For The Kingdom: Joy-Filled Living In Difficult Days | Day 42

“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 could describe our sanctification process in four characters.  In our spiritual journey, we will embody each of these characters along the way, so there is no room for prideful judgement as we examine ourselves or others in light of these descriptions. Jesus has set the bar for righteous living and holy intentions and we are saved purely be His grace, based on the merit of His life, death and resurrection alone.  Still, as we each work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, we can see how each of these characters can point us to a right and true expression of Christian discipleship.

Character One:  The Repugnant Rebel
Sinful Actions/Selfish Intentions– Imagine this character as the Prodigal Son.  At the beginning of the parable, the Prodigal Son rebels against his father by displaying a me-first attitude and living a sinfully rebellious lifestyle.  The repugnant rebel actively and openly opposes God and His commands with a defiant disposition.

Character Two:  The Struggling Saint
Sinful Actions/Christ-Like Intentions– Remember when Peter resorted to violence in the garden by drawing his sword and cutting off the ear of Malchus, the servant of the high priest? His intention was to stand and fight for Christ, but Jesus rebuked him for it, telling him to put away his sword.  Peter’s desire was to defend his Savior, but he allowed a sinful impulse to take over.  Many believers struggle with impulse-driven behavior, addictions, and ungodly habits that seem to work against their sincere intentions to follow Christ.  The Apostle Paul described this common struggle when he said, “For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Romans 7:15. The struggling saint desires to please God but continues to indulge or languish in sinful behavior.

Character Three:  The Proper Pharisee
Righteous Actions/Selfish Intentions– The Pharisees (religious leaders) of Jesus’ time are most often associated with a person who checks all of the boxes of religious duty yet does so for all the wrong reasons. Jesus did not mince words with the Pharisees, referring to them as “whitewashed tombs” Matthew 23:27.  Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Ruler gives us a picture of a man who appeared righteous, but his heart and attitude was far from God.  The proper pharisee is driven by selfish intentions to appear righteous in order to gain the approval of others.

Character Four:  The Shining Saint
Righteous Actions/Christ-Like Intentions– The penultimate example of this character is Christ himself, who in the garden chose the Father’s will at the cost of great suffering and on the cross, He chose to forgive those who had treated Him cruelly. Paul also demonstrated this type of character as He continued to pray and worship joyfully despite great suffering and imprisonment for the cause of Christ.  The shining saint, depends on the grace of God to shape her will (intentions) and her work (actions) into the likeness of Christ Jesus.

When we pursue a lifestyle as the Shining Saint, we truly become set apart (the meaning of the word “saint”) and shine like stars in the darkness.  When we are blameless in our actions and innocent in our motives/attitudes, we are truly counter cultural in a beautiful way. We cannot do this on our own, for it is God who must work and will within us.  When we see our actions or our intentions getting off track or becoming misguided, we must, like the prodigal son, run to the Father to be restored into a right place again. 

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