We’ve spent these last few weeks weeks tinkering with the engine. Now we’re gonna rev it up and see how it sounds. These last few verses we've spent so many weeks on, are right smack dab in the middle of a section that deals with how we are to see ourselves in the light of others in the church. That we have been given such a great privilege by God. He saved us. We didn’t deserve it. There is nothing we can do to make ourselves look better in the eyes of God, no matter how much we do. The average Roman Catholic will spend their whole lives working and giving and saying a thousand “Our Fathers” and “Hail Mary’s” and going to Mass and doing all these things, thinking that “Well, OK, God has shown me His grace by not letting me die yet—now I have to keep myself in His graces so I don’t wind up in Purgatory.” There are many in the church who think that God’s grace is not enough to save them, and they have to “help God” save them. But what we have is a privilege that is given for free, one that cannot be earned! God saved us when we had no desire to be saved! I didn’t!
When God saved me, I didn’t want to stop living the life I was living. I was having too much fun with my beer and sitting on the internet for hours on end, looking at things I’d rather not talk about. But now that we have been given this privilege, do we keep on living the way we have been because we've been saved? Heavens NO! Paul said Romans 6:1-4—Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it…Therefore…we also should walk in newness of life. When God saves us, He doesn’t simply hand us a card that says, “Get Out of Hell Free.” And if I see one more car with that bumper sticker on it, I'm going to scream.
If God has saved us, there should be a change in our life. We stop putting ourselves first and we focus on Christ and doing the work He has given us to do. Because we must not forget that even though we are saved, there is still a world out there that does not know God. It does not know Christ. It is a world that still puts itself first. It is a world filled with sinful, selfish people who spend their lives acting like sinful, selfish people. We are called to be different.
Philippians 2:5-15 (NASB)—Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not regard His equality with God a thing to be retained, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.
To kinda skim over verses 5-11, because we spent like a year and half on it, Paul holds up Christ as the example of the kind of selflessness that is rewarded by God. It’s when we understand that it ain't all about us. And it ain't all about our feelings. “Boo hoo, somebody hurt my feelings.” Get over it. We’re not gonna go through life without somebody hurting our feelings. And that is what Paul is saying, that “Look at Christ! He was God; He set aside His rights, He died on the cross for a bunch of people that hated Him. And because He did, God set Him at His right hand, and has given Him a name that will cause every single soul that has ever lived to bow at His name and call Him ‘Lord’.” We do not have the right to go through life trouble-free. We don’t have any rights to anything. And whatever rights we think we have, look at the rights Christ could have claimed, but didn’t. Because He set aside His rights, humbled Himself, went through the agony of the cross, and became a curse over us, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore. You know I love that word ‘therefore.’ He’s taking this picture of perfect submission and perfect exaltation, and directing it at us. He has been pointing up—now, he’s pointing out. Therefore, my beloved—that’s us—just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, let me stop right there. Is it easy for a child to behave himself when mom or dad are around? What happens when mom and dad leave the house and leave the kids by themselves? It was obviously easy for these Philippian believers to do what was right when Paul was there in their presence.
It’s real easy for us to “toe the line” when we are surrounded by strong believers. When some people are in the presence of weak or immature believers, it’s easy to take a step back and do something that isn't, maybe, sinful—but something that they shouldn’t ought to do. 1st Corinthians 15:33—“Bad company corrupts good morals.” But when there are NO believers around. Nobody that we go to church with. Nobody who would have any problem with anything we do—when we surround ourselves with the world, it’s really, really easy to just slide right into sin. Because we think, “Hey, nobody I know is gonna see me. Who is it gonna hurt?” Why is it important that we not think like this? Numbers 32:23—“Be sure, your sin will find you out.”
