Transformation is proportioned to our obedience. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” John 15:10 (NKJV)
You can’t steal God’s tithe and be transformed. You cannot lie and abide in Him. You can’t be looking at pornography and be changed.
In this sense, transformation is both active and passive. It is letting go and letting God and it is striving and straining and running and boxing. Paul brought active and passive together in this classic verse, “To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily.” Colossians 1:29 (NKJV)
To labor means to work till you sweat. It means to be fatigued, to be worn out, weary, to faint. To strive means to agonize. In fact, we get our word agonize from this word. Does this sound passive to you?
Look closely at this verse. How does Paul labor and strive? “According to His working which He works in me mightily.”
As Mark Batterson says it, “I work my guts out doing the work of an evangelist and then, I lay down and sleep like a Calvinist.”
Let me make this very practical. You work as hard as you know how to be loving and kind and joyful and gracious and honest and pure. You strive and you strain and you push and you struggle and you work to do the best you can.
Then, you pray over it. You pray a prayer that goes like this, “God, I am powerless without you. Without you I can do nothing. I can’t be kind. I can’t be loving. I can’t be gracious. I am addicted to pornography. I drink and can’t stop. I gossip and can’t stop. I am grumpy and can’t rejoice in the Lord. I don’t pray like I should. Oh God, please help.”
Then, you keep praying. “Lord, I believe I can do all things though Christ who strengthens me. I can be loving through Christ who strengthens me. I can be kind and gracious and forgiving when it is impossible to forgive through Christ who strengthens me. I can pray like I want, witness like I should, and serve like a slave though Christ who strengthens me.”
Without the first prayer, your activity is just willful self-help. It is empty religion and it will get you nowhere.
Without the confidence of the second prayer, you will never be changed. Jesus said it will be done for you according to your faith. (Mathew 9:29) Unless you really believe “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” you can’t do anything. (Philippians 4:13)