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.
It is submission to the example of Jesus Christ’s obedience and the Authority of God’s word that restrains the corrupt nature that wars against God’s Spirit.
B) Practical Christianity transforms believers (work out your own salvation with fear and trembling)
1) This is your spiritual reality
a) It does not mean work for salvation
Paul’s crystal clear message in this passage is that God accepts you based on the precious blood of Jesus and change is possible in your life!
Read Ephesians 2:8-10 saved by grace for good works
Titus 3:5-8 saved by grace to do good and profitable works
Titus 2:14 saved from lawless deeds passionate for good works
b) It does mean work for completion
The term was work out was a mining term used in Paul’s day which meant to work with effort to achieve a goal. It is present imperative in the Greek which means Paul was lovingly encouraging us to make this our life goal.
It is our cooperation with the effective power of God that transforms our lives. It is clear from this passage that we are to pursue godliness because God is at work in us for the transformation of our lives!
2) This is your spiritual responsibility (just as you have always obeyed)
Hansen makes the point that...
“Obedience is defined not in legal terms but in relational terms as knowing Christ, being like him, and serving him....When the path of obedience to Christ becomes steep and dangerous, pleasure seekers look for an easier way. Religious tourists hunting for sensational entertainment, instantaneous enlightenment, and emotional excitement will jump on the newest rides and take quick shortcuts, but they will not be found with pilgrims on the long, hard road following in the footsteps of Christ, who was obedient to death—even death on a cross. Paul’s call to unflagging, Christ-like obedience will not be popular in a world that so highly values going fast and having fun and so quickly rejects enduring pain and submitting to authority. But the essential characteristic of the wise who build their community on Christ is their consistent obedience to Him.”