Have you ever reflected on your history with God’s words? What are some words that seemed small when you began but have grown huge in your life? When I first allowed Christ into my life, theological terms like salvation, sanctification, servant and communion were mainly just words. As a new Christian I had almost zero experience of how God was or even could work in my life. For example, salvation seemed to be a one-time word signifying an event. But as the years rolled by and I kept stumbling along on my journey toward the City of God, I began to see and hear God and thereby experience His saving grace. As far as eternity goes, I am safely tucked into the arms of Jesus. But God is interested in my ‘here and now’ state of living. That is where my salvation is worked out day by day. But what is the Apostle’s concern anyway? I am certainly familiar with the Apostle Paul’s admonition to the Christians in Philippi: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” [Phil 2:12 NIV] Today as I was mulling over the implication of the word ‘salvation,’ I considered why he gave that exhortation to them and of course by extension to us?
Because I am one of God’s children, He wants me to be prepared. I see the world around me spinning out of control. I can pick up the newspaper on any day of the week and it is the same front page headlines: wars and rumors of wars. I see my friends and some in my family spinning out of control due to their looking to the culture around them for life’s answers. Few seek to look in the right place for life solutions. Before the Apostle Paul said “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” he made a very serious statement as a preamble to that thought: “Therefore God exalted him [Jesus] to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” [Phil 2:9-11 NIV]
I have observed personally in myself and with other Christians tendencies to make Jesus too much like us. When Jesus was here on earth He appeared in the form of a humble servant. Now He is raised up to the throne of glory, seated on the right hand of God and to universal just and holy dominion. At some point in the future, when God deems there is an end to the wars and rumors of wars, the whole universe shall confess that Jesus is Lord. For some this will not be a pleasant experience. All those who have departed from this life without Christ as their Redeemer will no longer have a choice as to will be lord of their lives. The Apostle Paul’s warning is clear. Every single living creature, past, present and future, shall all acknowledge him as universal Lord. All will bow to His sovereign will. All will be subject to His control. All will recognize Him as Supreme.
Is it clear now what the Apostle Paul gives us the exhortation today to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling?” We who know the Lord Jesus and are related to Him will gladly fall on our knees and worship Him. We have learned to do that as grateful servants living in God’s grace. Not so the eternally damned; they will be forced by the power of God Himself to yield an unwilling homage to Jesus by submitting to the sentence from his lips that shall consign them to an unimaginable eternal woe.
So I am eternally grateful that God sought me out first. The words describing God’s faithfulness to me are words that bring joy to my heart. They are words that I have found to be true regardless of all appearance to the contrary.