Friday, April 13, 2018
Philippians 2:12 …continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling…
Psalms 2:11 Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling.
I was almost 17-years old when I experienced the combination of fear and trembling for the first time. I had been given permission to drive the family car to a high school hockey game in downtown Saint Paul, Minnesota. My two younger brothers were with me. After the game, as we were walking through an alley to the parking garage, we were confronted by three knife-wielding guys who forced us up against a building wall. I was literally shaking with fear. Did they want the car keys, our money, or our lives? At that moment, these men had all the power necessary to dictate the outcome of my life. I could generate no heroic thoughts. I felt weak and helpless. I was completely at their mercy.
I was scared of these men for three reasons: first, they were much more powerful than I was; second, I did not know their hearts and what they intended to do; and third, and most significantly, I did not trust my own ability to deliver myself from the situation. What a helpless feeling it is to be confronted by such power that all self-confidence is exhausted.
Can you see the spiritual application here? As sinners, we have been confronted with a Power that is infinitely beyond ours, and it has completely drained us of any confidence that we can rescue ourselves from our hopeless condition. We have our backs against a wall and there is no escape. But there is one difference between our confrontation with God about our sin and my confrontation with three guys with knives – we know the heart and the intentions of God. He is there to rescue us not to harm us. He is there to give us life not take it from us. He is there to fill us with value not take things of value from us. His heart is one of love, not hurt.
Because we know His heart and have experienced His love, our fear of condemnation has been eliminated. So why does Paul encourage us to continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Hasn’t fear been eliminated by grace?
Yes, and no!
The fear of judgment for sin is gone. The fear of the wrath of God is swallowed up in the love of a Father for His children. But the fear of the awesomeness of God is not diminished in any way. It can only be diminished by an arrogant evaluation of self. Only when we think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think do we begin to diminish the level of fear of the awesome power of God. Only in pride of who we are does the fear of who God is shrink. This is not healthy. Let him who thinks he stands beware, because he is about to fall. God is a jealous God, and he will not share His glory with people who think they can compare themselves to Him. We must maintain a fear of the awesomeness of God.
We also work out our salvation in fear and trembling because we distrust our ability to completely meet all of God’s requirements. When confronted with the power and holiness of God we are humbled. When challenged with the command to be holy as He is holy, we tremble, knowing our inability to accomplish it. Having been rescued from the hopeless situation of sin by the saving grace of Jesus, we are immediately put into another hopeless situation of striving after the holiness of God. That is why we work out our salvation with fear and trembling – because we know we are not capable of achieving the goal.
But Christ does accomplish the goal of holiness in us. The author of Hebrews said, “God has perfected forever those who are being made holy.” With our backs against the wall, in fear and trembling, we praise God that the Holy Spirit in us is perfecting us.
So how did the drama in the alley turn out. Come back Monday to find out.