Walking with the Lord

By Pastor Doug Batchelor

An Amazing Fact: It took David Kunst from June 20, 1970, to October 5, 1974, to circumnavigate the globe—on foot. He went through 21 pairs of shoes walking 14,452 miles. On average, a person takes 7,000 to 8,000 steps a day, which would amount to approximately 2.5 million steps a year and 115,000 miles in a lifetime.

All that walking is sure to take you lots of places—but are you walking with God?

The Bible tells us, “He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Well, that doesn’t sound like just any walk. The verse isn’t necessarily talking about how far to walk or how fast to walk—it’s talking about how to walk, period.

In other words, the way I walk is the way I live. If I say I’m a Christian, then I should live like Christ. Jesus said, “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). The plainest way to put it is that we are to follow Christ. He said to those who would be His disciples, “Follow Me” (Luke 9:59).

So how do I do that? We’re going to look at what it realistically means to walk with God.

The Material World

Here are the common areas that usually make up a person’s life: work, relationships, food, sleep—not necessarily in that order. These are what seem to make our material world go around. And we do live in a material world; we are a consumer society. What’s the best car or phone or sofa to buy? What new product is the latest social media influencer pushing? Many are preoccupied with paying their mortgage, getting that promotion at work, saving for retirement. And these are not bad, per see.

But the citizens of heaven live by a different code. When Jesus was on earth, He didn’t live like we’d think the Son of God would have lived. He wasn’t a head of state; He wasn’t a wealthy investor; He didn’t even own a home. “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (v. 58), He said to a man who desired to follow Him wherever He went.

Our social construct dictates that as divinity on earth, Jesus would have been a Fortune 500 CEO, living on a private island, being served hand and foot, and traveling the world on a private jet. The reality is that Jesus had to borrow a donkey to get around (Matthew 21:2, 3) and a room for dinner (Luke 22:10–12)—even the manger in which He was placed as an infant belonged to the innkeeper’s animals (2:7). He was crucified on someone else’s cross (Mark 15:7–15); He was buried in someone else’s tomb (Matthew 27:57–60). He owned nothing save the clothes on His back, and even those were seized and gambled for as He hung dying upon the cross (John 19:23, 24).

The Savior didn’t come to earth to make people rich, no matter what some televangelists are preaching. The Bible says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19, 20).

In one instance, a rich and young ruler ran after Jesus and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). That’s the question every one of us should be asking.

In response, Jesus listed the section of the Ten Commandments pertaining to human relations. These are the six from the second table of testimony: “‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal’” (v. 19), and so on and so forth.

“Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth,” said the young man (v. 20). He knew about God and conscientiously kept His will.

But then Jesus added, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (v. 21). Jesus was now addressing the man’s relationship to Him, the first four of the Ten Commandments. This was where the issue lay—what the man loved most was not God but his earthly treasure.

Scripture tells us, “He was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (v. 22).

Can you imagine? The young ruler chose things, stuff—dead objects—over eternal life with Christ. That is how strong the pull of the material world is. From this we see that the power, the prestige, the perks, the things of value in this earthly life, are diametrically opposed to the things of the heavenly.

“How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23), said Christ to His disciples after the man left. “And the disciples were astonished at His words” (v. 24), for in the social construct of their day was the assumption that rich men were also righteous men. “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26) they wondered.

And the answer was given them shortly, when they arrived in the city of Jericho, and Zacchaeus, “a chief tax collector” (Luke 19:2), “received [Jesus] joyfully” (v. 6), eagerly telling the Savior, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (v. 8). This other rich man’s love for Christ was shown in what he did with his earthly goods. See the direct contrast to the young ruler: When received by Jesus, Zacchaeus gave away instead of hoarded his money. As such, his experience with the Savior was joyful rather than sad. His love for Christ brought him to follow His commandments. All of this was the result of Zacchaeus’ decision to become a follower of Christ.

“Today salvation has come to this house” (v. 9), replied Jesus.

Thicker than Water

People say that blood is thicker than water, that family comes before anyone else. Family is important. We are given only a handful of people who make up our life—our spouse, our children, our parents. These are the people with whom you spend every day, the people who raised you and who you have raised, the ones who know you better than anyone else. You wouldn’t be who you are today without them. Yet Jesus clearly said, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).

Now, does this mean that you must forsake your family, leave your wife, neglect your son, disrespect your parents? When Jesus invited one would-be disciple to follow Him, the man requested, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father” (Luke 9:59). In reply Jesus stated, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God” (v. 60).

That seems rather harsh, to forbid a man from arranging his own father’s funeral. But that’s not what Jesus was doing at all. The man’s father hadn’t died yet. He was using his father’s old age as an excuse. The issue was not whether he loved his dad but that he did not love the gospel.

