When It Comes To Salvation, We Must Work!

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13)

QUESTION: Once we put saving faith in Christ, do we stop working?

The Bible clearly teaches that we are not saved by our works of righteousness. We are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot earn our salvation. We can’t add to it, can’t be any more justified, can’t be any more righteous in God’s sight. Salvation is a wonderfully free gift from God.

But, the Bible is also clear that we must continue working, even after we are justified. As Paul says, we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”. Now what does this mean? How is possible that we are saved by faith, yet must work out our salvation? Is this some sort of brain twister, like, “If one train leaves from Chicago at 9:20 PM, and is going 100 MPH…”?

Here’s what it means: we must work to become what we already are. When we place our faith in Christ, we are declared righteous by God. It is a legal declaration that has nothing to do with our actual character. If an angry alcoholic and a pre-school teacher place faith in Christ at the same time, they are both equally righteous in God’s sight, because God declares them to be righteous.

But, both the alcoholic and the pre-school teacher must work to become what God has already declared them to be. They must strive to live righteous lives, to “work out” the salvation that they already have. The alcoholic must actively put off anger and put on gentleness. The pre-school teacher must actively put off pride and actively put on humility. I must actively put off impatience and put on patience.

God really does care about holiness, and holiness really does involve effort. When we become Christians, we DO stop working to earn salvation. But we don’t stop working. We must work toward becoming what God has already declared us to be. I must work toward being more righteous in my conduct.

Some Christians have the idea that once we become Christians, we no longer need to work. That’s not what the Bible says. We must rest fully in what Christ has already achieved in our place. But we must also work hard to become more and more like Christ. And the wonderful thing is, we can know that God himself is working in us, giving us the power to obey.

So my fellow Christians, when it comes to earning, let’s stop working. When it comes to being like Christ, let’s work hard!

What If You Got All The Smartest Men In The World Together…

Dude, this party is cuh-razy! Check out that corner over there. Must be nerd corner. That guy in the wheelchair, that’s Stephen Hawking. Apparently he has, like a four digit IQ. See that dude with the mustache? That’s Neil deGrasse Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. Oh my goodness, is that…that’s Albert Einstein! Man his hair really is crazy. I wonder what those three geniuses are talking about. I probably wouldn’t even be able to follow along. Those guys are so smart, my brain would collapse if I listened to them for more than three minutes. Those are some greatly smart people (yeah, I know that’s an awkward sentence).

Woah, check out that huddle over there. That must be where the jocks hang out. There’s Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest athlete ever. Look at those diamond earrings he’s wearing! And there’s Stephen Strasburg, the pitching phenom for the Washington Nationals. If I’m not mistaken, that’s Cal Ripken. THE Cal Ripken. Iron Man himself. Oh, and wouldn’t you know, Michael Phelps. Boy, I’d like to hang out with those guys. There’s some serious athletic firepower in that group. Those are some greatly athletic people.

Now that’s odd. What’s that giant pile of books in the middle of room? It appears to be a massive pile of encyclopedias, in all sorts of different language. We’ve got Syrian encyclopedias, English encyclopedias, Medieval encyclopedias, religious encyclopedias, astronomy encyclopedias, and a whole lot more. There are also a bunch of famous, history-altering books. We’ve got Thomas Paine, Adam Smith, Thomas Jefferson, Sun Tzu, Chairman Mao, Karl Marx. It’s crazy! There is a lot of knowledge and ideas piled up here. A great amount of knowledge.

And then there’s that corner over there. There’s nothing in it. Wait, there’s slip of paper with something written on it. On it is written Psalm 145:3

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable. (Psalm 145:3 ESV)

Turns out that if you put all the smart guys in the world together, you’ll come to the end of their greatness. You can search it out. If you collect all the athletes of the world, you’ll come to the end of their strength. If you take every book ever written, including all the encyclopedias and dictionaries, you’ll come to an end of their great knowledge.

But you’ll never come to the end of God’s greatness. It is unsearchable, inscrutable, and unfathomable. Our God is great. All knowledge is his. All power is his. All strength is his. The nations? A drop in a bucket. The A-list celebrities? Dust in the wind. The people of power? A vapor.

