Walking with God, Part II
Walking with God, Part II
The Prophet Micah reminds us of what God “requires” of His redeemed children. “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Notice the last phrase, “and to walk humbly with your God.” Last week, with the help of the seventeenth-century Puritan and Westminster Divine Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646), we began to consider what it means to walk with God. Let us resume this consideration by continuing our brief look at Burroughs’ “Twelve Rules of Direction for Walking with God” from his “A Treatise of Earthly Mindedness” published posthumously in 1649:
6. “Take heed of formality in holy duties.” In this section Burroughs exhorts the Christian to “take pains” in holy duties to draw near to God, especially in Lord’s Day worship. Mere attendance to the holy duty of worship is not enough if we want to walk with God. Indeed, “it’s one thing to keep close to the duty and another thing to keep close to God in the duty.” God meets His people, in a special manner, in the public assembly of worship through the means that He has ordained (Word & sacrament). Burroughs states, “If you would walk with God you must go where God is and be in those places where God comes. Now the place where God walks is in His ordinances [means of grace], in His worship, therefore you must be very spiritual in worship and sanctify the name of God there.” Moreover, we must “take pains there, stir up [our] hearts, and all that is in [us] to walk with God there, and not be satisfied unless [we] have something of God there.” In other words, in order to sustain a vibrant walk with God we must not only attend corporate worship, but attend with a heart and mind prepared to embrace Christ by faith as He is communicated through His Word. Furthermore, we must be prepared to change our ways as God reveals His truth from Scripture. Walking with God means moving forward; that is, progressing, growing, and maturing spiritually by the grace of God.
7. “Take heed of secret slidings away from the truth of God.” Here we are admonished to “Take heed of secret declinings or sliding away from the paths of God into any bypaths … of turning out of the paths of God, of any allurements from the flesh, of any temptations, and especially such temptations as are suitable to your corruptions [sinful tendencies]. They will be alluring you to lead you out of the ways of God, and seem to promise ways of contentment to the flesh.” As Christians, we are ever mindful of the dangers of the world and the Devil, but rarely do we contemplate the sinfulness and deceitfulness of our own hearts. John Owen appropriately calls our sinful flesh “the enemy within.” The Bible teaches us that “the mind set on the flesh [the sinful desires of our hearts] is death” and “those who are in the flesh cannot please God” (Romans 8:6, 8). Burroughs here instructs us to know our own particular weaknesses and to be careful not to allow them to secretly and slowly cause us to drift away from God and His truth. If we want to walk with God we must have the heart of the Psalmist who said, “Keep back your servant also from secret sins; let them not have dominion over me!” He then prays those familiar words, “Let the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer” (Psalm 19:13a, 14).
8. “Labor to keep such a tenderness of spirit so as to be sensible of the beginnings of declining.” Burroughs’ eighth rule for walking with God is closely related to the seventh. We must maintain a close watch upon our hearts, so that when we sense a clear misappropriation of our chief affections, we will quickly repent. If we allow our walk to drift a good distance off the path of righteousness, it will be very difficult to recover. Burroughs states, “It’s a terrible thing to be gone far from God. Labor to keep your hearts watchful of the beginnings of declining and be tender and sensitive of them.” If your heart has grown cold towards God, His Word, and His worship, labor with diligence to turn from the sin that has captured your affections and with all your might embrace His love and truth. Therefore, by the grace of God – and because of the grace of God – “lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees” and be conscientious of the first inclinations to make something besides God your greatest treasure (Heb. 12:12).
9. “Labor to be spiritual in your solitary times.” Are you carving out time in your schedule to spend time alone with God? Here is another very important aspect of walking with God that Burroughs brings to light. He states, “Labor to be spiritual in your solitary times. If you would walk with God, prize your solitary times much. Labor to be spiritual in them. Do not lose those times when you are alone, when there’s none but God and you together. You that have much business in the world especially, alas, what little use do you make of your solitary times? When you are alone you don’t know what to do, but a man who would walk with God needs to be careful to be very spiritual there. Now I am separated from the world, now I have to deal with God and my own soul. O let me improve this and get advantage by this! … Those Christians who are spiritual in their solitary times will be very spiritual when they come into company. When Moses was alone with God on the mountain and came down to the people, his face shone so that they were not able to bear it. Certainly, those that are alone with God and are spiritual will shine in holy conversation when they come down from the mountain, when they come to converse with others.”
Beloved members of Christ Church Presbyterian, set aside a few minutes this Lord’s Day to think and pray about these four insightful rules for walking with God. Next week we will reflect upon Burroughs’ last three points. May our utmost desire be, in the words of Micah 6:8, to “walk humbly with our God.”
- Pastor Jon