Stephen Caswell © 2003
Christian Life – Living Under New Management
Soon after a family moved into their new house, it began to show the effects of their slipshod lifestyle. The yard was littered with trash. The lawn withered for lack of care, and, even when replanted, died out again. To enter this house was to enter a shambles. It never was clean or in order. Another family eventually bought the house and moved in. They painted the house, cleaned up the yard, and replanted the lawn. The results were completely different. What had happened? There was a dramatic improvement in the appearance of the house because there was a change in those who lived in that house.
In the same way, it is impossible that there not be a change in a person’s life once he or she becomes a Christian — because there is a perfect new resident within: the Holy Spirit.
In today's passage Paul continues his theme on service. Last week we saw the assistance Christ provides for believers through the Holy Spirit. We saw the command to be Christ minded. We observed how Jesus Christ put aside all His rights and privileges to serve mankind and save us. We then saw how the Father exalted Christ to the highest position because of His service and sacrifice. Today Paul gives us further instructions from the Christian Service Manual.
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Paul commands Christians to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. The words work out katergazomai mean to accomplish, to finish, to fully work out, to complete. Hasn’t Christ already saved us? Ephesians 2:8, 10: explains this: For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
The Bible tells us there are 3 stages in our salvation. Justification, we are saved from the penalty of sin. Sanctification, we are being saved from the power of sin. Glorification, we will be saved from the presence of sin. In verse 12, Paul is talking about our sanctification. Through this process God enables us to overcome sins power in our lives. God conforms us to the image of Christ. However, we must cooperate with the Holy Spirit if we are to complete God's plans for us. In verse 12, God commands us to finish the work He gave us. Paul lists 4 points in the Christian Service Manual. Our Motive, Our Might, Our Manner, Our Message.
Firstly, Our Motive - God's Judgment
Philippians 2:12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;
Paul begins with the word therefore. The reason we should work out our own salvation is linked to the previous verses. In Philippians 2:9-11 we read of Christ's universal worship. Every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. This universal worship of Christ is connected with God’s judgment.
Romans 14:9-12 says this: For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God. So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
This is the reason why we should serve the Lord with fear and trembling. One day each one of us will give an account of himself to the Lord. Unbelievers will stand before the great white throne for judgment. At that time, they will be condemned to hell. Believers will stand before the judgment seat of Christ. The judgment seat for believers is called the βῆμα. It is a completely different word from the one used to describe the great white throne θρόνος.
The Bema Seat βῆμα
The term judgment seat comes from a Greek word bema, which was the platform in Greek towns where speeches were made and decisions handed down by the rulers. The platform was raised a step above the ground. It was the place where the awards were given out in the annual Olympic Games. The judges sat on this platform and observed the athletes competing in the games. After each contest they would crown the winning athlete with a crown of laurel leaves. The observed the athletes performance to see who won the race according to the rules. Disqualified athletes were never punished, but they were disgraced before their fellow countrymen.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15 deals with this: For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
John Chrysostom On The Bema Seat
John Chrysostom said this about the Bema seat judgment. Let us imagine that we are now present before Christ's judgment seat, and reckon each one of us with his own conscience the account we must give to our judge. Let us reckon that everything is revealed before Him now. For we must not only stand before the judgment seat but also be laid bare. Do you not blush? Are you not dismayed? These are very solemn words and rightly so.
2 Corinthians 5:8-11a says: We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.
Everyone is commanded to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. Are we doing the good works God has prepared for us to do? Are we serving Christ? Are you using your time, gifts, possessions and abilities for Him? Do we think about the judgment seat of Christ? We should! If you stood before the judgment seat of Christ now would you receive a reward or suffer loss? If we would reckon on this judgment as present now we would be the better for it. Such thoughts would motivate us to complete our service with fear and trembling!
Secondly, Our Might - God's Power
Philippians 2:13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Paul commands us to complete our service. Previously he commanded believers to have the mind of Christ. But isn't this an impossible standard to reach? How can we serve like Jesus' served? This could only be achieved if Jesus Christ were to take up residence inside us and show us how. You know, that's exactly what He has done. Christ has taken up residence in us through the Holy Spirit. God doesn't expect us to work out our salvation on our own. He wants us to work out what He works in. The word works ἐνεργέω is the same word we get energy from. It refers to mighty power. God's power is not weak but mighty. God can enable us to serve Him the same way that Jesus did. However we must submit to the Holy Spirit and rely on His power.
