When Paul said to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12), he didn’t mean to make up your own rules for what salvation is, he meant make sure you know you are saved because the consequences are unthinkable if you are wrong. We know that, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9) God didn’t want to make it difficult. The thief on the cross was with Jesus in paradise.
But what comes after salvation? How do we “work it out”? Jesus had some very chilling words to say about that, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7: 21-23)
Think about that! Someone who can prophesy and do miracles in Jesus’s name cannot make it into heaven. Jesus calls them workers of lawlessness because they took the power of God to do miracles without loving Him. Jesus there would be many!
Who then can be saved? “Only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” When we do the Father’s will, Jesus will “know” us because the only way we can do the Father’s will is to be in communion with Him. Jesus is our example. He spent hours and hours in prayer going to the Mount of Olives to pray “as was His custom.” (Luke 22:39) He spent precious time with God worshiping and listening. We have to know how to hear Him if we are going to do His will. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)
I don’t believe that God wants us to live in terror not knowing if we are saved. He’s a good Father and wants us to be with Him, but we have the responsibility to be good children. It’s not always easy, but it’s never boring. “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Do that and you can’t go wrong.