Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Power of God in the Will and Work of Fallen Humanity

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. (Philippians 2:12–13)

Excerpt from “Walking with God in the Power of God” – 2011-10-02
Paul is telling us here that God energizes, God empowers us in at least two ways. He energizes us both “to will” and “to work” (to do) what is pleasing to God (“for His good pleasure”). Without God’s empowerment within us, without God’s energy within us, there would be no will, no desire for us to do anything that is pleasing to God – and if even if we had the will, the desire to do what was pleasing to God, we would not have the energy, the power, to do so! Brothers and sisters, we can never take credit for anything good or godly we have done because “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Now there is and always has been and always will be a debate about how God “works” in us like this. We still suffer from the lack of humility and disobedience in the Garden because this debate has to do with us – how much good is in us, how sinful we really are, and how much free will that we have regarding our salvation and our ability to walk with God. There is a truth in tension here that cannot be solved with our human minds; God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:8-9). But we do know what God says about this in our text for today. God’s word clearly tells us the work of our salvation - and our desire and ability live out that salvation in a manner that would please God - is absolutely and totally dependent on God in being the source of our power and God being the One who is always working with His power within us: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for (because) it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” We are powerless without God.

Deep down inside our souls we all know this. Deep down inside we know that before Christ was in our hearts we were dead to the things of God. And when Jesus did come into our hearts – we came alive! Some of us have forgotten what it was like without Jesus. Some of us have forgotten we have another life within us: God’s life, the presence of Jesus, the Holy Spirit. Yes, our hearts, our lives and our wills are involved in this too. But the truth is we never could come to faith without God’s sovereign divine intervention. But it’s also true that we would never have come to faith had we not chosen God. But we also saw last week that without God’s help – His energy, His power – we would not have chosen Him: “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18). Without God’s power we are powerless; without God’s power we do not have the ability to do what is right. But with God’s power we can live above our sinful nature and we can do what is right. In Galatians 2:20 the apostle Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The power of God through the cross of Jesus Christ is the power at “work” within us when we live out our lives in humble obedience for God.