Thursday, December 10, 2009

Who Does God Work In?

Who does the Holy Spirit work in? And what do we need to do for Him to work in us? What does the Scripture say about this?

The Scripture says that the Spirit is at work in every believer (2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 1:29; Romans 8:9). In Galatians 2:20, the faith mentioned, in context, is saving faith (see Galatians 2:16-21). We are told that in Christ we have all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) and are made complete (Colossians 2:10). I would therefore conclude that the Holy Spirit works in every believer.

However, there is a command in Scripture for us to respond (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:16). These verses do not say in so many words what we are to do, but the implication is that we are to fit in with what the Spirit is doing in our lives, by obeying God. Further, in these verses, as in other passages of Scripture (Hebrews 5:14; Colossians 2:19; 1 Timothy 4:7, 8), it speaks of a process, of God transforming us over time. It is also important to realize that the power to do this comes not from us but from God (John 15:5; Romans 8:8). Otherwise we are in danger of becoming puffed up with pride or cast down by despair. Now there are many who reach a point in their life when they make a decision to seriously follow God or to rely on God's power rather than their own. I would not at all dismiss these experiences; there are many times God teaches us a new truth or makes an old truth finally become real to us. But I am convinced, based on Scripture, that these experiences are the result rather than the cause of God's working in our lives. Also, I think it is a mistake to require our experiences of others, in whom God may be working in a different way.

Scripture does not give us any formula for starting the Spirit's working in our lives. If this existed, you would expect it to be clearly taught throughout Scripture. But we are missing any clear-cut statement of what the correct set of conditions are. There are various commandments (for example Romans 12:1, 2 or 1 John 1:9), which are pressed into service as conditions for God's working in our lives, but there is no basis for concluding that this is correct. The problem with such conditions is they can discourage the one who tries them and does not see the immediate increase in spirituality that is promised. (I have been there). It also encourages individuals or groups to see themselves as the only ones in whom God works and to look down on others who do not use their particular approach. But if we recognize that God works in all His people, changing them over time as they respond, we can avoid these errors.

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