Filling Is The Answer
Paul tells us to live victoriously and to avoid excesses of the flesh. D L Moody once illustrated this truth as follows: Tell me, he said to his audience, How can I get the air out of this glass? One man said, Suck it out with a pump. Moody replied, That would create a vacuum and shatter the glass. After many impossible suggestions, Moody smiled, picked up a pitcher of water, and filled the glass. There, he said, all the air is now removed. He then went on to show that victory in the Christian life is not by sucking out a sin here and there, but rather by being filled with the Spirit.
Often we focus on the works that we do for God. But God is more concerned with the workman than the work. Godly desires lead to godly deeds. If the workman is what he ought to be, then the work will be what it should be too. Firstly, God wants to work in us and then through us. He wants to fill us with His Spirit to empower us for service. Once God has filled us our desire will be to serve Him. We will do the good works He has prepared for us to do. God's energy empowers both our desires and our deeds. Firstly, He gives us the right desires and then He empowers us to fulfill those desires in good deeds, or service. Ephesians 5:18-19: And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Help Me Help You
Hudson Taylor said this: I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up asking him to do his work through me.
Why is it so important to be filled with the Spirit? Because the Christian life is a supernatural life. Without God's empowering we are dead, lifeless. The key to working out our own salvation is relying completely on God's power within us. We must draw on the Holy Spirit moment by moment every day. He gives us the right desires. He empowers our service for God. He brings forth fruit through us. He then receives the glory. Are you working out what God works in? Do you rely on His power? Do you abide in Christ each moment of the day?
Thirdly, Our Manner - God's Children
Philippians 2:14-15 Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,
a. Sincere Service
Paul commands believers to live graciously as God's children. He wants us to be sincere. The word complaining goggusmwn means grumbling or murmuring. Whilst the word disputing dialogismwn means doubting, debates, imagination. When believers serve the Lord it is easy to let complaints and disputes to creep in. This was the case at Philippi where Euodia and Syntyche were fighting with one another. One brother suggests to another that we should do it differently. They say, we have never done it this way before. Before long others join in. Or someone complains that others should be helping. Often these complaints aren't true. But even if they're true, God doesn't want us to complain or grumble. He wants us to be thankful, joyful. 1 Thessalonians 5:18: in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
The Children of Israel grumbled in the wilderness and grieved God's heart. Grumbling never makes things better, only worse. Our sincerity in God's service is conditioned upon our attitude and our speech. James 3:2: For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. If we don't do everything without complaining or arguing we won't become sincere, children of God. Why is our speech so important? Because we undo our testimony by complaining. If Jesus has saved us and given us joy, shouldn't this be seen in our speech too? The children of the world complain. They argue about the things they don't like. Believers ought to be different. Their lives should be filled with joy, not complaints and arguments. Our words should be full of grace and seasoned with salt.
A young lady once said to John Wesley, I think I know what my talent is. Wesley said, Tell me. She replied, I think it is to speak my mind. Wesley said, I do not think God would mind if you bury that talent.
b. Shinning Service
As the moon reflects the light of the sun believers are to reflect the light of Jesus Christ. Firstly Paul says that they are blameless ἄμεμπτος. This word means to be faultless, unblamable. This relates to their standing before God. Secondly he says that they are harmless ἀκέραιος, which means innocent. Thirdly Paul says that sincere Christians are without fault ἀμώμητος. That no one can bring a charge against them. This relates to their standing in society. Daniel lived this way. When the rulers tried to find fault with his work they couldn’t. When believers serve the Lord joyfully people notice them. Why? Because the world is crooked and perverse. The lives of sincere believers show up the world's sin. They shine forth like lights in the darkness. People notice their upright character and are convicted. They recognize God’s work in us.
