How can you and I cooperate with God in the process of spiritual growth? Spiritual growth is becoming like Jesus Christ. And He is our perfect role model for every aspect of life.
4:30 and stop grieving the Holy Spirit of God, with [or, by whom; literally: within] whom you were sealed into for the day of redemption.
It is possible to grieve God the Holy Spirit. What causes Him sadness? That’s in the next verse.
Again, the “within” above is an important translation. It is our eternal connection with the Holy Spirit of God Who is our seal. In a very real sense, The Holy Spirit is the seal Himself. And we are in Him just as He is within us. An insightful auithor years ago called this the interpenetration of God and man.
What does “sealed” mean?
And what does the seal do? It marks us as God’s property. That original word “seal” was used to describe the mark cut in lumbar with the owner’s logo. When the logs were sent downstream to their destination, they could be located and collected via that seal. So many points in Scripture assure us of our safety and salvation. The fact that God owns us is one of them.
When men own us, it is called slavery. When God owns us, it means freedom.
4:31 All bitterness and hot anger and wrath and outcry and slander—let them be removed from you, along with all wickedness,
The passive mood of the words in the above verse is important. The word I translated “be removed” above is in a passive command form with the sense of “allow this to be done.” It is not our self-discipline that gets the job done. Me gritting my teeth and determining that I will not be angry or loud or say bad things about others, not to mention forsaking all wickedness. No. The secret is in letting the Holy Spirit work the sanctification of Christ within us. It is always a miracle of grace obtained through faith.
We do have to choose not to sin, but that choice should always be accompanied by depending on God to give us strength to resist temptation.
Also, the verse above details part of the things we can do that will grieve the Holy Spirit—anger, yelling, putting down others, and all wickedness. It is never good to put down another person, that is be personally derogatory.
4:32 becoming yourselves kind to one another, tender-hearted (compassionate), showing grace (forgiveness) to each other, just as God in Christ also has given grace (forgiveness) to you.
And just as it takes grace to rid ourselves of our bad habits and tendencies, once again it takes grace through faith to cultivate the best habits and tendencies. All that good is accomplished by God with our permission. All our good qualities are a fruit of the Spirit of God’s work within us. And they become visible by our obedience and cooperation with God’s leading.
We obey, we do works, but we do not depend on our own strength to do so; we depend on God—this is living by faith, not sight. We do works, not to earn our salvation—we are not saved by our performance—but out of love for God and His generous grace and goodness. We do works to activate the grace of God within us. It is His grace that produces sanctification. Works are our active proof to God of our willingness. Words alone are not enough. Action clears the way to get the job done.
That is the way of progress.
So how do we please God? By being kind, caring and compassionate, forgiving others the way God in Jesus has forgiven us (that is, all sins and mistakes, past, present and future).
May we show by our actions today that we are willing indeed for God’s Holy Spirit to do His work within us, forming the character of Jesus within us.
“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling because it is God who is at work in you” (Philippians 2:12).
We have things to do.
Clearly, there are things for us to do. Our efforts are included in God’s plan. However, we are not to place our faith in these things.
Have faith in God (Hebrews 11:6)
We must not depend on (1) our efforts; or (2) the way things look to us; or (3) especially whether we feel like good Christians or not. Have faith in God.
Jesus is all we need.
Salvation is from God, through God and by God—always, whether we are talking conversion, when we come to believe in Jesus Christ, becoming fully sanctified, or eventually glorified. God is our source. Christ is our life (1 John 2:25). He is our reconciliation to God, the basis of our forgiveness. Christ is our righteousness, our sanctification (1 Corinthians 1:30) and our glorification (Colossians 1:27). We have all this because we are in Him and He is in us, in every believer.
When Saul persecuted Christians he was persecuting Jesus Christ.
When Saul was on the Damascus road and the Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him, briefly blinding him, Jesus said to him: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 8:4) But wait. Who was Saul persecuting? He was persecuting the church, believers, people like you and me. Yet Jesus plainly declared to Saul that he was persecuting Him, Jesus. That’s how thoroughly we are one with Jesus Christ Himself! Hit a believer, and you hit Jesus!
A gift we can walk
Salvation is a gift, the gift of Jesus Christ. He became ours and we became His, eternally. But we can grow into our experience of all that involves. Think about this: What if I could give you the gift of great artistic talent, but you never had the faith to act on it? Would it really be yours? Sanctification is making the character of Jesus Christ, Who’s within us, our own character in our experience here and now (Galatians 4:19A). It’s becoming Godlike: “You are therefore to be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
What then can we do?
When we believe in Jesus Christ we become sons of God, really and actually sons of God. An awesome thought. And that means we have virtually unlimited potential. So what can we do?
(1) Be obedient to what God leads you to do.
(2) Walk with God by faith, that is practice the presence of the Lord just like Brother Lawrence advocated so many years ago (Micah 6:8; Hebrews 12:1-2). That means sharing your daily life with Him, praying to Him, fellowshipping with Him.
(3) Find fellow Christians with whom you can share what God is doing in your life (John 21:15-17; Hebrews 10:24-25).
(4) And by all means have faith, trust God to help you grow. We all have our roles within God’s grand plan, but it is always God Who causes the growth, always. (2 Cor. 5:7).
Our only basis for success
“Success” means pleasing Him, and that comes in one way: relying on Him with a faith that results in obedience.