Thursday, April 4, 2013
Continue to work out your salvation
Becoming a Christian doesn't automatically mean you 'get it'.
Sometimes you might have an instant revelation of the gospel. But, even with an initial revelation, most of us will be working on 'getting it' for years.
**Actually ALL of us will be working on understanding what it's all truly about for our whole lives because what we are trying to understand is the nature of God and the reality of his kingdom, and we won't know that fully until Jesus returns.**
But when I'm talking about just the basic message of Jesus and what it means to be a Christian, I think a large proportion of Christians aren't totally sure what this actually means. We're certainly not living like we do.
How many of us have evidence of a life transformed?
Even those of us - or especially those of us - who have been Christians our whole lives have been so bogged down in the details that we've missed the point. And we wonder why no matter how hard we work at it, our lives don't actually seem that different to people who aren't Christians.
Some of us are like Simon (Acts 8) - we become a Christian, we see the power that comes with it, and we want it. So then we proceed to go about any means we can of acquiring it. We'll try to buy our way into it, we'll try to do good things to earn it, we'll try to find the formula for being the best Christian. We'll try and work for it.
Simon didn't really get it. He believed in Jesus, he was baptised, but he continued to go about his Christian life with the same mindset he had before. His heart was not right.
When I was younger and I read "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12), I didn't get it. I read that small snippet out of context and I thought that maybe it meant my salvation was a personal thing. That it was some deal I brokered with God, that I could pick and choose my salvation, come up with something that worked for me.
"I'll donate money to the poor once a year, read my Bible on Sundays, and then I can still go out drinking on Friday nights? How does that sound? Ok, ok, I'll even throw in a nightly prayer...."
It sounds ridiculous to put it that way, but who can say they haven't thought this way in some form.
"If I do this, it will make up for not doing that...."
But we're not getting it.
Read the rest of that verse - "for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."
It is God in us who works.
This means several things:
- We can't pick and choose - God is doing the work, and he is not going to pick and choose parts of himself. He comes as a complete deal.
- It's not about our 'works'. Again, it's God who works in us.
- It's not about our personal 'bargain' with God. It's about transformation, aligning us to God's purpose. And it's about community, not what's in it for us.
The Voice Bible notes say about the whole of Philippians 2:
"Paul describes a community where every person considers the needs of others first and does nothing from selfishness; it pulls together rather than pulls apart, and it is a body that knows its purpose and lets nothing interfere with it. It is an extended spiritual family where others line up to become part of this sacred assembly and to make it their home because they feel encouragement and know they are truly loved. So Paul urges the Philippians to strive for this radical unity and fulfill his joy by having the mind of Jesus who humbled Himself, became a servant, and suffered the death of the cross. Jesus becomes the example of humility and service, leading to the kind of unity Paul imagines."
If you're not seeing this 'radical unity' in your life, if you don't feel like your serving anyone but yourself, if you aren't seeing transformation in your life - then maybe you haven't 'got it' yet.
Don't worry, you're far from alone.
But if you want change in your life - even if you just want to want change but you're afraid of it right now - get on your knees before God. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, and God will work in you for his good purpose!