Our God is unsearchable in his greatness.

How Do You See Your Heavenly Father?

Before he saved me, I thought of God as vast, distant, and too busy running the universe to care about my peewee little needs.

I also saw him as perpetually displeased with me and ready to send me to hell at any time.  When I needed his help big time I’d make deals with him – God, if you feel if you get me out of this jam I’ll quit smoking.  If you just help me this one time I’ll quit drinking forever. Of course I never kept my end of the deal for very long. Which made me feel even more condemned.

And when I did pray I never used the name “Father”.  I would always address him as “God”.

I heard one man say he thought of God was as an angry old man with a beard holding a lightning bolt, waiting to see someone starting to have fun, then hurling the lightning bolt and screaming “Now cut that out!”

Once in a prayer meeting, I sat next to a young man who addressed God in such an intimate way it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. I’d never heard anyone talk to God like that. I didn’t know that kind of intimacy was possible.

What a wonderful thing to discover as I went on in my faith, that God had adopted me as his son and become my Father.

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.  Galatians 4:6-7

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Romans 8:15

Sometimes  bad experiences with earthly fathers color the way we view our heavenly Father. We must not let our past shape our view of our heavenly Father but form our picture of him from what he tells us in his Word. Be encouraged today by these truths:

Your heavenly Father cares for you deeply.  
Your heavenly Father will provide for you and protect you.
Your heavenly Father hears you and is moved by your suffering.
Your heavenly Father loves to bless you.
Your heavenly Father desires an intimate relationship with you.

Jerry Bridges, in his book Who Am I? says, “No other religion in the history of the world has ever had a god (or gods) who could be addressed in such intimate terms as Abba. Even the Jews of the Old Testament who worshiped the one true God did not address him as Father. And though there were notable exceptions such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Daniel, the vast majority of Jews did not enjoy an intimate relationship with God.”

“Abba was an Aramaic word, a term of family intimacy, used primarily by Jewish children when addressing their fathers. It implied a sense of child-like dependency but also of expectation that Abba would meet their needs. It was likewise the term Jesus used as he prayed to his Father in the Garden of Gethsemane.”

If you have trusted in Christ to save you, your heavenly Father loves you in his Son. We can’t possibly fathom the depths of that love.  Knowing the deep love of our Father fills us with confidence and joy.  If you don’t have this ask him for it. He’s waiting with open arms for you to come to him.

Four Words That Change Every Situation

Have you ever had one of those, “Woah, wait a minute!”, times when reading the Bible? You’re slowly meandering your way through a chapter, trying to clear your sleep-fogged head, when suddenly a verse jumps out and slaps you in the face. I had one of those moments this morning.

I was making my way through Psalm 54, trying to shake off a slight headache, when I read verse 4:

“Behold, God is my helper…”

Bam! Bible verse to the face (in a good, sweet way). The words “God is my helper” are astonishing. Think about them for a moment. They literally change every situation. God, the God of the universe, the omnipotent, all-wise, all-loving, righteous, true, angel terrifying, sinner saving, God is MY HELPER. Woah. Woah!

  • I am really not feeling well, and I’m really tempted to complain…but God is my helper! He can heal me, or give me the power not complain, or both.
  • My child is not doing well spiritually, and I’m at my wits end…but God is my helper! He can melt my child’s hard heart and give me wisdom to navigate the every sticky situation.
  • My partner on this school project is doing nothing, and I want to punch him in the face…but God is my helper! He can give me diligence, patience, and love.
  • My kids are running around the house, peeing on the floor, and generally driving me insane…but God is my helper! He can give me an otherworldly love for these high speed children.
  • I’ve sinned in the same way again and again and again…but God is my helper! He promises that sin will not have dominion over me. He will give me power to overcome this sin.

There is no situation too great for God. There is no heart too hard for God. There is no budget too tight for God. There is no boss too difficult for God. God is your helper! He is my helper! Those four words change every situation.

Do you need wisdom today? God is your helper. Do you need strength today? God is your helper. Do you need patience today? God is your helper. If God is your helper, that changes everything.