I used to think that when the Apostle Paul tells us to work out our salvation, it meant go out and get what you don’t have—get more patience, get more strength, get more joy, get more love, and so on. But after reading the Bible more carefully, I now understand that Christian growth does not happen by working hard to get something you don’t have. Rather, Christian growth happens by working hard to daily swim in the reality of what you do have. Believing again and again the gospel of God’s free justifying grace everyday is the hard work we’re called to.
This means that real change happens only as we continuously rediscover the gospel. The progress of the Christian life is “not our movement toward the goal; it’s the movement of the goal on us.” Sanctification involves God’s attack on our unbelief—our self-centered refusal to believe that God’s approval of us in Christ is full and final. It happens as we daily receive and rest in our unconditional justification.
...Our main problem in the Christian life is not that we don’t try hard enough to be good, but that we haven’t believed the gospel and received its finished reality into all parts of our life.