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Articles

“Humble Striving”

Our congregational theme for 2019 is “Growing in Grace” (2 Pet. 3:18), particularly in the seven areas Peter points out in 2 Peter 1:5-7. He puts a great deal of emphasis on our part in the development of these Christ-like qualities using phrases like “make every effort” (v.5) and “be all the more diligent” (v.10). Knowledge of the gospel should evoke a maturing and practical moral response from us. But Peter makes sure we understand this doesn’t all depend on us. Far from it!  He points out that God is the one who has “richly provided” us with everything necessary to transform us into the people we were meant to be (v.3) and bring us to glory (v.11).

This combined effort of humanity and divinity, human exertion and divine grace, is the key to unlocking our salvation and entrance into the eternal kingdom (2 Pet. 1:11; Eph. 2:8-9). Paul sums it up best: “… 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.” (Phil. 2:12-13) 

Does this much emphasis on “our part” of salvation contradict the doctrine of grace? Does our effort somehow negate God’s grace? Does our diligent striving turn God’s gift into a wage? (Rom. 4:4-5)

We understand no one is justified in God’s sight by earning their salvation (Rom. 1-4). But obedience to the gospel is clearly required (Rom. 6). In fact, on this side of the cross, everything we do for God and others is a direct response for what God has done for us. Our faith and humble obedience is always initiated by God’s gracious work. “We love because He first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19). Humble effort in no way contradicts God’s grace. The contradiction to grace is pride. Jesus lived in humble obedience as an example for us! (Heb. 5:8-9) 

James 4:6 says, "But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 5:6, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you." Check out the handy chart by Doy Moyer below.

GRACEPRIDE
HumbleSelf-righteous
Trust in GodTrust in self
ServeBeing served
Obey to pleaseDo to get
SubmissiveSelf-willed
Salvation givenSalvation earned
ContentDiscontent
God-exaltedSelf-exalted