04 September 2013

for it is God who works in you

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. . .

Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

-Philippians 2:1-4, 12-13
I've found a certain danger in praying "God, help me to be kind/courageous/otherwise holy." That prayer, though it can demonstrate faith and I am not bashing it for all time, can serve as a cowardly excuse. Because then I figure . . . well. I've put in my request, so now I'll wait until I feel kind or courageous or otherwise holy. And only then, will I do what God has asked me to do.

Fire Flame Tulip
flame tulip by coopisthehighroller

That approach paints me as someone who needs a magical jump-start every time I'm to do anything righteous. It ignores the truth that as a child of God I've been spiritually resurrected, given a heart of flesh, and empowered by the third person of the Trinity who now dwells within me.

I can obey God right now!
We also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world?
-Galatians 4:3-9
The Galatians think they are still enslaved to sin and need to find some clever way to break its chains, when Christ has broken them forever. The new life you received through salvation is more than sufficient, Paul says. Stop downplaying the power of the cross and trying to reach new heights of spiritual ability on your own. There are no greater heights than knowing Christ. There is no greater ability than that of Christ Himself, and He has given us His own Spirit.

Not to say that believers never sin. The same Paul lamented his own failings. However, how should we respond? By saying, Lord, you know my weakness, yet you also know the good works you have planned for me. I believe you have forgiven all my sin and will enable me to grow in holiness, so I'm going to keep walking. 

Of course this is vastly different from "believing in your best self." The obedience we now perform is done through the Spirit's strength, not ours. Because of that, it's a more hopeful obedience. It is done in confidence rather than fear.
If Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh . . . For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!"
-Romans 8:10-15
I think of the woman caught in adultery, and how Jesus said to her, go . . . and sin no more. She might have wondered how she could obey that command. Wasn't sin her identity? Wasn't it her occupation from birth? I wonder if she came back to Him, later, and asked him to explain.

If she did, I imagine He would simply have replied, "I will be with you."


  1. just what I needed to hear: "I will be with you". love it!

  2. You should write a book. You put things of this nature so simply and well.

  3. Thank you :) Jared keeps telling me to write a book. I tell him I don't have the oomph to sustain my thoughts for longer than a blog post!

  4. Again, excellent thoughts. This spurs me on. Thank you.