December 18, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 2)

Submitted by Naomi L. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:12-18

  • Notice the balance between what God has done in Christ for me, and what I am to do.  What can I do to “work out” the salvation that God has “work[ed] in” me?

I can work out the salvation that God has worked in me by knowing God’s word and striving to understand and obey God in deeper ways, making personal connections to what is revealed about God in his word and allowing his word to have personal implications in my life. Knowing the word of God in a personal way leads me to obey God’s word with greater, increasing trust and surrender in order to experience the fullness of a life that has been worked in me through the transforming power of the gospel.

To “work out” is an apt description of my responsibility as a Christian because “work out” denotes a sense of intentional striving for it. Experiencing the richness of the gospel and the fullness of God’s grace and love demonstrated through salvation worked in me doesn’t happen without deliberately working toward it. It happens through choosing to die to myself and my preferences in order to obey his word. It happens through taking costly, even scary steps, of faith in following him. In these ways, as I work out my salvation, putting God’s word through the test through my obedience and finding that they are words of life to me – I can experience how truly rich is the salvation, the depth of grace worked in me.

  • Why is it important that I live out the implications and promises of my salvation “with fear and trembling”?

It is important to live out the implications and promises of my salvation “with fear and trembling” because at the end of my life, I have to give an account before God and because of this, it would be important to live soberly and with this day in mind, as Paul says in chapter 3 straining forward, pressing toward the goal. I am most aware of this need to live my life with fear and trembling in the areas of my ministry responsibilities. As I am entrusted as a spiritual leader over people, entrusted with passing down the gospel message – I am all to aware of my own failings and inability to do this, which causes me to work out my own salvation and relationship with God with fear and trembling.

This exhortation to work out my salvation with fear and trembling also serves as a warning about the nature of human hearts that desires to be lax and comfortable, to take the easy road – which I have experienced to lead to a dull, empty way of life. I know that for myself, it’s so easy to be lazy and disengaged, to procrastinate. I know that when I neglect my spiritual life, putting off the word of God and prayer, or failing to connect with God and God’s people, I quickly become dull in my desire for God, desire to struggle against sin, desire to obey. Over time, this would lead to hardness of heart toward God and his word – hearing God’s word but not being personally addressed by it, an inability to align myself to the truth of God, an overall lukewarm heart toward God. It could eventually look like a quiet, self centered life – where life is about me and my nuclear family, centered around frivolous pursuits and mindless entertainment: burdened by sin, uninterrupted by needs of others. But this is a miserable life, of not being able to experience God, of the abundant life he provides. So, this exhortation to live every day working out my salvation with fear and trembling isn’t to make me anxious and nervously aware of a judge who is ready to condemn, as much as a pathway to daily living a life aware of God’s rich grace and love he has in store for me.

Philippians 2:14-16

  • Notice the escalating nature of the progression of thoughts in this passage.  How does “do[ing] all things without grumbling and disputing” lead to shining as “lights in the world”?

Doing all things without grumbling and disputing would be nearly impossible to do.  It would go against the mantra of this world that says every man for himself and it would go against your natural pride and ego that tells you to voice and grumble at any perceived inequity or injustice and to fight and dispute when your rights are trampled upon.  As children of God, we can shine as lights in the world, by refusing to grumble and dispute, but rather dying to ourselves, putting others before our own selves, demonstrating that God is trustworthy and sovereign, that God is able to provide and is my protector and defender.  So that I don’t have to fend for myself, or grumble against what I’ve been given or dispute wrongs done unto me.

  • Reflect on what Apostle Paul would have considered a failure of his ministry (“run in vain”).  What does this tell me about the fruit of authentic faith?

Paul would have considered it a failure of his ministry if the Philippians did not hold fast to the word of life until the day of Christ.  This challenges the self-focused approach to ministry which centers around me – what is my role and how important is it?  Are people responding to me?  Do they like me?  Is my ministry significant enough?  It also challenges the worldly notions of failure and success – such as if I am experiencing setbacks or difficulties, I deem ministry to be a failure.  For Paul, he had no such notions.  Failure was not about himself, what he gained or lost or what he endured in his ministry – the suffering, the imprisonment, the daily pressure of concern for the churches. But, he would consider it a failure if those he ministered to would not be found to being holding fast to the word of life until the day of Christ.

This tells me that the fruit of authentic faith is displayed in one who holds fast to the word of life until the day of Christ.  In the end, it’s not about what I accomplished or even what I failed to do – but the important thing is, did I hold fast to the word of life until the day of Christ.  Faith is displayed in holding fast because we know that the day of Christ is coming.  This is such a reminder of my journey as a Christian.  As I reflect upon my life since becoming a Christian 20 years ago, there were many ups and downs, many turns in which I could have (and sometimes strongly wanted) to let go and give up.  Sometimes the circumstances and demands of life was really difficult, it was harder still to have to deal with my sins, embrace truth about myself.   It could have been much easier to throw in the towel and deny the words of life – but somehow God gave me the grace to still be here, being addressed by his word, being reminded of his love and grace for me.

And though I have a long way to go, I see the fruit of that clinging on, of holding fast for the last 20 years – which is a testament of God’s grace that enables someone like me to hold fast to him – a deeper understanding of God’s unmerited grace; a security of knowing that I have been shown undeserved loving kindness by God and the people of God; a proven trust in God that leads to greater desire to obey.  I shudder to think how my life would have turned out if I had let go – it would have truly been an ultimate loss and failure.  And this gives me the perspective and hope to keep on holding fast to the words of life in my current struggles and life situations – knowing that the fruit of faith was ultimately outweigh any suffering and hardship I endure now.

