Monday, May 4, 2015

The Divine Initiative of the Christian Life

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Philippians 2:12-13)
The truth of the Christian life is that it is the work of God in us, by His Spirit, to produce the fruit of the Spirit, which is all about love and manifests the life of Christ in us. It is all by divine grace, through faith, and not by our own effort to become anything. This does not mean, however, that we are simply dead weight, being shuttled about by God. Rather, we must be attentive to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the work God is doing in us.

The Lord Jesus, although he was fully divine as well as fully human — or perhaps we should say because he was fully divine as well as fully human — was always attentive to the Father. He did only those things he saw the Father doing and said only those things he heard the Father saying. Our new life in Christ means that we, too, have the capacity to see what the Father is doing and hear what he is saying, and so we, also, must be responsive.

We must likewise be attentive to the Lord Jesus. He is our example, and God is conforming us to his image, that we may be like him and reveal the Father even as Jesus did. We are disciples, learning Jesus. To be Christian means that we are following him — not being dragged along behind him.

We are also to be attentive to the Holy Spirit, who reveals the Lord Jesus to us and guides us into the life of Christ. He shows us Christ, who shows us the Father, who sends the Spirit. The Spirit empowers us, enabling us to do what pleases God. He also enables our wills to desire what pleases God. But he comes to empower us, not overpower us. So we are still responsible to yield to him and allow him to do his work in us.

The initiative of the Christian life, every step of the way, is always God’s, his work in us — and that is a matter of grace. Our work is simply to respond to his gracious initiative — and that is a matter of faith. So shall we fulfill his good purpose.