When we’re born again from above by the Spirit of God, the Lord makes us “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). Indeed, “The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (v. 18). But in doing so He does not eliminate our minds, our bodies, our emotions, our will or anything that’s a part of what makes us human. God’s grace doesn’t remove any of those aspects of our humanity; instead it dramatically gives new purposes and perspectives to them.
Followers of Jesus are called to live the Christian life with the fully Christ-centered use of their minds and judgment and everything else that is essentially human.
Yet some will tell you that your problem is that you are trying to live the Christian life. They say that just as God never intended for you to save yourself so He does not expect you to live the Christian life.
“Let go and let God,” they say. “Let go and let the Lord Jesus live His life through you.”
They may frame it this way:
Have you ever seen an apple tree struggling and trying to produce apples? No! The branches just let the sap from the trunk produce the fruit. As long as they remain in the trunk the fruit will come. In the same way, as a Christian all you have to do is abide in the vine—abide in Christ—and He will produce spiritual fruit through you. You don’t have to do anything, He does it all.
It is true that the Holy Spirit produces spiritual fruit through us and not we ourselves, but it takes the fruit-bearing analogy too far to say that we don’t do anything.
Here’s another Scriptural analogy that some take too far and in the process teach that part of our humanity is eliminated in living the Christian life. They’ll remind us how Romans 6 teaches that we are identified with Christ in His Cross and Resurrection and that we should consider ourselves dead to sin. Then they will say something like: “Suppose a scantily-clad woman walks past the corpse of a man, will that man notice? Of course not, he’s dead. And that’s the way it’s to be with you if you are identified with Christ, sin will have no real appeal to you.”
But Romans 6:11 doesn’t say we are dead to sin, rather it exhorts us to “consider yourselves dead to sin,” because we are in Christ and Christ has died to sin on the Cross. In other words, sin will still appeal to us because of our flesh, but we are not to let it master us any longer because we are identified with Christ. We’re to consider ourselves dead to it.
Such teaching ignores the fact that in Scripture God commands us to accept the responsibility of obeying Him. For instance, in Col. 3:2, when you are told, “Set your minds on things above, not on things that are on the earth,” who is to do that, you or God?
When God says, “Husbands, love your wives” (Eph. 5:25), that means husband, actively love your wife. Do you think God intends for you to tell your wife, “I’m not going to try to love you any more, I’m just going to let go and let God”?
When the Lord says in 1 Cor. 6:18, “Flee from sexual immorality,” what He means is for you to remove yourself from the temptation, not for you to passively wait for Him to transport you to a new location.
Even in Romans 6:11 when it says, “So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin,” who is to do the considering? Should you let go and let God do the considering? No, you are the one God wants to consider yourself dead to sin.
Salvation doesn’t remove any of our humanity in living the Christian life.
The Bible commands us to pursue things that only the Holy Spirit can give. For example, 2 Peter 1:5-7 begins by saying, “For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, etc.” Only the Holy Spirit can truly develop those things, nevertheless we are told to cultivate them.
Think about what Paul says in Philippians 2:12-13, “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.” God’s grace gives you both the desire and ability to work out what He has worked in. But once He does this, He doesn’t want you to just “let go,” rather He calls you to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” We can’t do any of this without God’s grace, but His grace doesn’t eliminate what we have to do by His grace.
Listen to Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” What did Paul say he could do? He could do all things God wanted him to do, but only as Christ strengthened him. Still, Paul had to do what Christ gave him the strength to do in obedience to the Father.
Let go and let God? As spiritual as it sounds, it doesn’t sound like the New Testament any more, does it?
Through His Word, what is Christ calling you to do? Then by His grace do it! Obey Him!
In 1987 I made notes while reading a Banner of Truth booklet, Living the Christian Life. I recently reflected upon those notes, modified them, and expanded upon them for this piece.