The other day I had a phone conversation with a good friend. As usual, our conversation ran all over the place, as we were catching up on each other’s lives. We talked about her family (I worked with her husband and taught her daughter) and about her church. Eventually we started talking about the Gospel. She was having a problem with a few of her co-workers, because they just have such a disdain for Jesus and Christianity. She tries to explain the Gospel to them, but they just want nothing to do with it.

I told her that it’s hard to hear a story like that because I know that without grace, I would be where they are. The only reason why I have any desire to please God is because of the grace of God in me producing that desire. This caught her off guard. I know that she comes from a tradition of thought that says that our relationship with God is not genuine unless we have absolute autonomous freedom to choose God. God cannot have a hand in our choices if we are to have a genuine relationship with Him.

Knowing this, I explained to her Philippians 2:12-13. Paul commands us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. In other words, we should “flesh out” our salvation, we should make our salvation evident in our lives. Our lives should be absolutely consistent with the salvation we profess. We should pursue this goal with all the reverence and awe that is fitting for someone who will ultimately stand before the highly exalted Christ (2:9-11).

Paul then gives a reason for this command: “For God is the one working in you both to will and to work for His delight”. In other words, God is the pipeline that flows the desire (will) and the energy (the Greek word behind “to work” is energein, from which we get “energy”) to please Him. I can let my salvation show because God is letting the ability flow.

This is how sanctification works. We bear fruit because God is the master Gardener. Knowing this should remove our weariness– we can persevere because God is enabling us. It removes super-spiritual snobbery– our holiness is the work of God in us. It enables fervent prayer– knowing that it is the work of God, we should pray day and night for personal and public holiness. It also gives all the glory to God, for every good desire I have is because of Him and every good deed I do is because of Him.

Going back to the conversation, I said that our desiring and doing what pleases God is the work of God. We must pray that God would work in her unsaved co-workers’ hearts and minds so that they too would see God’s glory and delight as desirable. Unbelievers just don’t see this. They are ignorant to the truth, they are blinded to the truth, they hate the truth, and they are dead to the truth. God must infiltrate their minds, open their eyes, soften their hearts, and awaken their souls to the truth of His glory and supremacy through the Gospel. And if God is merciful, He will work in them both to will and to work for His pleasure. The only way to live as a Christian is by the sovereign enablement of our good God.

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