23
May
07

In Our Own Strength

This week I am reading Arturo G. Azurdia’s book, Spirit Empowered Preaching: Involving the Holy Spirit in Your Ministry. Instead of saying I am going through the book, I believe the book is going through me.

The author begins chapter 2 with the following quote:

I believe that the greatest impediment to the advancement of the gospel in our time is the attempt of the church of Jesus Christ to do the work of God apart from the truth and the power of the Spirit of God. Like the disciples of old, we are powerless, in and of ourselves, to accomplish the ‘great works’. The declaration of Jesus remains trued to this day: ‘apart from Me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5).

Azurdia nails it; moreover, he nails us, the church. We are powerless, today. We are attempting to the work of God in our own strength.

Later in that same chapter Azurdia adds:

Rarely are seminarians taught to pray and fast and weep for the subjective and internal illumination of the Holy Spirit in correspondence with their diligent efforts in the sacred text.

I get it. I hear the author loud and clear. God has my attention. I earnestly believe that is why the Lord has me wrestling with the daily components of repenting and believing in my sanctification.

As I have already written several times before these last two weeks: if we are saved by repenting and believing, then are we not also sanctified by repenting and believing?

I am convinced that my salvation is all of God and none of me. God saved me through His Son Jesus Christ. I did not and cannot save myself. That is why Paul said:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6

In this brief sentence Paul teaches me three facts about my salvation:

God initiates my salvation—that he who began a good work in you God
sustains my salvation— will bring it to completion God
guarantees my salvation— at the day of Jesus Christ.

Additionally, I am convinced if God saved me, then God will also sustain me through His Son Jesus Christ. God provides the energy, effort and endurance necessary for me to live for Christ. In that same letter to the church of Philippi Paul instructs us with these words:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but 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 work for his good pleasure.
Philippians 2:12-13

Notice Paul teaches us to “work OUT your own salvation” not to “work FOR”. No one can work FOR their salvation; those who are saved can only work OUT their salvation.

This phrase “work out” could be used in many ways. It could be used to talk about “working out a math problem until it is solved” or “working in a field” so it is ready for the greatest possible harvest. It is to work on something in order to produce a result or a harvest.

Note also how we are to “work out our salvation”. We are to do it with “fear and trembling”. Why “fear and trembling”? I think it has to do with realizing who God is and who we are. When we have a proper understanding of our sinful nature compared to God’s totally perfect, and utterly separate nature, our natural response is that of fear and trembling.

Finally, we should note who is working in us. Paul said, “for it is God who works in you”. Again, I believe Paul is teaching our salvation is all of God, and none of us. Additionally, I believe an equal and just as powerful argument could be made that our sanctification is all of God, and none of us. If that is true, then how are we to “work out our salvation”? I believe the answer is found in ongoing repentance and increasing faith. It is only when we as children of God recognize how unworthy we are compared to how worthy He is, that we find the true meaning of continuous brokenness. Additionally, it is only when we as children of God recognize how powerless we are compared to how powerful He is, that we find the true meaning of increasing trust.
And that leads me back to Azurdia’s belief that “the greatest impediment to the advancement of the gospel in our time is the attempt of the church of Jesus Christ to do the work of God apart from the truth and the power of the Spirit of God.” If that is true, and I have no reason to believe it is not true, then what is the answer? I believe the answer is found in repenting and believing, for that is where the church will find her power to do the greater works of God.
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1 Response to “In Our Own Strength”


  1. 1 gay
    May 23, 2007 at 8:12 pm

    Salvation has always been a hard concept because of our lack of faith, misunderstanding of faith, or because we think we can’t get something for nothing. Salvation is a free gift that we receive by accepting Jesus as Savior. We are so skeptical that it is free that some religions believe you have to work for your salvation.The Holy Spirit shows us those areas that we need to work out of our lives to be comformed to the image of God. The work is complete in death when our condition and position become one.


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