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CONTINUE TO WORK OUT YOUR SALVATION

 

Philippians 2:1-18

Key Verse 2:12b-13

 

“…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

 

When the Apostle Paul wrote the Book of Philippians, he was in chains. In prison, all his freedom was taken away and was considered nobody. He was put in prison for unjust reasons, and he had no certainty of his future. In the humanly worst situation possible, he had every right to despair and anger. But in moments like this, he still possessed JOY that did not come from his social status or wealth. This joy did not come from eating delicious food or wearing designer clothes. His joy came from KNOWING Christ. His joy came from knowing God’s grace through Jesus’ death on the cross. And his joy grew larger when the name of Jesus was preached to many people of the world.

 

In today’s passage, Paul helps the believers in Philippi to overcome their disunity by having same love and being one in spirit and mind. He challenges us to “have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (5b). We learn that the mindset of Christ is humility that we must learn and exercise towards others. And finally, Paul says in verse 12, “Continue to work out your salvation.” He tells us that meeting Christ our Savior is not the end of our journey as Christians, but we must continue to walk with Christ our Lord, becoming more and more like him. Today, let us learn deeper meaning of working out our salvation. May the Holy Spirit guide us and open our eyes to see and understand this passage as the living word of God. May God give us unity in Christ. May God help us to make a firm decision to learn and grow in Christ’s mindset, in his love and humility. Amen

 

1.     Be one in Christ (1-4)

 

Let us read verse 1 together. “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” In this verse, Paul mentions the blessings we have in Christ when we are united with him. They are encouragement, comfort, fellowship with the Spirit, tenderness and compassion. These blessings from Jesus matter to us because the world promises but fails to give us true encouragement and comfort. Only in Jesus, he comforts us and encourages us. Let us read verse 2. “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” Paul tells them that it will make his joy complete if they became one in spirit and mind. Although Paul applauded the believers in Philippi for their faithfulness and maturity in the previous chapter, they were facing one problem—it was disunity. When believers are united, they are all happy and God’s work flourishes. But when they are divided, they suffer and God’s work also suffers. So the Apostle Paul appeals to the Philippians to remember God’s grace and mercy and have God’s love toward one another.

 

Growing up, the motto of our family was Love one another. My parents emphasized this very strongly not only with their words but also with action. This was from Jesus who said in John 13:34-35, “Love one another…By this all men will know that you are my disciples…” All of us here are all different in our characters, in the depth of our faith, and even in our style and preference. So it is impossible for us to depend on those things for our unity. Only Christ who is love can bind us together and make us ONE. Picture this. There is a big white canvas, and on it, there is a bright star in the middle that represents Jesus. And around this shining star, there are so many dots, which represent us. Some of us are closer to Jesus, and some far away. So how can my dots become closer to the dot that is on the other side? How can all these dots connect and finally be ONE? The answer is in Jesus. When we all make our ways to come towards Christ, following his love and spirit, we will also grow closer to one another, and finally be one. Amen!

 

Now, let us read verses 3 and 4 and think further about the practical ways that we can be one. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” We want to think about this in 2 points.

 

First, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” If you do God’s work with selfish ambition, nothing good can come out of that. Selfish ambition does not please God. Selfish ambition CANNOT glorify God in any way. Instead of selfish ambition, we must make selfless decision that seeks God and his righteousness prior to anything else. Vain conceit is thinking of yourself bigger than you actually are. This kind of arrogance and pride can easily breaks the creation order and relationships with people. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Let us repent of our sin of selfish ambition and vain conceit that have wounded others and hindered the work of God. Let us decide to participate in the work of God with humble attitude and good purpose to please and glorify God. Amen.

Second, “In humility value others above yourselves” How can we consider others better than ourselves when we clearly see their sins, shortcomings and immaturity? Can you really consider the youngest of us as better than yourself? Yes, Yes you can. We CAN when we find at least one thing in others that is better than ourselves. I personally practiced this, and surprisingly, God taught me a new perspective on humility. I find Sister Judy Han better than me because she has a heart of a big sister that cares and prays for younger RURP students. I find Brother Jinhong Park, my brother in law, much better than me because he joyfully fills in for me whenever I am out of town taking care of my family with rides and food shopping, and all this, without asking for any compensation. I also find Sisters Faith and Grace Kim better than me because of their coworking in Newark Campus and their beautiful dedication by joining 5L2F Orchestra with absolute faithfulness. Like so, God has given each of us at least one outstanding quality. And God has given that gift to us so that we can serve God and others. So it is crucial for us to recognize the outstanding quality in ourselves, especially in others. Then we can work together in harmony for our community and for God. What is the good quality of the person right next to you that you can value him or her above yourself? I urge you to find those qualities from your brothers and sisters and consider them as more valuable than yourself. Amen.

