In the last post, I stated, "There is nothing in salvation of which we can boast because our deliverance is of the Lord alone (Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 1:3). We cooperate with it, but it is His work completely."
Some people find this statement to be an oxymoron. If salvation - and thereby our deliverance - is of the Lord alone, then why does it require our cooperation? Those who struggle with this most are they who have been falsely led to believe that man has no role in salvation, has no free will, or is unconditionally eternally secure (OSAS) due to a one-time profession of faith.
How do we cooperate with God's work? We yield over control of our vessels to Him. That is it.
It reminds me of the television show "Extreme Home Makeover", where a team of carpenters offers to completely remodel your home. In order to receive this offer, what is the first thing you have to do? Get out of the way. The crew is not there to build according to your specifications nor to equip you with the skills to build according to your own desires. They will take on the expense of the rebuild, but you must give them complete control. The result? You are given a complete renovation of your house where everything is made new.
Think sensibly now. Just because you gave up control of the house, can you then take credit for having performed any of the renovation? Can you point to even one change in that home and state that it was your effort, might, or skill which produced it? Of course not. People in error like to call any responsibility man has in covenant with God as a "works salvation". Yet tell me, "What work have you actually
performed in such a case?" All you did was get out of the way and yield the vessel over to the carpenter. Well, that is what we do in turning to faith in Jesus Christ. Our bodies are the temple of God.
"What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" I Corinthians 6:19
Our vessels must be turned over completely to the Lord in order to be made new in Him. This is what is meant when we say that it is God's work alone with which we must cooperate. Do not let anyone deceive you into believing that God will perform His work within you apart from your free will. Even though we do not belong to ourselves, God still refers to these bodies as "ours". According to His word, it is we who must commit our bodies to Him in order for His work to be done.
"I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." Romans 12:1-2
Here Lord, do with this whatsoever you will. I belong to you. I am YOUR house." The moment you step back in and start attempting to direct the Carpenter about how to perform the renovation is the moment the work He performs slows down.
"Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it..." Psalm 127:1a
Yet, because we do not have the ability to see every step of the plan, it can be easy to become discouraged if we fail of His promise. Know this. The Lord promises that He is faithful to complete the work He has started within you. That is something upon which you can be absolutely sure.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:6
"And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it." I Thessalonians 5:23-24
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who
for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2
"The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands." Psalm 138:8
we have responsibility for rehabilitating ourselves. Nor is this assurance based in some false belief that our cooperation with God's work is not needed. The assurance comes because God is a God of His word; if we present ourselves as a living sacrifice, we will be transformed and made new in and by Him.
Obedience - yielding our vessels to the Lord - is not a "work", but is the very evidence that we are in right relationship with Him (John 15:10). It is the path by which we receive the blessing He wants to bestow upon us, for Jesus came not to be served, but to serve (Matthew 20:28). If we do not submit to Him, then we can have no part in Him (John 13:1-10). Remember, the Holy Spirit is only given to those who obey the Lord (Acts 5:32); and only those led by His Spirit are His children (Romans 8:14).
Our problem comes when we look for the inward changes to be made manifest at the expense of believing in His promise. We do not see or know all that God is performing within us to bring about this renovation. If we are not careful, this can lead to frustration and even doubt about whether God's work is being done at all. We are anxious to see the finished product, and our impatience can be a hindrance to the work He IS performing...even if we cannot immediately see it. The Lord gave me a reminder of this recently.
Years ago, I shared a testimony about being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. What I had not spoken about was that I have been dealing with a recurrence of this cancer for the past few years. It is inoperable and has spread. As such, I had recently become exasperated. I confessed last week to my husband and friends that I believed I was at my wit's end. I had grown weary in dealing with this trial. I was doing what I felt the Lord was leading me to in order to address the cancer, but I could not see what was happening on the inside of my body. Was it spreading more? Was it worsening? I was tired and in my heart I believed that I was close to giving up, even while I prayed for the strength to continue on.
Do not let what you think to be your current condition rob you of the joy of God's promises. He is making all things new within you little by little and you will see victory as He has already declared it to come to pass. Don't get frustrated with the process, but just stay under the power and authority of God's word. The nature of Jesus Christ will continue to grow within you by His Spirit as God does the work. God's timing is always perfect...and He is faithful! No matter your struggle, addiction, or shortcoming, He will deliver you from all that defiles you. While the changes God is bringing about on the inside will eventually bear fruit on the outside, remember that we do not walk by sight, but by faith (II Corinthians 5:7). Cooperate with God's transformative work in your life by yielding to Him daily and you will see the manifestation of His life within you as a witness to the world.
"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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 which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." Philippians 2:12-13