I once had a church member who was married to a man who wasn’t Christian. Sometimes she showed up to worship on Sabbath, sometimes not. When I talked with her about it, she told me that her husband wanted to go out some weekends, shopping, eating, what have you. And she went because she loved him and wanted to be a good wife and to please him.

One day, she called me in a panic. Her husband had gotten into a terrible accident at work. We prayed together at the ICU. As her husband teetered between life and death, God gave her a realization. She was putting her earthly husband before her heavenly Father. Thankfully, her husband survived. From then on, that dear lady was at church every week without fail—and so was her husband.

If God is calling you to do something or go somewhere, is there anyone who would stop you from responding to that call? Is your loyalty to a loved one disloyalty to God? Jesus had a family on earth. His father, Joseph, was older than His mother, Mary, and had passed away first. But having a widowed mother at home did not stop Jesus from leaving to begin His ministry.

“Who is My mother, or My brothers?” Jesus asked when informed that Mary and His half-siblings had arrived looking for Him (Mark 3:33). “Here are My mother and My brothers!” He continued, referring to “those who sat about Him” listening to His teachings (v. 34). “For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (v. 35). 

That is a fascinating admission. It means that in reality, every follower of God is part of the family of God. Every Christian can claim Jesus as his Brother and God the Father as his heavenly Father. Blood indeed is thicker than water—the blood of Jesus Christ, which has the power to change our fate from certain death to everlasting life! (Leviticus 17:11).

Drop Everything

When Jesus called His original apostles, notice that though these were very different kinds of men, they all responded the same way—affirmatively and immediately. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men,” the Lord said to Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:19). The Bible tells us, “They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (v. 20).

Next, Jesus invited James and John. Likewise, these two also “immediately … left the boat and their father, and followed Him” (v. 22). Notice that this pair of brothers chose God’s will over both their earthly gain and their family ties.

Later, the Savior said to Matthew, a tax collector, “Follow Me” (9:9). The Bible doesn’t say that Matthew brought along his cash register or even put away his money. It simply states, “So he arose and followed Him.” That doesn’t mean you don’t give your boss two weeks’ notice if God is calling you to be a missionary. The point is to surrender to God’s will instead of your own.

So many times, we give the keys to God but then take the wheel from Him—and then we end up in a fender bender and wonder how it happened: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3). So many times we try to fit God into our calendar—and think we’ve given Him enough if we’ve done our due diligence at church for three hours. I’ve flown home from evangelistic series where the Holy Spirit has pricked my heart to witness to the person next to me, and my first thought has been, “Lord, I’ve just preached 30 times in 20 days. I’m off the clock now.” And this has been the Holy Spirit’s response: “Doug, you’re never off the clock.”

Following God isn’t a nine-to-five job. Neither is it just a one-and-done decision you make when you get baptized. That’s why it’s called following God, walking with God. It’s an ongoing, moment-by-moment process. It’s to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); it’s to “[abide] in the vine” (John 15:4), Jesus Christ, “for without [Him] you can do nothing” (v. 5). As Christ said to His disciples after His resurrection, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Walking with God means being with a Companion who never abandons you. It means allowing Him to drive and to hold the map. It means that God is your calendar.

As You Are

If you come to God when He calls, it goes without saying that you come to Him rough around the edges. Peter was arrogant (26:33, 35); James and John were vengeful (Luke 9:54); all 12 apostles were competitive and envious (Matthew 20:20–24; Mark 9:34; 10:37–41; Luke 9:46; 22:24). And the more they walked with Him, the more those uglier traits of theirs were shown for what they really were. It doesn’t make sense any other way. A person follows God to be made new; he doesn’t make himself new in order to come to God. That’s like parents telling their child to clean up in order to take a bath, instead of taking a bath in order to get clean.

Yet how many of us are too ashamed of our sinfulness to come to Jesus as we are? We placate our consciences by making promises we can’t keep. Just as soon as I stop smoking, I’ll start going to church. Just as soon as I think I can live like a Christian, I’ll become a Christian. When it comes down to it, that’s really just our feeble attempt to save ourselves, instead of looking to Jesus Christ, the one “name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Let’s take the example of “blind Bartimaeus” (Mark 10:46). The account in Matthew’s Gospel describes him as being with one other blind man, likely with Bartimaeus as the more vocal of the two. As Jesus left the city of Jericho, He passed by these two individuals, followed by a huge crowd. When Bartimaeus and his friend discovered that they were in close proximity to Jesus, they instantly began to shout aloud, “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!” (Matthew 20:30). When shushed, “they cried out all the more” (v. 31). Their singular, foremost thought was of Jesus. They were fervent; they were persistent; they were desperately aware of their need.

