Summary: There are things we need to work on in church to be Christ-like.
The Christ-like Church
This passage is still dealing with unity—unity in the church and unity among believers. But the passage is unique because it brings up the great subject of salvation. Keep in mind that salvation means deliverance and that salvation is of God. It is God who has saved and delivered you: “For by grace are ye saved” (Ephes. 2:8-9). But once you are saved, go to work—work out your own salvation and deliverance. Salvation is not stagnant and complacent. A saved person is not to be sitting around doing nothing and letting the chips fall where they may. A saved person is to get up and go to work. He is to do all he can to work out his own deliverance. This is the subject of the present passage. If the church is to be unified—if believers are to walk in a spirit of unity, then they must look at their salvation—at the whole scope of their life and the glorious salvation God has given them—and they must do all they can to work out their own deliverance.
The verb “work out” carries the meaning of “work to full completion,” such as working out a problem in mathematics. We can’t calculate everything God put in us. In Paul’s day it was also used for “working a mine,” that is, getting out of the mine all the valuable ore possible; There are deep riches to your salvation and life and you are more precious to God than all the diamonds in the world or “working a field” so as to get the greatest harvest possible. The purpose God wants us to achieve is Christ-likeness, “to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29). There are problems in life, but God will help us to “work them out.” Our lives have tremendous potential, like a mine or a field, and He wants to help us fulfill that potential.
“There are no short cuts to maturity. It takes years for us to grow to adulthood, and it takes a full season for fruit to mature and ripen. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The development of Christ-like character cannot be rushed. Spiritual growth, like physical growth, takes time. When you try to ripen fruit quickly, it loses its flavor. In America, tomatoes are usually picked un-ripened so they won’t bruise during shipping to the stores. Then, before they are sold, these green tomatoes are sprayed with CO2 gas to turn them red instantly. Gassed tomatoes are edible, but they are no match to the flavor of a vine-ripened tomato that is allowed to mature slowly.”Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 217.
God is developing the character of Christ into our lives. It is not the fast track to maturity but a continual process that requires an effort on our part to grow. If we make the effort we have tremendous potential as Christians and as a church. So let me give you this morning the three steps we must take to develop our Christ-like character and to be a Christ-like church.