Along the way, certain events shape our lives. For me, certain books have hugely influenced my thinking. One is “His Part and Ours” by J. Sidlow Baxter. While Chambers says “We are in danger of forgetting that we cannot do what God does, and that God will not do what we can do,” Baxter clarifies passages (such as the one following) with a greater focus on God’s part.
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:3–8)
Chambers rightly says I cannot save or sanctify myself. Then he adds that God will not give us good habits, character, or make us walk rightly; we have to do it ourselves. After years of trying to do that myself, I shake my head. Apart from Christ, I can do nothing.
Actually, from the above passage, what God expects of me is an appropriate response to what He has done. He has given me all that I need to live a godly life through knowing Him. In that relationship, He lives in me. I have His nature, even His mind. My part is learning how to respond as a new creation to what He has done and is doing, but I cannot do that myself.
I cannot think right without His mind. I cannot speak right without His Word. I cannot do right without the fullness of the Holy Spirit who motivates every action, word, and thought. There is no DIY or “do it yourself” in Christian living.
As for habits, those too are a fruit of the Spirit. The one on the end of the list is not spoken about as much as those at the beginning . . .
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
Habits are formed through self-control. When that word ‘self’ gets in there, how easy to conclude it means we have to do this ourselves, but this is impossible. If I could do it myself, I would not need the Holy Spirit, nor even Jesus to save me from sin’s power. I could simply control that myself.
There is a difference between responding to what God has put into my life, and taking the initiative to work out my salvation. My tendency leans far more toward self-righteousness than the lackadaisical attitude of not obeying God that Chambers seems to be addressing. For me, saying “I will do it” has a heavy emphasis on the “I” without turning to Him for help.
We have attended many churches in our years of travel and relocations. A few stand out for their vibrant and growing ministry. While each was from a different denominational tradition, they all had one thing in common; the focus was on what God has done and is doing. Those churches with an emphasis on “you must do this” and “you must do that” were listless and yet rigid. One was so out of touch with God that everyone sang off-key.
Beware of those who shake their finger at your life instead of pointing it to the life of Christ and His glory. Yes, I need to obey God, and yes, I need good habits, but they form when I am filled with the Spirit and aware of God’s goodness to me, not when I am trying harder.