Apart from Me you can do nothing.
Sanctification is the process by which you and I are conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. That is God’s plan for every believer. Now, here is the $64,000 question: Is sanctification God’s responsibility, or is it my responsibility?
There are some people who have what I call the “let go and let God” view of sanctification. They say, “You cannot live as a Christian through human effort. So quit struggling–just let go and let God. Let the Holy Spirit flow through you, and you can become like Christ.” They will quote verses like Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” In other words, they say, if it was the Holy Spirit who saved you, why are you depending on human effort to make you more like Christ?
But that belief is wrong on two counts. First of all, the “let go and let God” approach denies the reality of our sin nature. Yes, if you are a Christian, you have the power of the Holy Spirit inside you. But you also have that old nature that is opposed to the things of God. Remember, in Galatians 5:17, Paul said there is a civil war going on in the life of every believer between your old nature and your new nature. To say living the Christian life requires no effort is a prescription for spiritual disaster. Second, the “let go and let God” view of the Christian life defers responsibility to God that He has given to us. In Galatians 5:16, Paul said, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” And in Colossians 3:8, he wrote, “You also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.” Those are commands: You are the one who is to lay aside anger, wrath, and malice. You are the one who is to walk by the Spirit. In other words, quit telling God to do those things for you–they are your responsibility.
Instead of the “let go and let God” approach to the Christian life, some people adopt the other extreme–what I call the “if it’s going to be, it’s up to me” approach. It is the idea that I alone am responsible for living the Christian life. If I just pull up my bootstraps and grit my teeth and pray and read the Bible even though I do not want to, eventually I can become like Jesus Christ. But that is impossible too. “Apart from Me,” Jesus said, “you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
So then who is responsible for sanctification? Sanctification is a cooperative effort between God and us. It is God’s power through the Holy Spirit energizing our efforts.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “If It’s Going To Be, Is It Up To Me?” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2011.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. www.lockman.org.