Work Out Your Own Salvation

June 14, 2020 ()

Bible Text: Philippians 2:12-13 |


Work Out Your Own Salvation | Philippians 2:12-13
Brian Hedges | June 14, 2020

Well, let’s turn in God’s word this morning to Philippians 2.

It was Martin Luther who said that the church is like a drunken peasant, always falling off one side of the donkey or the other. He said that to illustrate the extremes that the church tends to go. It’s hard, it seems, for the church, when you look at the history of the church, for the church to maintain biblical balance.

You can see that with almost any doctrine. Think about the doctrine of the person of Christ. The church spent four centuries hammering that out. You had some groups that were so emphasizing the humanity of Christ that they denied Jesus’ deity, that he was eternally one with God. On the other hand, you had groups that so emphasized the deity of Christ that they essentially denied the humanity and said that Jesus only seemed to have a body. He kind of had a phantom body, he was God in a man’s suit, but without a truly human nature.

You see the same things with doctrines of justification, where you have the church veering into legalism on one hand or antinomianism on the other. It’s also true with sanctification, with the doctrine of the Christian life. How do we live the Christian life?

On the one hand, you have groups that emphasize our effort so strongly that they become moralistic, where it’s all about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, it’s all about your effort, what you do in the Christian life.

In reaction to that, you have other groups (this would be true in groups that are characterized by what’s called “quietism”) that so emphasize the work of God and dependence on God that they de-emphasize the importance of our own personal effort. So the idea for those groups is, “Let go and let God,” and if you are expending effort, if you know anything of struggle, then you must be living in the energy of the flesh and you haven’t really entered into the higher life, the deeper life, the Spirit-filled life, or whatever you want to call it.

Well, I think when we look at what the Scripture says (that’s always what’s necessary in these debates; we look back at what the Scriptures themselves say), we find that there is balance. There is a biblical balance between what we are required to do, our work, and what God promises to do, God’s work. You see that balance in the passage we’re going to look at this morning, Philippians 2:12-13.

We’re just looking at two verses. I really debated whether to do verses 12-13 or 12-18, but there’s so much here, and I think it’s so important, I decided to just go with the two verses. It’s an important passage that Maryn Lloyd-Jones says is “one of the most perfect summaries of the Christian life to be found anywhere.” So I want to read it, and then I’m going to break it down in this way: four points of explanation, exposition; and then quickly at the end four points of application. So essentially it’s an eight-point sermon; I’m going to try to be brief on the points, so that we get through this in 40 minutes or so. Let’s read the text.

Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

This is God’s word.

I want you to see four things: the foundation, the command, the motivation, and the power for the Christian life. Four things, and then we’ll end with four brief points of application.

I. The Foundation

First of all, the foundation of the Christian life. It’s all in that first word and, really, the phrases that follow, “Therefore…” That’s the connecting word. It connects to what went before. When I was growing up, there was an old preacher who used to say, somewhat quaintly and obviously, but he would say, “Anytime you see a ‘therefore’ in the Bible, you have to ask, ‘What is it there for?’” because there’s a purpose there. That word connects to what went before.

Do you remember what went before? We looked at it last week. If you were watching online, we looked at verses 5-11, and it essentially gives us the gospel, as Paul tells us to have this mind in us which is ours in Christ Jesus, to have the mind of Christ, the mindset of Christ. Then he goes on to give what the most beautiful and comprehensive outlines of the gospel in somewhat of a hymnlike form as he talks about Jesus, who was in the very form of God, he was equal with God, but he did not count that equality something to be grasped at, to be exploited, but he made himself nothing, he became a servant. He came in the likeness of human flesh, he became obedient to death, even death on the cross; and God has highly exalted him and given him the name that is above every name. It is a powerful summary of the gospel, as Paul shares that gospel to show us how Christ is our pattern for living.

Then he says, “ out your own salvation…” In other words, what I want you to see here is that the gospel itself is the foundation for living the Christian life.

I love the way the Puritan John Owen put it. He said, “Gospel truth is the only root whereon gospel holiness will grow.” If you want the fruit of transformation, if you want the fruit of gospel holiness, if you want the fruit of a sanctified life, the only way you’re going to get that is through the gospel itself. You have to have that foundation. So there’s the “therefore.”

