1996-07-12 - Work Out Your Own Salvation
Phil 2:12-15 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;  for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.  Do all things without grumbling and disputing;  that you may prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.
Paul really can pack a lot into a few words. Writing to the church at Philippi, Paul encourages the Christians there with these words "my beloved". This is a very intimate term, filled with feeling. It gives us a glance into the heart of Paul for the church, the bride of Christ, and the work that he was called to do. He then commends them for their obedience, especially when he is no longer there to keep and eye on them. I recall Paul referring to Timothy as his son in the faith. The picture that is painted in my mind by these few words, is Paul's heart as a father to these 'children' at Philippi.
Then he tells them to 'work out their own salvation'. Has Paul taken a trip off to modern liberalism? That is scarcely the case here. Paul wants them Philippians to work through the salvation that has been given to them in their minds. In this way, they will learn to understand it; the tremendous, hideous price that was paid, the sacrifice Jesus made in just coming to earth, the utter helplessness of mankind, the grace and mercy extended. By reading and thinking on salvation, they would come to know it better, to be able to explain it when asked by someone about it. To begin to understand the depth and the power of salvation, would give these Philippians believers the understanding they need to go on to the deeper things God has in store for them. Then, 'with fear and trembling'. Again, this is charged with emotion. Paul is not warning them, that they might lose their salvation. But, he is giving them a warning against taking the topic lightly. It is an urging to take great care with the subject. Guarding against adding things that are not there, and missing the things that are there or other mishandling.
Then Paul explains why the need for all this care and study of salvation. God is working in their hearts and minds, their new lives. Only as we continue to grow can God continue to work. The growing understanding of salvation will provide the groundwork that God will build on as He prepares His children. What work is God doing? 'His good pleasure'. What is 'His pleasure'? Is God going to send me to some tiny, awful third world nation if I start to grow in Him? Well the odds are not, but perhaps. God always has our very best interests at heart. His loving care is exemplary, beyond question. If you are going anywhere for God, He will prepare your heart, your will, and your mind for the task. He will give you a heart for the people he leads you to, and all the tools you will need to accomplish His mission. Even if you do not go to some distant land, God will work in your heart to prepare you for the people you will meet along life's way. He will literally change the desires of your heart. And, as you yield to that change, the blessings that await you and me are beyond expectations. Even in the midst of hardships, Paul who was shipwrecked twice, stoned and left for dead, and on and on was undoubtedly blessed by the changed lives and the growth he saw. Amazing? Keep your feet and hands inside the car at all times.
Do all things without grumbling and disputing Think about it. If you get two people into a room, even two very good friends, they will disagree on something. So, if even under the best circumstances people will disagree, how are we supposed to pull this one off? As salvation begins to take shape in the mind, it begins to show us the level of human need and depravity. We were utterly helpless and not willing in ourselves to try to reach out to God. He did it all for us! As the depth of that need and depravity begin to be revealed, little bit by little bit as we are able to honestly look, humility begins to grow. Honest, health humility that puts others first and begins to know our weakness is a prime ingredient to doing all things without grumbling and complaining. Then salvation begins to show us the value that Christ placed upon us as He ransomed us with His own life, and suffered separation from the Father for the first time in all Eternity. We begin to see the value in others, which is another important key. This is God working in us 'His pleasure', changing our hearts and minds, equipping us for whatever He has in store.
Once we are known to be Children of God, once we identify ourselves with the Jesus Christ and Christianity, the world instantly recognizes us as enemies. The easiest thing to be is a critic, and the hardest thing to be is perfect. It is a recipe for disaster from a human perspective. This life is a marathon, not a sprint. We will stumble and fall. The world will be right there to tell is what hypocrites we are. But, over the long haul, as we run the race with consistency, mercy, compassion, accountability and our stumbling become minor tremors in a life of stability we become respected channels that the Master will use and the world will hear. Billy and Ruth Graham, Billy Sunday, Martin Luther, Charles Wesley and other men and women of God may have had their scoffers, but they have been few. And when the scoffer is challenged, they fall silent under the unimpeachable character, the faultless, blameless life that stands for all to see. A life so lived, becomes a powerful ally and a light to the nations.
This is an evil time and the generation we live in is indeed perverse and wicked. The life a Christian lives is in direct opposition to the world that says, "If it feels good, do it." Such audacity is staggering, Take notice, sin is pleasant. But it will extract it's price. It is this that may indeed be the final call of God to a lost man or woman. Racked with pain of liver disease, or struggling for the next breath against emphysema, how many have been forced to admit their own mortality and absolute need. Staring into the dark maw of eternity they reach out to God, even in desperation, they are snatched from the clutches of the enemy. They become stark testimony to their friends and relatives who, even in the hospitals, see their loved one's sleep turn from fitful to peaceful as God begins to work in their lives.
Paul's admonition to be lights reminds me of a song.
Be Ye Glad
In these days of confused situations
From the grave of the Innocent Adam
Now from your dungeon a rumor is stirring
And though your body is weary from wasting,
So be like lights on the rim of the water;
For you are timeless and part of a puzzle,
Words and music by Michael Kelly
Gracious Lord Jesus, the magnificent, complete salvation that you have given is simply matchless. Teach us the depths and the soaring heights, so that we can know what we believe and why we believe it. That we may always be prepared to give and answer to someone who asks. Crush our pride and give us the gracious humility to accept the people You lead to us, so may be lights to them, pointing them on to You. Amen.
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.