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; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13).
When God saves us, He starts His work within us to conform us to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29). What He requires of us in the process is obedience. You cannot do your own thing. You must obey. You obey to come into agreement with what God has said because only what God says will work for you. You cannot do it your way or the world’s way and move forward in the things of God. Philippians 2:12 says we are to “work out [our] own salvation.” For a number of years, I lived in fear and trepidation because I thought that this Scripture indicated that ultimately my eternal salvation was up to me. I thought that much depended on my works even though I knew salvation was a gift from God, so I kept living life afraid that I would disappoint or anger God. Then I realized that Paul did not mean salvation of my spirit, but the salvation of my soul. God intends to work out that salvation in my soul to show the world that the mighty God Who saved me in an instant when I called on Jesus is fully able to transform me. My ungodly way of thinking can change. My negative way of reacting to stressful situations can change. My actions can become less and less self-centered, proving that indeed, the risen Lord lives in me! Delivered from sin, shame, and degradation, I now bear the image of the invisible God.
The process involves refinement. We have a phrase, “hunker down,” which means we bear down to the ground to make sure this comes about; it also indicates a defensive position. We are guarding against that which can cause much damage to us if we give in, and we do so with fear and trembling, knowing we belong to a holy, righteous God. This translates into fighting against our fleshly impulses and perhaps against ingrained habits and attitudes that are contrary to how our God wants us to live. It is a fight. These issues do not always instantly disappear. Very often, it takes regular application of the Word of God, meditation on the Word of God, memorization of the Word of God to overcome. But we are warriors, so we faint not. We know the gravity of our salvation. When the Lord is still working things out in your soul, you may be tempted to find comfort in old ways which you may not even know are ungodly! Wherein is our hope? Let us explore this next week!