Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 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.
Though we can’t earn salvation through good works, not all of the effects of salvation can be seen immediately in us and we’re called to persevere in our faith and “work out” our salvation. As we progress in our walk with Christ, God works in and through us.
At the point we would call conversion, we do become new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), our old nature dying and our new nature being in Christ. It’s through persevering faith, though, that we really take on the new attributes of a Christ-follower, the fruits. The Holy Spirit works in us “to will and to work for His good pleasure”. This means our very desires begin to change because of God’s work in us. We don’t just change because we think we’re supposed to change, we change because we now desire to do so. Our wants begin to align with God’s will and purpose.
When we follow Christ, we take on His plans as our own and God has us bring about His will by transforming us to be more like Him.
1 Timothy 1:5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
In our lives as Christians, we can often get caught up in thinking that we’re just supposed to do certain things, obey the rules, and work for God. The problem is that sometimes our motives are all wrong. We do things because we’ll be noticed or we do them because we want God to think more highly of us. The Lord, whether we realize it or not, cares very much about our motives. He cares that we do things out of love, a pure heart, and sincere faith.
We shouldn’t do things just because we’re going through the motions of what we think we’re supposed to do and we should never do good things out of selfish motives. A good deed done for personal gain is worth nothing. God’s work in us, our sanctification, should lead to fruits that bear witness to Him. Selfish good deeds do no such thing.
Follow the lead of Matthew 5:16 and let your light shine so that others will glorify God because of it.
2 Thessalonians 2:14 To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who began a good work in us will see it through to its completion. He’s called us not only to salvation but to sanctification. In shaping us and forming us to be more like Christ, God is bringing glory unto Himself.
When we are sanctified through the work of the Holy Spirit we bring glory to Jesus. All glory unto Jesus is also unto the Father (John 10:30). When we are growing into the image of Christ, we desire more and more to do the will of God the Father.
Our part in this, as Paul tells the believers at Thessalonica, is to stand firm. We must hold on to the Gospel which we have been taught because the process of sanctification can be painful. When we face various trials, we need to focus on what God has done and what He will do. It’s not only for our own good that He calls us to be made into the image of Christ, it’s also for His glory.
———- What have you been through that’s been painful but you realize has been for your own benefit or God’s own glory?
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;
We face all sorts of opposition in this life, both before and after our conversion and rebirth in Christ. As we journey down the road of discipleship we’ll meet lots of challenges along the way, but they can be used to build us up instead of destroying us. With God on our side, we will be victorious.
As followers of Jesus, we don’t operate in our own strength, we have the Creator by our side. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9) His power shows through when we have none. When we embrace our weakness and rest in Him, His power shows in us. When we’re weak, then we’re strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)
It’s for the sake of Christ that we endure all this life has to throw at us. It’s so His power can be made known, so His strength can be evident in our lives. We’re given over to death in this body so that His life can be made real in us for all to see. It’s for His glory that we face trials, and just as we die like Christ we’ll be resurrected and glorified. He was victorious over death, so now we can be too.
2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
You are not who you once were. You’re not who you were before Christ, but you’re also not who you were right at the moment He entered your life. You’re being transformed by God to be more like Him. He’s revealing more of Himself to you and as He does that, you gain more of His character. To know Him is to behold Him.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. No, each and every thing that God needs to work on in your life to give you the image of Christ is done one bit at a time. One event at a time. One circumstance at a time. One tragedy at a time. One triumph. One stint of suffering. All of it, everything that happens in your life is part of the process. It may not seem so now, but over time it will make more sense. Look back at where you were and where you are now. Think of all the things you’ve been through that have shaped you into what you’ve become. And the process is only just beginning.
The journey of sanctification is ongoing and doesn’t stop until we’re just like Christ. It won’t end in this lifetime, but it will have an impact here. As the Holy Spirit works in you, it affects your character and the fruit you bear as a Christ follower. You walk more closely with God, understanding more as He reveals more of Himself. God is glorified in you and through you.
Philippians 1:6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The foundation for our spiritual growth is our recognition that our Creator, who began a good work in us through salvation, will bring that work to completion through sanctification. We need to look back at what He’s already done so that we can remember how good He’s been and keep in mind that He’s faithful and will remain active in our lives. We can have confidence that God will never let us go.
Sometimes we need to act on what we know to be true instead of what feels true at any given moment. Feelings are a big part of who we are since we’re spiritual beings, but they can often be misleading. When it feels like God isn’t living up to His promises, but we know that He’s faithful and won’t let us go, we need to rely less on feeling and more on what we know to be true.
One way we know that we can rely on God is though His Word. Story after story is documented of His faithfulness to His people. This, along with the evidence in our own stories, gives us hope that He will indeed complete the work that He began.
———- Reflect on where you were spiritually 5 years ago, 2 years ago, one year ago. Think about how much God has done to develop you into the person He created you to be.
