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Updated: Apr 3

Therefore, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, so now, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, workout your own salvation with fear and trembling.

-Philippians 2:12

When you hear the word “workout,” it probably conjures up some vivid imagery. Maybe it’s of The World’s Strongest Man competition - with ginormous men doing feats of strength that boggle the mind. Maybe it’s of the local gym - crazy crowded in January but back to normal in February. Maybe it’s of the 80s aerobics phenomenon - with Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, or Billy Blanks decked out in spandex leotards, big hair, and leg warmers.

When the Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi, he did so from prison. After letting the church know how grateful he was for them, for his privileged ministry to them, and his philosophy of ministry in 1:21 (“For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”) he went on to challenge them in 1:27, saying, “As citizens of heaven, live your life worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”

Paul didn't leave how that task is accomplished up for subjective interpretation. In 2:1-11, Paul compels followers of Christ to make his joy complete (v.2) by adopting the same attitude of humility that defines King Jesus.

Christ’s humility is tangibly evident in numerous ways:

Creation - Unlike the (false) gods of other world religions and fantastic mythologies, King Jesus didn’t create humanity from pre-existant stuff to perform mundane tasks too undignified for Him. Instead, Christ created the entire material cosmos from nothing so that humanity could benefit from a relationship with The Almighty.

Revelation - Despite humanity’s rebellion, which didn’t surprise God in the least (see Gen 2:17; Rev 13:8), God promised to sacrifice Himself to crush the Serpent and his blasphemous rebellion (Gen 3:15). God chose to reveal Himself through Scripture, mediate, and immediate revelation.

Incarnation - The Son of God became the Son of Man through the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel.” He came as The Light of The World and the New Genesis. He came to fulfill all The Law and The Prophets, not just to make a way, but as The Way, The Truth, and The Life.

Identification - When Christ Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River by John (see Matt 3:13-17), He wasn’t doing it as an “example” for humanity. King Jesus is The Spotless Lamb of God. He wasn’t going through some hollow ritual of pseudo-repentance to demonstrate what we need. Instead, King Jesus’ baptism was to demonstrate His intimate identification with us, fallen humanity.

Crucifixion - We read in Luke 9:51, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” King Jesus never shied away from the Cross. Elsewhere, Scripture reveals “He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of Him.” The brutality and shame of the Cross did nothing for God. It’s beneficiaries are repentant sinners turned saints through our Lord’s humility.

Submission - In John 13 we read that on the night King Jesus was betrayed, “He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and dry them with the towel that was around Him.” Afterward, He explained to them, “I have set you an example so that you should do as I have done for you. Truly, truly, I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” There is no humility without submission.

We can’t imitate Christ’s humility in creating something from nothing, but we -can- be humble in inviting -and- allowing Him to create new life in and through us.

We can’t imitate Christ in creating new revelation, but we -can- be humble by being intentional about studying, submitting to, and sharing His revelation with others.

We can’t imitate the atoning work of Christ’s crucifixion, but we -can- be humble in denying ourselves, picking up our cross daily, and following Him. We -can- be intentional about being crucified with Christ in not living for ourselves or running after all the vapors the world pursues.

We -can-imitate Christ’s humility through our public identification with Him in the sacrament of baptism. Not merely a superficial sprinkling or pouring, but in total identity immersion. That’s what King Jesus meant in His Great Commission, saying, “...baptizing them in the Name of The Father, and of The Son, and of The Holy Spirit…” Baptizing is about inviting people fully into the culture of authentic Gospel Community.

We -can- imitate Christ’s humility by literally washing other’s feet, but also understanding what our King was teaching: we must humble ourselves in the undignified and glorious service of others.

There are those who would pilfer and ravage Scripture for its promises and blessings. They selfishly mine the Word of God for material, spiritual, and psychological prosperity. Then there are those who would listen to and obey The Word… repent… deny… pick up… follow… humble… disciple… baptize… teach… live worthy… make every effort… and workout your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Are those more than novel or empty words? Do they accomplish anything more than conjuring up images of Bible stories? Are we merely spectators peering in from outside, as if watching old Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons, or Billy Blanks videos, or are we truly working out our salvation with fear and trembling?

Is The Word of God actually accomplishing in us what Christ Jesus intends: our considering others more important than ourselves to reveal the life-giving and life-changing power of The Gospel in us?

Work it out.

Grace and Peace,


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