Thursday, November 21, 2013

Who Does the Work?

Who does the work for us to grow in Christ, us or God? Now salvation is God's work. He sent His Son to pay the price we needed to pay for our sins (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Therefore, we can accept this salvation as a gift by faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 3:21-28; John 6:28,29). But growth in Christ is more complicated, because it is something that changes us so we behave differently. There are those who give the impression that, having saved us, God has left us to work to achieve moral improvement on our own. And there are Scripture passages that encourage us to put effort into growing in Christ (Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 12:1,2; 1 Timothy 4:7,8). But there those who say we should just get out of the way and let God  take over and change us. Again, there are Scripture passages that would support the idea that growth in Christ is God's work in us (Galatians 2:20; 5:16; John 15:5). How do these fit together?

Now we still have to live our life and to make choices. The Spirit does not take over and replace our will and personality. At least, I have never met anyone who claims to have experienced this. Further, we are admonished in Scripture to respond in obedience to God's commands in every aspect of our life (Romans 6:12-14; 1 Peter 1:13-16; Colossians 2:6,7). And this is presented as a growth process, not something that happens instantaneously (Philippians 3:12-16; Hebrews 5:11-14; Colossians 2:19). Letting God take over is often put forth as a formula for immediate spirituality. There is no basis for it in Scripture. Further, in my experience it does not work.

But God also has not left us on our own to work up within ourselves obedience and service to Him. Rather, we are told God is at work in our efforts to empower us to do what He wants us to do (Philippians 2:12,13; Colossians 1:28,29; Ephesians 2:10). This is something that takes place in all believers and not just those who let God take over (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Colossians 2:10). Now this is a mysterious thing. We are working, but God is working in us to change us. We may or may not feel anything as a result of this happening (often feelings may come and go), but we take God at His word that it is so. What then is the issue? It is who we are trusting in. We should not trust in our ability, our self-control, our organizational competence, but in God and His power (Proverbs 3:5,6; Psalms 127:1,2; 37:3-6). This does not mean that we are passive or do not put out an effort or do not plan. But it does mean we commit all these things to God, trusting Him to use them to accomplish His purpose in our lives and in the world. For if He is not at work, we will accomplish nothing.

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