I remember one phone conversation I had with my dad a few months back and it always makes me laugh. I was in the kitchen when he called and he asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was loading the dishwasher, but he heard me say I was "using the dishwasher."
We got a good laugh out of that. It's almost as if I said I was watching grass grow or using the oven. All things that do need input from me to possibly get started, but ultimately are doing the work themselves while I go on with other things.
This random misunderstanding got me thinking. How often do I say I'm seeking change in my life and simply sit there (or keep going about other things), waiting for God to do all the work.
One of the best books I have ever read is The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. In talking about holiness, he looks at our part combined with the Holy Spirit's part in becoming more like Christ. He says, "we have misunderstood 'living by faith' (Galatians 2:20) to mean that no effort at holiness is required on our part. In fact, sometimes we have even suggested that any effort on our part is "of the flesh."
Galatians 2:20 says, "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
When we look at Scripture as a whole, and not just one verse, we quickly realize that our Christian walk is not going to grow without work on our part.
Other verses that I am drawn to when thinking about this dual role in change are:
Philippians 2:12 - "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."
James 2:26 - "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."
James 2:18 - "But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works."
I know (trust me) it can be easy to make excuses about the lack of transformation in our Christian life because we are (even faithfully) waiting on God to do His work in our life. BUT there is a huge part of change that depends on us.
I know this is true, because I know that God desires for me to spend time with him, but he doesn't magically (like my dishwasher!) let me go to bed one night and wake up the next day a totally different person who never sleeps in again without reading from my Bible. It takes an act of change in my own lifestyle and habits to be continually moving to be more like my Savior.
Of course, as believers, we are now "new creations in Christ" (2 Corinthians 5:17) with the power of the Holy Spirit at work in our lives. So, as I have to tell myself daily, we must allow the Holy Spirit to work in us as we in turn work for change in our own life.
Another challenge from Jerry Bridges:
We must face the fact that we have a personal responsibility for our walk of holiness. One Sunday our pastor in his sermon said words to this effect: 'You can put away that habit that has mastered you if you truly desire to do so.' Because he was referring to a particular habit which was no problem to me, I quickly agreed with him in my mind. But then the Holy Spirit said to me, 'And you can put away the sinful habits that plague you if you will accept your personal responsibility for them.'"
Remember that God's "divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness," so don't just sit around and wait for yourself to get clean! ...You may have to pull out some of your own soap and use a scrub brush at the same time as God continues to complete the work that He has begun in you! (Philippians 1:6)