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, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
- Philippians 2:12-13
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
- Mark 8:34-38
For to me, to live is Christand to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“Now, look at what happens when we live that Way—when we’re lowly, when we’re humble, when we’re considering others better than ourselves: … (Phil. 2:12-13)
“Paul acknowledges here that this isn’t natural. What would be natural is to look out for yourself. Selﬁsh ambition and conceit. That would be natural.
“Paul talks about an all-out denial of self, a death of self. That is why he turns to the cross. And because none of us turn to the cross naturally, Paul reminds us of the gospel of grace. God in His power grants us in His great love the supernatural ability to seek the cross.
“He does this by ﬁrst giving us the mind of Christ. In Philippians 2:5, when the apostle says, ‘Have this mind among yourselves,’ he’s not just saying, ‘Try hard to think like Jesus.’ He tells us that we have this mind. It is part of the gift of the gospel. It is an act of grace. He says that the mind of Christ ‘is yours in Christ Jesus’ (v. 5). You have this mind, in other words. So use it.
“Second, Paul tells the church to work out its salvation with fear and trembling (2:12), but he won’t disconnect that difﬁcult command from its gracious empowering: “For it is God who works in you” (2:13). The sin you do? Natural. The good you do for others? Supernatural. Always remember the gospel, so you won’t forget that God will not expect something of you that He won’t both empower you to obey and forgive you for not obeying.
“Always, always, always seek the cross. It is there that we see our example for service and sacriﬁce to others. It is there that we get the power to serve and sacriﬁce for others. And it is there that we receive forgiveness when we fail in serving and sacriﬁcing for others.”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
The doing church will see the Scripture from Philippians 2 and focus on the “work” rather than seeing the fear and trembling.
Jesus never sat still, or so it seems in reading the Bible. He told one potential follower that he had no place to rest His head. Of course, he rested His head, but He had friends who welcomed Him. He and His disciples stopped along the path during long journeys. I wonder how many parables were told by the campfire after they had stopped. Had they seen a sower in his field as they walked?
And I believe that Jesus wants us to continue working, but that does not save us. Only Jesus can save us, and that salvation is a gift from God. But in the bargain, God comes into our lives. For many it is an instantaneous change, but never a complete change. I have seen drug addicts who were cured, but I have seen others who struggle for the rest of their lives. Even the cured addict may have other issues that plague them. We are all a work in progress, but as long as we keep our eyes on Jesus, we can grow closer to Him.
But we must do so in fear and trembling. We should not be haughty. We might be confident in our learned skills. We should be confident in the gifts that the Spirit gives us, but we should be humble, knowing that we serve an awesome God. Fear is more of an awe of how wonderful God is bigger and better than we could ever imagine, rather than terror. Yet, the first time we see Him, there may be something beyond awe.
As for the trembling, what did we ever do to deserve God loving us? Salvation comes as a gift to those who love God, trusting and believing in our Savior, Jesus. There is no room for haughty pride. We owe it all to Him.
And what did Jesus tell us to do? Take up our cross and follow Him. Carrying a cross in the time of Jesus was a heavy burden. It was a one-way street. You would never go back.
The road we take with God may seem a daunting task, but God lives in our hearts. He shares the burden with us. We always have our Guide, Counselor, and Friend.
But travel the road we must, seeking our cross to bear.
Lord, guide me. Help us to remember the sacrifice, and sacrifices, that You made in order for us to be saved, and our need to show Your love to those around us. Some people will not like it. They may even say that our love is hate. But help us to demonstrate Your love by loving even when being reviled. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.