Sanctified by works

[If you’ve missed any of my thoughts from the Desiring God Conference you can catch up here! This post comes from Johnny P’s final talk. ]

Act the miracle.

That was the name of the conference.

Sanctification is a miracle.  And it’s not just a miracle that God does all on His lonesome. It’s a miracle that He invites us, no commands us, to act.

One of my favorite moments of the conference was when Johnny P was explaining what this practically looks like in his life.Permalink

He wakes up, and he knows he should read his bible, but he’s tempted to sleep instead.  In that moment, he grasps a promise in his mind.  And He begs for faith to believe the promise: God’s word is more precious than gold!

But that’s not enough.  He has to act.  He has to move his legs.  In Johnny P’s words: he has to say to his legs: ‘FLOP legs!  Flop over the edge of the bed and get up!

And so Johnny P acts.  Every morning. His legs flop.  And that is a miracle: possible only because of the Spirit of God inside of Him.  It is a miracle that Johnny P gets to act.

God is fully engaged in our sanctification process.  He himself is both our motivation and our means to obey.

But the fact that God is fully engaged does not limit our full engagement.  Quite the contrary: God’s full engagement is the reason we’re fully engaged.

God authors the miracle, and you act the miracle or there is no miracle at all.

It is not: ‘God does some and we do the rest.’  God does all and we act all, for this is what He produces: our acts.

When God’s Spirit is working on the inside, we will see ourselves working on the outside.

Philippians 2: 15 says: work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is working in you both to will and work for His good pleasure.

The direct translation of ‘work out’ is ‘produce your own salvation’.  Paul says: pursue your salvation from sin with strenuous effort.  That’s insane.  That sounds like heresy.  Until we remember why God can command us to do it: because He’s doing it in us.  When God is at work, we work.

Lots of people hear this kind of thing and it makes their head spin. It seems like a detail that doesn’t affect anything.  But it does.  There are three reasons we have to pay attention to this challenging truth:

1. When God speaks, let’s listen.  Jesus died so that we could have understanding when we read His Word.  My ability to hear this verse was purchased for me by His blood.

There’s nothing superfluous in the Bible; nothing extra.  The Words in there are written because they matter and they are the means of our perseverance.  Let us not ignore a single one simply because it’s confusing.

2. This will fuel our action.  When I understand this truth, it makes me say to my legs: “flop”.  It kills complacency.  It destroys the deceptive lie that we hear so often: if God is sovereign, He’ll do it.  My sin, my sanctification: it’s His problem.

3. This will protect us from pride.   For some of us there’s a different lie that lurks in our minds.  Some of us find ourselves leaning on our own strength; believing that our sanctification depends on us.  Sure, God got us in the door, but it’s up to us to do the rest.

But there are two truths in Philippians 2:15 and neither can be neglected: (1) you act and (2) you act because God acts in you.  God gets all the glory.  He gets all the credit.

At the end of this day, if I have loved Him, if I have fought lust and arrogance and unbelief, it is because God has given me grace.  He has poured it out upon me and He has worked a miracle in me and I know that because I acted.

When God heals the blind, the blind really see.  But how ridiculous would it be if that ability to see produced in them pride?  How foolish would it be for the lame to celebrate their legs when they were able to walk instead of worshiping the one who made them walk?

God heals the lame, He gives sight to the blind, and He works miracles in me.  And as a result, the lame walk, the blind see and I fight sin.

He works the miracle and I act the miracle.

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