But notice, Paul also says, “Therefore, my beloved.” That’s important, because before he tells them what to do he expresses his affection for them. They are beloved. He loves them. And probably he also means that they are beloved by God, that God loves them.

This is so important, and I think there’s a great insight here for pastoral ministry or counseling or discipleship or parenting. Before you give an exhortation, you lay the foundation of the gospel and you affirm love. You affirm love, because Paul does not want the Philippian believers to be like children who are afraid they’re going to lose the love of their parents, so they’re always tiptoeing not to rock the boat, kind of this “foreman’s base” mentality, where, “My dad’s love for me is conditioned on how well I’m doing.” That’s not the kind of Father that God is.

The Father loved us when we were yet sinners, he loved us when we were enemies, he loved us when we were dead in our trespasses and our sins. He loved us into his family, and he loves us now, even as we are still in the process of growth. So Paul says, “Therefore, my beloved…”

And then he affirms their obedience, their characteristic obedience. He says, “ you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence, but much more in my absence…” Remember, he’s in prison, probably in Rome; they’re in Philippi. They’re separated. There’s this anxiety that they’re not together. Paul is essentially saying, “Listen, you’ve been obeying. You obeyed when I was with you, you’ve always obeyed.” It doesn’t mean that they are sinlessly perfect, but their lives have been characterized by obedience to Jesus Christ, and “as you have obeyed, keep on obeying. Obey even though I’m not with you now, in my absence, and work out your own salvation.” There’s the foundation: the foundation of the gospel, the love that God has for us, and this affirmation of what God has already done. He’s already brought us to a point of obedience. There’s the foundation, and that leads right into the command, “Work out your own salvation.”

II. The Command

Now, as you know (and if you’re familiar with our church, you’ve been at our church for any length of time, we’ve talked about this), salvation is a broad word. It essentially means deliverance, deliverance from sin. But when we talk about salvation, and when the Bible talks about salvation, it can refer to salvation in the past, in the present, or in the future.

Salvation in the past: our sins are dealt with through the atoning work of Christ. That work is finished. Remember when Jesus died on the cross, he offered this perfect sacrifice to God, you remember what he said? He said, “It is finished.” That is work is complete.

Then there’s salvation in the future. There is this future dimension. You remember how Paul says in Romans 13, “Now is our salvation nearer than when we first believed.” He’s talking to believers, but he says our salvation is nearer. He goes on to tell them that they are to cast off the garments, the clothes of the night, the works of darkness, and they are to put on Christ and put on the armor of light. They are to dress as people who belong to the day. He’s essentially telling them that “your salvation is coming; now live in light of the morning dawn that is about to break.” It’s salvation that’s yet to be revealed.

But there’s also a very real sense in which we are being saved. We are in the process of being more and more fully delivered from the dominion of sin in our lives. That dominion is decisively broken (“He breaks the power of cancelled sin, / He sets the prisoner free”), but the outworking of that in our lives practically is a process.

So when Paul says, “Work out your own salvation,” I think that’s what he has in mind. We can distinguish between God’s work for us and God’s work in us. God’s work for us is done through Christ and by the Spirit, but God’s work in us is an ongoing thing, and God has already begun that, he’s continuing that, and Paul I think is referring to that. In fact, in verse 13 he says, “For God works in you.” This is God’s work in us, it’s God’s sanctifying, transforming work in our lives.

He says, “Work out your own salvation.” Those words “your own…” He’s writing to the church, they’re plural, so it carries the idea of the body of Christ working it out together, but it includes, by necessity, individual, personal application. Both are involved. Sanctification is a community project; it’s something that we all are involved in together, but each one has individual, personal responsibility to work out our own salvation.

Then that phrase “work out” is so important. The Greek word here was used for the process of getting silver out of a mine, a silver mine. Think about this shaft in the ground, and there’s silver, there’s metal there, but it has to be worked out, it has to be mined out in order for the owner of the mind to actually bring it into possession. The riches are already his, but he has to work to bring it out.

