Tag Archives: Salvation

What Does It Mean To “Work Out Your Salvation”?

Therefore, my beloved, 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure – Philippians 2:12-13

The first time I ran across these verses, I scratched my head for I found them both contradictory and confusing.

Contradictory because it seemed to go against everything I knew about salvation. “I thought salvation was a free gift, so what is this verse talking about“, I murmured to myself.

Confusing because it seemed to suggest at first that we are working, and then it goes on to suggest that God is working. “Who is working here“, I pondered. “Is it me, Is it God, Is it both?“.

As I sought out an explanation from others, I quickly came to understand that this is a passage that divides the church into doctrinal factions. Moreover, depending on the faction, these verses are either used as pillars, wholly ignored, or only spoken about in private.

If like me you are a little bamboozled by this passage, I hope the next few abbreviated sections helps to shed some light. If it only persists in confusing you further, I apologize in advance.

Quick context: First, Paul wrote the his letter to the body of believers in Philippi (not unbelievers) as a thank you and encouraging letter. Second, these two verses complete a passage where Paul speaks about us having the mind of Christ – mind of humility and obedience – which ultimately led to Jesus’ name being exalted (read verses 5-11

What It Means To Work

There are multiple words for the word work in Greek. The Greek word translated as work in the line that says “work out your own salvation” is NOT the Greek word for toil and labor. The word work here means to cause or to effect (as in a change). In other words, it means to trigger.

The Greek word translated as works in the line that says “it is God who works in you” is the Greek word that means active.

So we see that it our job to trigger, and it is His job to be active in us.

What Own Salvation Means

Context reminder: This is written to a body of believers as encouragement and thank you.

No matter how you view Philippians 2:12-13, it is safe to say that all believers have triggered salvation by choosing to put their faith in Jesus Christ. This being the case, the question that lingers is this: What is Apostle Paul talking about when  he speaks of triggering (working out) our own salvation.

Context reminder: The preceding versus speak to Jesus the man having the mind of humility and obedience.

The word salvation simply means safety or to be delivered.

We (believers) have been delivered from the penalty of sin (God’s mercy), we presently have been given the ability to be delivered from the power of sin (God’s grace), and we will be taken away from the presence of sin (God’s final victory).

By this we see that salvation is three-fold – encompassing the past, present, and future. All of it is done out of the Father’s love and accomplished by Him through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Indeed, a triune God accomplishes a triune salvation where our spirit is saved (past), our soul is being saved (present), and our body will be saved (future).

Our soul consists of our mind, will, and emotion. It will either conform to this world, thereby causing us or triggering us (working) to experience hell on earth in the kingdom of this world, or it will be conformed to the guidance of the Spirit of God, thereby causing us to experience heaven on earth in the kingdom of God. The choice is ours – choose a hellish life outside of the influence of the Spirit of God or choose a heavenly life inside of the influence of the Spirit of God.

While on earth, Jesus triggered the Kingdom of God to be manifested by having a mind set on humility and obedience. By so doing, God was active (worked) in Him to will and to do His good pleasure (compare this to Philippians 2:12-13). The pleasure of God was for Jesus to be the solution to people’s spiritual, psychological, and physical ailments, as detailed in miracle after miracle. Awesome!!!

Therefore, we see that these verses are an encouragement and admonition for us all – like Jesus – to trigger (work) our own deliverance (own salvation) from the kingdom of this world and to be delivered into the kingdom of God (which Jesus said was at hand and made available to us) by having a mind set on humility and obedience to the Holy Spirit.

Moreover, we see that Philippians 2:12-13 is speaking of our present salvation while on earth from the craziness sin will cause in our lives if we do not bend our mind, will, emotions to humility and obedience to the Spirit of God.

Why is it we have to do it? It is because Jesus the man is gone from the earth. He has already made the Kingdom available to us. Just as He won’t force us to accept Him, He won’t force us to live in the Kingdom He has already made available to us.

What Fear and Trembling Means

Looking up the original meaning of Greek word translated as fear in the passage reveals two words. One translates as possession or hold, while the other translates as awe or reverence. Hence the part that says “with fear” translates into with a possession of reverence or holding onto awe.  

