I had just conducted a small group Bible study in my dorm room at Liberty University over Philippians 4:4-7; a typical few verses to use for the teaching on the Christian life. It was not until my perusal of this passage in its broader context that I stumbled upon verses 11-12 on a much deeper level, “Now that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” What secret is Paul speaking of? What spiritual truth has Paul learned to implement in his life? Because whatever Paul has, I want! Paul, the writer of half the New Testament, the worker of miracles, I want what he has. As I read the verse over and over again to myself, Paul seemed to be introducing one of the paradoxes of the Christian life: the ability to be content in who God is and what He has done in our lives, while at the same time striving for God to be a more dominating presence in our hearts and the world around us. We should be content in the salvation of God, but hungry for the work of God; joyous in the death of our carnal selves, but pursuing the growth of our spiritual selves.
This may be the root of all inactivity in the modern church today. We are satisfied with the mere death to our old selves, that we do not seek to live as a new creation. Christ and the Father exemplify this necessity for the christian life in that Christ was not only crucified, but raised to life again to personify his reign over death and sin. God was not delighted in the mere death of His son until He was able to, in a sense, gloat in the act of His resurrection.
Can not this be applied to the death of ourselves and revival of life in the spirit? God is not only appeased in our death, but our resurrection in Christ. This is why God’s use for us on this earth does not cease at our act of repentance, he keeps us as aliens on this earth to share in the joy of His resurrection! The fact of the matter is some Christians are Christians because they seek salvation, and once that process is over, they tuck away their “get-out-of-hell-free” card and live in a manner unworthy of the Gospel. James speaks of another kind of christian, the true Christ-follower, one that puts their belief into action. Beliefs are dead until you live them out; faith is dead without implementation.
Yes, salvation in God produces peace that surpasses all understanding, but the pursuit of God, being used by God, produces joy that can only be credited to the God and King of the universe. We ask ourselves why the church is filled with such mediocrity and stagnation, and I believe it is because we have camped out in our salvation while completely neglecting our sanctification. We have learned to be peaceful and content in our placement with God, but forsaken to be hungry in the application of His commands.
The real question lies in whether the two can truly be separated. Can we honestly repent without sprinting in the other direction, away from ourselves, away from the world, away from sin? Our reformed protestantism has almost brought us full circle, in that we had rightfully rejected the idea of a works-based salvation, while negating the fact that true salvation results in authentic sanctification. James 2:17-22 reads, “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;”. I could not have said it better myself, and no man has said it better since James did so under the inspiration of God Himself.