If you haven’t stopped and lifted your head from demands of everything or everyone all around you, I tell you, “Take a look at your surroundings, winter has come to it’s end and spring here!” And in Texas, it’s a short window of time before the squelching heat makes everything brown again. Spring is a time of new beginnings. The frosty gloom of winter is gone championing an abundance of warmth. Flowers are in full bloom. Grass is green once again, offering a vibrant contrast to the newly sprouted blossoms shooting up along stretches or highways. Don’t neglect to notice the picture perfect flower beds of the retired couple just a few doors down from you. I can always identify the houses of retirees when my wife and I are on evening walks around the neighborhood. As we stroll, I admire the beautiful landscaping and ornate flower beds, and think to myself, “I’m glad someone else takes care of that yard, “ as I smile and wave to older gentleman watering his picture perfect petunias.
So many thoughts and emotions rush to my mind when I stop to reflect on the newness associated with springtime. One of the my most unforgettable memories of spring…spring cleaning. Yikes! I never understood the need for “spring cleaning,” as a kid. I thought my folks put a lot of unnecessary time, effort, and child-labor each year into spring cleaning. Now as a “responsible” adult (those who know me are laughing) I’ve got my work cutout for me because the warmth has woken the slumbering weeds in my yard, the fog of winter has cleared and revealed the mounds of junk under the carport, dirty windows remind me each time I look out them they are in desperate need of washing, and tired flower beds crying out for some t.l.c. This is just the outside of my house! There is plenty more to do inside.
With all of the physical cleaning going on in my life, its got me thinking about the need for some spiritual deep cleaning. I was reminded of a weighty verse a couple weeks back and it has spurred on a desire to take a close, ugly look at my spiritual situation and ask myself, “What’s next?” Philippians 2:12-13—Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. The continuation of working our my salvation with much fear and trembling is a weighty command that I fear many of us struggle to manage well on a day to day basis!
Work out my salvation!? I think a lot of confusion can come from this verse if we don’t approach it correctly. Paul reminds us in the verse leading up to this command of the humility Jesus lived while here on the earth. Jesus, God in flesh, emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and lived obediently to the point of death; death on a cross. We are called to obey as disciples of Jesus. Paul is not suggesting that our salvation is based on our obedience, but we are to continually look inward with humble hearts and identify areas of sin. We are to strive to look more and more like Jesus each day we spend here on earth. This comes by dying to our selfishness, greed, lust, envy, forgiveness…feel free to insert your personal sin if I missed it. Paul suggests we take our sin seriously and we see sin as God does. We should hate sin.
This can leave us feeling overwhelmed or even hopeless if we stop here, but verse 13 offers a beautiful promise! God is working to fulfill his good purpose! We are not left in our sin to figure it out and overcome on our own. God is working in us to bring newness and to defeat the very sin that once kept us from Him. We simply need to present a humble heart and acknowledge our sin and allow him to work in us.
As you work the next few weeks or in my case months, to clean out and tidy up after a long winter, don’t forget to take clean up the most crucial part, your heart. I encourage you to join me as I take a look at my heart’s condition and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas if disobedience in my life. It is crucial to then take the next step and invite God to work in those areas. We don’t have to do it alone, and really we can’t. God wants us to allow Him to work in us.