Sunday, January 01, 2012


It is New Years Day, the first day of 2012. Many are making resolutions. Some of the most common are to start exercising or to lose weight, to read more good books, to quit robbing convenience stores.

When you make a New Years Resolution, you acknowledge that you fell short in some area and need to do better. So that can be a good thing.

It is also a good thing for the follower of Christ to evaluate his or her life in light of the Bible and resolve to grow where needed.

Paul addressed this in his letters to the Philippians. He told them:

“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” (Philippians 2:12-13).

Paul had just given them the great vision of the reigning Christ is 2:1-11. In light of that, he wanted the Philippians to continue to grow in obedience and Christ-like character even while he was gone.

It is easy for a believer to find a nice place on the road and stop there. He comes to a place where he does not sin overtly, he takes care of his family, he works, he reads a little of his Bible now and then and attends church. It gets comfortable and he stops. But the road goes on.

This road is the path of sanctification. It runs from the day of salvation to the day of glorification. God continually works to make us more like his son.

Paul put it this way: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6) The fact that he began a good work means it is not complete, but he intends to complete it.

But where God did all the work in salvation, he expects us to do something regarding our sanctification. That is why Paul said to work out your salvation. Yet it is not ultimately our work, for he said it is God who works in you. We are trying to work it out, but God is working in us to accomplish his will. The Father’s will is that we become like his Son, like Christ. Romans 8:29 says “for those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his son in order that he might be the firstborn of many brothers.” He predestined that believers would be conformed to the image of his son individually and that there would be a great number of us.

In light of this, one way to be sure we continually move toward becoming like Christ, to growing in sanctification, is to look at the things that the Bible says make up the Christian life and measure ourselves against it. Christian maturity comes from the patient practice of the Christian virtues and disciplines.

Let me suggest a process. First, you get alone somewhere quiet. You pray, asking God to reveal yourself to yourself and convict you of your shortcomings. Then, you read Scripture, make a list of areas to evaluate, then compare yourself to the standard God set in his word. When you find an area where you have had a good year, thank God for bringing this about in your life and ask him to help you continue in that area.

Where you find an area in which you fell short, acknowledge that to the Lord and ask forgiveness. 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Numbers 14:18 tells us God is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression.

“Confess” means to acknowledge what you did, or did not do, and that it fell short of God’s standard.

What are some specifics with which we can evaluate ourselves? Here are a few.

One thing we know is that those who have believed in Jesus have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works for our sanctification. If we live in obedience to him and follow him, he will bear fruit in our lives. That fruit is a character that reflects the character of God. Paul spelled it out in Galatians 5:22. He said “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control”.

This is a place to start. How did you do in 2011 exhibiting these fruits of the Spirit in your daily life? For example, I am a little edgy. It is hard for me to be at peace and to extend peace to people who make me mad. I often have to consciously give a situation to God and back away. I often have to ask forgiveness for not doing that. Yet, I can see how, as I began to apply this evaluation process, I have grown.

Matthew 5:1-11 contains a list of people who are blessed by God. They are commonly called the Beatitudes. They are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for the sake of Christ.

Jesus told us not to be anxious about our economic situation, but to live for God’s glory and trust him to provide for us. Matthew 6:25-34. Paul taught the same principle in Philippians 4:6-7. Around 2.5 million Americans suffer anxiety disorders. Women have them twice as frequently as men (probably because they live with men). How are you doing in the anxiety department?

Hebrews 10:25 tells us to continue meeting together. Are you faithful to gather with other believers in worship and fellowship?

1 Corinthians 11 tells us to observe the Lord’s Supper and to observe it correctly? Do you regularly attend the Lord’s Supper?

Do you walk by the Spirit, seeking to please God, or do you seek to please your flesh? Galatians 5:16 speaks to that. You should not be involved in any kind of sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, etc., as listed in the following verses.

Do you help those who are in need? Romans 12:13 says “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

Do you obey the law of the government? Romans 13:1 says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.”

Are you humble? Ephesians 4:1 says humility is walking worthy of our calling. The Bible constantly denounces pride.

Do you work to preserve the unity of the fellowship or cause divisions or hard feelings? See Ephesians 4:3.

Husband to you love your wife? See Ephesians 5:25.

Wives, do you submit to your own husband as to the Lord? (Ephesians 5:22)

Do you thank God for his blessings? Colossians 2:6 says you should abound in thanksgiving.

Do you rejoice in the Lord? Do you live a life of joy because you have Christ? Paul commanded us to rejoice (Philippians 3:1).

The Bible is full of statements of the things that please God, the traits God wants us to exhibit and the work he wants us to do. These are just a few to get you started.

One last thing: what if you go through this list and there is no way any of these describe you? Then, that part of working out your salvation is to make sure you are indeed saved. You can attend church and not be saved. Do you believe in Christ? Paul said the important facts are these: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures and that he appeared to many after he died (1 Corinthians 15:3). Do you believe in this Jesus who died for your sins and was raised from the dead?

And if you do believe, have you also committed to live your life for Christ? Believing facts is not enough. James said the demons believe and shudder (James 2:19). You must commit your life to him regardless of the cost. Jesus put it this way: “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23).

You must follow him. Follow means to obey him and trust him. Jesus said my sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me (John 10:27). Following is evidence of salvation. Good works are evidence of salvation. James wrote that faith apart from works is useless. Some versions say dead. (James 2:20). The Father created us in Christ for good works which he prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). Jesus commanded us to do good works. He said “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

We do not work to get salvation, but we work out our salvation in the fear of the Lord as he works in us to bring about his purpose and will. Work out your salvation this year. Pursue sanctification. Be brutally honest with yourself and God.

The rewards are great.
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