You: A Work In Progress 4/2/00

Jesus Christ said, “I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work” (John 9:4).

If that be true of Christ it is also true of us. Therefore, once His will is determined do it heartily as unto the Lord. Pour yourself enthusiastically into what you do.

It was said of Joan of Arc, the Maid of Loraine: “She discovered her path and went down it like a thunderbolt.” That is commitment. Can your lifestyle of service be so described or is it better depicted by fits and starts?

The Apostle Paul penned an exhortation to people he loved that the Holy Spirit has directed to people the Father loves. “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” (Philippians 2:12). Is a proof text improperly used by some who support the spurious belief that a person is saved and kept by works. “Work out your own salvation” is asserted to mean you have to devise your own means of salvation by the work you do.

The text doesn’t say work FOR or AT your salvation, but OUT.

Salvation by works makes man and God look bad. It makes man look like everything he does is to get something. It leaves no room for acts of gratitude. It makes God look bad because it makes Him look like He can be bought off.

The text is better understood when interpreted using language of the math classroom. When an equation is written out the instruction regarding the math problem is often “work it out.”

A teacher went to the chalk board and wrote out one of those long equations, such as, X to the 10th power, plus Y, etc. Then she wrote at the end “Find X.” A not so promising math student went to the board, drew an arrow pointing to the X and said, “There it is!”

To assume our text means work to earn your salvation is just as inadequate as that response to the math equation.

All the elements of the math problem were there but the teacher wanted the pupil to carry it to its logical conclusion. To do so in our spiritual life we must work throughout the period of our salvation. We are to do it with “fear and trembling,” which means with “reverence and a healthy respect.”

The Greek verb for “work out,” KATERGAZESTHAI, always has the idea of carrying to a logical conclusion. This is an appeal to “DON’T STOP HALFWAY.” Go on to the very end exercising faith and faithfulness. When exhorted to “work out our own salvation” the appeal is to carry it to its logical conclusion. That is, work through out the time you are saved to reach the end intended, to accomplish the purpose God had in mind for you.

Nearby the Dematiaceae Chapel in Florence, Italy is the Academy of Art. Florence is the location of one of Michelangelo’s most magnificent works, David. As a sculptor he produces such great works as Moses, the Pieta, and David. His highly acclaimed work is incomparable.

A large chamber in the Academy building houses what are known as Michelangelo’s slaves. They are incomplete works of art that were in progress at the time of his death.

He always started with a piece of stone which yielded to his will as his skilled hands freed from it the intended work of art. Until the moment of completion each was always an incomplete work of art in progress. These incomplete works are called “slaves” because they have not yet been completely freed from the stone.

One is of a man whose upper torso and head are complete. The lower part is still the block of unhewn stone. It appears as though the man is standing in stone. In another the lower extremities of the body are complete and the unfinished block of stone rests on the person’s shoulders. It is as though he is struggling to free himself from the stone.

These incomplete works lack the quality of the completed works principally because they are unfinished. Do they mirror your life? Have you stopped part way in your spiritual pilgrimage? Don’t stop half-way. Let our Lord finish the work he began in you the moment of salvation. Let Him free you from spiritual enslavement.

To carry your salvation to its logical conclusion God is willing to help. “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).

Pray for Him to reveal His will to you knowing He will once He sees in you the will to do it. Pray:

“Lord guide me, the sea is so big and my boat is so small.”

Often God guides through long and uncertain pathways. However, if we will follow He will guide.

Young Kurt’s world was turned up-side-down when at age 4 his dad left home. Fortunately there were Christian male role models that came into his life. Some were coaches who saw potential in little Kurt as he developed. He played football at Cedar Rapids High, and earned a scholarship to Northern Iowa where he warmed the bench for four years before becoming a fifth year starter. He got a try out with Green Bay but lasted only two weeks in preseason camp.

He went back to Cedar Rapids and took a job as a stock boy in a Hy-Vee Grocery Store paying $5.50 an hour. Their slogan is “A Smile In Every Aisle.”

While working there he got a call offering him an opportunity to play for the Iowa Barnstormers in the Arena Football League. This eight man game played indoors on a field about half the size of a normal field, but that was better than nothing for a competitor. After a few seasons he was offered a chance to play for the Amsterdam Admirals in the Netherlands.

In 1992 Kurt Warner married a Christian who stimulated his own faith. Their shared faith in God is summed up in this statement by Kurt: “I never lost hope, He had a plan for me.”

Last year shortly before the NFL season began Kurt Warner was signed by the St. Louis Rams to play back-up quarterback. His wife Brenda reminded him, “If you have faith in God’s plan, things will work out for you.”

An injury to the franchise quarterback put Kurt in the starting role. It was a fabled season. He threw 41 touchdown passes and amassed 4,353 yards to lead the leagues Number 1 ranked offense and be named the leagues MVP.

This past season at age 28, in the Georgia Dome, he led the Rams to the Super Bowl championship and became the games MVP.

