You could be hard on yourself. Striving to follow all the rules and straining under the weight of them. On your own, you could become a slave to self-improvement and still not achieve your goal. Or, you could choose an alternate way. A way that frees you from the heavy chains and promises results.
God knows—better than you—how to make you holy.
All your knowledge of God begins with him. By his favor and your privilege, God brings you first to his acquaintance, and then into relationship. You have a limited knowledge of the Omniscient, but he has full and complete knowledge of you. God knows you better than you know yourself. If you love God, you are known by him (1 Corinthians 8:3).
The All Knowing searches out your daily path. He discerns your every thought. Even before you speak a word, he knows what you will say. He goes ahead of you and he follows you, even when you go to sleep at night. God is acquainted with all your ways (Psalm 139:1-5). And, his knowledge of you is special. He gushes with affection for you, delights in your uniqueness. He loves and cares so much for you that he draws you to him in a way that attracts you to the saving knowledge of his Son. He adopts you as his righteous child and sets you apart for holiness.
Trying to do this by your own effort could keep you in chains.
The Galatians had turned away from the worship of pagan idols and toward the living God, but they seemed bent on putting themselves back into bondage by observance of the Jewish law. They chose to fall away from grace and into ceremonies. The rituals of both the Gentile and Jewish systems did not produce righteousness in God’s sight or the salvation of the soul that leads to eternal life. They had poor power to purge the conscience of guilt and bring deliverance of sinful habits. They could not impart the spiritual benefits of peace, comfort and joy. No, they were incapable of enriching the soul with holiness. The Galatians chose to throw away their riches. Instead of going from servitude to freedom, they went from one form of slavery to another.
You could also become converted and sink into servitude. You could escape the bonds of moral depravity, worldly ambition and the love of money, only to become a slave of ceremonies and rituals in religion. Or, you could worship a god of your own making. A god of all grace and no truth. Then, you could continue in your sins, unrepentant, and falsely rest assured that God’s mercy covers you.
Let God do the heavy lifting and cooperate with his work in you.
The alternative to the struggle of pulling the weight of holiness is the formation of Christ in you by the Spirit. God takes the circumstances of your life—your family, friendships, work, hobbies, your personality, talents, and dreams—and he uses all of it to conform you to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). If you actively participate in this process through the practice of the spiritual disciplines, you will find them liberating pathways to growing in God’s grace.
God alone can bestow upon you the spiritual power necessary to grow in holiness. All other means are mere shadows of the riches of his grace. Do not turn back to them, but continually turn toward the spiritual transformation taking place—the process that completes the good work already begun in you (Philippians 1:6).
Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits? How can you want to be enslaved to them again? —Galatians 4:9
Have you tried to pull the weight of holiness by placing trust in faulty systems? Have you asked God to take the whole of your life and form you into the image of his Son?
This post is an excerpt from Chapter Two, Wild with Potential / A Season for Silence, of my forthcoming book, A Disciplined Walk with God / Grow in Abundance through Each of Your Spiritual Seasons.