The last few days have been stressful. So much seems to have changed. Yet from a different perspective, nothing has changed. It is still the Lenten season. God is still God. You and I still need God’s grace. We believe the Bible, so we have always believed that suffering and struggle are part of the package in a post-Genesis 3 world. We fight battles without. We fight battles within.
And because we fight these battles within, we turn again to the guidance of Jerry Bridges. In our last study, we saw how Jesus dealt with the guilt of our sins through his atoning death. In chapter five, the focus turns toward the work of the Holy Spirit to free us from the power of sin in our lives. In this progressive process, there is work that we must do in cooperation with the Spirit – “I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). We also find, however, that the Holy Spirit works in us monergistically (or apart from our contributing energies) – “…work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13).
Bridges sums up this dynamic of our cooperation and God’s monergistic work with the phrase dependent responsibility: “There is a fundamental principle of the Christian life that I call the principle of dependent responsibility; that is, we are responsible before God to obey His Word, to put to death the sins in our lives, both the so-called acceptable sins and the obviously not acceptable ones. At the same time, we do not have the ability within ourselves to carry out this responsibility. We are in fact totally dependent upon the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. In this sense, we are both responsible and dependent.”
Bridges teaches us that there is mystery to how the Holy Spirit works within us. Nonetheless, we believe that he does because the Bible tells us that he does. And trusting in his power at work in us, we set about the process of recognizing and mortifying the respectable sins with which we struggle.
What do you find harder to accept: your dependency on the Holy Spirit or your responsibility to cooperate with him? Can you recall a time in your life when it was evident that the Spirit was helping you to put away some particular sin? When trying to change things “on your own,” have you been successful?