But the Apostle Paul said, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12 KJV)
Paul also said, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” (II Cor. 5:17) Why then did he give us things to do, not do, things to put off or put on?
Because Jesus had said, “It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord.” (Matt. 10:25) Being born again instantly made us new creations, but it did not instantly make us like Jesus.
Peter said, the divine power of Jesus has given us everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of him, Jesus. Then he went on to say, add to your faith goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, and love. If you possess those qualities, you will become effective and productive in your knowledge of Jesus. (see II Peter 1:3-8)
Being born again was a life-changing, life-giving event, but carrying out God’s assignments from that point on is a process, an often troublesome process. Frustrating sometimes, joyful sometimes, puzzling sometimes, but it’s still a process. A listening, learning and doing process.
Some Christians live as if we have a free pass to heaven when we die, but between now and then we have to figure things out on our own. Like how to obey the Ten Commandments, how to know if you’re in God’s will, and a host of other thorny theological questions.
Even with help from a Sunday School teacher or the pastor, they’re not sure if they’re doing what they are supposed to. They’re not sure if they are doing enough. Be like Jesus? They’re not sure they ever could be like Jesus.
But thankfully Jesus didn’t just save us, then point us to a nearby church and say “Good luck!” He said, “I will pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever… I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.” (John 14:16, 18)
He knew we were going to need help. “In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Through the person of the Holy Spirit he provides help – guidance, power and provisions – enough for us to succeed, if we listen to him. If we pay attention. If we follow instructions.
Those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God, Paul said in Romans 8:14. Not those who were led one time to attend a church service, or hear a gospel message. Those who are led, present tense. Jesus said, follow me. Paul said, follow me as I follow Christ.
Well, “follow” implies forward motion, doesn’t it. Jesus goes places and does things. He has work in mind for you, for the remainder of your natural life. Work assignments. “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10)
The Holy Spirit will tell you what those assignments are, when and where and how to do them. Here’s a couple of side notes:
- Proficiency and maturity take time – they are not automatic. Be patient! See Phil. 3:12.
- Accomplishing our assignments is a cooperative project – we are co-laborers with Christ, not “lone wolves.” (I Cor. 3:9)
Jesus said, “Come to me all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble of heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
A yoke is a wooden beam normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs, as oxen usually do. The young ox doesn’t decide where to go or how to get there. He doesn’t choose the load (burden) he’s pulling.
Once he’s in the yoke, he goes where the trained one leads him. The lead ox may be older, bigger, and may be pulling more of the load, making the yoke easier by taking some weight off the young one. And the lead ox only goes where his master directs him to go.
Of course, we have a distinct advantage. We are yoked with Jesus, and we have the Holy Spirit on the inside of us, imparting power to carry out the assignment. Enough power.
Paul knew about assignments. In Jerusalem, he described to the Jews what had happened to him on the road to Damascus: “‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. “‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.'” (Acts 22:10 NIV) He had an assignment to do while working out his salvation.
Paul was not left ignorant of how to fulfill that assignment. The Holy Spirit led him, enabled him and provided him with enough information and ability to complete his assignment.
All he had to do was listen and follow instructions. That’s all we have to do, too. It will certainly be enough. Less than that won’t be.