Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12-13 ESV)
Jesus has called each of us as his followers to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. This is a reverential fear, with a sense of awe of the Glory, and holiness of God. This working out of our salvation begins after we first trust Christ for deliverance from our sins, and make him the supreme object of our affection. Regeneration (the initial salvation experience) happens in a moment, but spiritual growth is a lifetime process that is called sanctification. The indwelling life of Christ is the power source for a changed life.
To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me. (Colossians 1:27-29 ESV)
This spiritual transformation of our lives is worked out in the community of believers, and through private prayer, and devotion to live according to God’s word. The Lord never called us to work out the salvation of others. But, God has clearly called us to encourage and teach those who are willing to receive instruction from the Scripture. Without illumination from the Holy Spirit we are powerless in our attempt to change ourselves morally, or to help others in this process. Prayer is the most powerful means God has given us to see the spiritual eyes of others open, so that they too can experience transformed lives.
The following quotes from Guigo II(died c. 1188) and Geert Zerbolt van Zutphen (1367-1400) were taken from Alister McGrath’s book, Christian Spirituality, pp 84-85.
Alister McGrath says, “One of the most important medieval discussions of the correct way to read Scripture is provided by the Carthusian writer Guigo II (died around 1188). According to Guigo, four stages were to be discerned within the process of reading the biblical text:
1. reading (lecto);
2. meditation (meditatio);
3. prayer (oratio); and
4: contemplation (contemplatio).
“Reading without meditation is sterile.
Meditation without reading is prone to error.
Prayer without meditation is lukewarm.
Meditation without prayer is barren.
Prayer with devotion achieves contemplation.”
“Zerbolt says,”the spiritual reading of Scripture prepares the reader for meditation; meditation prepares for prayer; and prayer for contemplation. To meditate without first reading Scripture is to run the risk of being deluded or falling into error, whereas reading Scripture without turning to prayer is arid and barren.”
Here is Zerbolt’s definition of meditation:
“By meditation is meant the process in which you diligently turn over in your heart whatever you have read or heard, earnestly reflecting your understanding.”
“The word “meditate” is used often in the Psalms. One Hebrew word means
literally to “mutter” or to “talk to oneself.”
Tim Keller writes, “This refers to the fact that meditation entails both focused attention and personal application. The other word means to “muse” or “ponder.” In Psalm 77:12 and 143:5, we are called to meditate on the works of God in nature and history. In Psalm 119:15, 23, 27,48, 78, and 148, we are exhorted to meditate on God’s Word, his verbal revelation. In Psalm 63:6, the psalmist simply meditates “on thee.” Clearly, many of the Psalms are themselves extended meditations.” – Tim Keller, Praying The Psalms, From the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website. www.redeemer.com
I have found over the years that the average Christian has not been trained in the art of biblical meditation. Most of us were encouraged to read our Bibles daily, but not to slow down and think deeply on what we read. Not only should we read our Bibles, but in a sense, the Word should read us. Taking an honest look at Scripture, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, is like looking into a mirror and will reveal our current spiritual condition.
Meditating on bitter, lustful and selfish thoughts comes naturally to the mind that hasn’t been renewed by the Scripture. The truth is, we are meditating on something all the time. According to Psalm 1, meditation is a key to spiritual success. What we meditate on, will either produce good or bad fruit in our lives. So it is important to ‘soak’ your mind with the Scriptures, and pray them back to God, with the intent to obey the instruction of the Lord.