Working out your freedom

Written by Charles Ekong

25/03/2024

Last week, I wrote about the true freedom that comes with salvation. But have you noticed that the Bible also commands us to “work out our salvation” [Philippians 2:12]? If Jesus died for our salvation, and on the cross, He said: “It is finished” [John 3:16, John 19:30], why does Paul, the apostle of grace, instruct us to work out our salvation? The answer is simple: while salvation is a spiritual reality – done from God’s perspective, there’s still work for us to do. As one commentator puts it: “We must work out what God in His grace has worked in us”. So, Paul’s message to the Philippians was: “God has done His part; now do yours”. With that in mind, how exactly do we work out our salvation?

A human being is a spirit that has a soul and lives in a body, and God intends to save the whole person, not just his spirit, soul or body. The Bible affirms that when an individual accepts Jesus as Lord and Saviour, God recreates his spirit, and that individual becomes a new creationborn again [John 3:3-8, 2 Corinthians 5:17]. Only God can recreate the human spirit, and it happens the instant a person confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead [Romans 10:9]. That individual now possesses eternal life and becomes united in spirit with God [John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17]. But if you’re observing at that moment, you won’t see a discernible difference when they give their life to Christ. They’ll look, feel and smell the same, but from God’s perspective, a dead person is now alive [John 5:24]. However, that incredible transformation only happened to his spirit. Nothing happened to his soul – the seat of his will, feelings and emotions, just like nothing happened to his body. 

The problem with that last sentence is this: we are products of our thoughts [Proverbs 23:7]. Solomon was teaching a profound mystery: a man’s soul determines the outcome of his life, and the soul of a new believer is sensual [1 Corinthians 3:1-3]. Now, since our thoughts determine our beliefs and our beliefs determine our choices, which will determine the outcomes of our lives. So, if our thoughts are sensual, we’ll indulge the deeds of the flesh, even as born-again believers [Romans 7:22-23]. That’s the starting point for every believer [Psalm 51:5]. But God doesn’t want us to remain there because those ruled by their senses or carnal nature, who walk by sight and not by faith, don’t enter God’s rest and experience the benefits of salvation [Hebrews 3:7-19]. God won’t force us to become people ruled by His word instead of our senses. Instead, we demonstrate a willingness to do the requisite work through our actions even if we say all the right things [James 1:22-25]. 

So, what work must we do to experience the benefits of salvation? Simply put, we must reject the world’s way of thinking and allow God’s word to transform our thought patterns [Romans 12:2]. A preacher I heard recently used the following analogy I found helpful. The recreated spirit desires to do God’s will because it’s one with God. However, the body is naturally drawn to hedonism because of sin. So, the soul becomes the tiebreaker. If the soul is sensual, an individual will act out his sensual desires. But if the soul, having been transformed, is subject to the spirit, he’ll pursue God’s will and agenda. As such, you can tell if a Christian is being led by his recreated spirit or worldly influences by observing his conformity to God’s word [Galatians 5:17-26]. You can also evaluate your life to see how much you’re led by your spirit by honestly examining your choices and motives. That’s the degree to which your salvation is manifesting in your life.

So, Working out your salvation is the labour of bringing your soul, that is, your thoughts, passions and emotions, under the influence of your spirit, which is united to the Holy Spirit [Romans 8:14]. That’s an active process that requires us to vet every thought pattern we hold and consciously discard any at odds with God’s word until, like Jesus, we only do and say what we see the Father do and say [John 5:19]. Rejecting the world’s way of thinking and societal norms may cost us relationships, accolades and much more. But no price should be too high to keep God’s word preeminent in our lives [Psalm 138:2]. When we reverence God and His word that much, we’ll do the things Jesus did, our salvation will be evident even to unbelievers, and our manner of life will bring glory to God [John 14:12-14, John 15:7-8,16].

As many have said, mental transformation is the greatest need of an individual who has received eternal life. But that individual must also earnestly desire to be transformed through the word of God. That implies prioritising time in God’s word. The Book of the Law must not depart from the mouth of a believer. He must meditate on it day and night and diligently do everything God commands. Then, such a believer will live a successful, prosperous life and fulfil their God-given purpose [Joshua 1:8-9]. Such a life is attractive [2 Corinthians 2:14-16]. It makes people want to know our God and provides a platform to share the Gospel because people will ask questions  [1 Peter 3:15]. 

Life isn’t meant to be hard for a believer [John 10:10]. Yes, there will be challenges, but the power to overcome every one of them is in God’s word. Our salvation gives us access to everything we need for life and godliness to enjoy along with our freedom [Ephesians 1:3, 2 Peter 1:3-4]. But we must work it out to see the manifestation of what’s already ours in our lives.

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