Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. (Philippians 2:12-13)
What work goes into 'completing' our salvation? Isn't everything complete in Christ? Isn't that what we are told in scripture - that his work on the Cross took care of all of our sin and made us right with God again? If this be the case, what 'work' do we have to engage in so that we will have a 'complete' salvation? I think we sometimes get 'salvation' mixed up in our minds as an 'action' done for us by another and nothing we have to do for ourselves. In a sense, this is correct. Salvation was accomplished by Christ and Christ alone. There is no other sacrifice that needs to be offered to make man right with God again. We do have to say "yes" to Jesus, though. We have to welcome him into our lives and begin to make choices directed and encouraged by his Holy Spirit who lives within. This is where the 'work' begins! We have to engage with the Spirit of God within us to no longer live according to our wants and wishes. Salvation involves a change in leadership - there is a changing of the guard, so to speak. A new ruler is on the throne and a new 'sentry' stands guard over our hearts and minds.
When the 'exchange' of sin for grace begins to occur in our lives, we feel a sense of relief, almost like when we take off some tight shoes or jeans that barely buttoned. We get 'breathing room' given back to us in some sort of strange way. It isn't 'breathing room' or 'wiggle room' we can just use as we want to, though. Salvation makes us feel liberated, but liberated people still cannot live as they please. There are 'rules' and 'boundaries' inside which we live our liberated lives. If we take our liberty to the extreme and just do whatever appeals to us because we are 'secure in grace', we are living beyond the boundaries. If we begin to make choices that actually help us enjoy life while staying completely within the boundaries, we are using our 'liberty' as we were intended to use it. One of the toughest things we face is relinquishing control of the throne of 'leadership' in our lives and we oftentimes don't listen when the 'sentry' over our hearts and minds tells us to 'halt'! We just choose our own way.
Some obedience choices come easy to us - like not murdering or not committing adultery. There are others that come a little harder - like not gossiping, not speaking unkind words, and not having any other god before God Almighty in our lives. This is the place where the 'work' begins in salvation - keeping in 'check' the desire to be in control, giving over our regrets, envies, and misplaced trusts. We find the struggle to 'listen and obey' becomes real and we sometimes push against the boundaries to see how far we can stretch them without breaking them. It is like when we put up one of those bungee cord nets around a trampoline. We jump and hurl ourselves blindly into that netting, trusting that the net will stretch with us and not let us fall to our harm. What we don't realize is that the 'netting' we are trusting in is not at fault when it breaks - we are! We kept hurling ourselves at that same spot until the net just no longer presented any barrier to our falling.
Rather than hurl ourselves against the 'nets' of protection in our lives, maybe we should seek to understand why they are put there in the first place. They aren't there to be a thing we chafe against. They are there to be a thing we respect as providing safety and security. Keeping things out that belong out, keeping us safely within where we find his Spirit guiding us to live. Obedience will always be 'work' on our parts, no matter how much we respect the boundaries. We just need to remain consistent in vigilance to live within them, allowing the right leader to be seated on the throne right smack-dab in the middle of those boundaries. Just sayin!