Php 2:12 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,Php 2:13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
This area of scripture has been used many times to manipulate people into doing all sorts of things. From walking up Mt Croagh Patrick on their knees in order to really show God they are serious to keeping a set of man-made rules and laws set up by those in religious authority. Either way it is spiritual abuse and many have felt the sting of it.
What is the work of God, if we are to “work out” our own salvation…as always the words of Jesus bring great clarity
Joh 6:29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent."
In much of society, especially the West, we have come to define the word believe as just a mental ascent. And once you believe something it is not an ongoing basis yet that is not at all what the word for believe means. Let’s look at the definitions given for this important word (From Strongs Dictionary):
πιστεύω - pisteuō -pist-yoo'-o
From G4102; to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), that is, credit; by implication to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ): - believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.
It does not denote a once for all belief but more of putting trust in or having faith in…both are a moment by moment trust on the person of Jesus Christ thus the Gospel of God. Jesus even makes it more clear just another couple of verses down
Joh 6:40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day."
Look at what the will of the Father is…to have (not will have but present tense) eternal life and to live off of that life as the source for all that we do, think and say. In fact that lines up exactly with what God promised in the New Covenant, in Eze 36:26-27, that He (God) would give us a new heart (2Cor 5:17) and put His (God) Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His ways.
Last summer I was teaching my son to jump in the water off of the side of our pool. He was just starting to swim and didn’t like to get water on his face…it would freak him out as he thought with even just a little water he couldn’t breathe. Now I knew different and even showed him time and time again how getting water on your face wouldn’t hurt you and how jumping into the pool was fun. But he was still scared to get water on his face. My son had a belief problem, his incorrect beliefs were sending faulty signals to his brain thus imprisoning him from this fun activity, even though he saw his sister and other kids doing it and having a great time.
Now I could have invested in years of psychological counseling for him to find out why he was having these “issues” but instead we cut to the chase. I worked with him slowly to build up his tolerance for getting water in his face all the time holding him and helping him when he struggled. It soon got to the point that he could jump off the step in the pool and get a little water in his face but he wasn’t willing to go all the way. So, like most Daddy’s, I kept working with him and showing him over and over that he could trust what I was saying. Then the day came that he finally could do it, he was probably a bit scared but knew he could trust in what his Daddy said…and either way I was in the pool for him to jump into my arms
Now isn’t that what our “Abba” Father says to each of us? God is working in us to trust Him all the more and as we walk in the light that trust continues to grow. The unfortunate thing is many in the Christian world don’t understand that “IT IS DONE” and that we have the victory. Many are still bound in their chains trying to gain victory over sin when all the while God is saying: “Trust me it is done”.
God works in us to do His perfect and pleasing will yet taking that step of working out the salvation that he has given us will require us to take another step in faith and obedience toward Him. All the while our Father is so patient with us, even when we throw a hissy fit, to keep working with us until we are able to trust where He is taking us. The Christian life is such an adventure and full of so much fun when we believe Him for all that He is and walk out the plan that He has for each and every one of us.