Wednesday, 23 January 2013
Why bother to 'work out Salvation'?
In last week's Blog I asked the question, 'Are you 'saved'?'
I believe, and am certain, that you and I are 'saved' from the 'trouble' that we might be in at The Great White Throne Judgment....and you and I should believe and be certain that we are 'saved' from The Second Death.
You and I can be confident and secure that we have been 'saved' from Hell and the perpetual damnation of The Second Death. When you and I came to Jesus, and trusted in His sacrifice for us, individually, at His Crucifixion, we received His Salvation, and the forgiveness of our sin.
Therefore, you and I are 'saved' from Hell for Heaven, 'saved' from The Second Death for Eternal Life with God.
Does this clear, unarguable, certain, Biblical fact make any difference to the way you and I behave? Should it make any difference to the way we behave, given that we have secured our places in Heaven already?
The evidence of the teaching of Jesus in the Gospels suggests that He devoted most of His time to explaining how you and I should behave.
Jesus highlighted he battleground of His conflict with the Scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:
Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self–indulgence.... For you outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
Paul's subsequent conflict with the same Scribes and Pharisees was about how we behave. This is what Paul meant when he wrote to the new believers in Philippians 2.12: Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
Perhaps it is time to be blunt and admit that the root of the conflict about how we behave is Control. The Control of our behaviour is influenced by our personal selves AND by the society in which we reside, AND by the Church or Synagogue which we join:
Who is in control of my behaviour?
I am. I decide when I want to be angry, kind, deceitful, manipulative, or self sacrificing.
Who can tell me that I cannot behave as I want?
Noone. If anyone risks criticism of my behaviour I defend my right to behave as I want.
Who controls my behaviour towards other people?
The laws and customs of the society in which we reside claim to control the limits of my behaviour towards others.
BUT...the way in which these limits are contolled is that, in reality, there are NO limits.
I can lie, manipulate, and deceive anyone.....and to do so successfully is regarderd as praiseworthy.
I can, and it is recommended that I should, have any form of sexual activity with anyone, male or female.
I can, and should, aspire to riches and celebrity status, because to do so will give me influence and power over others.
I have the 'right' to behave in whatever way that is disruptive to others, and damaging to myself and others. In addition, my 'right' to do so must be defended in court.
I cannot, and must not, criticise anyone for their disruptive and damaging behaviour to others. If I challenge their 'rights' I must be punished.
This system of Control that Society has developed is maintained on the basis that it is the will of the majority. It is considered that the high point of human development in Society is that the democratic will is the arbiter and controller of our individual and corporate behaviour.
What is more....this Democracy is so advanced and beneficial for Society, that it must be imposed on any country that has a different system.
As a result of this attitude, Western, democratic, countries have sought either to influence or to impose democracy on Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and a variety of other dictatorships. These attempts have been failures!
3. Church and Synagogue.
Who controls my behaviour in the Church or Synagogue?
The answer to this question is supposed to be God. Tragically, that is NOT the answer.
God does NOT control, influence, or limit my behaviour as a member of the Church or Synagogue.
This is the real situation whether:
The Church is Roman Catholic, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Free Fellowship, or ....??
The Synagogue is Hasidic, Orthodox, Conservative, reform, Liberal, or....??
The evidence that God is NOT in control of either Church or Synagogue is abundantly clear from the various power and control battles that are raging:
In the Church:
The battle between the sexes over who can be a priest or bishop who controls congregations.
The battle over who can control, limit, or de-limit sexual behaviour.
The battle over who controls, and how to use the Church's money, assets, and property.
The battle over who controls and decrees what Jesus taught.
The battle over who Jesus was, and is.
In the Synagogue:
The battle over the minutiae of the 'fence' of extra laws added to the Torah given to Moses.
The battle over the relevance of Torah.
The battle over who Messiah is.
The battle of assimilation, integration, and/or separation of Jewish and Gentile society.
ALL the battles in Church and Synagogue are about CONTROL. There is really no difference between Society and the Church or Synagogue. Each one tries to impose control on the individual.
What was the conflict about in the Gospels and in Paul's Letters? It was about who should be in control....in Society, Church, and Synagogue.
The answer is that Jesus and Paul taught that GOD should be in control....because His control, limits, influence, and instruction are the ONLY way to peace, health, happiness, and wholeness....individually and in society.
When you and I came to Jesus, and trusted in His sacrifice for us, individually, at His Crucifixion, we received His Salvation, and the forgiveness of our sin. Having received His Salvation....we must then work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
How do we do this, in practical, real ways? The answer is to hand over, give up, and reject our own, and the Church's democratic control over our lives and behaviour, and to walk in His ways, and to keep His Commandments.
Why does Paul suggest that working out our own salvation will mean that we do it in fear and trembling?
Try keeping the Sabbath.....rather than Sunday.
Try not eating blood or anything unclean....like pork, ham, bacon, sausages, prawns, or shrimps.
Try keeping the Biblical Feasts of Passover and Tabernacles rather than Easter and Christmas....
and see what reaction you receive from your Roman Catholic or Anglican priest, your Methodist minister, your Baptist or Free Fellowship pastor.
Then you will understand why Paul wrote in fear and trembling...!!!
But, you may ask:
Is it necessary to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?
Why should we risk being accused of rebellion by priests and pastors?
Why should we antagonise, threaten, and potentially lose our friends in the Church?
What are the benefits of such a dramatic change of behaviour and lifestyle?
Why did Jesus and Paul teach such a change in behaviour?
These are genuine and legimate questions.
Until next week, when we shall see that the answers that Jesus gives should persuade us to act....