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"Work out your salvation with fear and trembling"?

October 3, 2017

Many of us are familiar with Philippians 2:12 which state, "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”. On Sunday I got to share about something exciting that I've learned. The "working out" of our salvation is something a lot bigger than I had originally thought.


The Greek word Paul used for "work out" is "katergazomai", which has the Greek prefix "kata". This lends the word an intensity that I had not previously associated with it. The prefix cata- is used in catastrophe and cataclysm, referring to the intensity and completeness of the event that had taken place. In the same way, to katergazomai our salvation refers to an intense reorienting of our lives so that it is in complete alignment with the gospel.


The gospel isn't just about how God has saved us from hell. It is also about the new life that through Christ we can live. If we understand that sin that entered the world corrupts us from the inside, then we can also understand that salvation affects all effects of sin: both eternal death, and the corruption that we've experienced. In that way the working out of our salvation deals with the old, corrupted mindsets, attitudes, etc.


I believe this is why Paul said that this process comes from fear and trembling. The fear and trembling happens because we are so attached to the old way of living. It has become a source of comfort for us, a way that we have become familiar with. So when the Holy Spirit begins to work in us and highlight areas of our lives that need to change, it brings us into unfamiliar territory. Naturally, we start to wonder how this is going to change things. This brings the fear and trembling that Paul describes.


I think we do people a disservice when we say, "Following Jesus is easy." I know personally after following Christ for all of these years that the changes that He is bringing me through is not finished yet. These changes are still difficult, and still elicits fear in me to this day. One of the biggest areas God continues to challenge me in is in my need for control. Giving up control is NOT my idea of fun, and it is not easy for me.


So why go through this process? Because I know that even though it is not easy, it is good. It is often after going through the change that I can see that the old way of living was destructive to me. This is the beauty of hindsight. I've found that the longer I hold off change, the more I regret it. But when I trust that God has got better for me, even though I don't see it in the moment, I've never had to regret it.


Embracing change is not easy, but it is good. More importantly, God is good and He wants good for us.


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