WONDERFUL THING IN THIS PASSAGE – There was much interest and some surprise at my previous devotional describing “normal Christianity.” I’m not using the word normal to mean typical, for we don’t find the Christianity that I and, I believe, Paul described to be at all typical. I use the word in its more formal sense of “conforming to a norm or standard.” With the Christian life, the only one who gets to set the norm is Christ – not me, not my church, not my theology – just Jesus. And He does so solely through His written Word.
I believe that today’s chapter summarizes that biblically “normal” Christian life in one sentence:
“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12-13 NASB).
In the normal Christian life, God does all the heavy lifting:
He is “in you.” He’s not working from the outside with external musts and must nots. He has infiltrated and occupies the deepest part of your person. That is, in fact, the very definition of being a Christian: “If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to him” (Rom. 8:9).
God is “at work.” He’s not sitting idly by, hoping you’ll make the right choices and take the right actions to represent Him well. He has already decided that He will make you like Jesus in this life, and He has fully committed himself to that process: “Those He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). He is actively at work every moment to make you all He created you to be.
The normal Christian life is not about service but about surrender: the absolute surrender to God of your own preferences, opinions, fears, hopes, dreams, goals – your own “will.” You can do that by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. You can fully and completely surrender your will to your Creator, Savior, and Lord. When you do that (however briefly), He substitutes His perfect divine will at the very core of your life. He is “at work in you to will” the things that bring Him “good pleasure.”
Then, as your mind, emotions, and body remain under the direction of His will, He is consciously at work in you “to work” to accomplish the things that please Him. The normal Christian is not so much like a worker taking orders as he is like a work glove on God’s hand. What the glove wants doesn’t matter; what it is capable of doesn’t matter. The Master chooses each glove for each task and it is only His will and His skill that matters.
WONDERFUL THING IN MY LIFE – So what’s my part in all of this? To consciously let Christ slip my life onto His pierced hand each morning and to spend as much of the day as possible “working out” this wonderful salvation. As long as the glove remains pliable and remains on the hand of its Master, it accomplishes His will and His work.
Lastly, we do this “with fear and trembling.” But not that of the slave cringing before his master’s rod but that of the devoted child who is so revulsed by the thought of displeasing and dishonoring his father that he rejects his own selfish desires and wholly submits to his good father’s will and direction.