Working out. Just the phrase makes me feel lazy these days. I’m out of shape and I know it, so the task of working out looms and feels overwhelming.
When I say this, I’m daunted thinking about lacing up my running shoes in this chilly fall air. The phrase is obviously being used differently here, but I draw your attention to it because it’s so important in this passage. These verses tell us to work OUT our salvation.
It’s a single word, but this is an important distinction to make – working OUT versus working FOR our salvation – because the cornerstone of our faith hinges on this detail. We are NOT working FOR our salvation. This has to be clear – there is nothing we can do (ever) to earn our salvation. Not a lifetime of good works or kind words or best intentions. We are not worthy of the grace lavished upon us, or deserving of a place in the presence of our Lord.
And, yet, we have been invited into His family. Our salvation was bought at the cross and our souls redeemed through Christ’s sacrifice.
It’s hard to fully understand such a magnanimous gift. Offered freely regardless of wealth or credit. No tricky fine print. No interest. No take backs. No debt to repay.
It’s free. And it’s eternal. If you truly invite Christ into your heart, there is nothing you can do to lose your salvation. Nothing. You are engrafted into the Kingdom and written into the Book of Life.
So, what about working OUT our salvation?
Paul is referencing the change our salvation should stir within us. These are not service projects we do or ministries we lead so that people will notice us. It is how our hearts respond to the gospel and how we approach our Creator with reverence and awe. (Phil. 2:12 – 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 . . .)
God does not send us out alone or manage us from afar. He is with us and works in us. He desires for us to grow individually as people of faith and to live lives reflective of Him. (Phil. 2:13 . . . for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.)
It is an opportunity to welcome God into the seldom seen, secret places of our souls.
Changed hearts. Restored pasts. Healed relationships. Finding peace in grief and joy in the morning. These are works that only God can do in us.
He also desires for us to live harmoniously with other believers. We are called to be His Church, His bride. It’s an opportunity to recognize and celebrate each other’s strengths. It’s a blended family that requires patience and perseverance, and it’s a necessity for us to work collaboratively, not competitively. The Church is meant to be fulfilling, but it can become a frustrating establishment if we let our human tendencies lead without humbly relying on God’s guidance.
How we work out our salvation and live out the gospel – as individuals and collectively – is what much of the world perceives as Christianity. Will they call us hypocrites or will they witness us being sanctified? Will they shun the church or will they desire the community we cherish?
Let’s work out our salvation together. May our lives be an offering; a true act of worship.
Grace and peace,
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