In the post-game interview in the Dome and on global TV he said, “Let first things be first! I want to give all the glory and all the praise to the Lord and Savior above. THANK YOU JESUS.”

His coach, Dick Vermeil said of Kurt Warner: “He is a classic example of what we would all like to be – on and off the field. He has persistence and a deep faith.”

We can’t all be Superbowl MVP’s but we can show the same faithfulness to God’s calling upon our lives. Kurt’s example is a living appeal to pray:

“Lord, free me from the pressure of doing great
things in the world by being great in doing small things for you.
Help me to persist even though I want to give up.
Help me to keep trying even though I can’t see what good it does.
Help me to keep praying although at times I’m not sure You hear me.
Help me to keep living in a way that seeks to please You.
Help me to know when to lead and when to follow.
Help me to know when to speak and when to keep silent.
Help me to know when to wait and when to act.
Lord, please help me to hang on.
Please don’t let me give up.
Help me to remember that, like the sun in the morning,
You come when it is time.”

“It is God who works in you both to will and to do…” The same Greek word is translated “works” and “to do.” It is ENERGEIN. In it we can hear our word for energy. This word is only used in the New Testament as a reference to action of God. It is effective action because it is action of God. His actions are not to remain half-finished. Carry your salvation to its logical conclusion.

Observe, this Bible and glove.

I might say to the glove, “I want you to pick up the Bible. It is my will for you to do it!” Nothing happens.

I might appeal, “Please pick up the Bible. I really want you to.” Still no response.

I might order the glove to pick up the Bible, “Pick it up and do it NOW!” If it does —- that door is mine.

I might even demonstrate how to pick up the Bible and appeal to the glove, “Now, do it like that.” Still no action.

I might preach to it, “Pick up the Bible, it’s the thing to do. There is great joy in picking up Bible. Now is the time.” Nothing! It can’t pick up the Bible.

BUT if I put my hand in the glove —– then the will, power and ability of my hand becomes the will, power and ability of the glove. When that happens the glove can do what my hand wants to do and the Bible is picked up easily.

It is Christ who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure.

The illustration only breaks down when it is realized that we unlike the glove have the will to resist the Hand. We in our will must be willing to say, “Thy will be done.” When we do it is done by His enabling grace.

Without your consenting help even the actions of God are not completed.

He enlightens and empowers us. He reveals His will and He gives resources for doing it. Therefore, don’t argue with God: “Do all without murmuring and disputing” (Philippians 2:14).

Instead of arguing with God work with the conviction that the promises of God are true.

A logical conclusion of our salvation is that our life should be a sacrificial life of servanthood. Paul uses his life as an illustration: “I am being poured out like a drink offering” (Philippians 2:17). This was a process used in making sacrifices by the Jews and pagans. At a time in the ceremony of worship a drink that would have been a tasty refreshing beverage was poured on the sacrifice as a sacrifice itself. Paul depicted his life as perpetually being sacrificed to and for Christ.

That depicts our biggest problem as Christians. We evidence an unwillingness to give up control of our lives, to abandon them in faith to become Christ like. We give the impression that our lives can’t be good unless we control them. Our trust of Christ must bring us to the point where we are willing to be poured out as a sacrifice knowing the future belongs to God.

Talking about abandonment is beautiful and easy. Doing it is right and responsible — but also challenging.

The statement “work out your own salvation” is an imperative moral command to be obeyed. Don’t downgrade your responsibility as some do. They refer to believers as passive objects, such as, clay and branches, forgetting the Bible also calls us ambassadors, soldiers, servants, watchmen, and children of God.

God works IN and we work OUT. Christianity isn’t a matter of ups and downs but ins and outs.

Look at the linkage in Philippians 2:12 and 13: “…work out your own salvation … for it is God who works in you both to will and to do…”

The Lord works in our thought processes. He works in us to will. We can either dismiss His thoughts and neglect them or let them become ours and result in our actions.

Make sure your thoughts are Christ’s thoughts
because they become your words.
Make sure your words are Christ’s words
because they become your actions.
Make sure your actions are Christ’s actions
because they become your habits.
Make sure your habits are Christ’s habits
because they become your values.
Make sure your values are Christ’s values
because they become your destiny.

It all begins with a thought and ends with a destiny. When inspired and aware of His will do it. Your destiny is at risk.

Thus, we are depicted as the engine and He as the fuel. Both are required if the proper function is to be performed. He is the in filling, unfailing, empowering, and enabling Source.

He is our inspiration. He provides the will, that is, the knowledge as to what to do. He doesn’t quit then. It isn’t as though He gives us a grand
revelation and not the capacity to do it. He works in us to do His good will.

A person suffering from a deadly disease may be offered an absolute cure for the disease that is certain to be fatal. However, the cure is of no effect unless the patient takes the medicine.

A mentor may have the answer to a perplexing question causing great difficulty but the solution isn’t achieved if the student stubbornly refuses the scholars wisdom.

So God offers salvation that works but it is of no effect if the persons won’t respond positively to His offer.