Reflections – 2019.12

Glorifying God: Working Out Our Own Salvation

The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.

– Westminster Shorter Catechism

God has twisted together His glory and our good.

– Thomas Watson, from A Body of Divinity

I spend a good deal of time at my desk on my computer, writing sermons, responding to and sending emails, checking out the latest news and sports scores.  When it is warm outside, you might find me mowing the lawn or repairing something or painting – Whether I am inside or outside, none of what I do is particularly vigorous activity.   I used to play basketball twice a week in the early morning at C.Milton Wright high school, but the county eliminated that from my life when it was decided that despite twenty-five years of continuous play without incident, our group was in some way a menace.  Some men my age have gone in for running as a way to “stay in shape.”  For those in my ex-basketball group, having to jog to stay healthy was considered the time when we should be “put out of our misery.”  But here I am, no basketball, no desire to do the half-marathon … stuck.  But for $9.99 / month I have entered a world of middle-age suburbanites who don’t exactly want to be good at running, but also feel like they should try to do something about their activity level, a group of people who dream of better days and accomplishing goals – working out our stresses while watching large TVs, lifting weights without any certainty that we are doing it the right way, but at the end feeling that at least we did “something”… and all of this without being judged!

My son goes with me (he suggested it actually) and he is working out for a purpose, knowing that strength and speed are important if you are going to continue to improve as an athlete.  I think my running friends are more purposeful too.  They are running to accomplish something in particular, whether it is to build up their endurance so that they can run their first marathon or improve on their time or even just to finish the race.  How different purposeful strength training and training for a race are from running on a treadmill watching reruns of Star Trek.

Paul instructs the Philippians (and us): “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”  It is the LORD’s good pleasure (i.e., it brings Him glory) when as He works in us, we work out our salvation.  We build it up, we strengthen it, we train our salvation muscles and so increase our endurance, by growing in holiness and stretching our hearts and minds and wills in prayer and in Scripture … and all of this for excellent purpose – “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Christ is at the end of the race – He is the goal.  He is the One who invited you into the race.  He is the One who is working in you throughout the race.   And so we work out our salvation, we vigorously keep at the Christian life, because we want to know Him.  How different this vision is then living a life without Christ, with no prize at the end – Just a treadmill of trying to be a good person with the false promise that no one around you will judge you … you get to just “do you” and be entertained while you go nowhere … except that Jesus says this actually does lead somewhere, “For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many.”  Judgment.

So it’s time for us to work out our salvation.  It brings glory to God and it is for our good … and because of the work of Christ, it’s judgment-free … for real.