Can it be made any plainer? Bartimaeus and his friend did not try to regain their sight before coming to Jesus. They knew they needed Jesus in order to see. When their cries reached the Savior, the crowd told Bartimaeus, “Be of good cheer. Rise, He is calling you” (Mark 10:49). Immediately, the blind man obeyed: “Throwing aside his garment, he rose and came to Jesus” (v. 50). What a moving symbol! The Bible tells us, “All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6). What rags could be filthier than those of a blind beggar, who, even if he had the means, could not so much as see the spots on his clothes to scrub them clean?

In their filth, Bartimaeus and his friend approached Jesus—and we must do the same, in our “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” sinfulness (Revelation 3:17). Then, Jesus asked them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Matthew 20:32), not because He did not know but because Christ does unto us nothing against our free will. Their request was clear: “Lord, that our eyes may be opened” (v. 33). They came to Him unashamed because their faith in Him was great. As Jesus put it, “Go your way; your faith has made you well” (Mark 10:52).

Just as immediately as they came to Him, so did Jesus immediately heal their sight (Matthew 20:34). In so doing, He “clothed [them] with the garments of salvation, He … covered [them] with the robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10). After that miracle, Scripture tells us, “They followed Him” (Matthew 20:34). There was no hesitancy or worry about how to act or obey. Once these men followed Jesus, He would give them the power to keep His commandments; Jesus would recreate their characters into one like His.

Looking Up

Are we starting to see a theme develop here? Those who walk with Jesus are to, despite the pull to do the opposite, have a singular focus on the One they are following.

Look at this third example the Bible gives of a man who was struggling to follow God: “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house,” he said to Jesus (Luke 9:61). We’ve heard this kind of excuse before.

Christ responded, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (v. 62).

This was a direct reference to the prophet Elisha, “who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen” when he was called to follow in the footsteps of God’s servant Elijah (1 Kings 19:19). In responding to the call, Elisha said, “Please let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you” (v. 20).

At first glance, the responses of these two men may seem similar, but they couldn’t be any more different. The focus of the first was on the life he’d have to leave, not on the service he was privileged to undertake; Christ’s response to him made that clear. In contrast, Elisha’s next move was to immediately sacrifice his oxen “and [give] it to the people” to eat (v. 21). In so doing, he renounced his former life, his former responsibilities—in fact, his inheritance. Not everyone had the claim to 12 yoke of oxen. Elisha came from a rich family, and he would have become a wealthy landowner had he not accepted the call from God. But, like Zacchaeus, his sacrifice of the very means of his livelihood illustrated his zeal for the Lord’s work. After that, “he arose and followed Elijah, and became his servant.” He went forward, never “looking back,” as Christ said.

Elisha walked with Elijah until the end of the latter’s earthly life. In his last days, God sent Elijah to give some words of encouragement to the sons of the prophets, those who were carrying on the Lord’s work. Elijah said to his trusted apprentice, “Stay here, please, for the LORD has sent me on to Bethel” (2 Kings 2:2).

But Elisha would not be separated from his beloved master. “As the LORD lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!” Elisha determined. Two more times this occurred as God sent Elijah next to Jericho, then to the Jordan to visit various groups of prophets. Each time, Elisha, though instructed otherwise, nevertheless followed Elijah onward.

During the last of these travels together, Elijah inquired, “Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?” (v. 9).

These two men were like father and son. Elisha had left his family to be adopted into Elijah’s. And like a son would, Elisha asked for an inheritance. “Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me,” he requested. It was law that every firstborn son was to receive this “double portion” from his father (Deuteronomy 21:17). We have already seen that Elisha had no care for his earthly inheritance; he burned it. The only inheritance he desired was the heavenly—the Holy Spirit.

To this Elijah responded, “If you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so” (2 Kings 2:10). You can imagine how Elisha must have walked after that. Do you think he trailed far behind his master or became easily distracted by his surroundings? He probably didn’t let Elijah out of his sight.

Soon after, the Bible tells us “a chariot of fire appeared,” and Elijah was translated “by a whirlwind into heaven” (v. 11), abandoning his garment (v. 13), as blind Bartimaeus had. “And Elisha saw it … and … cried out, ‘My father, my father, the chariot of Israel and its horsemen!’” (v. 12). He had received not only his inheritance, but also a glimpse of the ultimate inheritance given to all those who walk with God.

Walking the Walk

Elisha was certainly a prime example of a follower—but more than that, Elijah was a type of Christ, and his last moments on earth an important lesson for all who desire to walk with God.

Just before God took him, we know that Elijah crossed through the Jordan. He “struck the water” with his mantle, whereupon it divided just like the Red Sea so that he and Elisha could “[cross] over on dry ground” (v. 8). You may recall that the same thing happened to the children of Israel, who likewise were able to “[cross] over on dry ground” when their “priests … bore the ark of the covenant … in the midst of the Jordan” (Joshua 3:17). On the other side of the Jordan lay Canaan, the Promised Land. Jordan was also the river in which John the Baptist chose to baptize people (Matthew 3:4–6); Jesus Himself was baptized in it (v. 13).

