Going to Work!
How God works in us to accomplish what He desires from us.
In the first 11 verses of Philippians 2, Paul implores us to think like Christ and to act like Christ so that we can experience true unity and the joy it will yield in our lives. Paul presents Jesus as the perfect model of humility, exhibited by his selfless service and sacrifice. When we read that and hear it, we can’t help but be inspired. The challenge then is, how do we live it? How do we live it? How do we practice that humility, that Christ-likeness, that conduct in our own lives?
After Paul lays out the pattern of behavior God desires from us, he teaches us about God’s power at work in us to make it possible! In Philippians 2:12-18, we discover how God works in us to accomplish what He desires from us.
1) We work out, not work for, our salvation!
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, Philippians 2:12
To work out your salvation doesn’t mean to work for your salvation. Paul was writing to Believers, to “God’s holy people” (Phil 1:1); so his audience already believed. Some people wrongly believe their salvation is based on works; but to be clear, Christianity is based on grace. That is, giving us what we do not deserve, nor could ever earn. (Eph. 2:8; Acts 4:12)
This phrase “work out” in the original language means “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” It is like working out a problem in math, working a mine, or working a field for harvest. The goal is to work it out completely! God wants us to work out our salvation completely. Two practical ways that can happen…
To work out your salvation refers to becoming more like Christ!
Our lives have remarkable potential, like a field ripe for harvest or a mine filled with valuable resources; but to get all we can from it, we must work out our salvation completely. And that involves being transformed and conformed to the image of Christ. (Rom. 8:29; 12:2)
One of the amazing things about your faith journey as a Christ-follower is that God has a plan for your life… and that plan is constantly unfolding throughout your life. He will always work out that plan for His glory! 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10
Not every Believer is going to be called to vocational ministry, but every Believer is absolutely called to ministry which is serving the Lord, one another and doing good works for God’s glory! Will you work out your salvation or are you content to rest in your salvation? God didn’t call you or me to rest in our salvation. Are you allowing God to use you right now for Christ’s sake and His glory?
To work out your salvation refers to obeying Christ.
It has to do with the dogged pursuit of obedience. Not a casual or a half-hearted pursuit, but an active, committed pursuit of obedience, which is what theologians refer to as the process of sanctification.
What is sanctification? To “sanctify” something is to set it apart for special use; to “sanctify” a person is to make him holy. God wants Believers to be “sanctified.” (1 Thes. 4:3-4). There is a maturation that should happen in the life of Believers as they work out their salvation.
We never reach a point where we proclaim, “I’ve arrived! I’m there! I’m exactly the person God wants me to be!” Not in this life; but we continue to work out our salvation by becoming more like Christ and striving to obey Christ in every way as a fully devoted Follower. (Phil 3:13-15)
God is constantly at work in us to achieve what He desires from us. He meets us where we are, but He does not leave us there! How are we to “work out” our salvation? With fear and trembling! So what does that mean? It sounds kind of scary; but God is not scary. Fear and trembling refer to the attitude that we have in our pursuit of holiness; it is a healthy fear of offending God and a righteous awe and respect for Him. Let that healthy attitude toward God inspire you as you work out your salvation.
For much more, including how God empowers us to accomplish what He desires from us, click here to listen to: Joy on the Journey - Part 5 - Going to Work!