Our part in our journey

. . . work out you salvation with fear and trembling . . .
— Philippians 2:12b

So, what part do we play in our individual journeys? If God does all this stuff for us, what is left for us to do? In a word: plenty!

The Bible is clear we don’t grow in intimacy with God or become Christ-like in character and powerful in influence by lying on the couch eating Bon-Bons. Godliness is not acquired through osmosis. There is a definite role we play that demands from us a fierce determination and practiced discipline. We are to “train” for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim 4:7b).

Think about all the commands found in Scripture: . . . to love God supremely. . . love others in practical, sacrificial ways . . . disciple the nations . . . use our time, talents, and treasures to honor the Lord and serve others . . . take up our cross daily . . . walk in the Spirit . . . pray without ceasing . . .None of these comes easily. All require planning and effort (as well as a constant supply of God’s grace). It can be overwhelming. Thankfully, the Lord has assured us He won’t overburden us but will give us everything we need to live lives of faithful discipleship. Basically, our role can be boiled down to these five things:

  1. Seek the Lord above and before everything else. He is the Lord of glory, the Creator and Ruler of the entire universe. To give Him anything put the highest place of honor, attention, and affection in our lives is, self-evidently, unacceptable. We are to treasure Him, prize Him above all else, seek Him diligently, love Him whole-heartedly, obey Him gladly, and delight in Him thoroughly.
  2. Abide in Christ continuously. The Lord’s unspeakable grace has joined us to Christ, and His grace will keep us connected to Him. But we have the responsibility of “remaining” in Him by praying without ceasing, obeying Him, and setting our minds and hearts on Him. By engaging in certain spiritual practices – things like solitude, silence, fasting, Bible study and meditation, Scripture memory, confession, repentance – we cultivate our relationship with Him and access His infinite resources of love, grace, patience, power, authority, and everything else we need to live lives that are pleasing to Him and a blessing to others.
  3. Love others as the Lord has loved us. He commands us to love the unlovely and the ungrateful. Even our enemies. He has special regard for the widow and orphan and expects us to love those with special needs. Love is a verb and requires action: we love others well when we act lovingly. We love by honoring others with our words and thoughts as well. Love is not always warm and gentle. Sometimes we must, out of love, get in another person’s face (see 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15). As C.S. Lewis observed, Love is far more “splendid and stern” than mere kindness. 
  4. Choose holiness. God commands us to be holy because He Himself is holy (1 Peter 1:16). Far too often we excuse our sin and lack of holiness with comments like, “I’m only human”, or “Christian’s aren’t perfect, just forgiven.” It should be obvious that such rationalizations dishonor the Lord and contravene the clear teachings of His Word. By God’s unmerited favor, we have been mercifully saved from our past lives of sin. Now we have an obligation live our lives “as strangers here in reverent fear” (1 Peter 1:17). 
  5. Make disciples. We all are witnesses to the grace of God. He has called us to be fearless and faithful in telling others the extraordinarily good news of His wondrous being and grace. It’s like having the cure for cancer. We’ve been given the key to set people free from the power and consequences (and one day the presence) of sin.  Jesus commands us as His Church to announce the good news and make disciples of all nations, beginning in our own neighborhoods. Like every other part of the Christian life, the Lord will give us the courage, words, time, energy . . . in short, everything needed to faithfully obey Him in this area. But we need to make an effort.

It sounds daunting, doesn’t it? It should! Ours is a God-sized calling. Anything less is a manufactured counterfeit. People don’t learn foreign languages or become professional athletes or brain surgeons without enormous investments of time and energy. Why should we think becoming Christlike would be any different?