King David thought he had gotten away with murder. What did Nathan tell him? “Thou art the man!” I could be in Nebraska, stop at a convenience store and buy a six-pack of beer. Do you know it is nothing for God to put another believer, one that I know, in that same store at that very same time? And when it’s all said and done, who sees everything anyway? Whether another brother sees what I do or not, God certainly does! And who, in the end, am I ultimately disobeying? Whether another brother is with me or not, Christ certainly is! That’s why Paul tells us in Romans 12:2—Do not be conformed to this world.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling… If we don’t understand what Paul is saying here, what danger can we run into? We can end up thinking that Paul is telling us to work for our salvation. The Catholic that is going through all of his “good works” and all the other stuff trying to “earn” the right to be saved. They will point you to this verse and say, “See! You have to work for your salvation!”
The word that is translated “work out” does NOT mean “Work FOR your salvation.” It literally means, “Work FROM your salvation. Work ACCORDING TO your salvation. Work THROUGHOUT your salvation.” It’s not a matter of “Work TO BE saved.” It is a matter of “Work BECAUSE YOU ARE saved.” Matthew 5:14, 16—“You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Do we shine our light in order to be saved? No. We shine our light because we are saved. Think about it this way: And this is by no means a perfect illustration. If I go to the store, and I buy a brand new, shiny lamp. I take it home, and set it on the table. LONG PAUSE….. “Shine, little lamp!!” How much light will it give off? I can flip that switch all day and all night, and what good is it gonna do? I could put an 8000 watt light bulb in there and—nothing. That lamp cannot muster up enough energy to produce even one candlepower of light. But it does serve a purpose—it makes a nice decoration. But other than that, what good is it?
Guess what, friends? Without the Holy Spirit of God bringing life to our spirit, we are just as dead and useless to God as that lamp. We can do “good things.” We can have a kind of “righteousness.” I think Isaiah said something about our “righteousness” (Isaiah 64:6). The scribes and Pharisees had a righteousness. What did Jesus say about that? Matthew 5:20—“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” So if all we have is our own, dead spirit that we are born with, and if we have not been born again by the Spirit of God, then we are just a lamp sitting on a table collecting dust. But if God has saved us, we will want to serve in the body. 2nd Timothy 2:20-21 (NASB)—In a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Titus 2:13 (NASB) says that Christ came to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds. Galatians 4:18—It is good to be zealous in a good thing always, and not only when I am present with you.
What does all this mean for our “salvation by works” person? They will say that I am talking out of both sides of my mouth. But I'm not, and I’ll show you why. Verse 13. …for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Who is doing the work in you? It is God who is at work in you. Galatians 2:20—I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Let’s say you go flip the switch and the light comes on. Was it because of anything the lamp did? But because there is now power running through the cords and the wires and the bulb, the lamp is now able to produce light. It is now useful for something other than sitting there and looking pretty. Why? Because it is the electricity that is at work in the lamp. Once we are brought to life by the Holy Spirit of God, we are able to produce light for others. Why? Because it is God who is working in us.
Now, suppose I take and flip the switch to “OFF.” Is there still electricity running through that lamp? What happens if I go sticking my finger in the light socket? The electricity is still flowing TO the lamp, but the lamp is not producing light. It is still capable of producing light. It still has energy in it, so to speak. But it’s back to being useless. James 2:14-17—What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. The “salvation by works” crowd—especially Roman Catholics—love to use that passage. This is one of the bedrock cornerstones of Roman Catholicism. But, it is not a case of the good works producing salvation. It is a case of salvation producing good works.
In fact, this is one place where the KJV could be accused of teaching "salvation by works." Because the translators left out a very important word in verse 14. Read how it reads differently (and more faithfully to the Greek) in the NASB--What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? See the difference? What James actually asks is "can the kind of faith that does not produce works save a man?" As further evidence, James pretty much answers this question in James 2:19—you believe there is one God. You do well! Even the demons believe and tremble. If a person is saved—truly saved—then there will be in that person a desire to do good works.