Colossians 2:20-23 If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
What is Christianity all about? Have we vowed to follow Christ only to replace the Old Testament law with new law? Is this new life just about more rule-following? Observing some of today’s churches, you would think so! Sermons so often focus on behavior modification or bettering the life of the Christian through specific actions. We trade in the true power of the gospel for the belief that being a good Christian means listening to the right music, wearing the right T-shirts, not swearing or drinking, and being “nice.” Congregants lack the joy of Christ because they fail to keep up with all of the things they are “supposed” to do. Moralistic, therapeutic deism fails to deliver.
The truth is that no formula for behavior modification will ever work because the root of sin is in our hearts. No amount of keeping up with strict law or disciplines or rituals will keep us from being what we are: fallen and sinful. Religion seeks to justify the believer through their actions. True justification comes from Christ (Romans 4:25). Only He can liberate us from sin.
It can make us feel good for a while to try to earn our own merit, but in the end we will always fall short (Romans 3:23). We’ll never be good enough, do enough, deprive ourselves enough to be free from sin. If we fully rely on Jesus it means we trust that His sacrifice was good enough, that we don’t need to be under the law in order to receive forgiveness from God for our transgressions, that He died once, and for all (Hebrews 7:27-28). Nothing we could ever do could make Him love us more. And nothing we fail to do could ever make Him love us less.
Ephesians 4:13-14 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.
It should be obvious to every Christ follower that we are to aim to grow spiritually. Just as we would notice something was terribly wrong with a person who has not physically matured past infancy, we should see it as a problem when a Christian has not grown past spiritual infancy. The thing is, though, we don’t.
It’s far too common for those of us who profess to follow Jesus to be content with spiritual youth, never even trying to get past the first stages of Christian life. We overlook it in our own lives and we often overlook it in the lives of others. We get stuck in a place where surface level understanding is accepted and we miss out on a whole lot of blessings that only come with maturity.
To return to the physical to spiritual comparison, think about this: If a child never matures past infancy, he or she can never enjoy certain benefits like driving, marriage, living independently, or even just keeping friends. Likewise, in the spiritual life, there are many things that can only be enjoyed by those who move past the elementary things of the faith. Living in communion with other believers, weathering the storms of life with unshakable faith, finding answers to life’s questions within God’s Word on your own, genuinely worshipping, and praying as one who is close to God are really all much deeper if we have grown and matured.
Paul seems to be warning the church in Ephesus that they will believe anything if they don’t mature spiritually. His image of being tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine is a good picture of many Christians today. Let us all decide that we’re going to pursue spiritual growth and a better knowledge of God so that we can really experience Him in a greater way. Let’s vow also to help others towards this goal.
Romans 8:3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh
We misunderstand the Law handed down by God if we think it’s our job to keep it fully in order to be on the Lord’s good side. I’m not talking about earning salvation, most Christians would agree that we are saved by grace through faith alone and that our good works don’t get us there. But what happens after that? Something seems to change inside of us that makes us think we can now earn God’s favor by obedience to His Law even after we’ve been saved.
Just as we couldn’t keep the whole Law before we were in Christ, we still can’t keep the whole Law after we’ve been saved. We’ve been freed from sin and empowered to obey, but we’ll still never make it to the perfection the Law requires. We’re still human.
So, if we can’t keep the Law, what purpose does it serve Christians? If it doesn’t earn us salvation and it doesn’t perfect us in sanctification, what is it good for?
The Law does serve a purpose in showing us our sin. It shows us our need for Jesus. This is true on both sides of salvation as it shows us our need for a Savior before when we are lost and then shows us our continual need for the power of the Holy Spirit working in us as we walk in our faith. God knew we would never live up to the Law. It’s why He sent His Son to fulfill the Law that we might be freed from it’s bondage. Now it serves as a reminder that we need Him every single day.
Hebrews 2:10-11 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers
He who calls you and causes you to be born again, who justifies you and forgives you, who adopts you as His own, will not stop at merely getting you. He’ll keep working in you to make you more like Christ until the day of glory. The process of spiritual maturing is sanctification, becoming holy.
To sanctify really means “to set apart”, so when you consider what God does for you in His act of salvation you can see that He sets you apart for something. Justification, the declaration of the sinner as righteous, is not done as an end unto itself. This verdict of “not guilty” is for the purpose of empowering us to do God’s work. We are saved for His purposes, for His own good pleasure.
While were were still sinners, He made us alive in Christ to do good works (Ephesians 2:5) and He will continue working in us to bring us into maturity. This means we grow in character, in faith, in works, and in love. God does this in us both by the work of the Holy Spirit within and by our own actions and choices that lead us to holiness. It’s only through Christ’s shed blood that we are capable of this growth, however. None of this is ours to claim credit.