by Mike Ratliff
But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors and brought them out, and said, “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” (Acts 5:19-20 ESV)
It seems that Christian suffering is a very big topic right now. I think I have heard at least three separate teachings on Job Chapter 1 & 2 in the last few months. Then there is Matt Chandler at T4G making that impact with his message of God taking him through cancer and brain surgery. It was very interesting to watch the reaction when Ken Silva posted this article the other day. I knew there would be some who would cry foul and some did. They called what was said, “watchblogging” as if that is an evil thing. However, Ken let me read some of the email he received on this and it was very interesting to see the confusion. Yes, no one had an issue with the evils of out of control subjectivism being elevated to the level of truth, but then as what they disagreed with was laid bare, they would revert right back to analyzing everything subjectively. What ever happened to prayer and going to God’s Word for the truth? When we look for it anywhere else we will never find it.
We are in a period of the Church in which we must keep our eyes fixed on Christ alone for if we look to men we are in danger of being deceived. We looked at this in our last post There is Death in the Pot! In any case, to counter this, we must become focused where God wants us to be focused, doing as He desires us to be doing.
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. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
When I was a much younger Christian Bible teacher, we would hit this verse and it never failed that I was asked to explain what Paul was talking about here. What does it mean to, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”? The Greek word translated here as “work out” is κατεργαζεσθε, which means, in this context, “to continually work to bring something to fulfillment or completion.” This cannot refer to the Christian’s salvation by works (cf. Romans 3:21-24; Ephesians 2:8,9), but it does refer to the believer’s responsibility for active pursuit of obedience in the process of sanctification (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; 15:58; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 6:7-9; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 3:1-17; Hebrews 6:10, 11; 12:1, 2; 2 Peter 1:5-11). What about the fear and trembling part? This is the believer’s correct attitude he or she should have as they pursue their sanctification. This means that we should have a healthy fear of offending God and righteous awe and respect for Him (cf. Proverbs 1L7; 9:10; Isaiah 66:1, 2).
Digest that my brethren then understand that we are to do this because it is God who works in us, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. What does that mean? God energizes both our desires and actions to obey Him. The Greek word translated in v13 as “to will” is θελειν, indicates not only willing something, but also pressing on to action. God is working in believers with a studied intent to fulfill a planned purpose. Notice also that it is His intent that Christians do what is His “good pleasure,” or what satisfies Him, not the other way around.
Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:14-18 ESV)
This passage describes what we must be about my brethren. Yes, some of those men who profess the right theology may be apostatizing. Yes, apostasy may be creeping into churches all around us. These things are happening, but we must not allow this to stop us from praying and serving and doing what we are called to do. We can still be Christlike in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. In this we shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. Yes, we can do that in the power of the Holy Spirit as God works in us for His good pleasure.
I and many of my friends are called to write the truth even when many in positions in the visible church do not like it. To be honest, when this started, I never in my wildest imagination thought I would end up doing this sort of thing. I thought I would write Christian self-help books and do seminars in Churches all across the country, speaking at conferences, et cetera. Well, what I found was that the visible church has no appetite for books on walking in repentance and living the crucified life. That is, if said books contained no references to certain mystics. I digress. In any case, God had other plans. Instead of becoming a rich Southern Baptist writer/celebrity with my picture all over every Lifeway Book Store, I get nasty emails from people who think it is just darn mean to say anything against someone like Matt Chandler since, after all, he is battling cancer ya know. However, now I have such a crystal clear picture of the developing Truth War. I have friends and friends of friends and through our network of discussion we feed each other information and it is amazing how interconnected some of these men and ministries are that become the focus of our research. It is as if there is one unseen hand behind it all.
My role and the role of my friends to be lights in the world, holding fast to the world of life, is to pursue the truth, God’s truth for there is no other. We must make sure that God’s people know what it is and ferret out that which pretends to be the truth, but is not. We do this all for the glory of God and for the edification of the Saints.
Soli Deo Gloria!