FIRST POSTED ON 15 APRIL 2020.
Shalom Aleichem and welcome to my Shabbat blog!
In our last session, we looked at the Rhema of the Holy Spirit as spoken through the Apostles, beginning with the foundation of our Christian faith - Faith in Christ alone. This forms the solid rock on which we stand. But we are to do more than just stand still -
We are to walk with God in Hope thru the Spirit. Here, the Gospel is not only simple but is God’s wisdom and power enabling us to lead holy lives with the Holy Spirit’s help. The Spirit is “Christ in you, the HOPE of glory” (References).
We saw earlier how Jesus promised His disciples and those who believed in Him that He would not leave them alone but would send another Helper and Comforter to be with them. Ever since the day of Pentecost, believers had been baptised and infilled with the Holy Spirit to empower them in their lifelong journey with God even as God set them apart for His Kingdom work and purposes.
Now, the simple message of salvation by grace through faith alone had led some to mistakenly believe that they were “free” to live as they wished since they were already saved no matter what they did. This was the case with the Corinthian Church in Paul’s time and among Churches today that preach what we call the “hyper grace” gospel. Against this, James warned that faith without works was dead while Paul urged believers “to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12) and not use their freedom in Christ to become slaves to the flesh and sin again.
At the other extreme, there were those who insisted on the need to continue to follow the Law of Moses or to engage in some other forms of holy works or else risk losing their salvation. Paul made clear that such fleshly efforts would ultimately fail, or else Christ would have died for nothing.
So what is it? Do we or do we not work out our faith?
The solution to this apparent paradox of faith vs works can be found in Paul’s call for believers to walk in the Spirit so as not to gratify the desires of the flesh. It is true that faith without works is dead. But it is equally true that works without faith are bound to fail, because apart from the Spirit, we will not succeed. As Paul put it in Rom 7:21-25, “Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
Now, many of us will probably want to know how we are to walk in the Spirit and in so doing have a faith that really works.
If I could sum it up in one sentence, we have to continually strive against our flesh and turn away from the things of this world; saturate our mind with God’s Word, which is the sword of the Spirit to tear down our mental strongholds; and rest our spirit in God’s Spirit, learning to move according to His rhythm of grace and allowing our inner man to be ministered by Him, especially through praying in tongues.
The truth is, we are dependent on God to work in us through His Spirit, but we are still expected to do our part. God supplies, but we must still labour. Peter put it this way - God’s divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life; yet, and in fact for this very reason, we are to make every effort to live out this godly life (2 Pet 1:3-7). We can square this circle by heeding this simple rule of thumb - work as though everything depended on us, but rest and trust in God as everything ultimately depended on Him. It has to be 100% God and 100% man.
Finally, we are refined through trials and persecutions, for it is often only then that we experience how real and powerful the Holy Spirit is. When it comes to physical exercise, we have heard the phrase - “no pain, no gain.” If we don’t sweat it, we won’t get it. It is the same with our inner spiritual man - we only grow spiritually when the going gets tough, not when we are comfortable and complacent. James touched on this when he encouraged the early Jewish believers to boldly live out their faith despite the persecution taking place then. Paul explained how true spirituality and godliness was measured not by spiritual gifts and talents but a life that displayed God’s power amidst suffering and weakness. Peter, addressing Christians during the great persecution under the Roman Emperor Nero, spoke of how suffering was a part of God’s will to purify their faith for His glory.
Now may our Lord create in us a clean heart and renew in us a right spirit - His Spirit - (Ps 51:10) until we meet again in our next session, and until He returns to bring us home.
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