By Brock Bondurant
Philippians 2:12-13 – 12Therefore, 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, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Whether in our personal walks or within ministry, it can be tempting to believe that once we or someone else accepts Jesus as Savior that we’re done. I admit that I can get so focused on someone accepting Jesus that I forget about the ongoing work to come after. I live out the Great Commission as if it says, “convert Christians” rather than “make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). What if there is more life to be lived after saying ‘yes’ to Jesus? What if the Cross isn’t the end?
Recently I’ve been challenged and reminded that this moment of salvation is just the beginning. It’s stepping up to the starting line so-to-speak. I’ve been groomed by the evangelical movement, which stresses the personal moment of salvation and personal relationship with Jesus, to pursue this moment relentlessly and move on to the next one. Personal acceptance and relationship are HUGE components of the life of a Jesus-follower, but only part of the story.
The Cross is not the end of the story. Otherwise, Jesus would not have had to send the Spirit, who would encourage us in moment-by-moment intimacy, empower us for a life of obedience, and equip us for the continuation of Jesus’ earthly ministry (be with, become like, do what Jesus did). And Jesus certainly would not have to come back again if the story had reached its end at the Cross; he’s got to come back to make good on all God’s promises in the cross.
To be honest, I’m prone to forget all of that and look only to the Cross – only to the past work, missing the kingdom at present and its guaranteed future to come. There is a whole lot of life to live in between the cross and his return! This is in no way an attempt to deemphasize the Cross or the person of Jesus, but rather to emphasize the rest of the good news!
The verse above implores us to work out our salvation (verse 12) as if it’s an ongoing reality to participate in. The rest of our life post-acceptance of Jesus is to live as if we are saved – to work it out. When we receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we get a new identity. With the help of the Spirit, we get to embark on the journey of transformation into that identity. We’re invited to spend the rest of our lives growing into Christlikeness.
This working out of salvation is marked by obedience. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word,” Jesus says (John 14:23). Obedience is an on-going process (even for Jesus, Hebrews 5:8-9) as we keep saying ‘yes’ to the good works that the Father has prepared for us (Eph 2:10). Therefore, Jesus tells his disciples to stay put until the Spirit comes (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4,8). The Spirit’s empowering is what helps these men, as well as disciples today, move into their calling.
It’s with all that in mind that I wish to illuminate the ongoing beauty of transformation that has its start at the Cross. Making the decision to follow Jesus is just the start. We get to enjoy both our own spiritual formation and that of others. In the words of Jeffrey Greenman, “Spiritual formation is our continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith, for the sake of the world.”
What a beautiful process to be invited into. When we get the chance to be with others that say ‘yes’ to Jesus, the work isn’t done. I need to hear that. We get the chance to see the life beyond the Cross that is born in the heart of every believer – the life that Jesus purchased for us. Salvation is saying ‘yes’ to a lifetime of being transformed from who we were before we said ‘yes’ to Jesus to who we are and are becoming after. You are a son or daughter in the image of Christ, evermore increasing as you keep saying ‘yes’ (2 Cor 3:18). Salvation is a formational process. Let’s journey together.