Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 22, 2015
Turn with me to Philippians 2:12-13. Today we will be looking at only two verses, and it will take as all of 45 minutes to do it. So we are going to get right to work this morning.
So with that said, if you run into an apparent paradox in the Bible do not reject it. Instead, recognize that the Bible is not the problem. You are, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you mine the depths of God’s truth. When you do this, you will most likely find that the deeper you dig, the greater the treasure you will find.
So let us start with the paradox. In verse 12 we see Paul telling the Church in Philippi to “work out your own salvation.” This is a command. Paul is telling them to work, to do something. He places the obligation, the responsibility on the people. Then in verse 13, in the same sentence, Paul says, “it is God who works in you.” Paul is saying that God does the work.
Is Paul schizophrenic? He starts his sentence with us doing the work, and ends the sentence with God doing the work. Which is it? Is it us, or is it God? At first glance, we believe that these positions are mutually exclusive. We believe that they cannot both be true. It has to be one or the other, but not both.
Why? Because when we read the Bible we wrongly superimpose our finite, our limited knowledge over the Bible. We wrongly have a tendency to Lord over God’s word. We wrongly approach the Bible as if we are god, and we therefore then attempt to shape God’s word to match our view of reality. This is not the way you read the Bible. We should not twist the Bible to match our metanarrative, the Bible that should shape us to match God’s redemptive narrative. For it is the Bible that is the revelation of true reality. We must humble ourselves beneath the Word of God and allow it to refine us. We must be willing to accept difficult truths, even if we don’t understand it initially.
So today I encourage you, to start from that position, as position of humility as we attempt to mine the depths of the reality that we work out our salvation, and God works out our salvation.
Next, lets us talk about the foundation of this text. We are focusing on only two verses, and there is a risk that when you do this, you read it with blinders on. We must recognize that these verses are not on an island. They are a part of a letter. They are part of a flow of thought. Verses 12 and 13 have a foundation under them, so let us spend some time looking at that foundation. The foundation begins in Philippians 1:3.
At that moment, Lydia is saved. Salvation has come into her heart. She is eternally secure in the arms of Jesus. On the cross, Jesus paid for all her sin; past, present, and future, and she has been given the righteousness of Christ. This is the great substitution. Christ takes our sin, and we take his righteousness. This is why Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” For those who are in Christ, the gift of salvation is received at the moment of faith. This is why Paul can confidently say in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
It is a guarantee that all who are in Christ will be brought to completion. We will all reach the end. We will endure. We will persevere. If you don’t persevere, that means that you were never in Christ. That God never began a work in you, but you were just fooling yourself.
However, for a true follower of Jesus, in between the beginning and the end is the Christian walk. And this is what Paul starts to discuss in Philippians 1:27.
And it is this foundation that Paul lays out before he says in verse 12, where he says, “work out your own salvation.” Why is this important? Because Satan would love for you to read verse 12 as saying, “work for your salvation.” Satan would love for you to think that your salvation is dependent upon what you do, as if salvation is something to be earned. But we all know that salvation is a gift of God’s Amazing Grace, not a wage.
So what does verse 12 say? It says we are to “work out your salvation” not “work for your salvation.” To work out your salvation means that you already have salvation. God, at the moment of conversion has taken out your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. At the moment of conversion God has birthed you into spiritual existence. At the moment of conversion God has made you a new creation. At the moment of conversion God has adopted you into his family. And this is who you are at your core. However, this does not mean that immediately upon conversion that you will perfectly, without sin, outwardly display this inward reality.
In between justification and glorification, there is sanctification. Meaning, that in between you being declared not guilty through Christ and being perfectly like Christ in Heaven, there is a life of transformation that occurs. We call this transformation sanctification, and this is the Christian walk. This Christian walk has two sides to the coin, your role and God's role.
