Category: What does it mean to walk with God?


This question has been asked by countless people throughout the ages. Samuel heard the voice of God, but did not recognize it until he was instructed by Eli (1 Samuel 3:1–10). Gideon had a physical revelation from God, and he still doubted what he had heard to the point of asking for a sign, not once, but three times (Judges 6:17–22,36–40). When we are listening for God’s voice, how can we know that He is the one speaking? First of all, we have something that Gideon and Samuel did not. We have the complete Bible, the inspired Word of God, to read, study, and meditate on. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). When we have a question about a certain topic or decision in our lives, we should see what the Bible has to say about it. God will never lead us contrary to what He has taught in His Word (Titus 1:2).

To hear God’s voice we must belong to God. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

We hear His voice when we spend time in Bible study and quiet contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives. Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with God’s Word that when someone speaks error to us, it is clear that it is not of God.

While God could speak audibly to people today, He speaks primarily through His written Word. Sometimes God’s leading can come through the Holy Spirit, through our consciences, through circumstances, and through the exhortations of other people. By comparing what we hear to the truth of Scripture, we can learn to recognize God’s voice.

This statement, found in John 10:7, is the third of seven “I am” declarations of Jesus recorded only in John’s gospel. These “I am” proclamations point to His unique, divine identity and purpose. In this “I am” statement, Jesus colorfully points out for us the exclusive nature of salvation by saying that He is “the door,” not “a door.” Furthermore, Jesus is not only our Shepherd who leads us into the “sheepfold,” but He is the only door by which we may enter it and be saved (John 10:9). Jesus is the only means we have of receiving eternal life (John 3:16). There is no other way.

To get a clear picture of Jesus’ meaning in this statement, it is helpful to understand a little of that ancient culture, especially of sheep and shepherding. Of all domesticated animals, sheep are the most helpless. Sheep will spend their entire day grazing wandering from place to place never looking up. As a result, they often become lost. But sheep have no “homing instinct” as other animals do. They are totally incapable of finding their way to their sheepfold even when it is in plain sight. By nature, sheep are followers. If the lead sheep steps off a cliff, the others will follow.

Additionally, sheep are easily susceptible to injuries and are utterly helpless against predators. If a wolf enters the pen, they won’t defend themselves. They won’t try to run away or spread out. Instead they huddle together and are easily slaughtered. If sheep fall into moving water, they will drown. However, sheep do fear moving water and will not drink from any stream or lake unless the water is perfectly still. This is why David in the 23rd Psalm tells us of the shepherd who: “makes [us] to lie down in green pastures, he leads [us] besides the still waters . . . though [we] walk through the valley . . . [we] will fear no evil. For You [the Shepherd] are with [us].”

Sheep were and still are totally dependent upon the shepherd who tends them with care and compassion. Shepherds were the providers, guides, protectors and constant companions of sheep. So close was the bond between shepherd and sheep that to this day Middle Eastern shepherds can divide flocks that have mingled at a well or during the night simply by calling their sheep, who know and follow their shepherd’s voice. Shepherds were inseparable from their flocks. The shepherd would lead the sheep to safe places to graze and make them lie down for several hours in a shady place. Then as night fell, the shepherd would lead the sheep to the protection of a sheepfold.

There were two kinds of sheepfolds or pens. One kind was a public sheepfold found in the cities and villages. It would be large enough to hold several flocks of sheep. This sheep pen would be in the care of a porter or doorkeeper, whose duty it was to guard the door to the sheep pen during the night and to admit the shepherds in the morning. The shepherds would call their sheep, each of whom knew his own shepherd’s voice, and would lead them out to pasture.

The second kind of sheep pen was in the countryside, where the shepherds would keep their flocks in good weather. This type of sheep pen was nothing more than a rough circle of rocks piled into a wall with a small open space, a gate or door. Through it the shepherd would drive the sheep at nightfall. Since there was no gate to close—just an opening—the shepherd would keep the sheep in and wild animals out by lying across the opening. He would sleep there, in this case literally becoming the door to the sheep.

In this context, Jesus is telling us that He is not only the shepherd of the sheep, but also the door of the sheep. In doing so, He is vividly contrasting Himself with that of the religious leaders of His time whom He describes as “thieves and robbers” (John 10:8). When Jesus says “I am the door” He is reiterating the fact that only through Him is salvation possible. This is far removed from the ecumenical teachings popular in today’s liberal religious circles. Jesus makes it clear that any religious leader who offers salvation other than the teachings of Christ is a “thief” and a “robber.”

One who believes the gospel (Hebrews 11:6) and repents of their sins (Luke 13:3) is assured of being in “the fold” and of having entered by “the door.” As followers of Christ, Jesus is both our Shepherd and the Door to the sheepfold who provides for all our needs. Knowing that the world is full of predators whose sole intent is to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8), we are always under His protection. More importantly, we are fully confident that “when the Chief Shepherd appears, [we] will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Peter 5:4).

