When I was younger, like many families, my siblings and I had chores to do with at least some regularity. When we were directed to do those chores, whether by the white board in the kitchen or by our parents, there was this sense of diligence. Not all the time did we do the job up to snuff, but there was this sort of healthy nervousness that was there to make sure that it at least TRIED to pass muster.

This is similar to the “fear and trembling” that followers of Jesus are told to have when we are directed to “work out our salvation”. That healthy urgency is something often missed in this passage (Philippians 2:12-13 if you are following along) and replaced with a sort of cowardice or form of terror; there is a sense that God, the omnipresent bedroom inspector, is going to ground us if we don’t measure up. We need only see the entire counsel of Scripture to know that this does not aptly describe our God.

To work out your salvation, generally speaking, means to demonstrate it or engage it actively. Salvation is coincidentally an instantaneous event and an ongoing effort or task. From the moment one believes in the person and sacrifice of Jesus and confesses it, their name is written in the book of life, and they are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Done deal. Salvation is theirs to lay claim to. However, there is still life to live, and a purpose to participate in.

That’s where the demonstration of your salvation takes place. In life. Were the book of James written today, the author might say “So you’re saved, right? Prove it”. Faith that has no action to demonstrate its reality is dead. Faith with works is alive and reproduces itself.

Further into Philippians 2, we read that it is in fact God working in us that causes such good outcomes as producing fruit (in this context being people coming to know Jesus in part because of your willingness to tell them all about it). This doesn’t mean we sit idle, but rather the result of your efforts don’t belong to you, nor do your motivations. It is God who is “effectually” showing Himself in you, causing you to succeed in your actions. Effectually really is the right word, because it implies influencing, guiding and directing to produce a certain result.

Throw yourself at this thing called salvation with diligence and that healthy nervousness you get before you take an exam or fly a plane. Know that while you do that, the result belongs not to you, but to God.

Part two is coming soon…