“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12).
As a preacher, I like to push. I like to push myself and others to look inside ourselves and see how our actions or thoughts or words are or are not in line with Scripture. God’s Word is a perfect blend of encouragement and exhortation. In our relationships with one another, we should find a perfect blend of encouraging one another and exhorting one another to obedience in Christ. Yet, being pushed can bring such a variety of responses.
When pushed, sometimes we go into defense mode, where no matter what the person is saying, we will never acknowledge that they are correct. Sometimes we love being pushed. We love the sermons that convict us and leave us feeling as if God’s Word has truly pierced. Yet in our love of being convicted, we never change our ways. Then sometimes, when being pushed and convicted, we reject what is being said because we feel as if the words are seemingly encouraging legalism. In light of being pushed and convicted by God’s Word, consider what Paul says in Philippians 2 when he says, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
He’s not saying you need to earn your salvation through works. He is saying to a complacent and apathetic people to prove their salvation. Prove to the world and to the people around that God is at work. The Bible shows an interesting balance when it describes our commands to obey. On one hand, we are commanded to obey God in all things. On the other hand, we are told that our good works are only a result of God at work within us. So which is it, us or God? The answer is both! God has changed our hearts to enable us to do good works. Now as a result, our obedience is grace empowered.
Why should we seek to obey God? Because He has changed our hearts to help us want to obey. But not only that; we are called to obey because God is our supreme, loving and authoritative Father. Spurgeon puts it so well when he says the following:
As Father, God is “affection mingled with authority; an authority which does not provoke rebellion; an obedience demanded which is most cheerfully rendered – which would not be withheld even if it might. The obedience which God’s children yield to him must be loving obedience.”
We must obey our loving, affectionate and authoritative Father. Children of abusive fathers obey out of a sense of fear and obligation. Children of loving fathers who are affectionate, yet not strong in their authority as father, most likely will inevitable disobey. God is both perfectly loving, and perfectly authoritative. May we see him as such as we consider our call to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. And may we, as earthly fathers, parent our kids in such a way that they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that we are both loving and authoritative as their parents!