Change comes at the point of choice. Reformation occurs as we chose to yield to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and surrender our will to God’s will.
God will never force or manipulate our will. He respects our freedom. His Spirit impresses our minds, convicts our hearts, and prompts us to do right, but the choice to respond to the Holy Spirit’s appeals is, always and only, our own.
Read Philippians 2:12-14. How does this passage show the necessity of cooperating with God in our growth in grace? What does Paul mean by “work out your own salvation”? What does he mean by “it is God who works in you”?
It is not possible for us to work out what God has not already worked in. As He works in us through His supernatural power, we are able to make the choices to “work out” through our lives the grace and strength that He has worked into our lives.
“As finite, sinful man works out his own salvation with fear and trembling, it is God who works in him, to will and to do of His own good pleasure. But God will not work without the co-operation of man. He must exercise his powers to the very utmost; he must place himself as an apt, willing student in the school of Christ; and as he accepts the grace that is freely offered to him, the presence of Christ in the thought and in the heart will give him decision of purpose to lay aside every weight of sin, that the heart may be filled with all the fullness of God, and of his love.”-Ellen G. White, Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 134.
Reformation occurs as we cooperate with God by choosing to surrender to Him anything that the Holy Spirit points out as not being in harmony with His will. Unless we make those choices (sometimes very painful ones, too), then positive, spiritual change will not occur.
God will not rip some selfish thought out of our minds. He will not mysteriously snatch away unhealthful habits or secret indulgences. He convicts us of sin. He convinces us of right, but we must choose. Once we do, He empowers our choices, but it is we ourselves who have to daily, even moment by moment, make those choices.
What does cooperating with God in the working out of our salvation mean? What doesn’t it mean? When was the last time that you felt deeply convicted over something and, through God’s grace, overcame, no matter how difficult the struggle?