“Lord, change me.”
Do you ever pray that? And do you ever get frustrated with the slowness of change? Or even the lack of change?
I do. I pray for God to fill me with the fruit of His Holy Spirit, and not an hour later get impatient. I pray for victory over anger, and then lose my temper over something trivial. I pray for help with self-control, and then convince myself it really is okay to eat another cookie.
I can’t do anything without God’s help, so it’s good to ask for it. But sometimes He doesn’t want us to stop there. He wants us to take action—not by ourselves, but with Him.
Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:25)
Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. (John 15:4)
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. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Romans 13:14)
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:2a)
So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
The Bible is full of action verbs. We don’t do any of these things to earn God’s love or favor, We’re saved by grace through faith. He loved us when we were His enemies. He already loves us abundantly—He’s not going to love us more if we get our act together.
Nor do we sanctify ourselves or make ourselves Christlike. He does that.
But He asks us to obey. To abide. To behold Him. To be transformed by renewing our mind with His truth. To participate. To respond. To cooperate.
1 Timothy 4:7 says to “train yourself for godliness.” Other translations use “discipline” or “exercise.” What happens when we exercise? We expend energy and effort to the point of aching and sweating. Paul goes on to say “For to this end we toil and strive,” not in order to earn God’s favor, but “because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10). He tells the Corinthians, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified” (1 Corinthians 9:27). According to a note here, the Greek word translated “discipline” means “pummel”: “I pummel my body.” Grace doesn’t mean passiveness or a lack of effort.
I’ve spent a great deal of time wondering what’s God’s part and what’s my part in the Christian life. Someone once said, “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” I don’t know if that’s quite it. It helps me more to think of man with the withered hand or the paralyzed man whom Jesus told to rise, take up his bed, and walk. He told them to do exactly what they couldn’t do. But in taking Him at His Word and obeying, they were given grace and power to do what He said.
Maybe it doesn’t matter exactly where the lines are. Maybe it’s not a formula: God does those steps and then I do these. In many of those verses listed, God’s part and our part go hand in hand. We abide in Him, He abides in us, He produces fruit. We behold Him, He transforms us.
Do I abide in prayer, or do I race through a prayer list? Do I behold Him in His Word, or do I run my eyes down the day’s reading? Do I look for the promised escape from temptation or for an excuse to indulge?
So I pray. And by faith I abide, behold, renew. And I trust Him to transform. And I remember a walk is a series of steps to a destination. And I remember bearing fruit is a long process of growth.
(Sharing with Selah, Scripture and a Snapshot, Hearth and Soul, Senior Salon,
Inspire Me Monday, Remember Me Monday, Tell His Story, InstaEncouragements,
Recharge Wednesday, Let’s Have Coffee, Grace and Truth, Blogger Voices Network)
Important issue and I don’t know that I’ve ever really considered it quite this way. I agree with you that it seems it’s not a formula but more differs person to person and even within a single person throughout our lives. I too get frustrated by the lack of progress I see in myself sometimes, but then I think — what if we became Christians and within a year or so had reached the pinnacle. What would be left in this life? I guess the Christian walk is intended to be a life-long collaboration.
“Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” I love it! Perfect advice.
We are all works in progress Barbara… But it’s great we know He works at the pace we need rather then we want even in our impatience.
I love this, Barbara, as I struggle with walking the tightrope of understanding as well. We need him and that’s what it boils down to. EVEN my best efforts are supported by his spirit, and yet I must expend that effort.
I’ve pondered this question as well and I agree with your conclusion: ” He told them to do exactly what they couldn’t do.” God has called me to many things there was no way I could do in my own strength and power. He doesn’t, however, want me to sit idly by not using the brain and strength He’s given me. It’s up to us as to whether or not we’ll tap into the Holy Spirit or insist on our own self-sufficiency (of which I’m guilty). Great thought provoking post.
Barbara, such a wonderful post. It’s true – as we look into Scripture, people were told to do things which were humanly impossible. Perhaps it is the very way we learn not only to fully depend on Him, but that we become more than our abilities when we lean on Him. I am so grateful for His patience in teaching me for truly “bearing fruit is a long process of growth.”
I agree, it’s hard to know what is our part and what is God’s sometimes but we definitely need both. We can only grow and produce fruit in his strength but I think our choices are involved too.
Obey and Abide. Seeing them side by side was so helpful because they are so connected.
The Holy Spirit has done so much in me and I am so grateful that He never gave up on me. The growth comes through yielding and obeying His promptings through the years. Thank you for this beautiful post… ❤
So deep and rich, Barbara Lee. I appreciated how you articulated it, “In many of those verses listed, God’s part and our part go hand in hand. We abide in Him, He abides in us, He produces fruit. We behold Him, He transforms us.”
i don’t know if we can perfectly divide his work and our work. This week I was reading about obedience. That for sure is my part. Over and over again.
I think we all desire our Christian walk to be an easy formula, one-size-fits-all sort of experience. But we can’t have a relationship based on someone else’s formula. We have to seek, learn, trust, commune, and experience on our own. Without that input from us, we’re just practicing a ritual.
“They were given grace and power to do what He said.” That’s what I have to remember for myself too. He will give me the grace and power to do what he says, even when I don’t think I can do it. It’s such a mystery but such a truth!
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