(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
I have struggled trying to live out the Christian life of holiness as it is commanded in the Bible! Here are a few of the many directives I have grappled with:
- Leviticus 19:2 – “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”
- I Peter 1:13 through 16:
...as obedient children...rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ...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.”
- Hebrews 12:14 – “Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”
- I John 3:6 through 9:
Whoever abides in [Jesus]...does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. Little children, let no man deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
It seems that too often I agree with Paul’s struggles in Romans 7 where he writes in verses 14 through 24 (New International Version):
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sin- ful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing....For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?
“Who will rescue me from this body of death?” You see, I struggled with being obedient to God. It seemed like I just could not do what He wanted me to do. I know we all struggle at times. But I mean I really struggled! I have an addictive/compulsive personality that has battled against what the Word plainly tells me to do and not to do! I have struggled against addictions to tobacco, alcohol, drugs, pornography, over-eating, and a few more things I can’t think of at the moment – just as Paul described his own struggles! I have come to think Paul had a compulsive/addictive personality also!
Several years ago, I had an extended rough period in ministry as I pastored my third full-time church. My denomination sent my wife and me to The Center For Career Development And Ministry near Boston. There I had intense psychological assessments and personality tests over two and a half days. During the exit interview, as the director of the Center looked over the results of all the collected information, he said to me, “You are the most addictive person to have ever gone through our facility!” Gee, thanks! Now I know the reason for my compulsive/ addictive sinful actions, but I still didn’t have the answer concerning how to overcome my sinful struggles and live a holy life!
I thought I was missing something important, an important truth in the Bible! So I read, I searched, I studied, and I found a special key concerning living a holy life for the Lord in Philippians 2:12 and 13! I want to share it with you:
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 was written by Paul, the same author who wrote Romans chapter 7! If Paul had stopped with Philippians 2:12, I would still be in the same predicament of compulsively living a sinful life! In effect he said, “I have told you what you are supposed to do in your Christian life. Now go, and work it out – work it out with fear and trembling!” I had the fear and trembling part down pretty well! But how was I supposed to work out my salvation so God would be pleased with my practical everyday living? After all, the one thing I want to hear when I stand before my Lord Jesus in heaven is, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23).
But we are not to stop at the fear and trembling part in the last section of verse 12! We are to go on and embrace verse 13: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” This is the key, the gem I discovered, to assist me in working out my salvation the way the Lord wants me to! Paul says that…
- …God works in me, not just to do it, but also to will it!
- …He gives me the want to! And I have learned that when I really want to do something, I have no trouble at all in doing it!
- And when I want to do it, the Lord gives me all the energy, all the means, all that I need to do it!
I grew up on a dairy farm in the Berkshire Mountains of Connecticut. I had a pet Holstein calf I named Curly (she had curls on top of her head between her horn buds). When my father reminded me to feed or water my calf, I ran to do it! I loved that calf and I wanted to take good care of her! Caring for my Curly was never a burden! And when my mother called her three boys to come in for dinner, I sprinted to the house and the dining room table! I loved to eat (see the list of my addictions above) so it was not a chore at all to come in for dinner!
And when I struggle with obeying the Lord, all I have to do is have the courage to come before my God and confess:
Lord, I’m not sure I even want to do what You are telling me to do. Would You work within me to give me the want to as well as the do it? Thank you, God. Amen.
And guess what? He does just that, because He has promised to “…work within [me]…both to will and to do for His good pleasure…“! It has made a lot of difference in living out my Christian life before Him! It has taken a good amount of the struggle out of obeying God! I seem to relax more and rest in Him, letting Him do it in me and through me!
Now this is not the only Bible truth I have learned to help me live a life pleasing to my Heavenly Father. But Philippians 2:12 and 13 have made a difference! I will share more of my discoveries in the next Gems. In the meantime…
Start living out the truth of Philippians 2:12 and 13!
Ask God to give you the will to do His will,
And the power to do it!