“….for God is the One working in you, both to desire and to effect on behalf of what pleases” (Philippians 2:13).
In our hearts, most Christians agree with God and His demands; but there is a fleshly disposition within each of us that renders us powerless to do what we know we should do. It is perhaps best summed up in the celebrated remark of the then British PM, Lord Melbourne, who, after listening to an evangelical sermon, said; “Things have come to a pretty pass when religion is allowed to invade the sphere of private life” !!!
Now of course, as the scripture tells us, God expects us to do His will, but He doesn’t expect us to do it on our own strength; on the contrary, He requires that we allow Him to do the work Himself; and that’s the hard bit, letting go of self and giving God the freedom to move!
Too many Christians today think that, having become a Christian, they are safely anchored inside the harbor; but the Holy Scriptures tell us otherwise. Nothing of lasting spiritual value has been accomplished in a man or a woman until his or her will has been surrendered absolutely to Christ. It was disobedience that brought about the ruination of mankind and only active, faithful obedience will truly reconcile us to the Father’s favour; this is what the life of Jesus demonstrated. Peter put it this way;
“The stone which the builders rejected this is become the main corner stone and a stone that causes stumbling or offense and a rock giving occasion for sin; those disobedient to the Word stumble into that for which they were destined” (1 Peter 2:7-8).
If Christ does not truly rule, that is sin; and for Christ to truly rule, the self must die; and the only way self can die is if we crucify him with his worldly desires, vanity, carnality and pride of life. Sadly, though, Christians congregate in meeting places which have become smooth waters in safe harbours, full of froth and frolic, but always securely tied up at its mooring and going nowhere! However, if you do not cut the moorings yourself and get out through the harbour bar into the great depths of Almighty God Himself, He will have to send a storm to break you loose from the anchors that bind you to this world and its religious traditions.
Scripture reveals three levels of engagement with God; firstly as converts we “come”; secondly as disciples we “follow”; thirdly as sons we “abide”. It is sonship that we are called to and it is only sons who will abide in the Father’s house.
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).
Jesus told the story of the rich young man in Matthew 19; he had wealth, morality, position, youth; all of the things that the world covets. Yet the question he asked of Jesus betrayed the fact that he knew that something was missing in his life, he clearly had no peace and there was an inner emptiness. The young man, like everyone else, had to make a choice. In the event, he made his fateful choice; he could not give up everything and follow Jesus.
This story is an allegory for modern Christianity, which will yield so much, and no more, to the Lordship of Christ; like the rich young man, modern religious Christianity has no peace of mind because it rejects the whole counsel of Christ’s teaching in favour of selected extracts that emphasise the “positives” in the scriptures; this is “positive Christianity”. But the truth, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, is that there is no true rest or peace outside the person of Christ Jesus; and the reason is that the Father has given to Christ Jesus all authority over every tribe and nation and all peoples of the earth (Daniel 7:14). It is Christ who is ruling and who must rule until all things are under His feet; when He then hands the kingdom back to the Father. In the meantime, the Father has rested from His works and rested in the Son, who is “the One with Whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).
While God is the One working in us, there is still a job for each one of us; our task is one of turning; turning from and turning to; in every aspect of our lives, thoughts and deeds, we are to turn from self and turn to Christ.