This word was used of farming. Think of the seed that has been sown in a field, and then the process of cultivating, weeding, watering, and so on, in order for there to be a harvest; that would be working out.

Or let me give you another illustration that I think fits just because of the language here, “work out.” In fact, you might think of this whole sermon as something about how to have a spiritual workout.

Have you ever worked out, and do you know what’s involved in working out? This kind of a new thing in life for me. About nine months ago I decided to get really serious about it, got a gym membership, and started working out.

So here’s the deal: when you start working out, you don’t get any new muscles. The muscles are already there. You feel like you’re getting new muscles, because all of a sudden you feel things that you’ve never felt before. But essentially all you’re doing is you are working out the muscles that are already there. You’re developing them, you’re strengthening them. You’re toning the muscles you already have.

This is something else I learned, is that any good trainer’s going to tell you to focus on different muscle groups different days of the week, right? So you have back and bicep day, and chest and tricep day, and leg day (you don’t like leg day). But you’re focusing on these different muscle groups.

You could think of this as a spiritual analogy. You already have grace, you already have salvation, you’re already a new creature in Christ, you already have the spiritual muscles; but you need to get them toned. You need to work them out. You already have faith, but that faith needs to be strengthened. You already have love, but that love needs to be exercised.

Listen to how Charles Spurgeon put it. He said, “The first business of a Christian should be to see that all his own graces are in a vigorous condition; that repentance always leaps for sin, that faith always looks to the cross, that patience becomes stronger to bear her cross, and hope’s eyes are clear to behold the coming glory. ‘And to faith we add courage, and to courage patience, and to patience brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness charity.’” You see how he’s focusing on individual graces—repentance, faith, hope, courage?

Then he says, “We are never to sit down and fold our arms and say, ‘My life work is over. I am saved! I have no pilgrimage to make to the Celestial City. I wage no war for driving out the Canaanites.’” Oh beloved, the time of rest will come on the hither side of Jordan, but as yet it is for you to press forward like the racer whose prize is not yet won, and to watch like a warrior whose conflict is not ended. Your own salvation is your first concern.”

Work out your own salvation. That’s what Paul says. You have to develop and strengthen those spiritual muscles, those graces of the Spirit, and bring them into full exercise. That’s the command; we’ve seen the foundation.

III. The Motivation

Now here’s the third: the motivation. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” With fear and trembling.

Doesn’t Scripture say that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and of a sound mind, and that perfect love casts out fear? So Paul, are you and John not in agreement here? John’s the one who said perfect love casts out fear. Paul himself says God’s not given us a spirit of fear. Why does he say here, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”?

I think he has a particular kind of fear in mind. It’s not the cowering, servile fear of the slave before his abusive master, it is the reverence that a child has for its father. It is the sense of awe that we have before the majesty of God.

Scripture describes this over and over again as the fear of the Lord. Psalm 2:11, “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” I love that, because it shows that this fear and joy belong together. “Rejoice with trembling.”

Or Isaiah 66:2, “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in heart, and who trembles at my word.” There’s a place for trembling in the Christian life.

Listen, this is not just an Old Testament theme; this is a New Testament theme. Paul says it here. Peter says essentially the same thing in 1 Peter 1, that we are to live the lives of our pilgrimage with fear. Or listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 7:1: “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” There’s a place for the fear of the Lord in our lives.

Calvin distinguishes between two kinds of fear. There is the fear that brings humility, and there is the fear that brings what he calls hesitation, or doubt. There is a kind of fear that makes you doubt the love of God. That’s not what Paul has in mind. Spurgeon says it’s not fear of hell (that’d be like the Roman Catholic view, always afraid that you haven’t done enough and that you’re going to go to hell). It’s not the fear of losing your salvation (that would be the Arminian view). It is the fear of offending your Father! It’s the fear of grieving the Holy Spirit.

Let me give you an illustration of this. John MacArthur tells a story of C.T. Studd. C.T. Studd was a 19th-century British athlete, played cricket (kind of like baseball; not really, but kind of like baseball). He was born into this wealthy family, had all this money, he was a great athlete, he was famous…

When he became a Christian, he gave up everything. This guy was 110 per cent at whatever he did; that’s why he was such a great athlete. He inherited all this money, he gave it all away, and he went to the mission field. He was really an intense guy.

