Peninsula Community Church
July 7, 2019
Philippians 2:12-16 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. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
This week we have been celebrating our independence as a nation. It has been a week of food, fireworks, and remembering the cost paid for our freedom. The great paradox of history is that there are times that we must go to war in order to achieve peace and freedom. That seems so strange but it is a fact of life. Today, we will look at one of the great paradoxes of Scripture; God’s Sovereignty and man’s freewill.
In theological circles there are two extreme views of Sovereignty and freewill. There are those who believe that God is in absolute control (and we know that theologically He is) but there is presumed to be no responsibility on our part. We just sit back let God do it all. After all, He does not need our response nor does He need our assistance. On the other side of the coin, there are those who believe that it is up to us and us alone. They presuppose that God only responds to us as we work and we work hard by keeping all of the rules and laws which most have been man made and not God ordained. To them, salvation is entirely a work of the human spirit and soul.
As only Paul can do, he provides a balance to the paradox of these belief systems. In so doing, he assists us in our understanding of what can be a complex issue. I do not want to over simplify this, but Paul presents us with an answer that underscores that we need to do our part and simultaneously God will do His part. The fact is He is at work in us. He is always working, but we must step up and put into action what we believe and what we know to do. We do our part and God empowers us, not as a response to what we do, but because He is working in us. Regardless of what we do, He is always at work. That is what we call grace. In this passage, there is the merging together of man’s free-will and God’s sovereignty.
For the next few moments let us dig into this passage. It is here that Paul informs us of the seriousness of doing our part. He commands us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a serious process and one that requires us to be invested in the process. This aspect of working out our own salvation is not a deterrent, but rather it points us to the necessity and the seriousness of working out our salvation. The words used here for fear and trembling add major importance to the process of working through this. The idea of fear, as used here, gives us the perspective that we must work out our salvation out of reverence to and with reverence of God. We want to honor God, therefore, we act and respond with reverence to who He is, to His character, and to His sovereignty. Trembling, on the other hand, gives us the awareness we need to have of our own weakness and propensity for sin. In other words, left to our own devices we will mess this up. Without Him we are miserable failures, but with Him we are successful warriors in Christ.
It is here that Paul flips the coin so we see the other side of the theological paradox. While we do our part, God is at work doing His part. While we are working out our salvation, He is working in us. He does not fling us into existence and then expect us to make it on our own. He works with us, which means He helps us to navigate through an understanding of our salvation. God does this in order to bring about His will and purpose in our life. Once again the goal is for God to be glorified through us and in us. He wants us to succeed. He does not leave us fatherless or without the assistance we need to achieve the righteousness of Christ. He is at work in us.
Notice that Paul states that we are to work out own salvation. It is a personal journey. We cannot ride the coat tails of others. We cannot blame others if we are not growing in Christ. It is our responsibility. The act of taking responsibility is one of the dynamics that is missing in our world today. We blame others. We make bad choices and push the responsibility of those choices off on someone else. We refuse to take responsibility for our actions. It is here that Paul provides us with insight into how we should live this out. These are not inclusive of everything we need to do but he gives us five action points to consider.
The first action point is to do all things without grumbling or disputing. One of the ways Paul suggests we work out our salvation is to avoid grumbling and arguing. We are to glorify God in all we do but when we complain and argue we do not glorify God. Throughout Philippians and many of his other writings, Paul suggests we are to give thanks and we are to rejoice in every situation. This is juxtaposed to being a complainer. What Paul is saying is that grumbling and complaining does not suit us as passionate followers of Christ. So, let me ask you, are you a glass half full, or you glass half empty kind of person? Do you immediately look at the reasons why something cannot be done, or do you see the possibilities ahead even if it is difficult or hard? Are you more negative or more positive in regard to life’s circumstances? Do you complain more than you give thanks and you rejoice?
Remember the story of the children of Israel. They grumbled and complained. No matter what God did for them they complained. They argued with God. They looked back more than they looked forward to the promise. They grumbled about the food. They grumbled about the leadership. They grumbled about the living conditions. They grumbled about God. But God was still at work. In spite of their complaining, God led them to the promise land, but it took them longer and the price was much greater than it needed to be.
The second action item is to be blameless and innocent. The fact is we do not always toe the line. We often fall short, but the key is that we must be bold enough to admit when we are wrong and that we need help. God is not looking for perfection, but He is looking for those who are willing to make things right. Listen to Ephesians 4:28-32. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. These are powerful words that help define the life of a passionate follower of Christ.
The third action item is to be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Notice that we are to be without blemish in the context of a crooked and twisted generation. There is no doubt that our nation is crooked and twisted in many ways today. There are many who have an immoral and depraved look at life. For many upside down is right side up, and right side up is upside down. We are certainly living in a time where people are not speaking the truth and are couching things within their own terms and in their own way.
We are also living in a twisted and perverse generation where sin abounds and sin has become an acceptable way of life in our culture. Who would have thought we would be living in a time where people are allowed to choose their sexual identity rather than one assigned by God the father. Who would have thought we would be discussing the abortion a child even after it is born. Who would have thought we would be discussing assisted suicide in our lifetime. There is so much happening sinfully and morally but we do not have to live that way. In fact, Paul gives us an admonishment that we must not live that way but rather we need to be without blemish. I am convinced if Christians around America and the world would work out their salvation with fear and trembling, life in America would be different and the tide of liberalism would be turned.
The fourth action item is to shine as a light. Paul reminds us that we are lights in a dark world. We do not to become the light, we are the light. Because we have Christ in us, we are the light, because He is the light. We are the light in a dark world. If we allow Christ to shine through us we will see the darkness dispelled. In Mathew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Did you catch what Jesus was saying. In essence, He was saying let Christ be revealed so that your good works are seen and God is glorified. Remember this as well, if your light is shining you do not have to tell anyone. They will know it.
Finally, the fifth action item is to hold fast to the word of life. This is the clincher in the process of working out our salvation. We must hold fast to the word of life. The phrase to hold fast means to hold your position and to hold your gaze. In other words, you must have a conviction about the truth of God’s unchanging and adulterated Word. You must be able to defend that truth. You must hold your gaze and focus on what is important. In order words, do not be distracted. Do not be deterred from being a student of God’s Word.
During the Civil War the story is told of Joshua Chamberlain and the men of the 20th Maine. They were already beaten down by the war. They were a bedraggled group of men who had picked up stragglers from other companies who had been decimated by the war. Chamberlain was assigned to cover the far left flank of the union army at Gettysburg. His orders were to keep the Confederates from moving in and taking the high ground. He was ordered to hold that ground, and He and his men did so against all odds of success. That is the idea portrayed here by the words hold onto the word of Life with everything we have. It is a matter of life and death for us spiritually, emotionally, and mentally. Hold to the word because in the word is life and power.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/messages.
Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom