Read Philippians 2:12-13.
God is working within us “to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” (v.13) Isn’t that cool? God has given us new life and His Holy Spirit and now works in us to accomplish His will.
In verse 12, Paul encourages the believers to continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (fear and trembling probably refers to the fear of the Lord). God works in us, but we have to work our salvation out. God has changed us according to His will on the inside; we are a new creation, God’s handiwork “created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (see Eph. 2:10). But we have to choose to fulfill God’s will for us and move our faith from an inward transformation (our heart) to also an outward transformation (our life). The new creation points to Christ, but our sinful nature points to sin. We have to decide who we will point to with our life.
Not one person is good on his own; only God is good. Many have heard the story of the “rich, young ruler” before. But one of the first things Jesus says to him is often overlooked.
“Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, ‘Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?’
“‘Why do you ask me about what is good?’ Jesus replied. ‘There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.’”—Matt.19:16-17
This man was trying to earn his way into heaven. He asked Jesus what “good thing” he needed to do to get eternal life. Jesus tells him that only God is good, not anyone else or anything we do. The way to eternal life is to follow God. Only when God gives us the ability can we do good.
God has worked in us to act and will according to His purpose because we could never do it by ourselves. All of our energy and intentions could never measure up because we are sinful. But because of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, we can be saved and adopted as God’s children, able to do His will. This is God’s grace to us, accepted through faith in Him. We could never earn this.
How often do we admit that all the good we’ve ever done comes from God and not from us? It can be tempting to take credit for being or doing good, but that only helps spread a false image of what righteousness is about. Righteousness comes from God by His grace, but when we take credit for it, we tell others that righteousness comes from works we do and decisions we make. This is obviously not true, and by contributing to this image, we cheapen what God has done for us. If we’re able to follow God on our own, why did Christ die for us? But we weren’t able to do anything good on our own, and so Christ did die for all of us so we could be brought back to God. So now we do God’s will.
Everything we do should point back to God, and God should be in everything we do. We should never do anything to gain other people’s approval of us but only to live to honor and please our audience of One. This can seem hard, until you truly realize that God alone saved you from sin and death. Once we recognize how great the grace and mercy of God is for us and how desperately we need it, it’s easy to keep our lives focused on Him. We see He’s all that matters, and He’s helping us follow Him. God is God, and we are not. He’s the One we need to be living for. Can you think of an area (or areas) in your life that you need to point back to God?
Lord, i don’t know how well people always see it, but everything good in me comes from You. None of it’s me or could ever come from me; it all comes from You! Let my life point to You!
(For further reading, see Philippians 3:7-14. Here, Paul is describing his resolve that all “good works” he has done are nothing in comparison to the grace of God.)