WORK, effort, strive, (and even) sweat, were some of the words used in an article entitled, 'Yes Holiness does require effort', in a Christian news magazine I was reading through the other day.
Firstly, I acknowledge that sweat was required to make Holiness available to us. Note that I have used PAST tense. Here is the sweat that was required to enable you and I to be Holy;
And being in agony, He (Jesus) prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Lu 22v44
The context of the words used in the article, which also included fighting, struggling, pressing and pursuing, was self effort. A link to another comment was entitled, Sanctification is Sweaty Work. It went on to say that, 'whilst God is actively making us Holy we must also be working at it ourselves', and 'we can be actively killing sin'.
Have you ever tried to do those things? Waking up in the morning and deciding that today I am going to work at making myself Holy!! today I am going to do some sin killing in me!! Where do you start? how do you know if you have succeeded? That sort of advice is meaningless when it comes to real world practise.
Also, if that advice is correct, the person who has strived the most; who has struggled more, could congratulate themselves on being a better Christian because they have put out more effort.
Some of those words are in the New Testament. For example Jesus words in Luke 13v24,'strive to enter the narrow gate', and Pauls exhortation to 'press on'. Peter also tells us to 'make every effort', to be partakers of the Divine nature. The Amplified Bible has Peters statement as,'make every effort to exercise your faith'. And there we begin to have the true understanding of the meaning of these types of words.
Hebrews 4v1-11 holds the key to understanding the use of all these words in the New Testament. In a paradoxical statement the writer says (v11)'therefore let us STRIVE to enter that REST'. It talks about Gods works for us being finished from the foundation of the world (v3) and that we have ceased from our own works (v10) The striving is reinterpreted as faith or belief, 'let us fear lest we have unbelief'. We are to strive to BELIEVE in the finished work of Jesus for us at the cross and to cease from our own works to get right with God. Holiness and a successful Christian life is to be received by us as a gift, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to be received by faith.
That is why Colossians says, 'As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him'.
When Jesus was asked what work it was necessary to do to get eternal life,He said, 'This is the work that God requires of you, that you BELIEVE in the one He has sent'.(John 6v29)