As Christmas has passed us and the new year approaches, it’s an appropriate time for us to not only reflect with gratitude on all God has done in our lives, but also to consider the future. While most years prior I would have spent this time goal setting and planning my worldly conquests for the year to come, this year I challenge myself and others to consider something vastly more important; our sanctification. In my research for this piece I stumbled across this quote that is quite apropos for the topic at hand:
“How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” ~ Benjamin Franklin
God’s word requires not just a mere consideration and pondering of its messages and instructions, but instead commands a response and submission to them. We can have confidence that our Lord will “complete the work He began in us,” (Philippians 1:6) yet we must do our part! We must put energy into the process of our sanctification by growing in obedience with selfless humility. This requires deep care and concern to the seriousness of the matter as well as caution and awareness.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:12-13 (emphasis mine)
I think the reason why all of human history is marked with God’s children being in rebellion and exhibiting a lack of reverence for Him is that, as a whole, most believers LOVE God, yet too large a percentage of them no longer FEAR Him. Think about it, if Adam and Eve truly feared God and held Him in such high esteem and reverence, would they have acted in direct opposition to His instruction? Think about the last time you sinned in thought or word or deed. When acting in rebellion did you stop loving God? Doubtful. You probably just stopped fearing Him long enough to choose your sin over His commands.
Jesus said: “Blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it.” (Luke 11:28) Yet all too often we either purposely disobey God and act contrary to His desires, or we conveniently adopt a hyper-grace theology long enough to squash the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Our loving Father in His word has clearly expressed to us His desire for how we ought to live.
“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, ‘Be holy, for I am holy.’ ” – 1 Peter 1:13-16 (emphasis mine)
A.W. Tozer said “The inner life must overcome the flesh or the flesh will overcome and destroy the inner life.” Overcoming our flesh is what is required for us to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” by growing in obedience. The process of sanctification is not always an easy road, because “to whom much is given, much is required.” (Luke 12:48) We must consider that everything that happens in our life is for the benefit of God’s kingdom, either the process of sanctification (changing us into Christ’s image) or bringing salvation to the lost. When we do so, we can begin to see things from an eternal perspective and transcend the tumultuous circumstances by keeping our eyes on Jesus. (Matthew 14:22-33)
We must take personal responsibility for our own walk with the Lord, our obedience or lack thereof, is no one’s fault but our own. A.W. Tozer also said:
“If your Christianity depends on a pastor’s preaching, then you’re a long way from being where you should be.”
Sadly in the world we live in with the rapidly growing emergent church and blatant counterfeit Christianity, many pastors preach happiness over holiness, and teach success over sanctification. If our pastor gives a warm and fuzzy motivational speech every Sunday, but neglects to preach on more challenges issues, it’s our responsibility to see what instructions in God’s word are being neglected that directly contradict pertinent areas of our own lifestyle. We can blame circumstances, but “my pastor told me so” will not be a justifiable excuse on judgement day. Ultimately our obedience or lack thereof is a heart issue anyway, and we must take personal responsibility.
In closing, let us remember that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7) and live our lives accordingly. We must trust that “he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded,” (Proverbs 13:13) and live with the confident assurance that “Blessed is the man whose delight is in the law of the LORD.” (Psalms 1:1-2) Our finite minds cannot even fathom the rewards for faithful obedience God has planned for us in heaven; when we seek His will in every area of our lives He will undoubtedly reward us.
“Outside the will of God, there’s nothing I want. Inside the will of God there’s nothing I fear.” – A.W. Tozer
What bad habits, rebellious behavior or ways of thinking do you have that need to be worked out with fear and trembling? How can you more fully submit in faithful obedience to God daily?