God is at Work

January 6, 2013   Philippians 2   God Works in Us

    Last week we looked at verse 2:12 which tells us to work out our salvation.   God tells us to work out what is in us.  We are to work it out in fear and trembling.    We are to take our salvation seriously.  Proverbs tells us to keep our heart with all diligence.    It is our responsibility to read, worship, pray and share the Lord with others.   And this week we will look at the next verse which tells us that God is at work in us.   Well am I supposed to be working or is it God?   I had a former supervisor who often said when you get married if you take the trash out then the job becomes yours for life.   Were you ever in a place in your life where you stepped out and did something extra and it suddenly became yours to do all the time?   There are some things as Christians we should do all the time such as reading the scriptures and praying.  Paul writes you work out your salvation and then he says God is at work.    Is this Christian life yours to do or is it God’s or is it both?   Do you know what your responsibility is to do and what is God’s?   It seems to me that ultimately we cannot live the Christian life and ultimately God cannot do everything for us.   God sure gets the glory for everything that is done. 

    God tells us to work out our salvation and we labor, labor and labor to do that.  Have you found that your Christian joy is gone?   Do you sometimes feel like you are just working, working and struggling to live this life?   There is a peace and a rest and faith that comes with this life also.   Jesus said come on to me all you that labor and are burdened and I will give you rest.   Some of that rest is the part of the Christian life that God does.   The good news is that we do not have to live the Christian life all by ourselves.   We cannot live the Christian life without Jesus.  We need the HS in us.   It is not all up to us.   The fact is that we cannot do alone.   Since God has given us a choice He cannot live or force Christ likeness in us without our cooperation.   It is a joint venture.   I think that we are all guilty many times of trying to live the Christian life in the flesh.   It is a lot of work and it is impossible and it si extremely frustrating.   We miss out on the joy of the Lord’s presence in our life.   We can miss out on the father’s love for us because we are too self centered working on our Christian life and working to be Christian.     

   N T Wright, the famous New Testament scholar talks about the task of Christians in the world. He says, "Many say, 'Oh yes, the Holy Spirit came in his place to live in us.' Yes, but for what purpose?   The Holy Spirit came to empower us to be God's life in the world.   We are to do the work of God in the world.    We are to be God to the world.    And we cannot do that alone.   The church is God's redemptive community in the world.   Without you being joined with God's other children, God's work will not be done.   He will not do it without us.   He will not do it for us."    NT Wright’s comment that without you being joined with God’s other children God’s work will not be done is interesting. .   Christians seem to be leaving the church and leaving Christian fellowship.  It is not all good to do that.    That may be trendy but I do not think it is always God’s will.   

    God is at work in your life.   It is only through the HS that we can live the Christian life.   You cannot force yourself to live the Christian life.   At times we have to let go and let God.   There are times when the sweet HS will lead you to just rest and worship.  There are times when we just enjoy his presence. 

    God is at work in this world.   God is at work in the Christian.   That is good news and certainly not new news.   In John 5:17 Jesus said my Father constantly does good and I am following his example.   Jesus is involved in your life today.  Jesus is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us.   Romans 8 tells us that the HS is praying through us with groaning that cannot be uttered.  God is at work within us.   It is comforting to know that others pray for you and how much more comforting it should be for us to know that Jesus and the HS is praying for us and through us.   That is exciting.  

    God is moving his people around in the world to accomplish what God wants to do.   Henry Blackaby said, "You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him...Without doubt, the most important factor in each (Biblical) situation was not what the individual wanted to do for God. The most important factor was what God was about to do."  (Experiencing God, page 66).   He adds, "God reveals His purposes (His tasks) so you will know what He plans to do... When God came to Noah He did not ask, 'What do you want to do for me?'   He came to reveal what He was about to do.    It was far more important to know what God was about to do.    It really did not matter what Noah had planned to do for God.    God was about to destroy the world.   He wanted to work through Noah to accomplish His purposes of saving a remnant of people and animals to repopulate the earth." (page 99)  

     Sometimes we push our plans unto God and ask God to bless what we are thinking and doing.   That is not a great way to do things.   Lord what are you doing?   Lord what do you want me to do?   Those should be the questions that we ask.   An old sailor repeatedly got lost at sea, so his friends gave him a compass and urged him to use it.    The next time he went out in his boat, he followed their advice and took the compass with him.    But as usual he became hopelessly confused and was unable to find land.   Finally, he was once again rescued by his friends.   Disgusted and impatient with him, they asked, "Why didn’t you use that compass we gave you? You could have saved us a lot of trouble!"    The sailor responded: "I didn’t dare to! I wanted to go north, but as hard as I tried to make the needle aim in that direction, it just kept on pointing southeast."    That old sailor was so certain he knew which way was north, that he stubbornly tried to force his own personal persuasion on his compass.    As a result he was unable to benefit from the guidance it offered.   We do not want to be like the old sailor.   We should not try to force God to go our way.   Remember the Lord’s Prayer is:
Your kingdom come and your will be done and NOT my will be done in my way at my time.  

