Gods’ Work in You and I
“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
“5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.“
Wow, what awesome responses from last week. To God be the glory; it is His promises and His finished work that should give us comfort and rejoicing. Jesus is the Way, the only Way. He is the Way, has always been the Way and will always be the only Way. If you have Jesus, rather if Jesus has you, then you are secure forever. This alone should bring peace to any situation in this life. This life is short at best and fraught with trouble, but if Jesus has you, then the trials of this life are for a short season compared to the glory we have coming. Does Jesus, have you? The choice is yours.
Today I want to talk about something that plagues most of us, if not all of us. Spiritual growth is something that most Christians want. Not all want it; there are some saved persons whom the Bible tells us have forgotten that they are children of God. In 2 Peter 1: 3-9, we see this warning:
“As his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: 4 Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. 5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; 6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. 8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.“
Jesus, by His divine power, desires to grow in us the fruit of the Holy Spirit that lives in us. These fruits are outlined in several scriptures; and here Peter gives us a look at them. We are to have faith, add virtue, add knowledge and temperance, patience and godliness. But there is a warning; there are some saved persons who do not exhibit these things. They are forgetting the salvation that they have in Jesus. They have forgotten they were saved. These persons, we are told by Paul in Romans 8, walk after the flesh. They are saved, but like a baby that is born but never develops, they are in the same spiritual ways. In most cases, the lack of development can be intentional.
They rebel against God’s leadership and the urging of the Holy Spirit, and they become calloused to the moving of the Holy Spirit in them. Some may lack growth because of starvation; it may be that they are in a church that does not feed them spiritually. I am sure there are many in the Roman Catholic churches that are saved, they have put their full trust and faith in Jesus for the remission of their sins, but they do not receive the spiritual food necessary to grow. As is the case with many who have grown up in the Lord’s churches, many are saved as children and then fall away as they age and they defy God. Either way, we are clearly told that there are some who, though saved, will never grow into the spiritual gifts that God has for them.
- A fleshly distinction, Romans 8:8, 2 Peter 1:9
There is a difference between those who cannot please God because they are not saved (Romans 8:8) and those that are blind (2 Peter 1:9). They may sound the same but they are not. One, in Romans, is in the flesh, not saved, lost and outside of the family of God. The other is in the family of God but not living like it. The one in Romans may look and act like the family of God, BUT without Jesus and His salvation they are incapable of pleasing God in any way, shape or form. In fact, they are under the wrath of God.
In contrast, the person in 1 Peter is living not necessarily like the Devil’s kid, but maybe indifferent to the conviction of the Holy Spirit; but at some point in their lives they placed their faith in Jesus as Savior and are born into the family of God. This can never change! The rest of chapter 8 deals with the security of the one born into the family of God. But that is not the topic today. However, the person in 1 Peter has the potential to be pleasing to God because they have the Holy Spirit living in them; and if they begin to listen, look for some good spiritual food in the Bible and begin to obey the call of God, they can be pleasing to God.
Let me be clear, and it is important that we be – a saved person is saved no matter what their lives look like at one time or another. Samson may not have been counted as a child of God had we seen and known him, but he was and is. David committed murder and adultery, yet he was and is a child of God. There are many good people like Mother Teresa and Ghandi who did good things; but as far as we know, they were not children of God. ALL of those good things they did, did not please God one bit. They could not please God because they did not believe in the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16-18). One is fleshly by nature, unsaved; the other fleshy by actions, called carnally minded, but saved.
- A Work of God, both Romans and 1 Peter
When I was a kid, my father was a bodybuilder. Sadly, his physique did not rub off on me. But he loved to work out; and one of the first ever movies I saw as a kid on VHS was Pumping Iron with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It depicted the story of a bodybuilding career. Spiritual growth intertwines both discipline and grace. Many professional athletes are very disciplined with their bodies for a period of time, and many of them peak in mid-life, say, by about 35; and then, no matter how disciplined they are, the physical body begins to fail them and they lose speed, stamina, strength and, eventually, skills.
The opposite is true in the Christian walk. We need discipline and we need the Holy Spirit working in us. God will not make you grow or grow up, but if you want to, He will put you where you need to be to grow. If you are surrendered to Jesus, He will take you and make you. Unlike human athletes, we should and will grow better as we age. No, we will not get faster at running, or stronger at weights or have more stamina. Like the athletes, our bodies will begin to fail us, but the Holy Spirit in us will become more ‘fit’ as we get older.
