Monday, March 4, 2024

The Pilgrimage Road of Faith: What does it mean to walk by Faith?

How do we walk the road of faith? It's completely different than walking as a man of the world. So, we become like toddlers who are unable to walk, and we must learn to walk. How does that work?

God walks before us, in front of us, holding our hands, and teaches us to walk by faith. He does not shove us out there onto the road and say "Get going!" No. God walks with us, hand in hand, in front of us, face to face with us, as we learn to take our steps, one step in front of another. 

Like a parent teaching a toddler to walk, we learn to live by faith. We carefully take our steps. And God holds our hands, face to face with us, in front of us, teaching us, encouraging us, correcting us, and giving us love and hope and truth. And slowly, but surely, we learn to walk in a new way. 

“To live by faith is to live joyfully, to live with assurance, untroubled by doubts and with complete confidence in all we have to do and suffer at each moment by the will of God. We must realize that it is in order to stimulate and sustain this faith that God allows the soul to be buffeted and swept away by the raging torrent of so much distress, so many troubles, so much embarrassment and weakness, and so many setbacks. For it is essential to have faith to find God behind all this.” -Jean-Pierre de Caussade, 1675-1751, in Discipleship Journal, issue 40.

Today we’re talking about a road, a journey, a passage way. It’s a road that we can’t walk normally though, it can only be walked by faith. It can only be walked in deep connection to God through Jesus Christ. We’re going to press toward the goal on this road.

What is this road? What is the goal? This road is our journey through this life toward heaven. The Apostle Paul wrote about this journey in Philippians chapter 3, and he compared it to a race, running a race, and running it in a way to win the prize. The goal is of course, eternal life itself, arriving safely in paradise.

It starts in Philippians 3, verses 8-11 which says, “Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!”

Everything else is worthless, and what Paul is referring to is earlier in the chapter he was dealing with people who wanted to bring back the Old Testament law as a way of getting right with God. So Paul is making a case for moving forward from the old testament law toward the new way of faith in Christ.

He no longer believes righteousness can come through the law, but he has become righteous through faith in Jesus.

He’s walking the new journey by faith. He’s discarding former things. And he’s counting everything else as worthless compared to knowing Christ.

Next in verse 12, “I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection.”

Paul didn’t consider himself done. He considered the Christian life a journey. That’s something we need to remember as well. It’s not done. It’s just begun.

The journey is ongoing, it continues!

In verse 12 still, “But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”

This is a really profound statement, Paul is saying that he continues on toward perfection, the same perfection by which Christ first possessed him. He knows he tasted of the perfection of Jesus when he was born again. And he longs to made one with that perfection in paradise. He knows in heaven, in the new body, he will be perfect as Christ, holy and pure, because of Jesus! 

Then in verse 13, “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead,”

So Paul has told us that we’re on a journey, we’re on this pathway of eternal life. He’s told us that it’s walked by faith. And the goal is the perfection of Jesus.

Now he’s telling us some positions of the mind, first we’re told we should forget the past, and then we’re told to look forward to what lies ahead. How should I think? Don't dwell on the past. Focus on the future, the bright hope we have in Jesus. 

Next, verse 14, “I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”

The goal is growth, the goal is also to reach the heavenly prize that we’re being called to. That’s eternal life. It’s paradise. It’s restoration to full union with God. It’s the highest goal in the universe. Nothing is more important.

Next it says in verses 15-16, “Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made.”

Here again we find the concept of spiritual maturity, that we as Christians want to aim for finding a place of Christian maturity, where we’re walking in wisdom, in the fear of the Lord, and have found a kind of stability in our walk with God.

But we find several principles here to live by on our journey, first, hold to the progress you’ve made. Don’t slip back. Second, God is active in this journey, he is our guide, and third, spiritual maturity in Christ will be an asset in the journey.

In verse 17 Paul writes, “Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example.”

Paul offered his own life as an example of how to follow Jesus successfully. Similarly today we want to look for godly examples to follow in our lives. Look for people who have a strong walk with Jesus, and watch what they do, then mimic what they do.

Many things in my Christian life I learned from others Christians. I learned to pray with other Christians by watching other Christians do that. I learned to hand out tracts by watching another Christian hand out a tract. I learned to give to charity by watching other Christians give to charity. I learn the best ways to explain the gospel by listening to other Christians explain the gospel. We learn from the examples of others, and then we begin to set the example ourselves. And others learn from our example.

In verses 18-19 Paul warns us about those who are off course. It says, “For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.”

We are on this track, this pathway, this road of salvation, and others may appear to be on it with us. But we will be able to tell by their own actions what direction they are going. Many get off track, and their actions show it.

Their god is their appetite, Paul says, they boast about shameful things they do, and they only think about this life on Earth.

Many, many people I know, they only think about this life. They are earthly minded. We as Christians must learn to think about the spiritual realm. We must learn to think about heaven and hell, and God, and justice, and truth. We must learn to love those things of the next life, not just the things of this Earth.

Next in verse 20, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.”

A few more positions of the mind, we understand we’re citizens of heaven already. We aren’t in heaven yet. But we carry the citizenship. We have the rights of a citizen of heaven. We have the authority of Jesus Christ on earth, to pray in His name, because we are already citizens of heaven.

We are sojourners through this life. We are aliens in a foreign land. We are not of this world. We are ambassadors for another kingdom, inviting others to join this new kingdom.

Second, we are eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return. We long for Jesus to return. We are eager for that moment. Some of my favorite Christians are always excited that Jesus could return tomorrow or the next day. They long for the return of their King! 

Lastly, in verse 21, “He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control.”

Here we see the results of what happens when Jesus returns, and a big part of the eternal prize we run the race for, our current mortal bodies will be changed into a glorious new body, like the new body Jesus has right now, after his resurrection from the dead. God will do this by His own mighty power, the same power by which all things will come under his control.

Let’s Review our main points.

1. This race is our first priority, anything else is secondary

2. The Christian life is a journey, one day at a time

3. Forget past ways, look to things ahead

4. The end goal is the heavenly prize in Christ Jesus

5. Come into maturity in Christ

6. Model your lifestyle after other godly Christians

7. Some are off course, their actions will prove them out

8. We are already citizens of heaven

9. We long for the return of Jesus

10. When Christ returns he will change our earthly bodies into heaven bodies