Avoid The Exit Ramps

I’ve been trying to practice mindfulness and meditation in an attempt to be more present in the moment and bring some order to my scattered thoughts. My mind wanders a lot, so I find it useful to pick something to focus on. Sometimes it’s a sound, sometimes it’s my breath, and sometimes it’s a scripture. Earlier this week, it was this one:

Your word is a lamp to my feet,
and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105, WEB

It’s a short verse, but not nearly as simple as it seems on first glance. If you need a lamp for your feet and a light for your path, that implies the world around you is dark. A light’s going to keep you from stumbling over obstacles or straying off-track. It’ll let you see where you’re going. If the path branches, a light’s going to give you clarity in figuring out which way to go. That’s what God’s word does for us. It helps us avoid going off the one Way that leads to eternal life. It provides clear vision in a dark world that offers many branching paths.

Just One Path to Life

Our life with God is often described as a “walk” or a “race” that follows a specific way/path. That path is surrounded by many others that the world offers us, and it’s not the easiest of the paths to spot. Alternative paths–which all lead to death since they’re not heading toward God–are often eye-catching, wide enough to see easily, and broad enough to fit many people. In contrast, the way of the Lord is one that’s easily overlooked.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

Matthew 7:13-14, NET

Jesus’s sacrifice opened the way to salvation for all people. He and the Father want everyone to be saved and choose eternal life. At the same time, They also tell us that only a few people find this path. We’re also warned that once They open our eyes to see where and how we should walk, we need to do our part to stay on the straight and narrow.

I chose the title “Avoid The Exit Ramps” for this post because once we’re on this path, God intends for us to stay there. We might veer off into one ditch or another, but when we turn to Him with repentance and ask for help He puts us back on track. He also promises that no one who follows Him will be snatched away by some outside force (John 6:37; 10:28-29; Phil. 1:6). The only way for us to get off this path is by our own doing; we can choose to take an exit ramp and reject what God started in our lives (Heb. 6:4-6; 10:26-31; 12:25).

Not to the Right or Left

One of the instructions given to ancient Israel over and over again was not to turn from God’s way to the right nor to the left (Deut. 5:32; 28:13-15). It’s something Moses warned them they needed to be careful about and Joshua echoed that instruction again near the end of his life after Israel entered the promised land.

Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that you not turn away from it to the right hand or to the left; that you not come among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow down yourselves to them; but hold fast to Yahweh your God, as you have done to this day.

Joshua 23:6-8, WEB

Wavering, doubt, exploring other paths–all of that is dangerous and God’s people should avoid it. That same warning applies to judges, leaders, and kings (Deut. 17:11,18-20; Josh. 1:7). Everyone, small and great, is expected to follow God’s straight and narrow path. We’re supposed to be like the righteous king Josiah, who “did that which was right in Yahweh’s eyes, and walked in all the way of David his father, and didn’t turn away to the right hand or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2, WEB).

When we look at the paths we have opportunity to walk down, it looks like we have a lot of different options. There’s really only two, though: “the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace” (Rom. 8:6, NET). The adversary gives us lots of options, but God keeps things simple and only gives us one. “Walk with me,” He says. “Follow me.” (Matt. 16:24; John 10:27; 12:26; Rev. 3:4).

Image of a man's and little boy's feet walking down a path, with text from John 8:12, NET version: “Then Jesus spoke out again, ‘I am the light of the world! The one who follows me will never walk in 
darkness, but will have the light of life.’”
Image by Olya Adamovich from Pixabay

Mercy and Guidance When We’re Confused

You might already be thinking of all the times when you have turned away from God’s laws, veering off the path into some ditch or another. It might have been a mistake or a result of ignorance. Sometimes we’re like the people of Nineveh who realized they were doing something wrong only after God told them He planned to destroy them. That city was given a reprieve when God chose mercy for those “who can’t discern between their right hand and their left hand” (Jonah 4:10-11). We live in a confusing world, and sometimes its hard to know what to do. There are also times when we just might not have the understanding or the facts needed to make a correct decision.

