In our studies on living in the Spirit, the Scriptures have shown us how fear is in direct opposition to faith. This of course is in reference to fleshly fear which we allow to keep us from believing or doing the will of God. It is clear that we must face and oppose anything that makes us hesitant about trusting and obeying our Father.
Yet there is another kind of fear which actually is in perfect harmony with our faith, and may be the needed incentive to put you over the edge for God. Call it reverence or respect, we are to fear God; for Proverbs says it is the beginnning of knowledge and wisdom. Though there are no contradictions in the Scriptures, as we have noted before, faith has a peculiar, paradoxical nature. Here we will see how the right kind of fear is actually a good thing for us spiritually.
1 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Though we know God is One, and that He came as Christ to die for our sins, He also came to be the Perfect Example of how to do God's will and to achieve His glory. How important is it for you to find out and spend the rest of your life pursuing this? Some of our people think it's only left to preachers, missionaries or so-called professional holy men to do God's will and the rest of us just throw a little money at them and stand back and watch. Then why did Christ reveal the truth to you. There is no place in the Scriptures where any Israelite is exempt from being responsible to seek out and perform God's will in your life.
The Apostle Paul emphasizes over and over in his Epistles the importance of having the right mindset. Here he told them to "be likeminded...of one mind", to have an attitude of "lowliness of mind", and to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus". So when it comes to fear, though it may be in relation to something that is outside of you, the fear itself is an attitude or mindset within you. Here is our focus:
12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye 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. 13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Paul loved these Philippian believers. He had made many sacrifices to reach and teach them in the past. He knew they respected him and were on their best behavior while he was around. But his desire for them was for them to see God that way, Who was with them and in them all the time. We must overcome this 'out of sight out of mind' attitude about being a Christian.
Christianity isn't a Sunday morning or a three time a week thing, or even a when-the-preacher or certain holy people are around thing. It is a 24 hour, 7 days a week, 365 days a year thing- it is a lifestyle. We must grow out of this external, episodic religion where we allow outer circumstances and being in certain people's "presence" determine when we 'turn on and off' our perceived Christianity. It's been said we are only as good a Christian as we are when we are alone. Yet we are never really alone, for God is always there.
We each must take responsibility and make the Christian life our own. The day is coming, when these shallow brands of external 'churchianity' people claim is Christianity, will be exposed for what they really are. As the conditions of this world continue to worsen, what people have learned and are externally practicing will fall by the wayside. What we must seek and possess is the pure and powerful Christianity taught in the Scriptures. We are not just to seek something we can be comfortable with, but to be totally convinced we are in the faith and have no doubts we have the truth, following Christ alone.
Christianity is not something we do, it's an expression of who we are. Christ did not come to merely place His endorsement upon judaism but to expose that it was nothing more than an externally-based, superficial counterfeit. Christ taught, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount that Christianity was from the inside out. There must come a time when we stop being childish and put away childish things. Most all of us have spent many years, possibly most of our lives, sincerely participating in external religion and thinking we are closer to God than others because of external things we do or do not perform. This has not and will not get it done. God expects more from us than manufactured, cookie-cutter religion.
Basically, this is how we do it. In order for you to "work out your own salvation", you must realize it is already in you. Due to the influences of judeochristianity, we've been led to believe salvation is somewhere outside of us: at an altar, in a baptismal pool, in a denomination, or thru a preacher. Salvation is already in every Israelite, it is for us to become mindful of it and work it out.
Obviously the only way for it to come "out" or to manifest itself is thru some kind of "work." According to this, God "worketh in you." How do we respond? We work it out. How does God work it in? By the indwelling Spirit. That's the only way we can work it out as well.
As we are discovering, obedience to God is not thru externally observing certain rules and commandments. Obedience to God is a matter of the heart, it originates from the depths of who we are. As we see in the preceding verses which set up this teaching, Christ "always obeyed." We would have to admit, up to this point, for the most part, we have not. Yet that does not mean we cannot give it our all from here on out!
Many say they want to do the will of God. But when they find out what they have to give up or sacrifice in order to work it out, they back way off. That's why judeochristanity, doing the same thing, hearing the same things, over and over again, is so appealing to us. That's also why Christ says things like if you want to find your life, you must lose it.
Everything God does for you is so you will do His will. Notice, He "worketh in you." Not only does He orchestrate circumstances and work thru other people's lives in regards to you and around you, but everything He does in you is "both to will and to do of his good pleasure." If any of what the denominations have our people doing is pleasing to God, why is America falling apart at the seams?
