In our pursuit of holiness, how do we obtain it? What is our role and what is God’s role?
Since the Holy Spirit is key to our sanctification, this should lead us to an obvious question: do we simply wait for the Holy Spirit to bring about holiness in our lives – or is there something we must do? Some people will argue that all you need to do is “let go and let God.”
Others will counter with Hebrews 12:14, which commands us to strive for holiness – that is, to make every effort to become more Christ like. So, when it comes to our sanctification, is it ultimately our work, or is it God’s work? The answer, I think, is found in Philippians 2:12-13, where Paul writes, “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.”
If I can reduce that important teaching to one easy line, I would state it this way: Fear God enough to make your holiness a top priority, and you can be assured you will succeed in this enterprise because God has taken the initiative in your holiness. He makes you want holiness, and He gives you the power to strive towards it.
From that, we can come to a very important conclusion: we cooperate with God in our sanctification! Now it is true that we do not have an equal role with God. It is not as if we are both “doing our part.” But, rather, it’s on the basis of what He has done that we also “do”! Numerous scripture verses indicate that you must expend effort to be holy: “Strive for holiness” (Heb.12:14); “Abstain from immorality” (1Thess.4:3);“Let us cleanse ourselves!” (2Cor.7:1); “Make every effort” (2 Pet.1:5).
But how do we do this? The simple answer is that God provides means of grace in reading the Bible, prayer, worship, and fellowship with other believers. There is nothing new here. But here is the warning: if you neglect these timeless, biblical practices, you do this to your peril. Neglect these – and I promise you – sin will come back with a vengeance.
Remember Psalm 119:11. It says, “Your word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” There is a means of grace. Do you see it? You need to read, memorize and meditate on scripture to win the battle against sin. God has provided you with weapons to win the fight. Simply uttering trite statements like, “I am just waiting on the Holy Spirit to do that” is pointless. You must be active!
I know there are people who say inane things. “Lord,” they pray, “Send your Spirit to break the power of this habitual sin that keeps rearing up in my life.” And then they complain that nothing happens, while they continue to walk according to the flesh. But just as silly are those people who simply try harder. “I will expend more effort to defeat sin!”
That does not work either. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit has provided the means whereby sin, evil and fleshly desires are defeated. You must use the weapons of your warfare! You must set your mind on the things of the Spirit – and that includes the means of grace the Spirit has given.
APPLICATION: Keep on asking the Holy Spirit for renewal, revival and an outpouring of His power. As you do, you will find that the Holy Spirit is creating in you the very fruit He promised: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. You’ll find those will be yours in greater abundance than ever before. So be encouraged – you are on the winning side!
YOU MUST SET YOUR MIND ON THE THINGS OF THE SPIRIT, WHICH INCLUDES THE MEANS OF GRACE HE HAS GIVEN.
Dr. John Neufeld
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