Walking with God, Part I

Walking with God, Part I

The Bible teaches us that godly men like Enoch and Noah “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24; 6:9). Moreover, we are told, “blessed are the people … who walk, O LORD, in the light of your face” (Ps. 89:15). As Christian believers we often talk about, and pray for, a more faithful, committed, and disciplined walk with God. But do we really even understand, in a biblical sense, what it means to walk with God? Jeremiah Burroughs, a highly esteemed English Puritan, can help us answer this question.

Jeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) was a graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. After a season of exile for his non-conformist views, Burroughs pastored two of the largest congregations in London. He was also a member of the Westminster Assembly which was responsible for composing the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Larger and Shorter Catechisms. Most importantly, Burroughs was a man who walked with God. It is in God’s providence that we have his sermons wherein he explains what it means to walk with God. These sermons were first published posthumously in 1649 under the title “A Treatise of Earthly-Mindedness.” In chapter eight he provides us with the following:

Twelve Rules of Direction for Walking with God

1. “Be sure that there is no way of sin in you.” Burroughs here exhorts us to “Take heed of giving way to any sin, especially any known sin, [even] though it is a little one.” Indeed, if we desire to walk with God we cannot allow known sin to linger in our hearts and minds. Burroughs states that the “least sin that a Christian gives in to is like a thorn in a man’s foot, but a great sin, and a sin against knowledge, is like a great gash in a man’s foot. Now if a man has a thorn in his foot he cannot walk well, it will make him stop. If a man has a little gravel in the shoe he will not be able to walk long. Now small sins are like gravel in the shoe or like a thorn in the foot. But if you fall into a great sin, a sin against light, against conscience, that is like a great gash that one may cut with a hatchet or an axe.” In other words, any known sin, small or big, will bring great hindrance to our walk with God as Christians. If we want to walk with God we must not allow sin to linger in our hearts, but rather we must actively fight against it. As John Owen once said, “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you” (C.f. Rom. 8:13; Col. 3:5.). A strong walk with God cannot exist where there is secret, unrepentant sin.

2. “Labor to withdraw your heart from earthly and sensual things.” In his second rule for walking with God, Burroughs cautions, “Take heed of mingling your hearts with creature comforts. You may make use of them, but do it in a spiritual way. Do not defile your heart with them. Do not let your heart close with them as adequate objects of your desires or love. Take heed of being entangled, of being ensnared with any creature comforts.” In order to walk with God our chief affections must be upon God and His Word, not the things of this world.

3. “Evermore take Christ with you.” Here Burroughs states, “in all your [walking] with God, have an eye to Christ; look unto God, the infinite, glorious First Being of all things, but do it through Christ, the Mediator. Otherwise, God will not be rendered amiable, sweet, and lovely to you.” This is a crucial point, perhaps the most important of them all. If we want to walk with God we must be continuously exercising our faith upon the crucified and risen Christ. Indeed, the only way we can walk with God is through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. In order to walk with God it is absolutely necessary to keep on “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:2).

4. “Be careful to beautify your soul.” But isn’t our soul already cleansed by the blood of Christ by grace through faith? Yes. This is not, however, what Burroughs is referring to. Rather, he is calling our attention to the need for the sanctification of the “inner-man.” In other words, he is telling us that if we want to walk strong with God we must be more concerned about the inward state than our outward appearance. He writes, “Labor to cleanse your thoughts and, likewise, the affections of your heart and the stirrings of your heart, for God and your soul converse together.” In this section Burroughs imparts a wonderful illustration from his own context. “If you were asked to walk with a man who was your superior, some chief in your parish, a gentleman, knight, or nobleman, you would labor as far as you were able to adorn yourselves with suitable clothing. You who profess yourselves to be Christians, God calls you every day to walk with Him, and if you expect to have communion with God, and that God should take delight in you, you must labor to beautify your souls, to dress yourselves with those things that may make you amiable in the eyes of God. Do not come dirty and filthy into the presence of God.”

5. “Take heed of halting.” In walking with God we must give ourselves up “fully to God.” Burroughs states that we cannot have “a distracted heart or a divided heart.” We cannot walk with God if we have one foot in the ways of the world and the other in the ways of God. In deference to God’s Spirit within we must “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). The Apostle John states, “If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:6).

Beloved members of Christ Church, take some time this Lord’s Day to reflect upon these first five of Burroughs’ twelve rules for walking with God. Pray that God would – in His sovereign grace and power – strengthen your conviction and resolve to walk with God in gratitude, love, and holiness. And may our public worship this Lord’s Day – both morning and evening – glorify the God who condescends to walk with unworthy sinners through the cleansing blood and righteousness of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

- Pastor Jon