Summary: As followers of Christ acting naturally will lead to falling and failing. Our old nature tends toward rebellion not obedience. Paul is encouraging us to fuflill our responsiblity and cooperate with God to grow and mature in Christ.
Intro: There is a story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, "Little girl, don't you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn't beautiful like the one you're wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing." To which the girl replied, "Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday school that whatever Jesus touches He changes." From Howard Strickland's Sermon "Another Testimony”
This passage is dealing with sanctification. Sanctification is a big word that means moving toward maturity or being changed into the image of Jesus. Paul just used the obedience and humility as an example in the first 11 verses of chapter 2 to encourage us to grow in humility and obedience toward God.
If we want true Joy and true unity and togetherness we have already learned that it doesn’t come naturally. I told you last week Buck Owens used to sing a song called all I’ve got to do is act naturally. Honestly if you act naturally as a Christian you will fail and fall. Our old natural nature doesn’t tend toward the things of God but rebellion and our own desires. So what do we need if we are going to, “Work out our salvation in fear and trembling.”
We need to understand that growth in our relationship with Jesus doesn’t just happen. The Israelites are perfect examples of this. They had many leaders who walked with God but they continually wanted to go back to where they were comfortable rather than go on with God!
Listen to what Paul is saying in this passage from another letter, “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NASB)
1 Timothy 4:7 “But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness;” Christian disciplines are intended to develop us!!
Literally discipline means sound mind. That doesn’t carry the weight of the passage. If we have a saved and sound mind then our desires and decisions are different. Why? God has given us a Spirit of self-control. Someone has defined the word this way, “control of oneself in the face of panic or passion.”
After Paul shares the powerful example of Jesus Christ he now shares his powerful expectation for followers of Jesus Christ. It is the beauty of who Jesus is and the blessing of what He did that will energize our hearts to follow Him and grow and work out our own salvation.
I. I will discipline myself to do my part
A) Practical Christianity produces a strong body
“So then dear friends… work out your own salvation in fear and trembling.” The encouragement by Paul is to work out what God has worked in. Paul is speaking to the entire body of believers at Philippi. They were facing pressures and difficulties both from the outside and the inside. Paul was teaching them how to continue in fellowship together in spite of the fact that each individual had within them a corrupt nature that could surface – to the detriment of the whole church – if given the opportunity.