Work Out Your Salvation
Let us begin by talking about our role. This text makes many grace based Christians flinch. They see work and think there must be a typo, but rest assured it is not. This word work is an active word, not a passive. Paul is telling us that we play a substantial part in becoming who we already are. Becoming like Christ in obedience is not something that just happens, but something that we make happen. And this is not the only place we see text like this in the Bible. In fact later in this letter Paul says this:
And why does God come and reside in us? What is His reason? What is His purpose? What does verse 13 say? He lives in us “to will and to work for his good pleasure.” This is amazing. God is in your heart making you will and work. Are you tracking? God is changing your desires. He is changing your delights. He is changing your loves. He is changing you from the inside out.
So how does this look practically? It looks like Bryan and Amy Speed waking up at 4:00 a.m. every morning to read the Bible and pray. It looks like James donating over a $1000 so others can go on a mission trip. It looks like Freddie willing to travel to the other side of the planet and risk his safety so to encourage his brothers and sisters in Christ. It looks like 30 people cramming the front of our Church on Wednesday night equipping themselves to make disciples. It looks like Paul sitting chained to a Romans guard and preaching Jesus Christ to the entire imperial guard.
All of these actions are evidences of the salvation that we have already received. When Christ truly comes and takes up residence in your heart he changes you. You want to pray, you want to read the Bible, you want to share the Gospel, you want to go on mission trips, you want to wash each others feet, you want to cut off your right hand if it causes you to sin. You want to strive, press on, strain, work out, and fight the fight of faith to be like our King. Our King who obeyed to the point of death on a cross.
Over the years I have heard people say, slow down, don't take on too much, you are going to burn out. I have even had people tell me that they believe I am trying to earn my way to Heaven. When I hear those things I want to say, get behind me Satan. Because what I see in the Bible is verse like 1 Corinthians 15:10.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on February 15, 2015.
Open your Bibles to Philippians 1:1-11. Today the title of my message is “The Joy of Christian Unity.”
As we sit here today, we have an enemy, and not just any enemy, but the most powerful created being in the Universe, Satan. In Isaiah 14:12, Satan is referred to as the Day Star, son of Dawn. In Ezekiel 28 he is described as signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. In Heaven, he was the guardian Cherub before his fall. Because of his great beauty he became prideful and He attempted a coup. His desire was to exult himself above the Sovereign God. For the first time in Heaven, there was a break in harmony.
This obviously did not work out well for Satan, for he was cast out of Heaven by God. Jesus speaks of this in Luke 10:18. With Satan’s fall he took with him 1/3 of the Angels. Once on the Earth, he makes his first appearance in the Garden of Eden. What is he attempting to do? He is attempting to achieve more followers. He is successful in convincing both Adam and Eve to listen to him and not listen to God, and in that moment everything changes. He creates division between God and man and the tranquility of the Garden of Eden is transformed into shame, guilt and separation. And at that moment for the first time on Earth, there is a disruption in the harmony of Creation.
From that point on Satan wonders the Earth like prowling lion looking for people to devour; whether that be Job, Israel, Jesus, the Aposltes, the early Church or Cornerstone Church. Prior to Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus spoke to this reality. Jesus prays this:
From the beginning of the Church, Satan has hated its existence. He hates Christ, he hates his bride, he hates its mission, he hates its harmony, and he will do anything and everything to create discord. Cornerstone Church is not immune to Satan's attacks. In fact, I believe we are actually at high risk of attack. Why? Because we are a threat. As I stood here a few weeks ago, I rejoiced in the prayers that I heard come from our congregation, prayers of gospel orientation, Satan fumed. He hated every prayer request that came out of your mouths. Not only that but he hates mission trips, Bible studies, and discipleship classes called multiply. And don't think for one minute that he is not looking for a foothold for division.
And Satan will do it like he always does, with whispers of temptation. He will appeal to your selfish desires and your self interests. Perhaps you will start to be bothered by certain people, certain songs, certain decisions, certain conversations. As God told Cain before he killed his brother Abel, “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you,“ the same is true for all of us. So the question I have is when that day comes, if it is not already here, will we follow Cain's lead and throw stones at our brothers and sisters, or will we head God's warning that he gives us today in his Word?
