5th July 2023

Cru asks


What's our part
and what's Gods' in spiritual growth?

It is something everyone seems to wonder about,
but nobody talks about.
When it comes to spiritual growth, what's God's part
and what's mine?

Christians seem to fall off on either side of this horse.
On the one side, God does all of the work. We simply ask
Him to fix us.
Sliding to the other side of the saddle, we reduce our faith
to nothing more than discipline.

We would suggest a model which views the process of
spiritual growth as a partnership.
The foundation for understanding this is found in the following verse:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -
not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to
his good purpose.

.... Phil. 2:12-13

Let's go back in history about 3,000 years.
We find the Israelites standing on the east bank of the Jordan River.
It must have come as a disappointment when they found out that God
had not phoned ahead to the current inhabitants and told them to vacate
the premises.

God does not vacate the land for them, but neither does He tell them
that they must clear it by themselves. It is a project they will do together.

As you read through the book of Joshua, you'll notice that in each
battle there is a collaborative effort.
The same is true in our battle against sin. We must learn the principles
of holy warfare and how to fight in partnership with God.

Before the first battle (Jericho) to conquer the land east of the
Jordan river, God was already at work causing fear and motivating
to action. A similar idea is found in this verse from Philippians:

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -
not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -
continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to
his good purpose.

.... Philippians 2:12,13

He tells us what area needs to change.
He motivates us to want to change. He is at work behind the scenes
in our circumstances.
The Holy Spirit works at aligning our hearts and minds, as he did
with the people of Jericho. But, you may say,
"I'm not sure I always feel that alignment taking place."

Now we get to a "this is our part" area.
The influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is somewhat contingent on
our cultivation of His presence and influence.
That influence can be like the slow intravenous drip beside
a hospital bed, or like a flowing river.

We can cultivate greater sensitivity to the Holy Spirit's influence
when we do things that involve us. Spending time with God daily.
Praying and relying on God throughout the day. Giving thanks to God
throughout the day.

Spending time with other Christians. Memorizing Scripture.
Praising God for who He is. Getting involved in ministry.
These things cultivate our receptiveness to the Holy Spirit.

Be filled with the Spirit.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks
to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

.... Ephesians 5:18-20

So, God works in us to will and to act, but we have a role
in cultivating His presence and creating an environment in our heart
that heightens His influence.

Our role, however, is to make a habit of what God is doing in us through
acts of obedience. We work out what God is working in.

We cease to be the sort of people who sin in particular areas
and we become the sort of people who turn aside from those sins.
This is a major role we play in our sanctification -
to make "right choices" which act out what God is doing in us.

We may not have the ability to refrain from making poor choices
while on the Internet late at night, but we have a choice of whether
to get on the Internet late at night in the first place.

Habitual obedience - when fighting particularly vexing sins -
will often be fought and won on the choices we make to keep ourselves
out of harm's way.

These choices turn God's work in us, into external character change.
Like the story of the Israelites at the battle of Jericho, it is God
who gives the victory.
But, our obedience - like the Israelites walking around Jericho -
plays a critical part.

Haven't you ever thought,
"Why doesn't God just change me and make me different?"

Well, He doesn't, for the same reasons He didn't give the Israelites
the land all at once.
We would forget the enslaving power of sin.
We would begin to believe that it had been our strength and will power
that brought victory over sin.

We'd lose our dependence upon the Lord.
We wouldn't use our new freedom responsibly.
We would never fully appreciate what we'd been delivered from.
We would be far less thankful... and the list could go on.

There are important lessons of growth that accompany every battle,
so we don't want to fast forward through the process.
Actually, we would all love to fast forward through the process,
but God loves us too much to let us have the remote control.

It can grow tempting to allow sin to set up camp in our life:
we call a truce and accept that we will always be a certain way.
Look at Numbers 33:55:

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land,
those you allow to remain will become barbs in your eyes and thorns in
your sides.
They will give you trouble in the land, where you will live.

God requires us to persevere in our fight for holiness.
Through a variety of means, God motivates us to this end.
He gives us encouragement, a fresh motivation, renews our hearts
and minds, and restores our zeal.

Our part is to repent when we have settled for mediocrity or
become apathetic.
We are to confess and ask for a renewed heart to keep fighting.

Bible references avaiable, on request

About Us
Cru is the name of Campus Crusade for Christ International in the U.S.
Cru (U.S. Ministry) 100 Lake Hart Drive
Orlando, FL 32832
We seek to journey together with everyone towards a relationship with Jesus.