Where does our Soteriology and our Sanctification meet? It seems like a contradiction – God does the work, so we must rest, yet we must earnestly do the work.
We believe that if it were not for God’s grace, we would never have been saved. He must have chosen us because those to whom the Son does not reveal the Father, can never see, for the Father has hidden the things of the Kingdom from the wise and understanding, in order to reveal them to babes (Matthew 11:25-27).
However, we seem to think that once we are graciously saved, it is upon our shoulder to achieve Christian maturity in word, deed, and spirit. That is to say, we seem to think that we are solely responsible for our sanctification. We may not think this in theological terms, on paper. But, in terms of our day-to-day actions, this seems to be the case. If we do not go to church, have our devotions, read our Bibles, read famous Christian authors, we will not grow.
How does this connect with a right understanding of God’s sovereignty?
I think we must simply remember that every Biblical passage we read, every prayer we utter, every pew we warm, happens exclusively by God’s grace. Though we open the Bible, say the prayer, and drive to church, it would not be so if God had not first ordained it – if He had not seen to it that it should happen. Furthermore, in light of this fact, we should earnestly plead with the Father for more.
He saved us and lead us in to growth in our relationship with Him. So, instead of relying on our own strength (Zechariah 4:6) and our human understanding (Proverbs 3:5) we should earnestly desire the gifts of God (1 Corinthians 12:31). This is to say, we should walk the velvet lined tight-rope of earnestly working toward godliness (Hebrews 12:1-2) and resting in the strength-producing power of God’s grace. We are set free to do the things of God (Matthew 11:29).
It seems like a contradiction – God does the work, so we must rest, yet we must earnestly do the work.
The aforementioned verse in Matthew illuminates this apparent paradox. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29). Jesus just finished a lengthy indictment in Matthew 11 in which He spends almost an entire chapter illustrating the Israelites’ sinfulness and total depravity. Then, he says to those who actually feel a burden of sin (as opposed to the prideful Pharisees who think they are sinless) to come to Him and to take His burden.
We, as Christians, are called to exchange the burden of sin for the burden of Christ, which is easy and light. So, when we find ourselves floundering in Christian mediocrity, unable to pull ourselves up by our spiritual bootstraps, let us fly to the cross and earnestly beg the Son to bless us with the ability to grow. He will do it. It might not happen that morning that you make the prayer. It might not even happen in that same year. But it will happen. Trust your Father who gives “good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7:11) through the Holy Spirit that indwells us all (Ezekiel 36:27, 1 Corinthians 6:19).