GOD IS EXPECTING SOME MEANINGFUL RESULTS TO COME FORTH FROM YOUR LIFE. You are His child, He loves you. He created you and even died to forgive you of your sins. Our Father knows what's best for us and wants what's best for us. Yet if we never see the need to rise above the status quo people call serving God today, nothing of any real value may ever come from our lives for God's glory. If you continue to think it's all about what you want and not that of your brother, you will never reach God's glory for your life. For how can one legitimately believe Christ is our Perfect Example of have to serve God, while not being willing to make any sacrifices for our brother when he really needs it?
Now we come to the heart of the matter. It says here we are to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Is this a contradiction in the Scriptures?! For Paul told Timothy, "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear." With all the verses and many examples in the Scriptures we find and have studied together which tell us not to fear, could this be a mistake? Absolutely not. The only Person we are to fear is God Himself, and the only circumstance we are to fear is not doing God's will and falling short of the glory of God.
Everybody has fear. The thing is, everyone's fear is either creature-based or Creator-based. It's either based on something in this world or in the world to come. We either fear a consequence within this creation, whether it be from another person or man-made institution, or we fear God. We either fear letting down another creature or we fear letting down God. THE ONLY THING WE SHOULD FEAR IS NOT DOING THE WILL OF GOD AS COMPLETELY AS WE CAN. This is truly how we prove that we fear God rather than men.
Though Christ was fully God, He was also fully Man. Throughout His life on earth and especially at His arrest, trial, and up to His crucifixion, Christ was confronted with the most intense of external circumstances. When they smote Him, plucked His beard, scourged Him with the cat-of-nine-tails and so on, He was bombarded with opportunities to give in to fear. He even said, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me" showing that His greatest battle was from within His mind. What made the difference? It had to be when He set His mind to go to the cross as a Man in the Garden of Gethsemene as He said, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thy will be done." Thru this He proved to us what the right kind of fear really is.
Christ knew the Scriptures, and He was well aware of the prophetic utterance of Isaiah which said, "Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him." Therefore the only way He could overcome any other fear in His flesh was to fear not doing the perfect will of God- He knew He had to die on the cross. More than likely God is not expecting us to die for Him, especially under such agonizing circumstances. Yet it must be the primary goal of our personal lives for each of us to find out precisely what God has worked in us to work out for His honor and glory. Surely, it's more than sitting in a pew or at a keyboard, going thru the motions until we die.
If we'll just open our eyes we will see so many of our people, even in our own families who know nothing of their identity and have many needs. God has worked it in you to work up and work out the courage and capability to reach them with the truth. Until we inwardly seek the will or desire of our heart, we will not do anything. Therefore it all comes down to finding out what our desires really are.
Since we see God has done all of this expecting results to come forth from our lives, there will be no legitimate excuse for not doing it when you stand before Him one day. It is critical that we recognize both the seriousness of crucifying our flesh and pursuing God's glory in our individual faith and practice. It may take a while, but we must stop pretending that living by faith and following the Spirit by controlling our thoughts is optional.
If you see that you are always able to find a way to doubt or fear, God is giving you the way of escape right here! IF YOU MUST HAVE SOMETHING TO FEAR, FEAR GOD! Fear falling short of His glory. Fear having to stand before Him one day to give an account of your life and having to admit you failed. Fear not hearing, "Well done thou good and faithful servant." This is the right kind of fear. This is the only kind of fear that is going to lead to doing "his good pleasure."
We wonder how David could face Goliath so fearlessly. We marvel at how Daniel could so easily walk into the lions' den- could this be it?! They feared not doing God's "good pleasure" more than they feared anything else.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings: 15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; 16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.
When all is said and done in our lives, if we do not seek the best God desires for us and doing His perfect will, Paul is saying, we have "laboured in vain." In the book of Revelation Christ told the church at Laodicea He would have us either be hot or cold. If we continue to just go thru the motions, living in fear of anything and everything other than God, we are lukewarm and will have no reason to "rejoice in the day of Christ." Our "murmurings and disputings" with others reveal our personal frustration for not making the effort inwardly to know what we desire and what God wants us to do.
1 From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? 2 Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. 3 Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
The only way we can transform such "a crooked and perverse nation" is if we are straight on what God desires from us, what we desire from Him, and then go after it by faith. Those who work out what God has worked in us to do, will "shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life" and will "rejoice in the day of Christ."
Just when we think we have it all figured out or may not see how it can be done, we run across another great insight in the Scriptures. God knows what we have need of before we ask Him. What a joy to study His Word and see how much our God loves us and wants us to have an abundant life.