And I don’t mean to switch tracks over to the book of James, but think about this: Suppose someone tells us they need help, and we stand there with our tickets for the game this Saturday, what is our natural inclination? “I’d love to help, but I got these Florida tickets. I'll be praying for ya!” Has a slightly familiar ring to it, doesn’t it? If a brother or sister needs food, you say, “be warmed and filled,” but you don’t give them the things they need, what good is it? You see, the world puts the football game ahead of doing the things of God. But the Christian should put doing the things of God before the football game. Paul is saying in verses 12-13, “Hey, I'm not there, but don’t go back to being a useless lamp sitting on a table. Let your salvation produce good works because God is in you and it is His will to use you.” There is a place for every member of the body in some kind of ministry. We’ve all got a calling. God did not save us so He could put us on a shelf like some knick-knack collecting dust. And we’re going to see why shortly. Whatever that ministry is, there is one simple reason He calls us to it.
Flip back a few pages to 1st Corinthians 12:4-11—There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. Does the electricity light the lamp? Does the electricity power your coffee maker? Does the electricity power your computer? But here’s the difference between electricity and the Holy Spirit. If a JW were in here, he would be very comfortable with what I have been saying. But he would not be comfortable with what I'm about to say. The electricity has no discernment about where it goes. Path of least resistance and all that. It’s just dumb power.
But, look at what Paul says about the Holy Spirit and the various gifts. Verse 11. The same Spirit distributes to each one individually as He wills. The Holy Spirit has a will. The same Holy Spirit gives some the gift of teaching, some the gift of miracles, some the gift of mercy, and so on. Does electricity have a will of its own? Electricity simply goes and powers whatever it can; the Holy Spirit goes and powers whoever He wants. Electricity cannot flow through a closed circuit. But the Holy Spirit is able to overcome our dead spirit and give us whatever He wants to. Make sense? OK, back to Philippians 2:14. Do all things without grumbling or disputing… Do we always like the ministry God gives us? When Henry Blackaby came to Powell a couple years ago, he said if you asked 100 church members they would all tell you they had the gift of prophecy and not one would say they had the gift of mercy. There are some in certain ministries that really don’t fit the ministry they are in. Like, Joel Osteen. His calling is not as a preacher. He may very well have the gift of encouragement. But not preaching. He’s good at telling people what they want to hear, but not what they need to hear.
And there are times when we think we’re in the right ministry, but after a while it will become painfully obvious we need to be somewhere else. Because if you are in the ministry God has called you to, you will have the joy so that you can do it the way it’s supposed to be done. One of our elders at church has talked about how he was working with RA’s and GA’s because there was nobody else to do it. He was miserable, but he felt guilty about leaving. And he finally said, “I can't do this.” And someone else came along that had the heart for it.
I recently finished reading Shadow of the Almighty by Elisabeth Elliott. It’s the biography of the early years of Jim Elliott. And time after time he writes about when he would be preaching or witnessing and he knew that he wasn’t where God needed him to be. He knew there was something else he was supposed to be doing. Now, are preaching and witnessing good things? But are there sometimes better things we need to be doing? Whatever we do, we should always do it without grumbling or disputing, verse 15, so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world… Again, God doesn’t save us so we can sit on a shelf and wait for the glory train. I've said it 800 times; I'll say it 8000 more before my days are done. Salvation is more than “Saying a little prayer and asking Jesus into your heart.” There are a whole lot of people in church who act like lost people. Now, there may be two reasons for this. One, they may simply be immature Christians; maybe they haven’t been taught and discipled properly. What other reason might there be? They just might be lost. The whole “Last call Saturday night—first pew Sunday morning” thing.
Remember those Florida tickets? Why do we put the things of God before the football game? So that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation. In other words, so that the world will look at you and say you're crazy. “You gave up Florida tickets to help some guy patch his roof?” Of course we should!
Consider the words that come out of our mouth; the music we listen to; the kind of activities we enjoy. If we are to claim the name of Jesus, yet we go around cussing and listening to vulgar music—we’re no different than heathens. 2nd Peter 4:3-4—We have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles—when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. We need to be strange. The world is always going to act like the world. If we are in Christ, we should appear as lights in the world. Another book I just finished reading was Run, Baby, Run, about Nicky Cruz. One of the most ruthless gang leaders in NYC. Got saved, and all his old friends said, “What happened to you?” Jesus happened to him.
Jesus Christ is Lord.