MacArthur tells a story about C.T. Studd, who was in a tent or somewhere (I think it was in Africa). He was with another missionary colleague, and they’re in terrible living conditions. It’s terribly cold, there’s no heat, they could barely sleep.

In the middle of the night, this colleague wakes up and he sees C.T. Studd shivering, with a blanket around him, in the corner of his tent, reading his Bible by candlelight. He asks him, “What are you doing? Why aren’t you resting?”

This is what C.T. Studd said. “I felt something was wrong in my relation to the Lord, and so I am reading through the New Testament to check all the commands, in case I have unwittingly violated any of them.” Now that’s intense! “I feel like something’s off in my relationship with God, so what am I going to do? Read through the whole New Testament and see where am I not obeying.”

But listen, that’s the kind of intensity that leads to spiritual growth. That’s the kind of intensity that I think Paul has in mind when he says, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Expend some effort in your Christian life! That’s the kind of thing that the fear of the Lord will lead to. If you fear to grieve the Spirit, if you fear sin, if you fear offending God, just say with Charles Wesley,

“I want a principle within
Of watchful, godly fear;
A sensibility of sin,
A pain to feel it near.
I want the first approach to feel
Of pride or wrong desire,
To catch the wandering of my will
And quench the kindling fire.”

Listen, brothers and sisters: if we don’t have any of that fear in our hearts, if we’re not afraid to grieve the Spirit, it probably means you already have. It probably means you already have. It probably means you’re already drifting and in a backslidden state. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” There’s the motivation.

IV. The Power

Then fourthly, the power for the Christian life. Verse 13, “...for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” You see the balance. Here’s the balance. You work out, because God has worked in. It’s not all up to you, but you have responsibility. But God does something. He works in us.

It reminds us, doesn’t it, of Philippians 1:6, which we’ve already looked at in this series, where Paul says that he is confident that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” God has begun a work, he’s working in you, he’s working in your heart, he’s working in your soul, he’s working in your life; and because he’s working in you, work it out.

What is it that God does when he works in us? We are the handiwork of God, right, the workmanship of God, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10). But what is it that God does when he’s working in us? He does two things, he works on two levels. He works on the level of desires, internally, and he works on the level of action, externally. He works in you “both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

That word “to will” means to desire or determine or resolve. It includes both the affections, the choices; it covers your motives, your desires, your inclinations; all of those things. Spurgeon says, “He works in us to will—the desire after holiness, the resolution to put down sin, the pang of grief because we have sinned, the stern resolve that we will not fall into that sin again—all, all is of God.” He works in us to will.

Did you know that every inclination you have for God comes from God? Every desire you have to crack open your Bible, that was born in your heart, birthed in your heart by the Spirit of God. Every sense of longing for the presence of God and prayer, do you know where that comes from? It comes from the Spirit of God in you! He works in you to will, to desire; he inclines your heart toward himself.

We should pray for that. Psalm 119:36, “Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain.” Do you ever pray that prayer? “Lord, bend my heart towards you, because I feel it bent the other way.”

He works in us to will, and then here’s the second level: he works in us to work. That’s the Greek word energeō, from which we get our word “energy” or “energize.” It means to empower, to bring an act to completion, and it means that God not only gives us new desires, but he gives us the power to carry them out. J.I. Packer calls this “life supernaturalized at the motivational level.” God working in us to will and to work.

Listen, this is the pervasive emphasis of Scripture, this balance of what you do and what God does. Your role and God’s role—there’s this balance. It’s not, “Let go and let God,” and it’s also not pull yourself up by the bootstraps. It’s not quietism, it’s not pietism. It’s not that you are entirely passive. You’re active, but you’re active with dependence on God.

I love the illustration of Jerry Bridges, this great author from the late 20th century. He says it’s like an airplane with two wings, and he actually has the diagram in his book The Disciplines of Grace. Two wings; one is labeled discipline, the other is labeled dependence. Take off either one of those wings, and the plane goes down.

