My outlook has changed from one of striving to do works and looking for God’s approval after the fact to one of resting in Christ and trusting the Holy Spirit to direct me in concert with God’s work. It is not unlike Peter who fished all day and caught nothing, who at the end of the day followed Jesus’ instructions and hauled in an huge catch. The former was Peter’s effort without Christ’s direction, the latter was Christ’s doing through Peter’s obedience. The lesson in that? Action without direction is fruitless.
One way I see things differently now, is through the gardening metaphor so often used in scripture. Working in my vegetable garden those scriptures come to life as I clean up a garbage pile behind the garage, kill the weeds, till the soil, fertilize, plant, water, prune, cultivate, deal with pests and finally bring in the harvest. It’s hard work, but a great way to get perspective on God’s work with us, “a planting for the display of His splendor” (Isaiah 61:3).
With a clearer understanding of God’s role as gardener and mine as His planting, I’ve begun noticing places in scripture that underscore His responsibility in calling, saving, baptizing and teaching people. Should those scriptures be taken at face value, whereby we trust God to do what the scriptures say He will do? If He is responsible to complete the work of salvation, then my only responsibility is to cooperate with Him as He directs me.
For example, John 3:16 says God does the giving, our whole responsibility is simply to trust in His gift of Jesus. When you trust someone (Jesus) to do something for you (salvation), you are surrendering all control and relying completely on that person to do what He says He will do. Salvation is 100% the work of God in Christ.
Similarly, John 12:32 says Jesus draws ALL men unto Himself. There’s no need for pew-filling membership drives, advertising, or any of the other silly stuff churches do to promote themselves. Jesus promotes Himself.
Elsewhere, John 16:18 says the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin. So why do so many believers point out sin when they see it and tell the sinner they’re “going to hell”? Perhaps they haven’t seen the scripture concerning the woman caught in the act of adultery where Jesus ran off her accusers and then told her “neither do I accuse you”. Imagine just loving sinners because we’re sinners too and letting the Holy Spirit do the work of God. “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8), so why do people take such delight in exposing and judging sin? Are we serious about “what would Jesus do?”
Want more of God? Why ask man for what only God can give? Matthew 3:11 says that it is Jesus who baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire. All we have to do is present ourselves to Jesus for His baptism, or as it says in Luke 11:13, we simply need to ask the Father for more of the Holy Spirit.
First John 2:27 says the Holy Spirit teaches us. In my experience, I’ve never really taught anybody anything, but what I’ve written is confirmation of what the Holy Spirit has already taught others. I experience the same type of confirmation when I hear others share what they are hearing from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 16:18 says Jesus builds His Church. There are countless men trying to build churches and typically they start with a building. For all our building programs, there is no unity because all churches are divided by doctrine or denomination. Yet there is just one church built by Jesus. According to Peter, all we need do is present ourselves as living stones to Jesus who assembles us into His spiritual temple (1 Peter 2:4-9). What Jesus builds will last; what men build will be burned on the day of the Lord.
Consider the “great commission”, wherein Jesus said “go out into all the world and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Most people render the word “disciple” a verb, which assumes an ongoing responsibility to teach people the ways of Jesus. However, in context, the word “disciple” is a noun and our responsibility is only to make someone a disciple, through baptism, whereby they become Jesus’ disciple. The GNB goes so far as to say “make them MY disciples.” So who is responsible to teach Jesus’ disciples? Jesus, or men?
Where we presume to teach (or “disciple”) others, we run the risk of making them into “sons of hell” because men typically teach from their understanding (“lean NOT on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5), whereby they fill people’s heads with doctrines and dogma and they learn a legalistic and works-based approach to the faith. In consonance with that thought, 1 Corinthians 2:13-14 says only the Spirit can teach spiritual things. Why then do men presume to teach the disciples of Christ?
In conclusion, there is a clear theme that develops from the scriptures cited herein – Jesus is the one who does the work. Period. All we do is submit, trust, wait, watch, and participate cooperatively when He calls upon us.
Such is a more ‘organic’ view of the Church and suits me far better than the ‘institutionalized’ view.
There is great peace in simply enjoying your spot in the sun and blooming where the Father has planted you. I think it’s safe to say that the “Gardener knows what He’s doing.”