DL Moody once said:
“When I was converted I made this mistake: I thought the battle was already mine, the victory already won, the crown already in my grasp. I thought that old things had passed away, that all things had become new; that my old corrupt nature, the Adam life, was gone. But I found out, after serving Christ for a few months, that conversion was only like enlisting in the army, that there was a battle on hand, and that if I was to get a crown, I had to work for it and fight for it.”
Jesus did all the work to purchase our salvation. Eternal God, he took on human nature, lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for our sins, rose from the dead and and ascended on high as Lord of Lords and King of Kings. He gives us the free gift of salvation when we believe in him. That’s when our work begins. But we don’t have to work in our own power:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, 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. PHP 2.12-13
We “work out” our salvation. We don’t earn it, but because we are saved, as someone once said, we are to “work out what God has worked in.” God first gives us the will to work then fills us with his mighty power to work for his good pleasure.
Peter echoes this in his second letter:
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,e 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. (2 PE 1:3-7)
God has given us ALL WE NEED for life and godliness – the knowledge of his glory, incredible promises, a participation in the divine nature being joined to Christ, deliverance from the corruption caused by sinful desires – so we are to MAKE EVERY EFFORT to become more and more like Christ – in moral excellence, knowledge, and love. God’s grace shouldn’t make us lazy or lead us to sin. As Paul said:
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. 1 CO 15.10
How we need God’s grace. We can’t do anything for God on our own, for we are far too weak. But let’s remind ourselves again where our strength comes from:
It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
If you’ve waned or wandered or fallen or failed, don’t quit. Confess your sins and Jesus will forgive you and cleanse you. Then get back up and start working again. Ask Jesus to give you the will to work and to fill you with his power. Start putting sin to death again. Start serving again. Start praying and thanking God again. And remember, God wants you to succeed in him even more than you want to.