God’s Part, My Part

“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)

Laudable Linkage

A collection of good reading onlineHere are some thought-provoking reads discovered recently.

What Does a Christian Need to Grow? HT to Challies. “Conferences abound – they’re good aren’t they? – and there are all the worthy books you might read, they’re surely helpful? Some people are into blogs and podcasts too. Such vital media are surely valuable, are they not? But, honestly, no. Not ‘no’ as in, they’re not valuable. All these things might be valuable. But no, you don’t need them to grow.” I love back-to-basics posts.

Was That Worship? HT to Challies. Nostalgia or emotion might be part of worship, but are not worship in themselves.

Should We Legislate Morality?

Christians Don’t Need the Black Lives Matter Movement to Defeat Evil, HT to Proclaim and Defend. Before you react to this one, let me say that I was hesitant about posting it because the title and some of what it says is polarizing. But, whatever specific points we might agree or disagree with, the most important, and the reason I am sharing this, is that some are encouraging Christians to follow a movement instead of living out their Christian faith. In past decades it was Christians who led the fight for abolition and civil rights. “The idea that the gospel is not enough to defeat evil is a belief that could severely hamper the work of the Kingdom. Thankfully, the history of the last two centuries is enough to prove otherwise.” Also, while I believe, as this author does, that Black lives do matter, I didn’t know until a few weeks ago that there is an organization by that name with which I would not agree. Christians attending peaceful marches and protests are fine, but not in place of the gospel and Christian principles. And, as I said before, we do need to listen and acknowledge and learn.

Are Churches “A Major Source of Coronavirus Cases“? No, despite some headlines. We need to exercise discernment when we read the news. (In today’s post, Tim Challies notes that the headline has been changed to the more accurate and less provocative “Churches Were Eager to Reopen. Now They Are Confronting Coronavirus Cases.”)

40+ Free Virtual Vacations Your Kids Will Love, HT to The Story Warren. With vacation plans nixed due to COVID-19, here are some ways to explore areas you might never have the opportunity to see in person.

Amazing Chalk Art by a 14-year-old, featuring her brother. HT to The Story Warren. At the end is a list of links of fun things to do at home.

This is one Welsh church’s humorous rendition of how things would work when their church reopened after the lockdown. Probably whatever they actually did would seem much better after viewing this. 🙂 HT to Steve Laube.