Peter helps us to see what things will make us more spiritually fit. We must first have faith; all things in the Lord begin here. Saving faith, yes, but beyond that, the faith to once we are saved to trust God with our daily lives. The faith to put God first, to trust that God’s way is right even when it seems weird. The faith to trust that God has not failed His children and He will not start with you, even when it feels like He has failed you. In Genesis 50:19-21, we find some of the most powerful words ever spoken by a man in defense of the journey his life took:
“But Joseph replied, ‘Do not be afraid. Am I in the place of God? As for you, what you intended against me for evil, God intended for good, in order to accomplish a day like this— to preserve the lives of many people. Therefore do not be afraid. I will provide for you and your little ones.’ So Joseph reassured his brothers and spoke kindly to them.”
God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery by his own brothers, he allowed him to be wrongly accused and imprisoned by Potiphar, and God allowed him to be forgotten in prison by the man he helped until the right time for God to gloriously put Joseph in the right place to save the men who sold him into slavery. They were afraid of him, but he calmed them and reassured them. There was no animosity here, no hatred. His love for them had covered their sins, and he understood that it was God who took him and allowed him to be sold into slavery, it was God who allowed the false accusations, and God who allowed him to languish in prison, so he, God, could use Joseph to rescue the people who hated him. He never stopped having the faith that God had him, God carried him, and God had him where He wanted him.
We live in a ‘feel good church world.’ Churches are filled with entertainment and shallow Biblical affirmations that do not call us to deny ourselves and take up our crosses.
We are to add, according to Peter, virtue, godly choices to our faith; and to do so, we need knowledge. One may seek knowledge and not follow it, BUT if one desires to truly live a virtuous life, then one will seek Biblical knowledge. To knowledge, we add temperance. In our days, we call it self-control. We know how to say “no,” we know how to choose our friends, we are careful where we invest our time, our priorities change, and on we can go. To temperance we add patience; we learn to wait on the Lord. Do you know it was 13 years from the time Joseph was sold into slavery until he became the Pharaoh? Do you know that it was 25 years from the time Abraham and Sarah received the promise of a son until Isaac was born? Do you realize it was 483 years from the time Israel left Persia to go home until Jesus was crucified?
God works on His schedule and in His ways, and we simply need to let Him do all He does. He will anyway.
Do you realize that we have been living in the ‘last days’ since the resurrection of Jesus, about 2,000 years we have been waiting since then? Patience is a work of God in the believer’s life; man is not patient. And then, to patience, godliness. This is what we begin to live, even privately, when no one is looking, righteously. You see, God is Holy no matter where He is, and so should we be. We should not be two persons. Too many of us are. Sadly, I am a sinner and I fail the Lord all the time. I need to ask forgiveness daily. Oh, how gracious He is to forgive me. And, to godliness, brotherly love. Impatient and ungodly people do not love others. God is patient with us, His children. He remembers that we are just dust. God offers us new mercies each day; He does not keep a record of our sins according to 1 Corinthians 13:5.
This is living by the Spirit that Paul speaks of in Romans 8:1-8. We need to walk in and by the Holy Spirit. We need to let God make us and change us, and then we can please Him. We cannot do it in and of our own. We cannot please God either in the flesh as lost people or as living fleshly as saved people. But no amount of physical discipline will change us, even when we are saved. We must daily put our faith in God, then He will lead us into virtue, provide us with knowledge in His Holy Word, help us to be disciplined in the way we live, develop patience and then love people, even our enemies and those that hate us, with Godly love.
Unlike human athletes, spiritual athletes get better with age, our bodies break down, slow down, hurt more and eventually die, BUT spiritual man learns to be tougher. We can be offended less, we learn to endure more, and as such, are more patient and we learn to love more, longer, better and graciously because our Trainer, Jesus, is relentless with those that want to be lights like Him, those that want to be clouds filled with water, unlike the people in Jude. We want to be healing and balm to those in a hard world. Jesus will take these desires and mold us in His image; and you and I, mere dust, mere clay, mere flesh, can be pleasing to God.
Come, let us walk in the Spirit together and see the wonders of our great Saviour. May we never waste even a moment of the great salvation that has been purchased for us at a great price, the death of our Saviour, Jesus.
God bless you,
Dr. Sean Gooding
Pastor of Mississauga Missionary Baptist Church