 

As the unity in Philippian church completed Paul’s joy, our unity in Christ can bring God the glory. And of course, when we are united in Christ our joy will be complete as well. Joy J.O.Y stand for “Jesus first, others second, and yourself third.” This is not a cliché. This is the secret of having true joy in your life. This also is the secret of having true unity in Christ. This world including the schools constantly teaches us that it is all about Me, My, and Mine. But that is not true. Instead of holding it ALL for ourselves, we should give freely to serve God and others. When we do so by faith, we can experience God.

 

After this life, we cannot take anything from this world. Only what we did for the Lord and others will remain. May God bless each and every one of us to live a life that puts and serves Jesus first, others second, and ourselves third. Then God will present us with strong unity to serve him and grow together. May God be with all our precious coworkers and my brothers and sisters in Christ in Bonn, Chicago, Istanbul, and New Jersey UBF to be one in Christ and serve campuses around the world with the gospel message. Amen.

 

2.     Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus (5-11)

 

In the next part, Paul points to the highest maturity a Christian can attain through the example of Christ. Please look at verse 5. “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” The Apostle Paul urges us to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. What then is the mindset of Christ? It is HUMILITY. Paul redefined the meaning of a word humility for me through Jesus. The following verses explain in details of what I mean by HUMILITY. Let us talk about this in 3 aspects.

 

First, he made himself nothing. Look at verses 6-7a; “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing...” We should not forget that Jesus is God. As God, he has the highest glory and honor. In this world, people strive hard to achieve things like honor, title, fame, and wealth. And when they finally reach their goal, they are NEVER satisfied. So they go for another round for reaching to the next level, and then to the next level. And on one of these endless levels, they end their lives in their own misery and greed. But Jesus who is at the highest glory chose not to consider equality with God. Rather he emptied himself from supreme glory and made himself nothing. By becoming nothing, not even 1% of his-true-self, Jesus accomplished God’s will and his mission 100%.

 

Second, he became a servant. Verse 7b reads, “…by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” This tells us that the true God became a true servant. He did not imitate or pretend to be a servant; but became a servant. Jesus incarnating to be a man is much more than a man becoming a worm. Jesus not only became a servant but practically served them. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples that were cracked and stinky. Again, he did not pretend or just did it for the show, but he really washed their feet like a servant would do to his master. And he said, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.” (John 13:14-15) Now, we can serve God and serve others with all our hearts because Jesus who is God served us.

 

Third, he obeyed his Father to the point of death. Let us read verse 8. “And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Jesus not only became our servant, but also he sacrificed himself until he gave his life for us. He took this greatest sacrifice because he loved us. He did it in obedience to the Father. Here we learn that true humility is obeying God’s will to the point of death. If the story ended with the death of Christ, it would be very sad.

 

What happened after Jesus died in the obedience to his Father? God raised him from the dead and exalted him to the highest place. God gave him the name that is above every name and made him King of kings and Lord of lords. (9-11) As God exalted Christ with highest honor, God also wants to honor us for our Christ-like mindset. My wife M. Mary Lee, read a book called Humility: The Beauty of Holiness by Pastor Andrew Murray. She took some notes while reading it and shared with me with prayer for my message preparation. As I was reading down the notes, one of the lines made me stop, leaving a big impact in my heart. The line read, “Christ’s humility is our salvation.” Without Christ’s humility, our salvation could not happen. Without Jesus coming down from the highest heaven to the lowest earth, we could not even dream of reaching to heaven. Thank God for Jesus’ humility that saved us. Amen! Not only thank him, but let us pray to have the same mindset of Christ. Amen! Are you willing to empty yourself? Are you willing to become a servant? Are you willing to sacrifice to love them? May God bless our decisions and help us grow in Christ’s humility.

 

3.     Work out your salvation (12-18)

 

Let us read verse 12. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Let me ask you a few questions. Are you saved? By what were we saved? We were saved through faith in Jesus who died for us. Amen! Now, isn’t that good enough? The Apostle Paul says, “Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” What does he mean that we should work out our salvation? The original Greek word for “Work out” is called Κατεργάζομαι (Ka-ter-ga-zo-mai), which means to work something to full completion. In ancient times this word was used for working a mine or working a field. So suppose you have a silver mine that you inherited from your father. All the silver in the mine is yours. But in order to get your hands on the good stuff, you need to move your hands and feet and work it out.