Now if the question is awe of what? The answer is awe of what God has made available for such a man who operates in humility and obedience. Nothing should awe us more than what God did for His Son when He lived a life of unmatchable humility and obedience (see Philippians 2:8 -11)

The word trembling translates into quaking with dread. If the question is the dread of what? The answer is dread of missing out on the life that God paid for through the sacrifice of His Son. Is that encouraging?

Summary

God desires that we trigger a life of living in His kingdom (which has been delivered to us) by establishing a mindset of humility and obedience through taking a hold of the awe of what God has in store for us and a dread of missing out on it.

In the kingdom of God abides love, joy, peace, self-control, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, patience and more regardless of our circumstance. Why would we not trigger that? I hope you agree that indeed good for us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling

 

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What Does God Require of Me? How can I live a blessed life?

Uncharted territoryI have heard it said many times: ‘I just don’t know what God wants from me? I am doing all I know to do – I am tithing and reading my bible everyday but nothing is working’.

The question of what God requires of us must not be confused with the question of what God wants or desires for us. Unfortunately, a lack of understanding of what God requires leads too many of us to chase after what God desires for us in our own power. In other words, we become law-keeping Pharisees who attempt to buy God’s love and favor through sacrificial law-keeping – hoping we can lay hold of the sanctified and abundant life that He so desires for us. But this does not work and only leads to endless striving (bondage) and disappointment.

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: The truth is that if we can give God what He requires of us, then He will give us what He wants and desires for us.

Rather than leave us to our own devices, God tells us that what He requires of us is to hear His words (the word of God) which He speaks through His Son.

 I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him – Deuteronomy 18:18-19

If we peruse the scripture, we find these three highlighted words in the New Testament where Apostle Paul tells us that ‘faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ – Romans 10:17

Hence, we know that God wants us to hear His words because the hearing or the paying of attention to His words produces faith. Why does God want us to have faith? He wants us to have faith because we are saved from eternal separation from Him by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). It is our faith that allows us to overcome mountains (Matt. 17:20). It is our faith that is the victory that overcomes the world (1 John 5:4). It is our faith that pleases Him and so allows us to get rewarded (Heb. 11:6).

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: The secret to attaining all victory and reward in life is paying attention to the word of God spoken by Jesus spoken through the Holy Spirit.

And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him – Deuteronomy 18:19

With regards to salvation, verse 19 tells us this: whoever will not hear My words which He speaks in My name (whoever will not have faith or trust in Jesus), I will require it of Him (I will require the words of faith – which cleanses you and accomplishes the forgiveness of sins unto salvation – from him). Since we know it is impossible to achieve salvation by our own works, we see that God is telling us that whoever does not have faith in Jesus Christ is in trouble and will have to answer to God someday at the great white throne of judgment.

With regards to victorious living, verse 19 tells us this: whoever will not hear My words which He speaks in My name (whoever will not trust in the word of God spoken by Jesus through the Holy Spirit), I will require it of Him (I will require the words which produce life from him). In other words, the only way we truly have life (live heaven on earth) is by paying attention to the guidance and instruction of the Holy Spirit. If we do not, then the abundant life that Christ came to give us right here on earth is taken away from us. Put another way, we cheat ourselves of God’s best when we fail to listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: God requires that we hear His words because He wants us to experience heaven on earth before He calls us back home to heaven – where we belong by hearing his word.

Friend, God is always speaking but are you listening? If you can no longer hear Him, acknowledge your wrong-doing to Him today and ask Him to penetrate your heart afresh. If you have never heard from Him and this has spoken to your heart, then acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Savior and confess it with your mouth. All God requires of you is to hear Him out and give Him a chance

Food for thought:  Those who open their ears (heart) to hear will never regret it.

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The Waters of Noah

“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has mercy on you – Isaiah 54:9 – 10

In the time of Noah, God used mighty flood waters to wipe away the sin of this world. Unfortunately, the only way sin could be wiped away at that time (since we did not yet have a redeemer) was to wipe away man. Why? It is because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Hence without a redeemer, the only way for God to get rid of sin was to get rid of man; it was justice being done!