Matthew 5:14-16 You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Saints – People The Light Shines Through
A little boy attended a church that had beautiful stained-glass windows. He was told that the windows contained pictures of Saint Matthew, Saint Mark, Saint Luke, Saint John, Saint Paul, and other saints. One day he was asked, what is a saint? He replied, a saint is a person whom the light shines through. That’s a good answer!! We all need the Son of God to shine through us.
God calls His children to service in the Church and in the world. He wants us to be blameless and harmless. What is your service like? Is it sincere? Do you grumble about it or rejoice? Do people see the joy and beauty of Jesus Christ in all you do? Are you shinning as lights in this dark world? Or has your testimony lost its credibility through grumbling and arguing? Let us use our tongues carefully in Christs’ service!
Fourthly, Our Message - God's Word
Philippians 2:16 holding forth the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.
a. Our Present
Believers have a gift to share with the world. The Gospel. Paul calls the Gospel the word of life because that's exactly what it is to a world enslaved by death. Peter said that only Jesus had the words of eternal life in John 6:68. We must proclaim Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. That's the message a lost world desperately needs to hear. That God has provided a Savior to rescue us. We can argue about all sorts of things with the lost. But the word of life is what they really need.
2 Timothy 1:9-10: God has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Gospel In Miniature
Martin Luther called John 3:16 the heart of the Bible—the Gospel in miniature. It’s so simple a child can understand it; yet it condenses the deep and marvelous truths of redemption into these few pungent words:
God… …The greatest Lover, So loved… …The greatest degree, The world… …The greatest number, That He gave… …The greatest act, His only begotten Son… …The greatest Gift, That whosoever… …The greatest invitation, Believeth… …The greatest simplicity, In Him… …The greatest Person, Should not perish… …The greatest deliverance, But… …The greatest difference, Have… …The greatest certainty, Everlasting Life… …The greatest possession
b. Our Presentation
In this passage Paul asked believers to hold forth the Gospel in a positive light. The words holding forth ἐπέχω mean to hold out, to present. It was used in secular Greek of offering wine to a guest at a banquet. The servants presented the wine in an attractive clean cup. They presented it the best way that they could. Paul says that we are to present the Gospel in the same way. That is why Paul has emphasized blameless living in such detail. When Christians shine their lights for Jesus people listen to their message. People see the reality of your testimony when you live it out before them.
If Jesus Is Like My Daddy
A group of children heard the Gospel in Sunday School service. They were was asked if they would like to receive the Lord Jesus who loved them and died for them. One little by said if Jesus loves me like my daddy does I want Him to come into my life. That Father had lived out the Gospel to the little boy.
There is nothing more attractive or effective than a Christian revealing the beauty of Jesus Christ. Unbelievers will listen to such people. A blameless life plus the Gospel makes a big impact on the lost. But nothing is more offensive than Christians who separate the life from the message. The world calls such people hypocrites, and rightly so. If Christ has saved us our lives should be different. Blameless service must accompany our witness.
1 Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;
Miss America’s Witness
Vonda Kay Van Dyke, Miss America for 1965, was being interviewed during the pageant finals. Emcee Bert Parks asked, Do you carry a Bible as a good luck charm? The twenty-one-year-old Sunday school teacher from Phoenix, Arizona, replied, It’s not a charm, but the most important Book I own. And she added, I wouldn’t classify my relationship to Jesus Christ as a religion, but rather as faith. I trust in Him completely. Let’s hold forth the World of life for all to see!!
Do you present the Gospel in the best possible light? Do you endeavor back up the Gospel with a godly life? Does the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ shine through you?
Today, we saw Paul share four things from the Christian service manual. They were, Our Motive, Our Might, Our Manner, Our Message.
1. Our Motive
Why should Christians serve God with fear and trembling? Because one day we will give an account of our service.
2. Our Might
Are you struggling in the Christian life? God has provided the power we need for service. He works in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Will you depend on His strength?
3. Our Manner
Do you spoil your service and witness by grumbling or complaining? When believers serve the Lord joyfully they shine like lights in a dark world. Can people see Christ shinning through you?
4. Our Message
Are you sharing the good news with your friends & neighbors? Are you presenting the Word of Life, the Gospel in the most attractive way you can?
Ephesians 3:20-21 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.