Other times, though, we’re more like stubborn ancient Israel. Sometimes individuals and even whole church groups become “a rebellious people, lying children, children who will not hear Yahweh’s law; who tell the seers, ‘Don’t see!’ and the prophets, ‘Don’t prophesy to us right things. Tell us pleasant things. Prophesy deceits. Get out of the way. Turn away from the path. Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us’” (Isaiah 30:10-11, WEB). God has a plan for fixing that, too. If we keep reading in Isaiah 30, we find this:

For thus said the Lord Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel, “You will be saved in returning and rest. Your strength will be in quietness and in confidence.” You refused, but you said, “No, for we will flee on horses;” therefore you will flee; and, “We will ride on the swift;” therefore those who pursue you will be swift. One thousand will flee at the threat of one. At the threat of five, you will flee until you are left like a beacon on the top of a mountain, and like a banner on a hill.

Therefore Yahweh will wait, that he may be gracious to you; and therefore he will be exalted, that he may have mercy on you, for Yahweh is a God of justice. Blessed are all those who wait for him. For the people will dwell in Zion at Jerusalem. You will weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the voice of your cry. When he hears you, he will answer you. Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your teachers won’t be hidden any more, but your eyes will see your teachers; and when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way. Walk in it.”

Isaiah 30: 15-21, WEB

If you catch yourself going off track, stop. Return to God and rest in Him. Find strength in quietness and confidence that the Lord will help you walk in His ways and His word will light up the right path. We might not be there yet, but someday we’ll be teachers who can guide others (Heb.5:11-6:3), nudging them gently as we point out “This is the way. Walk in it.” And if we pay careful attention, we can feel God’s spirit nudging us like that now. Sometimes we’ll even hear it in advice from a fellow believer, a song on the radio, or a still small voice whispering into our heart as we pray.

We’re just a few short weeks away from Passover. This is traditionally a time of self-examination as we continue to grow and become more like Jesus. As we examine ourselves and work on becoming more like God, let’s keep coming back to God’s word for illumination and keep moving forward in the path that Jesus trailblazed for us (Heb. 2:10).

Featured image by Tabeajaichhalt from Pixabay

Song Recommendation: “Thy Word” by Amy Grant

Walk in the Way

“Walk” is an often used analogy for the Christian life. We talk about walking with Jesus and sing about walking in the light. Sometimes it becomes a sort of cute religious-speak phrase, using “walk of faith” as a metaphor for living as a Christian. But it’s also a description of a serious commitment. Two can’t walk together unless they’ve met and agreed to the walk (Amos 3:3). Walking in the Christian way means meeting and getting to know God, then agreeing to faithfully, absolutely follow the words and example of Jesus.

Closely related to walking is the notion of having a way of life. There’s a right way and many wrong ways to live, and those two options are described in the Bible as different “ways” (i.e. paths) where we can walk. This concept is so important that Christianity was called the Way throughout much of Acts (Acts 9:2; 16:17; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22).

Two Ways to Walk

Early in His ministry, Jesus talked about these two ways in His sermon on the Mount. As He offered reconciliation and relationship with God to humanity, He also laid out what God expects from people who want those things. We need to actively seek Him and choose to walk in His ways.

Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and there are few who find it!

Matt. 7:13-14, NET

This passage puts me in mind of one from Isaiah that counsels readers to “Seek the Lord while he makes himself available” (Is. 55:6, NET). There’s a sense of urgency here, urging us not to get distracted but to focus on seeking God now. Thankfully for us, He does a lot to make Himself accessible. Unfortunately, many people don’t find the way of life; they walked right by it even when Jesus was walking among them personally.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me?”

John 14:6-10, WEB

This conversation took place a few years after the sermon we just quoted, at His last Passover with His disciples. Here, Jesus got more specific about how to find the Way. He’s the one true Way to a relationship with the Father, and therefore to eternal life (John 17:3, see also Heb. 10:19-21). It’s not a complicated idea, but even so “there are few who find” the narrow way to life. Even the disciples like Philip took a long time to understand how this worked.

Walking with Jesus, Like Jesus

The ones who do find the Way and start down that path to eternal life begin a walk with Jesus that’s meant to be life-long. As John says, “he who says he remains in him ought himself also to walk just like he walked” (1 John 2:6, WEB). We want to be like the people Jesus talks about in the letter to Sardis who “didn’t defile their garments” and “will walk with me in white, for they are worthy” (Rev. 3:4, WEB). Jesus empowers us to walk with Him and in Him, as God has done with people throughout human history who respond to His call.