 

So now, spiritually speaking, working out our salvation means that we must use the energy and zeal to grow in the image of Jesus. Working out salvation, in another word, is “Sanctification”, which means to be holy, purified, and free from sin. 1 Peter 1:15-16 say, “...just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’” Sanctification is an ongoing process of growing to be like Christ. One pastor said, “Christianity should not stop with meeting Christ who is the Savior, but it should continue with a determination to walk with Christ who is the Lord. When we are born again by the water and the spirit, God’s seed is planted in our hearts. It grows and transforms us until our whole being is changed into the likeness of Christ. Sanctification is not a mythical idea but the next practical step for the believers. Hebrews 6:1a says, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity.” As the new born baby first drinks milk and later moves on to solid food, our spiritual self must have growth to maturity. In UBF, we have many practical tools that we may be sanctified such as having a Daily Bread daily, building a prayer altar, reading and studying the Bible, and writing a sincere testimony after a deep meditation on the Scripture. However, we also must pray that we do not turn these as superficial activities with no heart. We must pray that God uses these as great tools that deepens our relationship with Jesus.

 

Let us read verse 13. “For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.” Paul had confidence that God who began a great work of salvation would carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Our salvation does not depend on ourselves, but on God. It is God who works in us to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. His good purpose is to sanctify us until we bear the likeness of Christ. St Augustine said, “We desire, but God raises the desire in us. We act, but it is God who empowers our action.” Fundamentally, our salvation does not depend on our works, but on God’s sovereign will. Because of this, we can have a great assurance of our salvation. Sometimes, when we look at ourselves, we despair and depress, realizing how far we are from the holy image of Jesus. But God who is faithful is at work in us. And nothing is impossible with God. God’s good purpose also is that our salvation leads to the salvation of many. By saving us from the deepest pit of sin and death, God makes us a shepherds and gospels workers for the completion of his good purpose. Amen.

 

Our family of 4, now married for 3 and a half years, is experiencing God’s guidance and blessing every day. We are also working out our salvation as God planted us in the mission field of America. Currently our family is feeding 8+ 2nd gens with delicious food every day and teaching the Bible to 10+ students each week. Honestly, whenever we look at our bank account, we cannot but pray. Whenever we see our fridge that gets emptied out with speed, we cannot but pray. And when we do not see the visible growth and change in the lives of our Bible students despite of our sacrifice, we feel like giving up. But we don’t because God has not yet given up on us. Instead we decide to cry out to God and pray. We pray and cling on to God’s grace and mercy because we know that we cannot do this on our own. Whenever we are tried and tempted, we pray that God can keep us strong; in our faith, in our unity and in our vision for the world mission starting from Rutgers University in New Jersey. And every time, we get to meet God who provides without one single failure. God blesses us with more than we had before. He gives us the heart of a shepherd. He gives us his words to speak. He even fill up our fridge so that we can continue to feed them and be a blessing to many. And through this beautiful cycle of God’s work, we are experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit every day. May God be with me and my family to continue to work out our salvation and have faith in God’s sovereignty that He may fulfill his good purpose in us. Amen. 

 

Verse 14 says, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing.” This may not sound very significant, but it is a very crucial warning for us because grumbling and arguing are the signs of having no joy and no thanksgiving. The Satan works through the small crack of our grumbling and arguing and destroys the whole community of Christ. Let us be joyful and thankful in doing God’s work. Let us read verse 17 and 18. “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” Apostle Paul was also once a man far from Jesus’ image. All his passion and zeal was used to persecute and murder the believers of Christ. But by God’s grace, Risen Jesus met him on his way to Damascus. And that was the turning point of his life. He became a new creation in Jesus. Was his life conclude there? No, it was just the beginning of working out his salvation with fear and trembling. Through his faith and obedience, he was transformed into one of the most loving and sacrificial servants of Christ. As the shepherd of the Philippian Christians, his utmost prayer was to pour his life like a drink offering. Paul truly was a Christ-like man, setting a beautiful example for us to follow. He worked out salvation to the end and gave God glory.

 

In conclusion, Let us sincerely pray that we can work out our salvation and grow in the image of Jesus. Salvation work of God does not stop with your salvation. Your salvation, by working it out, must lead to the salvation of the others. Let us remember God’s holy calling for us to be witnesses of Jesus to the end. Let us read 12b-13 together. “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

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