Every good thing in me comes from Jesus Christ by the grace of God. This means nothing good can come out of me apart from that same grace. Any holy thoughts, any worship, any goodness shown toward others is the work of the Lord in the power of the Holy Spirit. I cannot live the Christian life without Christ, but I can block His best efforts to produce godliness in me . . .
Therefore . . . work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13)
And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30–32)
Today’s devotional asks some pointed questions. Do I desire to speak for Jesus—how can I unless the Holy Spirit touches my tongue? Do I desire to pray? Oh, what dull and hard work it is unless the Spirit makes intercession for me.
Do I desire to subdue sin? Would I be holy? Would I imitate Jesus? Do I want to be closer to God and full of zeal for Him? I cannot do any of it without Christ and the Holy Spirit. He says, “Without me you can do nothing.”
I am a branch; He is the vine and the source of my life. I must remain or abide in Him if I am going to speak, pray, defeat sin, act as I ought. There is no spiritual fruit apart from His life flowing through me for it is His fruit, not mine.
Yet this relationship is not robotic. God, for whatever reason, allows the Christian to choose. I can abide in Him, or not. I can grieve God by my sin and selfishness, even by my attempts to be spiritual apart from Him. As the reading says, I can provoke Him to anger, even quench His work in my soul by resisting and by being disobedient.
For that reason, and for that hunger in my soul to be more than I am, I must listen to and obey every prompting from Him. I must also not attempt anything without him, that is, I must not begin a project, carry on a work, conclude a transaction without going to Him for guidance and strength. I cannot expect a blessing from God if I am going to ignore Him in whatever I do.
This means admitting my entire weakness apart from Him. It means depending alone upon Him. It means being humble, submitting to His will, abandoning all my own thoughts and plans. This also isn’t as easy as I thought it would be. I didn’t know until attempting it that I had so much independence in my heart and so much resistance to absolute surrender.