Navigating the River of Life: Salvation to Sanctification
We’re so glad you’re joining us on our journey down the River of Life. Hopefully, you have gathered friends for encouragement on the way.
Father God, we are so grateful for Your presence and guidance on the journey. Keep our hearts open to You.
Review: Stepping into the River of Life
We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:4 ESV
Consider the following questions to reflect on the first week of study.
What did you discover in your study of Entering the River of Life?
What impacted you most?
What did you learn from your own story?
What did you discover in God’s story?
What questions were answered?
What new questions arose?
As I worked through Remember Your Story (my story), I also reflected on my experience in the Mapping the River prayer exercise we closed with in Session 1.
Looking back on how I got to where I am in the River of Life and the reality of my messy present, I saw something I haven’t always recognized or embraced as truth. I share it with you now, because I believe it’s true for everyone on their journey of faith, even for those who haven’t yet stepped into the waters of baptism.
Jesus was present at every step, stall, or sit-down strike I’ve had along the way. He was there when I didn’t see Him, sense Him, or acknowledge Him. He is here now in the messy middle of it all. But for Him, it’s not a mess beyond repair, it is a work of redemption.
In my looking back and remembering, the patriarch Jacob came to mind (Abraham’s grandson, Isaac’s son, the one who schemed to steal his brother’s birthright and his blessing). I thought of him as he fled from his messy life and what God revealed to him in the middle of it through a dream. When he woke, he said: Surely, the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it (Genesis 28:16).
I gave thanks and continue to give thanks for His presence in this place — wherever I find myself!
This is where I want us to begin today as we find our way in the River of Life. Jesus is walking with us. Every step of the way…
Session 2: Finding Your Way in the River of Life
Forgiven to Walk in the Spirit
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17 NIV
This is where the story begins.
God sent his Son, Jesus, to bring us eternal life. It didn’t look like they thought it should. Jesus didn’t come as an earthly ruler to build a physical kingdom. He didn’t storm in on a white horse and defeat evil with violence. He came as a vulnerable infant babe. Born to a virgin and her husband in a messy stable full of farm animals. He didn’t come as expected. He rarely does.
John’s words reveal two important things to us.
Jesus came to save us – no condemnation necessary.
And all we have to do is believe.
What kind of love is this? A love so deep and wide the Father sends his only Son to save all He created.
Like a hidden spring bubbling up from the ground, Jesus invaded the world quietly, unexpectedly. And generally, that’s how He enters our lives too. But when He shows up, we know something has changed, and nothing will ever be the same.
In John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus he must be “born again” or “born from above” to see the Kingdom of God. Ezekiel 47 gave us a picture of the Kingdom of God as a spring of water flowing out from under the threshold of the temple growing into a river so wide and deep we can’t manage it on our own two feet.
Like a newborn baby, we must learn to navigate a new world. The fetus leaves their mother’s womb and enters a wholly new environment. Spiritually, like Lazarus, we enter the world in a spiritual tomb, then once “born again” we spend years learning to live a new way in a new world. In the world but not of the world (John 17:15-19).
In the grace of forgiveness, we first learn to walk in the Spirit, just as babies learn to walk in the world.
What is involved in learning to walk? What stages do babies and toddlers go through?
Studies show crawling before walking is an important stage of learning. Not only does it help develop muscles, it is essential in developing pathways in the brain like eye-hand coordination.
How can you relate this physical process of growth to spiritual growth? walking in the Spirit?
Are you currently hoping to skip some essential stage of development? crawling? unsteady toddling? repeated falling?
Read Ephesians 4:1
How are Believers in Jesus urged to walk?
We are urged to walk in a manner worthy to the calling we receive.
God calls us to walk forgiven, fearless, and free, but, as we noted earlier, there is a learning curve when it comes to walking in the Spirit. We learn to walk worthy.
What images come to mind when you hear the word “worthy”? What emotions stir?
At the center of Ephesians there is a single Greek word, axios, on which the entire letter pivots. Translated as “worthy”… (4:1).
