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.
We can neither earn God’s blessings nor forfeit them based on our performance. Our performance, whether great or deplorable, has no influence on His blessings. Irrespective of our performance we are all dependent on God’s undeserved favour – but how often we fall into the trap of trying to say and do things, deserving of God’s favour!
We think more bible-reading, prayer, financial giving or good works will gain us blessings, but somehow it seems to conflict with all that we understand about God’s grace. We know that Scripture exhorts us to be transformed into the likeness of Christ, and it is the work of the Spirit to carry out this sanctifying transformation in us. We are to cooperate with Spirit’s work in our lives – not to do it in our own flesh.
To try to sanctify ourselves ends up as ‘works of the flesh’ produced by our sin nature. It is by grace that we are sanctified, as we submit to the work of the Spirit within. Yet we are told to make every effort to be holy and strive to live peaceably with all. We are exhorted to pursue holiness – to press towards godliness as life’s priority.
But how can striving towards godliness harmonise with the Spirit’s work in us? How can the diligent pursuit of sanctification be compatible with resting in Christ? How can striving towards holiness be rooted and grounded in the passivity of grace? The earnest pursuit of holiness seems to be at odds with 'letting go and letting God'.. but unless our striving and pursuit of holiness is anchored in His grace, we will fail. The pursuit of holiness is only achievable if secured by God’s transforming grace.
It seems to be connected with right thinking – with aligning our thoughts with His. It appears to be the difference between God’s mind-set and that of the world-view, but how do we renew our minds to God’s way of thinking rather than the world.
We live in a world system where the culture of the age is performance orientated. Acceptance at home or at school is all too often dependent on what we say and do. The legalism that is inherent in society is often transferred into the spiritual realm. We transfer the way the world thinks and acts into our relationship with the Lord – but this is counter to God’s way of working and opposite of His way of thinking.
How can we diligently strive to holiness without becoming legalistic in our thought? Well, it seems that Paul answers the question – and it is all summed up in love: for the love of Christ constrains us .. the love of Christ compels us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died. He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One Who died for them and was raised. 2Corinthians 5:14-15
To live for Another means to put everything aside for their special benefit and joy. We do not diligently pursue holiness out of duty, but because of deep love for Him. We endeavour to be holy for one reason only – that the love of Christ constrains us. Love was the motivating factor behind Paul’s pursuit of holiness and must be ours too.
We do not strive to godly living out of obligation or a desire to gain God’s approval. We do not diligently pursue our sanctification out of a sense of duty, but of love. If love is not the stimulus for godly living, we will fall into the mindset of the world – for we love Him because He first loved us and saved us by His grace.
When we begin to understand that grace is bigger than the total sum of our sins, the love of God will constrain us towards the diligent pursuit of sanctification. When we start to realise that grace is vaster than the weight of our good works, the love of Christ will constrain us towards striving to a godly way of living. When we comprehend that depth of the riches of His grace towards us, the love of Christ will constrain us towards the earnest pursuit of holiness... and so we will prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.. that Christ is all in all and that we are transformed into His image – to the glory of God Romans 12:2
illustrations kind permission Janet Bongiovanni
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