The Tension of Walking with God
To walk with God is to live by faith in obedience to His commands. Yet, we are unable to do this in our own strength and power, but in that of the Holy Spirit alone. This is the vital tension we must maintain in our pursuit of holiness. The apostle Paul articulated this balanced tension in Philippians 2:12-13, work out your salvation with fear and trembling [that’s the responsibility of personal obedience]; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure [that’s divine empowerment]. John Owen explained it this way:
We are to humble ourselves to this,—that we address ourselves to the performance of the greatest duties, being fully persuaded that we have no strength for the least. This is that which lies so cross to flesh and blood, that our souls must be humbled to it if ever we are brought to it; and yet without this there is no walking with God.
There are great and mighty duties to be performed in our walking with God in a way of gospel obedience: there is cutting off right hands, plucking out right eyes; denying, yea, comparatively, hating father, mother, and all relations ; dying for Christ, laying down our lives for the brethren ; crucifying the flesh, cutting short all earthly desires, keeping the body in subjection, bearing the cross, self-denial,and the like;—which, when they come to be put in practice, will be found to be great and mighty duties.
This is required in the law of grace,—that we undertake and go through with these all our days, with a full assurance and persuasion that we have not strength of ourselves, or in ourselves, to perform the least of them. “We are not sufficient of ourselves,” saith the apostle, 2 Cor. 3:5. We cannot think a good thought. Without Christ we can do nothing, John 15:5.