Salvation is a reality that “God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” so you will become a “blameless and innocent” child “holding fast to the Word of life.” It’s not always convenient and sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable to learn something of value. OK I’m calling this experience an inconvenient confession. I think you’ll recognize my discomfort at hearing myself say — “I spent four hours looking up the eight cross references from a single passage and then the many cross references of each of those cross references some of which had cross references of their own and then I threw it all away because it didn’t seem to be about the lesson at all any more and I’d wasted my time” — out loud, in a Bible study! I am not a newbie at this and to be honest I felt guilty and frustrated before going in to this study because in those 240 minutes I hadn’t had some moment of revelation. I learned from this experience the something of value it takes to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is the uncomfortable confessing of an inconvenient truth.
Note to self: working out my salvation is NOT like going to the gym where I exert myself with the expectation of achieving some desired goal. Yet when those words came out of my mouth I realized that’s exactly how I’d reacted. I’d said exactly what I “didn’t” want to say — out loud! There I was among a group of women I trust and admire, who all want to effectively learn how to be better image bearers of Christ and I spoke the ugly reality of just what I hadn’t learned.
Confession often seems to include fear and trembling because it’s the hidden truth of the places we hide. I think God was probably rejoicing at my confession. I just wanted to take every word back and protect my seasoned citizen image so I’d look better than I am. The reality of what it means to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” is not about performance or goals or study or guilt or frustration. “It is God who works in [me], both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” “Holding fast to the word of life” IS my salvation.