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, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 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, 16 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.17 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. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.
Mike Breen has written about how this sort of thinking applies to the Christian Church as a whole in his blog post, Churches looking for a Silver Bullet in a microwave culture. It’s a worthy read. Today, however, I would like to apply this same thought to our Christian walk. In the spirit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, I believe we need to re-visit our propensity toward a kind of Gospel Reductionism that makes grace cheap and empties salvation of it’s full power and implication. If faith in Jesus’ forgiveness is a bandaid that we put over a moral blemish it is nothing at all. If, on the other hand, it is even the smallest expression of trust in Jesus it is a simple, beautiful, powerful, multi-faceted, pearl of priceless worth.
When the soul cries out in the night for healing, the mercy of God, forgiveness, love, comfort, assurance, faith is a beautiful thing. When faith, on the other hand, is merely a nod of the head toward the cross, a spiritual nicknack in the curio cabinet of our life, it becomes a mere curiosity amidst a sea of spiritual options.
But let’s say you’re not in the dark of the night, or standing at the curio cabinet of spiritual options. You really do want to embrace the gifts of God fully, and let faith demonstrate itself in rich expressions of love and obedience to Christ’s call. What might that look like? Simple things: no grumbling, seeking mutual understanding, blameless and innocent godliness in the everyday way we live, shining the light of Jesus’ love in the darkness of sin and brokenness, holding to the truth of God’s word even in the face of suffering, rejoicing in God’s faithfulness, and partnering with those who are on the front lines of Christian mission. What would you add to this list of simple but not easy things we do as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, rejoicing in God’s continued work in us by his grace and love.
Want a list of suggestions? Check out Luther’s Small Catechism, the Ten Commandments and see how Luther describes a life of faithful obedience.