Philippians 2:12 commands us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Of course, the next verse reminds us that it is Christ in us doing the work according to His will and good pleasure. Yet our work, as usual, is based in faith. It was our faith by God's grace that saved us, and it is faith that will enable us to be sanctified as we work out our salvation. To work out our salvation means that we will live practically in the here and now more and more in light of who we are in Christ. If we remain ignorant of all that Christ accomplished on the cross and by overcoming the grave, we keep the sanctification process from going full-steam ahead.
Being a new creation, having a new self, understanding that we are saints, realizing that we don't have to do the bidding of our flesh, and recognizing that our hearts are new and indwelt by God are all things that every Christian ought to know. The excuses for continuing in sin surely should dwindle as we learn these truths. On the other hand, the ability to live in victory over sin has to increases as God gives us the faith to live in light of our salvation. Believing that it is possible to not consistently sin.
So who are we spiritually speaking?
Before salvation, we were fallen and sinful through and through. We had evil, corrupted hearts and worldly ambitions. We were of flesh, totally selfish to the core. If someone could put every thought had and deed on a movie screen even the most pious of Saints would run for the hills. When we were saved, God recreated us with Christ as part of our new spiritual DNA, which enables us to work out our salvation each and every day as He works to rid us of any leftovers from our former life.
With that being said, our old self is dead and gone, yet we still have the flesh to battle, though we are not forced to give into its lusts. Old habit structures must be changed as our will is submitted to the Lordship of Christ. Our emotions need to become balanced with truth as the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts. Our personality will now begin to be used for the glory of God rather than for the purposes of the devil and self. Our minds will be transformed to begin to think on what is good, right, and pure. Bad memories will fade as we forget what was behind and press on toward the prize and call of Christ in heaven (Philippians 3:13).
If man is made up of body, soul, and spirit, then our soul (mind, emotions, will, personality) is being renewed unto the likeness of Christ. Our spirit (our new self which is currently housed in a fallen body) has been reborn. Our heart has been regenerated. Clearly, our salvation has changed us and our sanctification continues to work out the changes of our salvation. Christians are changed people and changing people as the Holy Spirit conforms us to Christ, body, soul, and spirit.
This transformation and change only happens as we open our self up to Him and ask Him to show us ourselves. When He starts pointing things out to us that are not like Him then it is our responsibility to lay it at the alter and repent. Don't pick it back up again.
The only work left undone is that of our bodies. They ache, they hurt, and they fall apart. Yet one day we will lay aside these old bodies which have been corrupted by the effects of sin, and we will be given a new body that is immortal, fit for heaven and one that will last forever (1 Corinthians 15:53). At that point, we will finally be rid of our flesh, and our nagging human frailty and vulnerability to sin will finally be gone.
What is the point of all of this?. Yes, Jesus has made it so that we "will get away with our sin," as some say, but the glory of the gospel is that we don't have to sin any longer!
This is what Peter said in 1 Peter 4:1-2 which says, "Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God." Peter's challenge is that we live the rest of our lives post-salvation as those who have ceased sinning.
Of course, we will not do this to perfection, but we ought to be getting closer each and every day. Since we have been changed on the inside, our lives on the outside should begin to reflect that change. We were old and corrupted, but now we are clean and new.
Let us be intentional about praising and thanking God for the new life that He has given and continues to give. And if we don't see any signs of this life, may we test ourselves to see if we are of the faith. Have we trusted in Christ to forgive us of our sin? Have we truly repented from our old ways? Did we ever experience a godly sorrow over our sin? If we have asked Christ to forgive us and if we have turned from our old ways, then He is indeed our Savior and Lord. We are new people with new hearts and new ambitions. May Christians everywhere live in light of this truth.