There are several people described as “walking with God” in the Bible, beginning with Enoch in Genesis 5:24. Noah is also described as “a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked faithfully with God (Genesis 6:9). Micah 6:8 gives us a glimpse into God’s desire for us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Walking with God is not an activity reserved for a select few. God desires all of His children to walk with Him.

What happens when we walk with someone? Imagine that you and a close friend are enjoying a walk down a country lane. You are in close proximity. You talk, laugh, listen, and share your hearts. Your attention is focused on this person to the exclusion of almost everything else. You notice the beauty around you or an occasional distraction, but only to point it out to your companion. You share it together. You are in harmony, and you both enjoy the peaceful camaraderie.

Walking with God is like that. When we enter into an intimate heart relationship with God through faith in His Son (Hebrews 10:22), He becomes our heart’s greatest desire. Knowing Him, hearing His voice, sharing our hearts with Him, and seeking to please Him become our all-consuming focus. He becomes everything to us. Meeting with Him is not an activity reserved for Sunday morning. We live to fellowship with Him. A. W. Tozer states that the goal of every Christian should be to “live in a state of unbroken worship.” This is only possible when we walk with God.

Just as walking with a close friend requires saying “no” to many other things, so walking with God requires letting go of anything that would be a distraction. If you were on a walk with a friend, but you brought a kazoo and played it the whole time, the walk would not be satisfying for either of you. Many people attempt to walk with God, but they bring along kazoo-like habits, sins, worldly entertainments, or unhealthy relationships. They know these things are not God’s choice for them, but they pretend everything is fine. The relationship is not satisfying to either of them. To walk with God means that you and God are in agreement about your life. “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3, KJV). To walk with God means you have aligned your will with His and seek every day to consider yourself “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20). You don’t have to be perfect, as none of us are (Romans 3:10). But your heart’s desire is to be pleasing to God, and you are willing to let His Spirit conform you to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29).

When the Bible speaks of “walking,” it often refers to a lifestyle. We can walk in the ways of the world as well (2 Kings 8:27; Ephesians 2:2; Colossians 3:7). In the New Testament, walking with God is often called “walking in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16; Romans 8:4). To walk with God means we choose to glorify Him in every way we can, regardless of personal cost. And there is a cost. Walking with God also means we cannot also walk with evil people as companions (Psalm 1:1-3). We choose the narrow road over the broad way to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). We don’t live to please our sinful flesh (Romans 13:14). We seek to eliminate from our lives everything that does not enhance our walk with Him (Hebrews 12:2). We apply 1 Corinthians 10:31 literally: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” God’s ways are reflected in our thoughts, our actions, our motivations, and our life choices because we spend so much time with Him.

It is not difficult to identify people who walk with God. Their lives are a stark contrast to the world around them, like stars in a nighttime sky (Philippians 2:15). They produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) rather than the fruit of fleshly desire (Galatians 5:19-21). In Acts 4:13 Peter and John had been arrested for preaching and were brought before the authorities. “The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus.” When we walk with God every day, the world cannot help but recognize that, in spite of our imperfections and lack of knowledge in some areas, we have been with Jesus.

This question has been asked by countless people throughout the ages. Samuel  heard the voice of God, but did not recognize it until he was instructed by Eli  (1 Samuel  3:1-10). Gideon had a physical revelation from God, and he still doubted  what he had heard to the point of asking for a sign, not once, but three times  (Judges  6:17-22, 36-40).  When we are listening for God’s voice, how can we know that He is the one  speaking? First of all, we have something that Gideon and Samuel did not. We  have the complete Bible, the inspired Word of God, to read, study, and meditate  on. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking,  correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be  thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy  3:16-17). When we have a question about a certain topic or decision in our  lives, we should see what the Bible has to say about it. God will never lead us  or direct us contrary to what He has taught or promised in His Word (Titus 1:2).

Second, to hear God’s voice we must  recognize it. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they  follow me” (John 10:27).  Those who hear God’s voice are those who belong to Him—those who have been saved  by His grace through faith in the Lord Jesus. These are the sheep who hear and  recognize His voice, because they know Him as their Shepherd and they know His  voice. If we are to recognize God’s voice, we must belong to Him.

Third,  we hear His voice when we spend time in prayer, Bible study, and quiet  contemplation of His Word. The more time we spend intimately with God and His  Word, the easier it is to recognize His voice and His leading in our lives.  Employees at a bank are trained to recognize counterfeits by studying genuine  money so closely that it is easy to spot a fake. We should be so familiar with  God’s Word that when God does speak to us or lead us, it is clear that it is  God. God speaks to us so that we may understand truth. While God can speak  audibly to people, He speaks primarily through His Word, and sometimes through  the Holy Spirit to our consciences, through circumstances, and through other  people. By applying what we hear to the truth of Scripture, we can learn to  recognize His voice.