We glorify God by working out our own salvation. God has twisted together his glory and our good. What an encouragement is this to the service of God, to think, while I am hearing and praying, I am glorifying God; while I am furthering my own glory in heaven, I am increasing God’s glory. --Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity
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. (Philipians 2: 12-13)
One of those theological paradoxes that my mind persists in trying to untangle is that of our free agency and God's sovereignty. God is sovereign, and only he accomplishes our salvation--but somehow what we do and think and say matters in there too. It is not by works that we are saved, but Paul clearly tells us to work out our salvation, and James tells us that our works are the evidence of our faith. One word in that Watson quote this morning gave me what I think may be a useful mental image. "Twisted." As in thread, or rope.
Our actions are not, in and of themselves, enough . . . for much of anything, really. Not to accomplish those things which can only be accomplished by the work of the Spirit. But if the Spirit is the one spinning into being those things which the Father wills, perhaps our actions are one of the strands being spun. Twisted. Even as we work, we are being worked upon, and our works are being included in the work of God . . .