For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 34
“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 2:12-13
We have just journeyed through one of the most significant Christological passages in Scripture, discovering that Jesus is the Servant King and also the Sovereign King! Now, in light of (“therefore”) the sacrificial love and the sovereign rule of Christ, we step into a new conversation about our response to God and the innerworkings of salvation. God’s love is not a response to obedience; obedience is a response to God’s love.
Did you grow up in an environment where you were expected to wear your “Sunday best” to church? The expectation was, look your best, behave your best and above all else, do not do anything to embarrass your parents in church! In some circles, the Pastor is held in such high reverence that he is often used as a disciplinary measuring stick for behavior- “Would you say that if Pastor ______ were standing right here?”
Have you ever had someone in your life that you loved and respected so much that whenever you were around them, they made you a better person? For many in the early church, Paul was such a figure. When he was in town, everybody straightened up, put on their Sunday best and made sure they didn’t say any cuss words around the Pastor. Paul, in this passage, is trying to teach the church that while reverence for him is humbling, it is misplaced. Paul could not stay with them forever. Your Pastor cannot be with you 24/7. God is far more worthy of our reverence than any pastor, parent, coach or teacher. He will never leave us nor forsake us and the changes that God makes in us will last forever! You should be obedient to God at all times because God is with you at all times.
“Much more in my absence…” As important as it is to honor and obey God in church and among believers, it is even MORE important to honor and obey God outside of church and among non-believers. We are representatives, ambassadors for Christ wherever we go. We ARE the church and God is IN us!
The goal is NOT to become a moral churchgoer. The goal is NOT to merely be a group of people who behave in church or when other Christians are around. That type of thinking leads to hypocrisy and a double life. We must learn what it means to “work out our salvation” on a daily basis. We will explore how our faith works itself out in our next chapter. For today, let’s remember that Christ is with us and He is who we are living for.