I have several projects that are on the go.
The first one involves updating and doing minor renovations to our 50 year old house. It’s a huge job for a limited income and limited time, as I’m trying to do the work myself as much as possible to cut on costs.
The second project is similar. We are working on landscaping the yard. No one had done any landscaping, and the lot was like an empty canvas just waiting for someone to start working on it.
The third project is totally different: When we moved into this house about four years ago, we kind of just threw things haphazardly into a crawl space area. And those things have sat there for the past four years. The project I have in mind is to go through the things in the crawlspace, organizing and eliminating what can be eliminated.
The house updates and renovations are coming along nicely. Two of the four floors are completed, and plans are underway for the basement this year. In a similar fashion, the landscaping is 2/3 done. I carefully put aside money every month for these projects, and as soon as there is enough money in the home improvement fund, I set about completing yet another part. I sure wish I could say the same for that monstrous third project… Oh, I pull out a few things once in a while and toss a few things away, but I have to admit the condition of the crawlspace is getting worse and not better…
Why am I making progress on some projects and not others?
The answer is simple: I’m actually working on the first two projects; but that third one is kind of getting ignored…
This past Saturday, in “Working Out Our Salvation, Part 1”, we saw that despite what it might appear from just reading Philippians 2:12, this verse actually is not promoting Salvation by works. Rather, from the context we see that the topic is our new life in Christ. This leads us to an interesting question: If this text isn’t referring to Salvation, but rather, our new life in Christ, why does it say, “So then, my beloved…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” (NASB)? And if we aren’t talking about our eternal destination and the final judgment here, what is this business of “fear and trembling”?
Those are very valid questions, and to find answers, I decided to look up the text in the original language. I learned that the Greek word that is translated “Work out” is katergazesthe. Literally translated, this word means, “to work on to the finish” or to “carry on to the goal”.
With this in mind, the verse began to make a lot more sense to me. With the previous contextual verses very clearly talking about becoming more Christ-like: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil 2:5 NASB), it would make sense that we are being encouraged to “work on to the finish” and to “carry out to the goal” of accurately reflecting Christ. When we are told to “work out” our Salvation, we are being encouraged to continually be working on becoming more and more like Christ!
It is interesting that the meaning of katerazesthe in English doesn’t actually talk about ever arriving at that “finish”, or ever completely meeting the “goal”. This is in line with other teachings from the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi. Speaking of himself, Paul says: “Not that I have already grasped it all or have already become perfect…” (Philippians 3:12a NASB). He then goes on to hint even further that working towards Jesus’ perfection is a work in progress: “but I press on if I may also take hold of that for which I was even taken hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Vs. 12b NASB). It is, therefore, a work that may never be finished this side of Heaven.
I am personally very aware of how little motivation we tend to have for tasks that will never reach completion. Why do you think I haven’t even started my basement crawlspace project? I lack motivation because I know that even if I ever do finish it, I’ll have to start all over again because crawlspaces are messy by nature and they don’t tend to stay neat and organized!
And so it is that with our human natures being what they are, the fact that we will never completely be perfect examples of Christ on Earth would keep some of us from even trying. This is why Paul goes on in Philippians 2:12 to say that we are to work out our own salvation, “with fear and trembling”. In other words, this needs to become our ultimate priority! We need to work on being more like Christ in everything that we do. It must not become like my crawlspace, pushed aside until I find the motivation to clean it. Rather, it needs to be much more like the projects in my house and yard!
Will my house and yard ever be perfect? Probably not, because as soon as one task is finished I tend to find others. But the point is, I am putting my heart and soul into achieving these goals. And that is how we must set out to become more like Christ! We need to be committed to working on it! We need to set aside time and resources towards working on this, we need to be disciplined and focused on this, our goal.
But wait. It’s easy enough to dig a hole and paint a wall. But just what must one do to actually clean up our old human nature, when most of the time we are not even aware of the things that need to be changed, and we often lack the desire to change them? Join us on Thursday for: “The Power of Want: Working Out Our Salvation, Part 3”!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart
Moderator, Associate Director, Answers2Prayer Ministries
(To access the entire “Working Out Our Salvation” mini-series, please click here!)