Can you think of a time in your life when you knew what to do but you just didn’t do it? You had all the right information but you failed to use that information. Or maybe you started well but over time it became easier to fall back into old habits, and the end result was less than desirable. Think of New Year’s resolutions. Many people have them, they even begin on that journey, but truthfully, few really ever get where they had hoped to go because the follow through is lacking. The same with dieting and exercise – we often begin with good intentions only to slip back into old ways, and soon you find yourself once again overweight and out of shape.
The Christian life is often that same way. We begin our faith journey in the Spirit (Rom. 8:9), but so often as the months and years go by we try to accomplish by the flesh (on our own) what we once relied on the Spirit for. Maturity does not come by self-effort. It is true that in order to become more like Jesus – spiritual maturity – we need to turn from many of our own ways, but the power to do that does not come from within us, rather, it comes by the grace of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Growing fruit – spiritual fruit – is an inside job. It does not come by willpower. It can only come from God’s Spirit living in you and through you. It is a gradual day by day commitment. We read this in the second half of 2 Corinthians 3:18 – “And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him.” (TLB)
To the early Christian community in the province of Galatia (in modern day Turkey), the apostle Paul asked the following question. The same question can be asked of Christ-followers today.
“Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it? Did you go through this whole painful learning process for nothing? It is not yet a total loss, but it certainly will be if you keep this up!” (Gal 3:2-4, MSG)
So, are you content to only grow a little doing it your way, by your own efforts, or do you desire to blossom into all that God wants you to become by allowing the Spirit to grow you? Do you want to grow a little or grow a lot?
New Bern, North Carolina