After the flood when God promised never to flood the whole earth again, He was really saying that He would never again use natural waters (death) to cleanse the world; He was saying that we would never again have to pay the price of death for our sins. Though we gave ourselves over to the nothingness of sin, He was never again going to require the wages (payment) of our sins from our hands.

For thus says the LORD, “You were sold for nothing and you will be redeemed without money

 – Isaiah 52:3

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: Instead of using natural waters to purge the world of sin as in the days of Noah, God decided to use supernatural waters.

God proclaimed this when He said that He shall sprinkle clean water on us and so we shall be clean (Ezekiel 36:25). Jesus explains this further when He said to the disciples that they were clean because of the words that He spoke to them (John 15:3).

So we see that it is the supernatural water of the life-giving word of God that cleanses us from our sins.

Lightbulb MomentLight-bulb moment: It is the water of the word that enables us to receive the Holy Spirit or to be born of the Holy Spirit – who can only inhabit a clean and in-corrupt vessel for He is holy.

This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that man must be born of water and the Holy Spirit (John 3:5). Simply put, Jesus is saying that we must first be cleansed of our sins and then receive the Holy Spirit who seals us (Ephesians 1:13 – 14) onto salvation. Jesus was simply describing what truly happens when we believe and confess:  (1) our sins get eradicated and (2) we receive the Holy Spirit.

How is it that the word washes us? Here is how: The words that God speaks to us produce faith – for faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word (Romans 10:17). It is this faith (trust and believe) that Jesus is Lord and that Christ raised Him from death that produces salvation (Romans 10:9-10) by giving us access to grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Hence, it is faith (which comes from words) that helps us tap into the forgiveness of sins – which was accomplished over two millennia ago.

How wonderful it is that God considers the sacrifice of Jesus for us (our transgressions and iniquity) as the waters of Noah! It is a one and done deal that required nothing from us! Instead of being angry with us or rebuking us (see Isaiah 54:9-10), God poured out the cup of His wrath on Jesus (Himself). What a loving Father! What a loving Son to accept His fate!

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Paging Doc Jesus

PAGING DOC JESUS  (listen here)

When was the last time you truly had a check-up?

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” – Matthew 9:12.

In the next verse, Jesus goes on to explain that the sick He is talking about are sinners who He has come to heal.  As sinners, we are all sick. Our malady is a cancer called depravity which if left untreated consumes our being and eventually leads to death.

Jesus on the other hand is the master physician who is forever on call ready to operate on any man who visits Him in His Hospital – the hospital being God. For those that visit, He performs major surgery of salvation and they are made well.

Unfortunately, many never visit the hospital either because they have never heard of it or because of abject pride and stubbornness even in the face of the degeneration caused by their cancer.  For those of us that have had major surgery performed, we cannot forget that we need to go in for our check-ups to so that our depravity does not return.  Our daily check-up ought to consist of the following:

  1. Spending time with God by reading His Word and Praying (see Romans 12:2)
  2. Testing ourselves to ensure we are in the faith and testing the spirits to ensure we are following the Holy Spirit (see 2 Corinthians 13:5 and 1 John 4:1)
  3. Obeying the Holy Spirit regardless of what we feel or think (see John 15:10)

If you are one of those stellar patients that go in to see Doc Jesus often, wonderful! Sadly, you are the exception rather than the rule. The rest, I have categorized into three major classes:

“Out” Patient (listen here) Quite simply, these are folks that have the major surgery of salvation but never schedule a check-up but wait until the depravity cancer returns before they go back to the hospital. As such, they have the ravages of multiple surgeries on their being and are solely reliant on the grace and mercy of God in keeping them alive. Yes, they are alive but are never thriving nor are they bearing fruit the way God intended. Here are some questions to ponder to determine if you are an “Out” patient:

  • Do you go to church only on during the religious holidays (Easter Sunday and Christmas)?
  • Do you seek God only after trouble ensues in your life?
  • Do you quote (or rather misquote) the scripture out of context to justify your disobedience? For example, I have heard some people say: “Well, the bible says we will always have the poor with us” as a reason never to help a soul in need.