Submitted by Ray W. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:12-13

  • Notice the balance between what God has done in Christ for me, and what I am to do.  What can I do to “work out” the salvation that God has “work[ed] in” me?

Growing up as a skeptical atheist, it really was God who first initiated in searching for me, revealing himself and his gospel to me, and building a relationship with me through his word and people.  When I accepted God’s offer of salvation, it’s not just an one time deal, and God leaves me alone.   My heavenly Father wants to shape the sinful me into someone like Christ as his son, and he wants me to takes steps of faith in trusting him as He leads me daily.  He’s not settling for anything less.  At our church, I receive much exposure to the word through bible studies, the DTs, and messages, and one way I can work out my salvation is take God’s word seriously and to respond in kind.  Many times God’s word will be uncomfortable because it is truth, and the truth is I am a sinner so there’s always going to be some painful moments of confronting who I am as God works to shape me.  I can easily let all the chances to engage God slip by, especially if uncomfortable truth about myself is exposed.  I find that as I get older, there is a stronger temptation to not face painful truth about me, because I think I shouldn’t be this way by now as an older Christian.  Rather than letting it slip, this the chance for me to “work out my salvation” by reaffirming the big picture again that God is God, that he died for me while I was a sinner, he loves me, he knows me through and through so there is nothing to hide, and God knows what He is doing.  There is a good end in mind.  Therefore I can face the truth with this assurance from God and embrace any practical response I need to carry out whether it is to repent, apologize, love someone, let something go, or persevere.  When I obey, I later experience God’s word being true and giving life not only to me but also others, then my confidence in God, his presence, and trust in his good character will increase.

  • Why is it important that I live out the implications and promises of my salvation “with fear and trembling”?

To approach the implications and promises of salvation with fear and trembling means to take them with seriousness, weight, due diligence, and awe that salvation from God rightfully deserves.  The gospel and reality of God is not just head knowledge.  It is true and therefore can be lived out.  Salvation is not static.  As I live it out, bank on it, take risks trusting in God and his truth, my experience of God will become more true to me and my confidence in God will grow.  Naturally I will trust God with greater things in the future.  I will also experience the greater wonder of how much his word brings real life.  But if I treat them flippantly and don’t obey, I won’t experience this and instead experience the opposite.  There is no neutral ground.  There have been times when I didn’t take God seriously, and I easily start wondering where is God in my life and start to doubt God’s goodness and presence.  In reality, it’s really me that didn’t put in the effort to obey and seek God out, and I end up prolonging an issue or making matters worse.

  • What are some ways that I have experienced my will and conduct bending to “work for [H]is good pleasure”?

Along the lines of facing uncomfortable truth, recently a character issue came up that led to some regrettable action on my part that I needed to own up and face.  I was initially defensive about it and didn’t want to face it head on.  At a prayer meeting where the speaker talked about what God’s grace means in light of truth we don’t like to face, God helped me to realize that in God’s love there is nothing I need to hide from, even facing uncomfortable truth, because on the cross, he showed his love for me even when I was a sinner.  God already knows me as I am.  As a result I was able to accept the truth of how I am, and then was able to move on to take real action that can change this character issue.  As I had the freedom to think more about the truth, I saw how this issue had caused me many regrets and grief through my life, and now there is hope of finally changing it head on and being free from it.  I’m sure God was pleased to illuminate and begin to take away this source of pain in my life.

Philippians 2:14-16

  • Notice the escalating nature of the progression of thoughts in this passage.  How does “do[ing] all things without grumbling and disputing” lead to shining as “lights in the world”?

Living out your faith starts with small things.  If one is grumbling and disputing, it reveals a self focused nature rather than being centered on God and loving others.  When I grumble or dispute, I am insisting that my view is right. I’m looking at the situation through a narrow lens of me, and I’m trying to push my agenda.  Whereas the truth of the gospel says that I really deserve nothing as a sinner before the holy God.   I am not blameless and innocent.  In essence, I am a hypocrite when I grumble and dispute.  When this happens, there is no way I can be seen as a light in the world.

  • Reflect on what Apostle Paul would have considered a failure of his ministry (“run in vain”).  What does this tell me about the fruit of authentic faith?

In the context of this passage, a failure in Paul’s ministry would be when the people he ministered to live a life of grumbling, are not blameless, are not innocent, and are not distinguishable from the crooked and twisted generation.  In other words, failure would be if the Christians he ministered to ended up being all talk and did not live it out.  Then all of his love and teaching would be in vain.  Authentic faith results in genuine fruit, and it starts in every day small things like how I talk and how I work with others.  Christianity is not only head knowledge or just a title or belief.  It is lived out daily in concrete ways as we try to obey God.  With every choice I make I take a step towards becoming a certain type of person.  For example, I can easily excuse myself from helping a person in need, from going the extra step to serve, from taking the time to think of someone or send some encouragement.  I can say I have things to do, I’m busy, I don’t know how, I can do it later, I’ve already done enough in ministry today.  But each of these choices contribute to me becoming either a loving man or selfish man, a stingy or generous person, a caring or cold man and ultimately an authentic or inauthentic Christian.  The person I am becoming with these daily choices is what the world sees, not what I think of myself.  So it really boils down to these small choices I make each day.

PERSONAL PRAYER

God thank you for initiating salvation in me and loving me enough to not leave me as I am.  Thank you for this grand relationship with you where you want me to follow after you and experience first hand the goodness and truth of who you are and your word.  Please give me the courage to face truth so I may be able to work out my salvation in obedience to you.  Please also help me to have the clarity of mind to see that my every day choices matter to you.  God forgive me for all the ways I have made excuses to justify my own agenda.  Help me God to be authentic in moment to moment denying of myself in obedience to you.

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