spiritual, therefore, we must be spiritual to love. And now we run into our next issue, to define what it means to be spiritual, for there are many who consider themselves to be spiritual, but they are not walking in love. I therefore must be specific and say that I mean we must be spiritual in a Biblical sense, as defined in the Bible. We must take on a spiritual nature as defined in the Bible to be the very nature of God as revealed in the life and nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, who was sent by God the Father for this purpose, to expose and define the very nature of God, which is one of love. The Scriptures indicate that this spirituality is an internal occurrence. It is a mindset and involves the way that we think.
“Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 2: 14-16
When we as true Christians die with Jesus Christ to this world, as symbolized by our baptism when immersed under water joining in His death, we are then raised with Him to new life as spiritual beings with our focus now on heaven and eternal life, considering ourselves to be children of the living God and as citizens of the new kingdom where Jesus is Lord and King. When we die to this world, shifting our hope and focus towards heaven, we can then also put to death our fleshly desires that had been focused on the things of this world. We must then continue in this work of death to our flesh and death to this world, and then focus our life towards heaven and the spiritual things. This inner transformation (or conversion) is the key to becoming spiritual and therefore is the key to being able to walk in love.
Paul’s letter to the Colossians explains this need for us to die to this world, setting our minds on things above, and then to put to death the things in our lives that are tied to this world:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, among whom you also once walked, when you lived in these things. But now put away also all these: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3: 1-10
It is very important that we don’t lose sight of the goal of walking in love, and that we recognize that God has made a way for us to reach this goal through the life that we have been given in Christ Jesus. Let’s not take for granted this great privilege we have of knowing God and of being offered a promised future in heaven, sharing in His glory as His children.
Love is the goal and the Holy Spirit has explicitly defined this love for us in the Bible so that we are without excuse. I will end with this beautiful chapter on love from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians:
“ If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13