Summary: Following that most excellent hymn of Christ’s incaranation, we have to ask ourselves "what difference does it make?" How does Christ becoming a servant of all change our lives?
WHAT DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE?
What difference does it make? This is the cry of apathy and indifference. These are the words of those who have faded in their faith and find it difficult to go on. That’s one way of looking at it.
What difference does it make? This question can also be asked of those who have experienced a great moment in their lives and wonder what happens next.
Let’s apply it to ourselves this morning. Last Sunday you heard the most amazing truth that humankind could ever know: Jesus, who was in every way God, humbled himself and became a flesh and blood man, became a servant, and died a slave’s death on the cross. God died, and what’s more we find that he did this for you and me.
So, what difference does it make?
Some time ago, it may have been yesterday or it may have been 50 years ago, you bowed your head and prayed a sinner’s prayer. You accepted the free gift of forgiveness for your sins and promised to love Jesus. Did that decision make a difference in your life? Are you a different person today compared to the person you were before you made that decision? Are you still changing and growing in Christ?
If we follow the progress of Paul’s thoughts in the letter to the Philippian church we will see that these questions are valid. Paul said, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” (1:27). That flowed into “…make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (2:2). Then we have this: “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (2:5). And the flow of these thoughts suggests, actually demands, that there is a difference in your life, if you say you believe and follow Jesus Christ.
You see, after this magnificent hymn telling of Christ’s humiliation and exaltation, there is a “therefore.” What is it there for? To tell us what difference it makes.
1. The Difference in our Salvation
Salvation can mean different things to different people in different situations. A woman could be saved from drowning, a baby could be saved from a house fire, or a man could be saved from making a terrible mistake on the stock market. In each situation the person involved may make a drastic change in their lives, or simply go on living as before.
Some Christians view their salvation in Christ that way. It was enough for them that their sins are forgiven and their place in heaven is assured. But it doesn’t change their lives.
Paul speaks of a different salvation here. This kind of salvation makes a difference.
a) When no one’s looking – This kind of salvation is one of integrity and unchanging character regardless if anyone is watching or not. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence…” (2:12a).
Paul implies that the Philippians obedience is actually increased in his absence. It is not obedience to the person of Paul that he speaks to here, but obedience to the message of Christ. With Paul gone for some time, it seems that these believers actually grew in obedience. This is so unlike grade school when the teacher leaves the room.
There is integrity in this kind of faith. There is an old story that says that if you are truly saved even your dog and cat will know it. See, when no one is looking, if we are sincere in our faith, we will be committed to holy living. Does your dog know that you are a Christian? Do you spread a different kind of manure on your flower beds?
b) Work out your salvation - More important than what you don’t do is what you do to work out your salvation. “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…” (2:12b).
This may sound odd at first. Are we trying to earn our salvation here? Why do we have to work for our salvation?
Well it’s not working for our salvation; it’s working out our salvation. “Your salvation” in this context is not to be understood as something yet to be reached, not as something to be worked for, but as something to be explored and enjoyed to the maximum. If you believe it you will live it.
The word “work” in this verse means to “work fully to the point of finishing the job.” It was used by the Romans for “working a mine completely” and getting out every ounce of ore. In the same way with salvation, we are to mine the depths of our salvation and discover everything we can about it.