What is Christian Unity?
Let us now turn our attention to the question, what is true Christian unity? Let's start with what Paul and Jesus are definitely, not talking about. The unity we find in John 17 and the unity we find in the letter to the Philippians is not the same unity that we see in the fallen World. They are diametrically opposed to each other. The Unity of the World is a unity of rebellion, a rebellion against God.
If I were to chose a word for our generation, I would chose the word of tolerance. The way in which this word is being used and understood in our current culture is to advocate the acceptance of another sin. It is the “don't judge me” mentality that has infected the minds of our messed up western culture. It is a cry not to interfere with my transgressions. It is a mantra of “you sin they way you want to, and I will sin the way I want to, and we will be unified in our desire to sin without boarders.” It is a unity that we find in Sodom and Gomorrah. Were those two towns unified? Absolutely, the were unified in their wretchedness. This is not the unity of the Bible.
What is the unity we find in the Bible? The unity we find in the Bible is not a unity of self interest, it is a unity of self-sacrifice. It is not a unity of rebellion, it is a unity of obedience. Let us look at verse 3 in our text.
The greatest picture of this self-sacrifice is non other than Jesus. Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice on the cross. This sacrifice was more than just death, for everyone dies, and some even die for others in a heroic manner. Jesus' sacrifice was far greater, for He is far greater. Jesus gave up the Glory of God and came to Earth. His stepping down into the story was an infinite step. His humiliation of taking on the form of man is something we will never know the depth of, because there is no depth. His sacrifice is literally immeasurable. Jesus said it well when he said that there is no greater love than to lay down your life for a friend. This is infinitely true with this life that is laid down if the Author of Life. Why did he do this? For two reasons, so that you will be forgiven and because His Father asked him.
And this unity of self-sacrifice, obedience and love is a unity that God draws us into, and Christ achieves for us. Don't forget what Jesus prays to His Father in John 17:
Standing Firm and Participating in the Spirit
How on earth are we to achieve this? Is it simply a sermon? Let us look at two verses.
We are commanded to be one. This command is out of our reach, at least on our own. This request can only be achieved supernaturally, specifically by the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of us. We must be swept up into the Trinity and participate in the Unity that already exists. There is only one way to achieve oneness and that is through the One Spirit. The spirit who, also perfectly sacrifices, perfectly obeys, and perfectly loves.
As I was preparing this week to preach this text, John MacAruthur provided a good picture of Unity in relationship to the Holy Spirit. He said there are two ways to attempt to achieve unity, I would actually argue there are three. The first way we have already discussed, it is the unity of inclusion, no borders, no rules.
The second way is a unity of external pressures. It is the unity of hallow religion. The unity that focuses on works. It is a unity of the Pharisees. It attempts to place everyone inside a predefined box, whether they want to be in the box or not. It is the unity of Islam, Mormonism, and unfortunately Roman Catholicism. This is not true unity, it is a mirage of unity. Not a unity of love, but a unity of burden. No one wants to be in the box, but they feel like they have to.
True unity is not a box you are thrown into. True unity is a force you are drawn to. True unity is like a magnet. Something inside of you is drawn to this magnet. The magnet is Christ and the force inside of us is the Holy Spirit. Each one of us drawn to the same Person, Jesus, by the same force, the Holy Spirit. True unity is not religion, it is a loving relationship with Christ. Our oneness is a product of Christ in us, and for that we rejoice.
This sermon was supposed to be preached two weeks ago, but because of the snow it is today's message. This delay has turned out to be a great blessing to me, for I was able to experience a unity in India that was breathtaking. They did not have logos, t-shirts, mission statements, or statements of faith, etc. They had one thing, an intense love for Jesus Christ. It was this love for Christ that was the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it was what touched our heart the deepest.
We have the same Holy Spirit inside of us, therefore, let us then lay aside our sin and our flesh and lay down our lives for each other, so that we can display the harmony of Heaven to the ears of this World is discord.