“Live It Out!” What Does It Mean to Live God’s Way?

“Live It Out!” What Does It Mean to Live God’s Way? June 12, 2024

Photo by Gaelle Marcel on Unsplash

“God is the one who enables you both to want at to actually live out his good purposes.” But what does it mean to “live it out” God’s way?

Scripture:       

1 Kings, chapter 12; 2 Chronicles, chapters 10-11; Philippians, chapter 2

Philippians 2:12-18 (CEB):

Therefore, my loved ones, just as you always obey me, not just when I am present but now even more while I am away, carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.

Do everything without grumbling and arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, innocent children of God surrounded by people who are crooked and corrupt. Among these people you shine like stars in the world because you hold on to the word of life.

This will allow me to say on the day of Christ that I haven’t run for nothing. But even if I am poured out like a drink offering upon the altar of service for your faith, I am glad. I’m glad with all of you. You should be glad about this in the same way. Be glad with me!

Observations: Live It Out!

Philippians chapter 2 is one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Usually, my attention turns to the first part of the chapter. Paul encourages us to be united, to love one another, and to be humble. He then turns to the example of Jesus in verses 5-11: “Adopt the attitude that was in Christ Jesus.”  I love the way the CEB translates verse 6, that Jesus “did not consider being equal with God something to exploit.” In a world that is driven by exploitation, Jesus calls us to something different – “He emptied himself.”

But today I’m focusing on the second part of chapter 2. More familiar translations say “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” or something similar. The CEB, however, tells us to carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling. I like that much more! When you tell me to “work something out,” I start trying to figure out how to make it happen. Carry out your own salvation with fear and tremblingshifts the emphasis from achieving salvation to demonstrating it. God has already saved us; we accept his offer. But once we have accepted it, God calls us to live it out.

God Enables Us to Live It Out

But even living it out requires God’s help.  Walking with Jesus doesn’t mean that we find our own way. Paul reminds us that God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. The sinful nature that we all are born with makes it impossible for us to do what is right without God’s help. We can’t overcome it on our own, but God gives us his Holy Spirit to cleanse us and enable us to live out his good purposes.

We can’t lose sight of the fact that we need God’s help both to want and to actually live out his good purposes. I think the “wanting” part is critical, and we often overlook it.  We focus on the “doing” part – and assume that if we do the right things, we’re “good.”  But the selfish sinful nature contaminates our ability to act unselfishly.  Paul hits this point several times in chapter 2:

  • “being united, and agreeing with each other” (verse 2)
  • “don’t do anything for selfish purposes” (verse 3)
  • “with humility think of others as better than yourselves” (verse 3)
  • “Instead of each person watching out for their own good, watch out for what is better for others” (verse 4)
  • “Adopt the attitude of Jesus…he emptied himself” (verses 5-6)

When we do this, Paul says, we will shine like stars in the world because we hold on to the word of life.

Application: Live It Out!

The word of life is that Jesus gave himself for us; he calls us to give ourselves for others. That’s what it means to carry out your own salvation with fear and trembling…to live out God’s good purposes. People who do that shine like stars because that is NOT the world’s way!

Our Old Testament passages for today tell the story of Rehoboam and Jeroboam. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, who became king of Israel and Judah after Solomon’s death. Solomon’s advisers recommended that Rehoboam take the humble approach. “If you are kind to these people and try to please them by speaking gently with them, they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7; also 2 Chronicles 10:7). Rehoboam’s friends, however, told him to “bring the hammer down.” Rehoboam listened to his friends, and all of Israel except for Judah and Benjamin rebelled against him.

Jeroboam became the king of Israel – those who rebelled against Rehoboam. He didn’t live out God’s purposes either. God had planned for him to become king of Israel because of Solomon’s accommodation of idolatry in Israel (see 1 Kings 11:11-13). Jeroboam knew that God had made him king of Israel – and then he turned right around and set up idol shrines of his own! He was afraid that the people would rebel if he allowed them to worship in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26-27). Instead of trusting God, he trusted in his own wisdom and in his advisors.

Shining Like Stars

Unfortunately, there are many parallels to our current situation. But instead of the “kings” seeking advice from people rather than from God, it is God’s people who are turning to human leaders rather than God! We are consumed with political matters so much that we are willing to ignore ungodly behaviors and attitudes for the sake of political power.

Make no mistake: this world is getting spiritually darker. God’s call is for his people to live out his good purposes so that we shine like stars. As John writes in the Prologue to his Gospel, “The light shines in the darkness.”  The next phrase can be translated a couple of ways.  The CEB says, “and the darkness doesn’t extinguish the light” (John 1:5, CEB). The NASB (and others) translate it, “and the darkness did not grasp it” (John 1:5, NASB).

Both are accurate. No matter how dark the world gets, it cannot extinguish God’s light. But as the world gets darker, people struggle more and more to grasp the light – to understand it. The answer is not to stop shining! The hope of the world lies in God’s light, not in any human endeavor. No politician, no government program, no human achievement can bring hope and healing to our world. Only God can do that. That’s why it’s so important for us to live it out!

Prayer:

Father, thank you for enabling us both to want and to actually live out your good purposes. Forgive us for those times when we think we can achieve your purposes in ways that are contrary to your nature. You do not need us nor want us to adopt worldly methods to achieve spiritual purposes.

Help us not to become so focused on what we want that we forget that you call us to love one another. Jesus emptied himself; our attitude should be like his. When we embody Christ, we shine like stars in our darkened world. When we try to do things our way, we only lessen our ability to reflect your light. Help us to walk in your way today.  Amen.

 

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