“I will strengthen them in Yahweh;
and they will walk up and down in his name,” says Yahweh.

Zechariah 10:12, WEB

For we are the temple of the living God, just as God said, “I will live in them and will walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.”

2 Corinthians 6:16, NET, referencing Lev. 26:12; and Ezk. 37:27

God wants to walk with us. He wants a relationship as we live our lives according to His ways. This is something He’s always wanted to have with His people, and accomplishing the reconciliation that makes such a walk possible is one reason Jesus came and died for our sins. We’re made holy so that we can walk with God, in the name of God.

How To Walk

So far, we’ve spoken in general terms about walking with God. We know this means walking in His ways and walking with Jesus. This gives us a pattern to follow–our walk imitates the way Jesus walked. The Bible also gives more specific instructions for how to walk which can help us understand exactly what walking like Jesus means in our day-to-day lives.

In light

Walking in the light is the type of walk that shows up most often in scripture. Psalm 119:105 praises the Lord saying, “Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light for my path” (WEB). Isaiah calls for people to “come, and let’s walk in the light of Yahweh” (Is. 2:5, WEB). He also prophesied Jesus coming as a Light to the world (Is. 9:2); a title Jesus connected with our ability to walk in the light rather than in darkness (John 8:12; 11:9-10; 12:35). Similarly, Paul instructs us to “Walk as children of light” because the Lord has called us out of darkness (Eph. 5:8, WEB). God’s word is a light to show us the right way to walk. He Himself is also Light, and that’s supposed to show up in how we walk as well.

If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

1 John 1:6-7, NET
In integrity

Closely related to walking in the Light is the notion of walking with integrity. In this section, I’ve also included passages that tell us to walk with uprightness and to walk in the Lord’s commands since those ideas are so connected. Psalms and Proverbs highlight this idea more than any other section of the Bible (Ps. 101:2, 6; 119:35; Prov. 4:14; 8:20; 14:2; 19:1; 28:6, 18, 26). Walking with a mindfulness of the Lord’s commands and a commitment to doing the best we can to follow Jesus’s perfect example of blameless integrity is key to our ongoing Christian walk.

(Now this is love: that we walk according to his commandments.) This is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning; thus you should walk in it.

2 John 1:6, NET
In the spirit

For New Testament believers, walking in the Light and following the commands of God with integrity also involves walking in the spirit. We’re to keep the law not with a rote, outward sort of obedience but with obedience that comes out of a heart changed by the Spirit of God working in us. It’s a fulfilment of prophecies where the Lord said, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes” (Ezk. 36:26-27, WEB). Now, those who belong to Jesus walk in the Spirit (2 Cor. 12:17-18; Gal. 5:16-17, 24-25).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who don’t walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law couldn’t do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God did, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh; that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Rom. 8:1-4, WEB
In love

As we walk in the Light and in the Spirit, keeping God’s word with integrity, His character traits become more and more a part of us. One of those most important character traits is love (1 John 4:8, 16), and so it’s not surprising to find that love is the most excellent way to walk (1 Cor. 12:31-13:13). It involves walking according to His commandments (Deut. 10:12-13; 2 John 1:6) and it’s preeminent among other instructions such as putting on compassion, kindness, and humility (Col. 3:12-17).

Be therefore imitators of God, as beloved children. Walk in love, even as Christ also loved us and gave himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling fragrance.

Ephesians 5:1-2, WEB

Walking Fearlessly with God

There’s one final thing I want to mention about walking with God. When we’re walking in God’s ways, it affects not only the way we live our lives but also the way we experience life. There’s power, security, and peace that comes along with walking in the ways of the Lord even if we’re “walking” through physical dangers (Ps. 138:7; Is. 40:31).

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me.
Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4, WEB

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you,
and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned,
and flame will not scorch you.

Isaiah 43:2, WEB

When we’re walking with God, we can walk without fear no matter what’s going on in the world around us. We can walk knowing that He is traveling alongside us. We can walk with strength to face whatever comes, as well as wisdom, integrity, love, and light. Walking in the Way of God benefits us in incredible ways that reach beyond this life we’re living right now.

Featured image by SplitShire from Pixabay

Song Recommendation: “Walk in the Light” Ted Pearce