“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
I want to grow up. It took me a long time to figure out that I actually needed to grow up. When I was teenager, I couldn’t wait to get older. I tried to act older than I was – mostly to impress other people and get them to take me seriously.
But it is hard to take seriously a person who tries to act older. Because it is a sure sign that they are actually quite immature.
I didn’t realize that until I was about 40 years old – about 20 years too late. With some shame and embarrassment I remember those early days. Trying to convince others I was older than I actually was. Trying to act like I was more mature and had “life experience” when it was obvious to everyone (but me) that I really was not and had little.
Being a Christian is about growing up. I know, Jesus said we must have child-like faith. That’s true (Jesus said it and He’s the Truth so it has to be true). But there is a distinction between being saved and living saved.
When I was a theology student at college and seminary this was called “justification” and “sanctification.” Justification is having a child-like faith. That is, our salvation must be done for us, we cannot do anything to get it ourselves.
When I was a young boy I loved going to major league baseball games. But I couldn’t get there by myself – my dad had to take me. And since he loved me, he would take me at least once a year.
Salvation is much the same way. God must do all the saving. We can’t do it ourselves – any part of it. And God loves us so He does what is needed – sending Jesus to live the perfect life, die on the cross taking the punishment for our sins, and rising to life again three days later.
But sanctification is what we do – with the power of the Holy Spirit working through Word and Sacrament – to grow in our salvation.
Paul words it as “work out your own salvation.” Not to be saved, but to grow in being saved.
Here in Southern California there’s a place called “Muscle Beach Venice.” You can go down to the ocean and lift weights in the beautiful California sunshine. You can “work out.” Not in order to get muscles, but to make the muscles you already have bigger and stronger.
Here in Southern California, we also have some of the greatest places of learning in the world – UCLA, USC, Cal Poly Tech, Biola, Pepperdine, etc. But you don’t go to school to get a brain, but to improve the brain you already have.
In the same way, St. Paul is telling us to “work out our salvation” not in order to get saved, but to strengthen our lives as we live in that salvation.
©2009 True Men Ministries