Working Out your Attitude and Expression

Philippians 2:12-15 says "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now 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 do for His good pleasure. Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world..."
I have surely discussed this phrase before: "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." But it deserves another unpacking. So many people want to take this from the perspective that somehow, salvation is something YOU determine. That YOU decide what it will look like and then put the pieces YOU choose together to somehow fit the need. From a human control and creativity perspective, that sounds great...but it is NOT what this passage means. Not at all. 
Instead of seeing this as a declaration that WE are in control of the future, understand it in the other direction. GOD gives us salvation through the work of Christ. That is WAY beyond our pay grade! All we can do is, by faith, accept what we are given. We do NOTHING other than extend faith to "work" that out. What the passage MEANS is that ONCE we are saved, what is now IN us CHANGES us. It begins to bubble OUT of us. 
So...what we work out is the way in which God's salvation comes out to affect the world. THAT has something to do with human choice and creativity. How will YOU use your talents to reach the people around YOU? How will YOU choose to express hope to those who are lost? That will look different for almost everyone who ever comes to Christ. And it will take time to work that expression out!
The passage also gives instruction for that process. It starts with "Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless..." The first thing to do is to "work out" your attitude. Do what must be done, what GOd is changing you to be able to do, without grumbling about it. Quit your arguing. Work out a clear motivation and intention to do God's work in your life. 
You see, God is the One who makes even that possible. Note that the passage says "it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He saved us. He empowers us to do what is good and right and necessary...even to WANT to do those things. It is far more HIS story than MINE, or YOURS. 
So all that theory about what YOU will choose to make salvation work for you is just wasted time and thought. You are not in charge. I am not in charge. He is. He is changing us, and we need that change. And as He changes us, what comes out of us will be different. What you get to do is to work out how that difference is expressed in the world. Get to it!

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