Drawn to the Cross: In Salvation
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interest but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven, and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. -Philippians 2:1-11
So the theme of salvation is where we are beginning today, and in fact, the text that Bob read for us from Philippians 2, I wanna start actually after it, to help lay the foundation for why we're talking about this. We heard up through verse 11 and verses 12 and 13, we hear these words, “Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more. Now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you. Enable you both to will and to work for his good will.” But there, that word is salvation, and not just that word appearing, but with a command. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Now, that statement in and of itself presents us with some problems because as the kids mentioned, sometimes if you're swimming and get in trouble, you need a lifeguard. But the lifeguard doesn't stand on the shore of the lake or from their tower at the side of the pool and yell “you all save yourself, work it out with some fear and trembling”. That's not why they're there. They're actually there to do the work of saving.
To be told, “Work out your own salvation”, makes it seem as though it's something that we have some control over, when indeed it isn't. So what is Paul getting at? Fear and trembling definitely points to the fact that this is some serious stuff, that you should not take this lightly, that this matters deeply, but what then is it that we are to work out that relates to our salvation? Well, that's where we have to go back and start talking about what is our understanding of salvation, of what is it, and what role do we have in this. Quite literally salvation means to save. This word salvation, saved and Savior occurred numerous times throughout the gospels and the New Testament. Most certainly through all of it, we know that Jesus is our savior, that He is the integral part of making this salvation possible.
So salvation is being saved. But what is it then? And how does it happen? And when does it happen? Well, this work of saving, of setting things right in this world and in the lives of all of God's people, we could say that salvation is something that's already happened when Jesus died and rose again. But we also have to admit the salvation as what's happening here and now, in this moment that each and every day when we got out of bed and put our feet on the floor and we choose to live our life with Jesus Christ as our Lord and our Savior, we're experiencing that salvation a new each and every day. And in fact, this work that God is doing of saving us through His Son Jesus is ongoing. It's going to continue happening into the future, so salvation is a past, a present and a future experience, and we live all of those simultaneously.
What is it then that salvation is doing for us if it's something that God is doing and we are the benefactors, that's how we typically look at it? So often our understanding is that God is saving us from something, that God is saving us from, the sin that often fills our lives. God is saving us from the penalty and the consequences of those sins that we experience and need to repent of. God is saving us from the consequences and the wrath of all of the brokenness that we experience in this world. And so there are many things that we could point to and say God is saving us from those things.
But is that enough? Is it enough for God to see us struggling in the water and to pluck us out and sit us in a safe spot and then tell us, “Don't move. Stay there, you're safe.” No, that's not God's intention for us. Saving us from something is an essential and a crucial part of what God has done through Jesus Christ. But more than saving us from something, God is saving us for something as well. That saving us from something is entirely God's work, saving that's for something is God putting us down and saying, “Okay, you're safe now. Now, come with me. We've got more people to save, we've got work to do, and you're gonna help me.” When we are saved, when we experience a salvation that God has made possible, we get a job. We get to participate in what God is doing. Christian author, Eric Diner describes salvation as two things. He said, salvation is first and foremost something that we experience as a result of a loss, that we need to be saved, but in doing so, we lose a part of ourself. But he said the second part of it is that by being saved, we discover that we are more fully ourselves than we've ever been. He describes it kind of like falling in love. When falling in love, you're no longer the center of your own universe, but rather another person is. He says that when we experience salvation, we're no longer the center of our own world in our own universe, but God's son, Jesus Christ is. And allowing him to become the center of our lives, in the center of our whole being, we suddenly discover that we are more fully alive in ourselves than we've ever been.
He said, so often we think of salvation as a doctrine. There's all kinds of theological writings trying to make sense of and explain salvation. But he said, first and foremost, salvation is an experience. It's something we experience when we discover that God loves us and wants a better life for us. It's through our surrender and our acceptance of that, that we become fully alive, which then brings us to the beginning of our reading for this morning. Paul says, If then there is any encouragement in Christ. Any constellation from love, any sharing in the spirit, any compassion and sympathy.” It sounds like Paul is describing, “If any of you have experienced salvation, then make my joy complete. Do you have the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind? Do nothing for selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, regard others is better than yourselves, and let each of you look not to our own interest but to the interest of others, let the same mind be in you, that was in Christ Jesus.”
So if you have experienced any of the joy, any of the blessings, any of these things that represent the saving grace of God coming into your life, then we need to do the work of being fully engaged in community with others, of participating in sharing God's love with this world. And we do that by having the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. Now I don’t know about you, but some days it's hard enough to know what my children are thinking or my spouse, so how are we to know the mind of Christ? It's hard enough to know the mind of the people that are closest to us, so how then do we know the mind of Christ? Well, in many ways, Jesus was an open book, and Paul points to those aspects of the mind of Christ that he thinks are essential and crucial for us. He describes these characteristics of Jesus, who though He was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave and being born in human likeness, and being found in human f