Monday, 2 February 2015
Gospel Workout: God at Work
Gospel Workout, part 1. Enough gospel food, it’s time for a gospel workout.
I know what you’re thinking. She’s tricked us. This is some kind of bait and switch. I thought this blog was all about eating and now she wants us to go to the gym!
It reminds me of the time I was 8 and a friend invited me to go with her to the zoo, “dutch treat.” I didn’t know what dutch treat meant at the time, but it sounded yummy to me. When I got home, my mom asked me how it was.
“Well, not only was there no dutch treat, but she made me pay my own way!”
It was a formative experience in my life.
No, this is not a bait and switch proposition. We’re not going to lose the sweetness of grace or the good news of the gospel. We’re not going to lose sight of Jesus, either. We’re simply going to ask the next logical question, “What do I do with this gospel now that I’m satisfied with Jesus? Where do I go once I get up from the table?”
Paul answers that question this way,
“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
We get up to “work out our salvation,” because we are confident that God is “at work in us” today, and again, tomorrow.
What does a Gospel Workout look like? That’s the topic of this 5-part series.
God is at Work in Me Today
“For it is God who works…” This God who works is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He has the same standards of holiness. He has the same reservoirs of mercy. That’s why I don’t take grace as a free pass to do whatever I feel like, to justify sin or laziness. Paul calls us “beloved” and at the same time he calls us to “fear and trembling.” That’s because the God who loves us is holy. And he wants his beloved children to be holy, too.
“For it is God who works in you…” God was at work in you and me long before we thought of him. He began the work of saving us before the foundation of the world. That’s how far in the past the word “began” occurs. He chose us before he created anything and he called you and me on the day we believed. Past tense.
God will complete the work he began, too. That’s what Paul promised the Philippians in the same letter. “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:6). Future tense.
In between those two points, he is at work. Now. Today. When the kids are fighting again and I’m struggling to control my own temper. When the boss hands me another project with a ridiculous deadline and I’m resisting the urge to laugh or to cry. When the doctor calls and says I need to come in for some more tests and my stomach drops into a worst case scenario.
God is at work in me right now.
God Works in My Will Today
God is at work in the command center of my life, the place where desire becomes decision. God is at work in my will, even when my wants threaten to turn into my demands. God is at work in the hungers of my heart, even when they threaten to become bullies and take over. He is my help in moments of temptation.
How do I know that? Because God gave me a new will when he made me new in Christ. He gave me a hunger for him at the epicenter of my newness. He made himself Lord of the command center of my life, and remains at his post, calling me back to him when I stray.
So, when my cravings are strong and my will feels weak, I can cry out to him, “Help! Be at work in my will RIGHT NOW for your good pleasure!”
God Works as I Work
God is at work while I work. My sanctification and service are a joint project between me and the Triune God who has saved me. United with Christ, I’m never alone. I’m in the yoke with him; we’re pulling together. He is at work while I’m working, whatever that work happens to be.
What percentage is his part and what is mine? Is it 50/50? Or 80/20? Or 99.9/0.1? No one can tell by looking. We’re one flesh now. It must be 100/100.
So, whether I’m fighting for contentment while shopping on a budget or struggling with resentment while picking up the slack at home or work, he’s there. He’s not just watching, he’s working too, working his good pleasure into the motives and actions of my life.
It takes effort on both of our parts. But that’s OK.
“Grace is not opposed to effort, only to earning.” -Dallas Willard
So let’s work out our salvation one day at a time, knowing all the while that God is at work in us. His Great Work continues, while our good works are being done.