Listen, if your Christian life is all discipline and no dependence on God, you’re not going to grow. And if your Christian life is all focused on, “Depend on the Lord. Let go, let God,” but you don’t lift your finger to read your Bible, you’re not going to grow. There’s a balance, and listen, that balance is everywhere in Scripture.

Let me give you some verses. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Who lives your Christian life, Paul? Is it you or is it Christ? You know what he says? “Yes.”

1 Corinthians 15:10, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” Where’s the power for obedience coming from, Paul; is it God’s grace or you working hard? You know what he says? “Yes.”

Here’s one more, Hebrews 13:20-21. This is kind of a benediction. “Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good, that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Who’s doing his will? You are, but he’s equipping you to do it, and he’s working in you what is pleasing in his sight. You see, it’s both. It’s both.

There’s a great illustration from a narrative in Scripture, and in our Wednesday night men’s group (four or five months ago before everything cancelled) we were talking about this. Matt Eby actually shared this illustration from Acts 27. I think this is a great illustration. It’s when Paul is on this ship, and the ship is going to be shipwrecked, and everybody’s afraid they’re going to die.

The Lord comes and gives Paul a promise. He says, “I’ve given you the life of everybody on the ship. You’re all going to survive.” But they have to stay in the boat. Some of the sailors are trying to leave; you know, they’re trying to escape from the ship. Paul says, “Don’t try to escape, or you’ll perish. We all have to stay here together.”

Now, there’s already a promise, but they’re to cooperate, they’re to stay together in order to see that promise fulfilled.

That’s, I think, a great illustration of what’s going on in our sanctification. God promises to transform us, to sanctify us, to make us more like Christ. He works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure. And he says, “Get busy and do something. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”

Jonathan Edwards said, “In efficacious [or effectual] grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest; but God does all, and we do all. God produces all, and we act all, for that is what he produces, our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we are the only proper actors. We are in different respects wholly passive and wholly active.” The Christian life is 100 per cent God’s work and it is 100 per cent you cooperating with him.

Then notice, just briefly before we conclude, notice the purpose for all this. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Why does God work in you? For his good pleasure. He just points us back to God’s grace. “Who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If you then received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”

If God is working in you, it’s because God chose to work in you, it’s because God willed to work in you; it’s because it is God’s good pleasure to work in you. That should lead us to humility. It means we’re absolutely dependent on the Lord.

Let me conclude this way. Let me give you in four very brief steps a spiritual workout plan, okay? Just to go back to the analogy, a spiritual workout plan. What does this involve, for you to work out spiritually, to get fit spiritually?

(1) Number one, start training. Just start. Any trainer—probably any physician—is going to say some exercise is better than no exercise. That’s true spiritually as well. Start. 1 Timothy 4 says, “Train yourself for godliness. For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also the life to come.”

You might think of this in these two ways. Think about disciplines that exercise graces. Just as you have specific exercises that work out specific muscles, right—curls work your biceps, presses work your chest—in the same way, there are spiritual disciplines, and they work out spiritual muscles, they work out the graces in our lives.

What are the spiritual disciplines? It’s things like meditation on Scripture, prayer, servanthood, solitude, silence, fasting. Those are disciplines. Those are exercises. But those exercises are given in order to work a spiritual grace, to work a muscle. So, what are those spiritual muscles that you want to develop? Those are things like faith, repentance, love, humility, courage, zeal. They are the inward dispositions and attitudes, the character qualities of godliness.

So I think to ask ourselves some questions might be helpful. You might ask yourself, “Where am I spiritually flabby? Where am I out of shape in my thoughts, my words, my attitudes, my habits, my behaviors? Which spiritual muscles, which graces are weak? Is my faith weak? Is my love for others weak? Is my repentance weak, is my humility, my courage, my hope, my endurance—am I weak in these graces?”

Another way to get at it is, where are you struggling with sin? Any place in your life where you’re struggling with sin, the opposite grace is weak. So if you’re a really, really selfish person, the grace of love is weak in your life. If you are a very fearful person, the grace of courage is weak in your life. If you’re a proud person, the grace of humility is weak in your life.