    God is working in the world.   Sometimes we try to change people by our words or actions or by manipulation.  As parents we certainly teach and correct children.  But sometimes it is not my much my words that gets others to change.   Ephesians tells us that we are in a spiritual battle.  We don’t fight our boss or our children or it is not a war against my spouse.   There is a spiritual side to these issues.   We have heard story after story of a spouse that does everything he or she can to get the other spouse to become a Christian and often those attempts drive their spouse further away.  In John 16 Jesus tells the disciples that unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.    When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned.  You cannot do the work of the Holy Spirit.  A lot of folks at times in their Christian life try to play junior Holy Spirit.    It takes the work of the HS to bring someone into a relationship with Jesus.   You cannot do that alone.   We pray and pray for God to speak and for God to bring conviction upon them but it is God that brings them in.  The Holy Spirit is at work in us and in the world. 

     You and I cannot do God’s work for him.   That is good news.   I can rest and trust and be thankful that God is not willing that any should perish.   And yes I share the gospel with them as the HS leads me.   There is the balance of fervent prayer for the lost and trusting God to minister and to speak and to change their heart.   You cannot change another person’s heart.   There are times when we cannot change our own heart.   We can submit our heart mind and will to God and that we need to do.   St. Francis of Assisi prayed  "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

    We struggle; struggle, struggle and then we learn to rest.   It happens over and over again in many Christians lives.   Chris Surber shares that although Charles Wesley had been engaged in preaching the gospel with much diligence and earnestness, he did not know what it was to enjoy peace with God until he was in his thirtieth year.   Being laid low by an alarming illness, and seeming as if he were going to die, a young Moravian named Peter Bohler, who was undergoing a course of preparation by Wesley to go out as a missionary, asked him, "Do you hope to be saved?"   Charles answered, "Yes."  "For what reason do you hope it?"    "Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God," was his reply.   The Moravian shook his head and said no more.   That sad, silent, significant shake of the head shattered all Charles Wesley's false foundation of salvation by endeavors and work.  

    He was afterwards taught by Peter Bohler the way of the Lord more perfectly, and brought to see that by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ men are justified.    And now in his sick-room, he was able to write for the first time in his life, "I now find myself at peace with God"; and it was on this occasion he composed that beautiful hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise!"     Our hope likewise need only rest in the finished work of our remarkable Redeemer.    Our righteousness is not about our righteousness.   Our righteousness is the gift of the imputation, the transfer, of the righteousness of Christ credited, as it were, to our account.   The debt that we couldn't pay, He paid.   There is rest for the people of God.   God is at work in us.   We can rest in what God has done and in what God is doing in our lives.   His yoke is easy and light.  

   God is at work in your life and in this world.  We can say as the song writer wrote “God will make a way when there seems to be no way.    He works in ways we cannot see.    He will make a way for me.   He will be my guide, walking close beside my side.   With love and strength for each new day He will make a way for me.”   God is doing some amazing things today.   We can listen to him and hear his voice speak to us.   God desires to communicate with you.   God can open doors and God can shut doors for you.   If God opens and shuts them then no man or anything else can interfere with God’s plans.  We can rest in God.   We can trust God to lead us.   He is working in your life.   Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them and teach them.   The Holy Spirit would comfort them.   God is at work in our life.   That is good news.  God is looking out for your best interests.   

     God changes lives.   God is at work in this world.  God is at work in his church.   God can change a person around in minutes.   Saul who became Paul was changed in minutes from hating Jesus and hating Jesus followers to being a lover of Jesus followers and being a follower of Jesus himself.   That is really neat.   What is God’s plan for your life?   Well one thing is for sure God is making Christians more like Jesus.   We are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus.   That is not an easy process so we can expect some challenges along the way.   God wants you to be like Jesus.   God is more interested in what you are and not what you do.   Man looks on the outward part but God looks on the heart.   God sees your heart today and you know something - God is not finished with you yet.    We can rest tin that.   We can be joyful about that.   God is at work in the Christians life to will and to do of his good pleasure.   Do you want to bring pleasure to God today?   Then trust God and be thankful.  Have you submitted those things that you labor over and are trying to change in others to God?     Have you submitted to God and trusting God for the things you want changed in your life?   Have you asked God what he wants in those issues?