January 10, 2012

We Work Out What God Works In

Philippians 2:12-13

Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you …
Philippians 2:12-13


Tomorrow we’ll begin a survey on the fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23. We’ll spend two days on each of the virtues listed there, using the first day to consider how the virtue is a product of the Holy Spirit’s work in us, and using the second day to look at how spiritual growth involves work on our part too.

It’s important to keep both of these activities in mind. If we focus too much on God’s activity, we can become complacent and think spiritual growth is his responsibility. But if we focus too much on our own work, we can begin to think (proudly) that we’re doing it all ourselves, or we can think (despairingly) that no fruit we produce will ever meet God’s approval.

The fruit of the Spirit is both a gift and a task. Abiding in Christ is initiated by God’s grace, but we grow in that relationship as we work out what God has worked in us. I am reminded of a prayer of St. Augustine, who saw that the only reason we can grow in obedience is because God supplies the strength we need to obey him.

Like Augustine, we must acknowledge how desperately we need God’s grace and how willingly God gives it. As God works faithfully in us, we need to be committed to working wholeheartedly with him in all the areas of our lives.

Dear Lord, thank you for providing everything I need to be a fruitful Christian. Help me, in total reliance on your grace, to devote all my energy to growing closer to you. Amen.

About the author — Peter Hoytema

Peter Hoytema has been a pastor for nearly 30 years and has served congregations in Ontario and New Jersey. He is currently the pastor of a congregation in Strathroy, Ontario. He is a graduate of Calvin Theological Seminary and San Francisco Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Grace, are the parents of four adult children.

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