12 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; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.Paul encourages you to “work out your own salvation.” Last time, we said that we can’t work for our salvation – salvation is offered as free gift of grace that must be received by faith. Rather, you are to work on our salvation – meaning to start living your life like a saved person should. Unfortunately, few who claim the name of Christ really do. Can you imagine how they will feel someday when they have to stand before Christ and give an account?
1st John 2:28 says, “And now, little children, abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence and not be ashamed before Him at His coming.” There will be a lot of Christians standing red-faced embarrassed before Christ in judgment because they wasted their lives in the wrong pursuits, because they chased hard after sin instead of hard after God. Can you imagine the look of disappointment and hurt on Christ’s face as He examines their lives? And they claimed to be His, to be His servants, His disciples, but they lived more like they belonged to the devil. Don’t let that be you. Rather, wouldn’t you want to stand before Christ and hear Him say, “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”
1st Corinthians 3:10-15 records that scene. The scene is the judgment seat of Christ in heaven. Only believers are there, the one’s saved by faith in Christ. They will be there to have their lives examined intimately to determine their reward. All the lost will await judgment at the Great White Throne where they will be consigned to eternal hell because of their sin, the sin they refused to bring under the cleansing blood of Christ. And that’s an entirely different scene. This one is just for believers. The Judgment Seat of Christ for believers – for saved people - and it is described in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15:
10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. 11 For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. 14 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.A lot of Christians will watch as the things they’ve labored for all their lives are burned in the fire of judgment because they were found to be worthless to eternity. This is the importance of working out our salvation.
Too many Christians ignore what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21:
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.A lot of Christians will have some pretty skimpy bank accounts in heaven having had to leave our earthly ones behind. So we better be working on sending our treasures on ahead.
2nd Corinthians 5:9-10, a related passage, says:
9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.You want all the reward you can get, don’t you? Than you’d better work out your own salvation.
But, it’s not just for heavenly reward we do this. It makes a big difference in this life on earth too. We will live a more joyous, fuller, and more beautiful life on earth, a life that is truly worthy of a Christian, If we put the effort into this.
Chuck Swindall tells us one way to look at this:
“When a musician has a fine composition placed before her, that music is not the musician’s masterpiece; it is the composer’s gift to the musician. But it then becomes the task of the musician to work it out, to give it sound and expression and beauty as she appliers her skills to the composition. When she does, the composition reaches its completed purpose and thrills the hearts of her listeners.”Chuck is basically saying that God has given us the gift of life, and he has laid out the plan for that life, but it is up to us to live that life, to give it feet, to make it beautiful like Christ’s. God wants our lives to become a beautiful masterpiece. Remember?
We’ve covered this a number of times. God has a plan for our lives. God’s plan involves becoming like Christ – it involves our Christian maturity. He wants us to become like His Son Jesus. That’s going to take a lot of work, so God expects us to work hard. He expects us to give it our maximum effort. He expects us to give it our all.
And after all, we have Jesus as our example, don’t we? We know what target we are shooting at. We’ve just studied that. We were told to have the mind of Christ, and we were told what that mind was like. It was willing to be humbled even to the point of death on the cross. So that’s it? Just be like Jesus? Just think like Him?
Yeah, right! That target is just a little too high. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 5:48, “Be ye therefore perfect even as you father in heaven is perfect.” And Jesus was - Jesus was perfect. But how can we ever be? We can’t even get close. Mark Twain said it well, “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Sure, it is easy to say follow Christ’s example, but how? We aren’t able to do that in and of ourselves, no way! But there is an answer.
Think of it this way: Have you ever tried to teach a little kid to bat? You tell them how to stand, and how to hold the bat and swing, and how to keep their eye on the ball. But it just doesn’t seem to work - not until you come up behind that child and reach around them and put your hands over theirs and help them swing. That’s what a good parent does, what a good coach does. That’s also what we need from Jesus.
And amazingly, that’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He superintends His power over us. But even more so, because Jesus doesn’t just come up behind us to help us learn how to swing, He actually comes into us to live within us so that he can live through us. Jesus loves us enough not to leave us alone to live our lives.
As Warren Wiersbe says:
“Perhaps the thing most annoying about a good example is its inability to accomplish the same achievements in our lives. Admiration for a great person can inspire us, but it cannot enable us. Unless the person can enter into our lives and share his skills, we cannot attain to his heights of accomplishment. It takes more than an example on the outside; it takes power on the inside.”Yes! Yes! Yes! That’s it! We don’t have to do this alone. We have the indwelling power of Christ’s Spirit living within us. As we looked at before, Paul stated in Galatians 2:20, “Christ lives in me.” He doesn’t just set the pattern before us and say, “Good luck to you, have at it.” He indwells us to give us the power to live this Christian life. That is what makes it possible.
Do you see that there is a partnership here? We have a part to play and God has a part to play. We work out our salvation, and God works in us on our salvation. Our part is to gut it out, grit our teeth and get to work. But God is also at work in us, and He is the one who supplies the power.
To understand this: For the longest time as an adult, I didn’t own a power screw driver. When doing a project, I would have to screw all those screws in by hand, and that was a real pain in the . . . hand. It was tough work, especially on a big project. My hand would cramp up, and some screws would strip and wouldn’t go in. But then, my wife bought me a power screw driver. The power was provided by a battery.
That’s a real poor example, and it doesn’t do justice to what God does. But He provides the power to our lives when we try to work out our salvation. He’s like the battery, but so much better.
When it says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who works in you,” the word for “work” is the Greek word energeo. We get our English word, energy, from it. God provides the energy for us. When He asks us to obey, He gives us the power to obey. When he asks us to serve, He gives us the power to serve. The power is the very power of God, and that’s exactly what we need.
2nd Peter 1:3 says, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue.” His power is all it takes. It gives us the victory in achieving godliness. It gives us the power to live for Christ.
But, remember? I said this was a partnership? Philippians 2:12-13 says, “Work out your own salvation . . . for it is God who works in you.” You work and God works, and together, you can make beautiful things of your life.
Paul repeatedly stressed that partnership. In Romans 7:18, he admitted the impossibility of accomplishing anything on his own. The verse says: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.” It certainly isn’t within any of us. It is all by the grace of God.
In 1st Corinthians 15:10. Paul wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” He is what he is totally by God. But that only made him work all the harder. But it wasn’t him, it was God at work in him.
But, listen, if you don’t work, God doesn’t work. If you don’t turn the screw driver on, power won’t flow from the battery. Nothing will happen. But if you turn that screwdriver on, you can accomplish a whole lot.
God has given you the task. He expects you to step out in faith, and then He supplies the power to accomplish it. And what power that is. Ephesians 3:20-21 says:
20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.If you make the attempt, a good faith attempt, you will be overwhelmed by what God accomplishes in you. But unless you try, you’ll never know. Unless you give it your all and get to work, you’ll never become the Christian God wants you to become. It all begins with you.