Titus 2:11-14; Phil. 2:12-13; Gal. 5:22-25
Today we finish our study on soteriology (why are you applauding?), and I’m going to wrap it up with a short discussion on God’s part in sanctification. Remember that sanctification is the process in which we become more like Christ in the way we think, talk, and act. We’ve gone over our part pretty extensively, and it's not rocket science: Spending time alone with God in reading his word and prayer, utilizing the church, and taking the practical steps you need in order to avoid sinful habits. But what’s God’s part in all this? What does he do?
Well, we know that he uses trials and discipline to grow us, but what does he do on the inside of us? The interesting thing is that there isn’t a lot in Scripture about this. There’s some, but not a lot of details. Quite frankly, the above passages were what I could find. Let’s take them one at a time. Before I go any further, however, I have to acknowledge that a lot of this material comes from Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges, which I can’t recommend highly enough.
The Titus passage is one of my favorites in all Scripture, since it summarizes Christian belief so concisely. There’s not a lot that isn’t mentioned here: God’s grace in salvation, our sanctification, the Blessed Hope (I love that phrase), and why Jesus came in the first place and what’s his grand purpose for us. But I want to focus on one thing in particular here. Paul first talks about God’s grace that’s appeared to all men in bringing salvation. But what does he say next? That “It” teaches us to say “no” to the wrong things and “yes” to the right things. What’s “it”? The pronoun refers back to “grace.” In other words, the same grace that saves us also teaches us to be holy. There's saving grace and then there's sanctifying grace. When you were saved, more than just a transaction occurred. The Holy Spirit came to live inside you; this is one of the greatest gifts that the Father has given us, and now that Gift is working inside you and instructing you in holiness. This is grace that--in contrast to saving grace--we can grow in.
What do the verses in Philippians tell us? We are told to work out (not “for”) our salvation. The salvation that’s inside you is supposed to overflow into the physical world so that others can see it. What’s the Force behind this “working out” process? It’s God (in the Holy Spirit) who gives you both the motivation (“to will”) and the strength (“to act”) according to his purposes.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, then you know what I’m referring to. You’re tempted to do something wrong, and there’s a voice inside you that says “You shouldn’t do that.” Or someone in need is in front of you, and this voice says “Step forward and help that person.” My friend, that’s not just your conscience telling you that. It’s the Holy Spirit moving within you, causing you to want to be obedient.
And Paul says that God is moving within you to act as well. When you don’t feel like doing more service, or you don’t think you can resist that temptation any longer, you can. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead (think about that power) now lives inside you, and he'll give you the strength you need.
And it’s the Spirit that produces fruit as well. Fruit is not formed by the tree “trying harder” or “putting more effort into it.” If the tree has the proper amount of water, sunlight, and nutrients from the soil, it’ll produce the fruit that its genetic structure determines. As we “keep in step with the Spirit” (which is our part again), he’ll produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
How exactly does he do this? I don’t know, but I do know that he uses the means of our cooperation. As we do our part, he’ll do his. And over time, you (and other people) will see a change. And you’ll be amazed at what his transforming grace can do.
Father, thank you for your Spirit who’s changing me. I’m not what I should be, but I’m not what I used to be, and I’m not all that I will be. Please give me what I need to change.