The symbolism is powerful. The Bible teaches us that baptism is a symbol for death (Romans 6:3, 4); crossing through the Jordan represents death, burial, and resurrection. Canaan represents heaven, our ultimate destination. That route—through Jordan to Canaan—not only was walked literally by Elijah and by Israel, but it was the very pathway that Christ symbolically traversed, first dying upon the cross before being resurrected and then ascending to the true Promised Land, heaven.

As Elijah spent his final days with different companies of believers before being taken to heaven, so did Jesus before ascending to heaven (Acts 1:1–3; 1 Corinthians 15:4–7). As the Holy Spirit came to Elisha after Elijah’s translation (2 Kings 2:15), so did Christ send the Holy Spirit to His disciples after He ascended, on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–4).

If we are to follow Jesus, we must walk this same path. We must, like Elisha, forsake that old life willingly, readily, and completely. We must fix our eyes upon Jesus and follow wherever He leads, even if it is to the lowest part of the Jordan. Sure, most of us will in this lifetime go down into the grave to await the coming of our Lord, but in a deeper sense we must also die to self, becoming “a living sacrifice … to God” (Romans 12:1), “knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with” (6:6). And if we do truly follow, like Elisha did, then God has promised to send us the Holy Spirit too. The disciples were given the former rain at Pentecost; the Bible prophesies that God’s last-day people are to receive “the latter rain” (Joel 2:23), wherein “[God] will pour out [His] Spirit on all flesh” (v. 28). Through the power of the Holy Spirit, our works will extend throughout the whole earth, just as He commissioned (Mark 16:15).

The Promised Land

Have you noticed that the people who had trouble following Jesus often lamented over what they would leave behind or what they wouldn’t have? I want to be clear. A follower of God isn’t some sort of ascetic monk whose goal in life is to deny all pleasure and pursuit. When you are following God, where your life lacks in earthly goods, it overflows with heavenly gifts and promises.

When Jesus, your Shepherd, is by your side, He will feed you. “[You] shall not want” (Psalm 23:1), for “He makes [you] to lie down in green pastures; He leads [you] beside the still waters. He restores [your] soul” (vv. 2, 3). This doesn’t mean you put forth no effort whatsoever toward your livelihood; it simply means that your life is made up not only of “what you will eat or what you will drink” (Matthew 6:25). If you “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, … all these things shall be added to you” (v. 33)—and then some. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1). You will eat of Christ, the Bread of Life (John 6:35); you will drink of Him who is the Water of Life (4:14). You will lead a fulfilling, abundant life (10:10).

When Jesus is leading the way, not only yourself but others will be blessed. The apostles became “fishers of men” when they began following Christ (Matthew 4:19). “Enoch walked with God” (Genesis 5:24), and the book of Jude records that he “prophesied” (v. 14). “Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9), and he was called “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5). Those who walk with God share their experience with others; they invite others to join the same path: “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern” (Philippians 3:17).

When you walk hand in hand with Jesus, He will heal you: “Great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them all” (Matthew 12:15)—“the blind [saw], the lame [walked], the lepers [were] cleansed, the deaf [heard], the dead [were] raised” (Luke 7:22). You may be shaking your head. You may be thinking about Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” or perhaps even of yourself (2 Corinthians 12:7). No, following Jesus may not mean physical healing now—but it means something infinitely more. It means healing of the deep, dark sins that choke out your chance at eternal life. It means peace of mind now; it means comfort now. And it means most of all that at Christ’s second coming, all of you—mind and body, your entire soul—will be absolutely healed. Even the physical healing you might get in this lifetime is nothing compared to the glorified, immortal body you will receive “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet” (1 Corinthians 15:52). Everyone who has ever faithfully followed Jesus will receive this best-of-all healing.

That’s right. When you follow Jesus, He will lead you straight into the gates of eternal life. That’s what literally happened to Enoch. He ended up following Christ right up into heaven (Hebrews 11:5). The Bible tells us that God’s people at the very end of time “follow the Lamb wherever He goes” (Revelation 14:4). Despite temptations, through trials, and even while headed to the Jordan itself, they have their eyes fixed on their Savior, the One who will never lead them astray. And they too, like Enoch, follow Him right up to heaven.

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish” (John 10:27, 28), Jesus promised. The walk to heaven begins here on earth. Do you desire to follow Christ throughout eternity? Then you are to walk with Him here and now, day by day, until you reach the Promised Land. So put on your walking shoes, and let’s start logging those miles with God! 


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