Such a one who is an out-patient does not understand the extent of the love of God for them. If they did, they would never choose such to so under-utilize the power which has been made available to them in Christ.

Paramedic (listen here) These are the people that have a great zeal for Jesus. You can always find them in the field providing emergency assistance. They love telling people about Jesus and love bringing people into the hospital to meet Doc Jesus, but they themselves forget to enter the hospital. They never fail to schedule an appointment but are just too busy to make it; they are always tired and burnt out but feel fulfilled by their job. These paramedics are lauded by everyone and are the heroes of the community.

For these paramedics, the cancer of the heart (self-righteousness) slowly creeps in. Still they refuse to keep their appointment because they are just too busy doing God’s work. At the end of the year, they say to Jesus with a smile of their face, ‘Remember me? I brought you 1000 patients this year’. To this Jesus replies: ‘I do not remember you. It’s true that I saw your patients, but I never saw you’.

While it is an incredible calling to be a paramedic, we never want to be counted as part of those that never make their check-up. Yes, Jesus cares about what we do for people and that we love them, but he also cares about us and our relationship with Him first and foremost. He calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves, not more than ourselves, and certainly not more than we love him!

Lightbulb Moment

   Light-bulb moment: Our calling should never become our idol by taking the place of God!

Jesus warns us about idolizing our calling in the following passages:

“Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them. ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:22 -23 (NKJV)

Here are some questions to test if you have become a cancer-laden paramedic

  • Do you often think to yourself: “Wow, I am a great Christian and a great warrior for Christ”
  • Do you always try to fix everyone and everything?
  • Are you mainly driven by what people think rather than what God thinks?
  • Do you find no fault in yourself and think you are always right?
  • Are you always trying to teach people a lesson?
  • Is it always your way or the highway?

Waiting-Room Patient (listen here) Lastly, waiting room patients are those that schedule a check-up, go to the hospital, but never see the doctor. They never allow Jesus to examine and uproot every single unsavory area of their lives. They feel good about being in the hospital and fool themselves that it is all that matters. They are perpetually encouraging those who are being operated on, bringing flowers, and praying for them. They themselves are getting sicker but they just cannot see it – since after all, they are already in the hospital!

When someone asks the question, how come you have no victory over this issue although you have been seeing the specialist for a long time now? The waiting room patient always has a reason. They say: well, it is my childhood, it is my hurts, I am a victim of circumstance etc. The most popular statement which no one can argue with is: I am waiting on God.

While waiting on God is the best thing to do, what the waiting room patient refuses to acknowledge is that in reality, Jesus is waiting on them. He is waiting on them to fully surrender to Him!

A waiting room patient is extremely difficult to recognize because they blend in perfectly with actual visitors (not patients) who are in the waiting room. In fact, the waiting room patient may not realize he or she is a waiting room patient. This is because the malady of the waiting room patient is the lack of total surrender in all things – especially in areas where unbelief exist. To everyone else, the waiting room patient is a prayer warrior who is a consummate church-goer and is such an encourager that everyone loves when they are around. Unfortunately, there is a deeper problem – lack of full surrender.

Light-bulb moment: We should never be stuck in the stage of “experiencing” God (hospital), but rather grow in God through complete surrender to Jesus (the surgeon) so that we may have complete victory over all that maligns us.

Here are some testers to see if you have inadvertently become a waiting room patient:

  • Do you never realize the promise of God in your life and you do not know why?
  • Do you twist every thought and situation to make it fit what you believe?
  • Do you use “If only” somewhat frequently?
  • Do you find it very hard to forgive and reconcile or say “I am sorry”?
  • Are you always the victim?
  • Do you find yourself becoming judgmental?

If you are like me, then you see that the traits of the out-patient, the paramedic, and waiting-room patient try to creep in from time to time. Never fear, it is the devil trying to sneak in. He always tries but thankfully he has no victory. Recognize your tendency, discipline yourself, and surrender your inadequacies to God.

Food for Thought: A check-up a day keeps the cancer away

“…but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him” – 1 John 5:18

Conclusion (listen here)

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