So you choose, then, disciplines that help you exercise the specific graces that need to be developed. That’s first: start training.

(2) Number two, follow the trainer. When I started this workout routine, for the first six months or so I had a trainer, and I did that because I didn’t want to hurt myself. I walked into this took—this is the way I’m wired, but it took some working up to just get to the point of, “Okay, yes, I’m going to go try this out.”

I did this first session with a trainer, and I was like, “This is great, but I don’t know how to do anything. I could not repeat this.” So I needed some guidance, because I didn’t know what to do. I needed to learn the steps and the form and how much weight to put on what machine and how to work specific muscles, and so on. I didn’t want to be like the guy who said, “Yes, I had a great workout. Fifteen minutes of cardio, then three minutes with the defibrillator, then three days in the hospital.”

So, you need a trainer. Listen, you already have the trainer, because we have the perfect model, the perfect specimen of holiness in human form. It’s Jesus. You follow Jesus. You not only have Jesus Christ before you, the perfect image, the perfect blueprint of a godly human life; you also have the Spirit of Jesus within you, who is guiding and empowering and sanctifying. Follow the trainer. Get to know Jesus, walk in the Spirit, grow in grace.

(3) Number three, get proper food and rest. Again, anybody’s going to tell you that it’s not enough to hit the weights or work out or whatever if you’re not eating well. You can undo all of the exercise with diet. So you have to count calories and eat more protein and less processed foods. You have to get enough sleep, because that’s when the muscles get repaired; it’s actually when you’re sleeping. You have to get the whole picture.

In the same way, you need not only spiritual discipline, but you need to be nourished. You need to be feeding on the word, you need rest spiritually—and listen, there is rest in the Christian life. Jesus says in Matthew 11, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” There is a balance here of resting in Jesus and being nourished by his word and exercising ourselves unto godliness. It’s getting those things together, configured together, that leads to spiritual growth.

(4) Number four (almost done), remember the goal. The goal is not to impress other people, the goal is not to check boxes off a list. “Yes, did Bible reading today; yes, did prayer today; yes, did fasting this week or this month or this year or whatever.” That’s not the goal. The goal is to be like Jesus! It’s to grow in conformity to the likeness of Christ.

Let me end with a great illustration from Spurgeon. I’ll just read the quote. This is so good. He said, “I have heard it said that the good sculptor, whenever he sees a suitable block of marble, firmly believes that there is a statue concealed within it, and that his business is but to take away the superfluous material and so unveil the thing of beauty which shall be a joy forever. Believer, you are that block of marble. You have been quarried by divine grace and set apart for the master’s service, but we cannot see the image of you yet as we could wish. True, there are some traces of it, some dim outlines of what is to be. It is for you, with the chisel and the mallet, with constant endeavor and holy dependence upon God, to work out that image of Christ in yourself, so that you shall be like unto your Lord and Master. God has sketched the image of his Son in you. In the slightly carved marble he has fairly outline it; you have but to go on chipping away these sins, infirmities, and corruptions till the fair likeness of the incarnate God shall be seen by all.”

To be like Jesus; that’s the goal. Discipline, training, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling in the power of the Holy Spirit as God works in us to will and to work for his good pleasure; that’s the path towards the goal, and we do it all on the foundation of the gospel, because we are beloved by God, loved by God, and because Christ, the perfect model, has shown us what it means to live the full human life. Let’s pray together.

Our gracious and merciful God, we thank you for your faithful work in the hearts of your people, your faithful work in our own hearts and lives. We pray that we would take to heart these truths this morning, that we would be encouraged and comforted by the recognition of what you have already done for us in Christ and what you have already begun in us and continue to do in us through your Spirit. We pray that you would empower us and enable us with right motivation to put this in practice, to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Help us use the means of grace that you have provided for your people to nurture and develop these spiritual muscles, these graces of faith and repentance and hope and love.

Father, even as we come to the Lord’s table this morning, we come to the table recognizing it as a means of grace, that this is a practice that you have given the church, a visual demonstration of the gospel that is meant to nourish our faith and lead us to repentance of our sins. So help us prepare our hearts now; help us examine ourselves, help us fix our eyes on Jesus. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.