Axios is a word with a picture in it. The Greek word axios in Ephesians functions as a metaphor. An axios is a set of balancing scales, the kind of scales formed by a crossbeam balanced on a post, with pans suspended from each end of the beam. …
The items balanced in the Ephesians scales are God’s calling and human living… When our walking and God’s calling are in balance, we are whole; we are living maturely, living responsively to God’s calling, living congruent with the way God calls us into being. (emphasis added)
Worthy can feel like a weighty word. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines it as honorable, meritorious, having sufficient worth or importance. Synonyms include admirable, commendable, praiseworthy. More weighty words with the potential to highlight our failures to measure up.
But that’s not the picture we get from the scales balancing God’s calling on our life and our fulfilling it. Before we flesh this out further, let’s look at what God says about the call He places on our lives.
What do we learn about the sanctification process and the one who calls us, from this passage?
Read Romans 8:28-30
How are those who are called described? Who is the one doing the work? What kind of work takes place?
From these two passages, what can we say about our calling and what it might look like to walk worthy?
We learn God takes responsibility for the call on our life. He works faithfully to bring good out of whatever those who love Him do in the process of walking out the call He gives us. This is the grace we receive with forgiveness.
Now let’s return to the picture of the scale.
God’s call is on one side. Our walk or obedience to His call is on the other.
When these two even out or balance, when our doing matches God’s calling, then we are walking worthy. We are faithful at the same level and value of His calling and His faithfulness in the working out process.
The picture of these scales is not static. It constantly shifts moment by moment. A breeze can cause them to move off-center. The call God places on our lives changes too, becoming more weighty as we mature.
A basic call on all Believers is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. What this call looks like in the practical day to day will vary. But mostly loving God looks like obeying Him, learning to walk with the Spirit.
The second aspect of the call is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our neighbor is any person we have a relationship with no matter how intimate or casual, friendly or strained. We will not answer this call the same with every neighbor. The way we love our neighbor who is our spouse will look completely different than the way we love our neighbor who is a stranger we interact with in the aisle of the grocery store.
With this one call — love your neighbor — we see God’s specific call changing. The change is made known to us through the Spirit and then we walk accordingly to the best of our understanding and the utmost of our faith. Worthy.
When we miss the call, the scale becomes out of balance. Here is when we feel conviction of the Holy Spirit’s correction showing us where we missed an opportunity. This is when we need to remember and learn to live in the forgiveness promised. Otherwise, fear and bondage begin to have their way.
We need to remember, Jesus’s grace always balances the scale.
In the spiritual growth and sanctification process the call God places on our lives will continue to change. Just like a baby learning to walk and then talk, obey and then reason, growth comes with increased responsibility.
God does not alter His call on our lives to frustrate us. Every call is different because every person is different. His call is based on His perfect knowledge of every heart.
Walking worthy according to God’s call is based on our intimate personal relationship with God. It cannot be compared to anyone else’s, it is not a cookie-cutter lifestyle or a list of rules. Your worthy-walk may look completely different than someone else’s. It is a continual rebalancing of what we know of God and ourselves. Trusting in His forgiveness and grace every step of the way!
Closing prayer exercise: Mapping the River
Close your mind and assume a prayerful posture.
Imagine God’s call on your life and your walk in the Spirit. See yourself on the scale.
Are you balanced? walking worthy according to your spiritual maturity level? to the call God has on your life?
What emotions rise as you watch the scale tilt side to side?
Ask God to speak to you about where you are when it comes to His call on your life. balanced? unbalanced?
Embrace His love and forgiveness. Receive His correction and direction as from a proud Father full of love. One who sees you right where you are and only wants what’s best for you.
And remember, Jesus’s death and resurrection, makes You worthy…
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Hebrews 11:1 MEV
Our walk of faith is based on trusting, placing our hope in, God’s forgiveness and grace as the substance or foundation of our lives. Hope by its very definition is unseen, it’s something we’re waiting to appear, waiting for it to happen, waiting for it to arrive.
The hope we’re currently moving toward in this study is maturity in Christ and total surrender to the Spirit as the entire substance of our lives.
Remember it’s a process.
Remember it’s like swimming, every moment a choice to walk in the Spirit.
Remember you are not alone, He is with us every step (or stroke) of the way.
For He has said: “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
Hebrews 13:5 MEV
Let’s keep on keepin’ on, one step at a time, toward living life
forgiven, fearless, and free!
Here’s a PDF of the Week 2 Study: Finding Your Way in the River of Life
Praying for you on your journey.Stacy & Carol