“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)
The familiarity of special verses of Scripture can lead to a breakdown of understanding. Take this text for example. Most interpret this verse to mean that if God convicts a person of his sins He will save them. But Paul does not mean this; there is no such guarantee. The rebuttal to that interpretation is Judas Iscariot. Judas had a work of God begun in him, but it never saw completion.
Others see the verse to simply mean if God has saved you, you are guaranteed final salvation. This interpretation is more in line with Paul’s intention. However, that is too cursory of a reading.
There is more meant here than making it to heaven. Paul is assuring us not only is our destiny certain, but the journey also. And the journey is about us becoming less us and more Jesus. Not like Jesus, but more of Jesus—less of us and more of Him. This is God’s ultimate salvation.
But how can someone—like myself—be so hopeful of this kind of transformation? I may be redeemed, yet I am still a fallen creature; how will I ever be able to pull off such a feat? The answer and great expectation is in this verse. My makeover’s completion is not guaranteed by my performance but His. He has promised to change me.
What is the application? Simple: when I am anxious that I’m far from the finished product, that my faith is too weak, or that I should be farther along in the progress of Jesus living through me, then I’m revealing the fact that I believe my performance will complete the change in me. I am demonstrating a lack of faith in God’s promise to finish His good work. To put it simply, I’m not resting in Christ.
My faith, obedience, and spiritual maturity belong to God. I am not to be passive in these things, but neither am I to be in control. The moment I assume command, I stop living in light of this verse. The moment I take control of faith, obedience, and growth in grace is the moment my assurance of these things will begin to weaken. Who am I to be able to pull of such a transformation? Without faith in God, I will not only displease Him, but I will be displeased. He alone is to be the object of our faith, because it is He who completes us.
Anxiousness or worry about spiritual progress is a demonic deception to drive faith away and replace it with self-reliance. Am I to trust and obey? Am I to seek to be like Jesus? Yes indeed. But my faith is in the Lord to bring these about in me. If I trust Him, I will be at perfect rest. And is that not like Christ, who was always at rest in His Father? A lack of rest is a sure sign we are not trusting the God who has promised to complete His good work in us.
God’s law does not change. It is still the same—love God with all your being, and love your fellow man as yourself. What then is our hope? It is Christ! He showed us what the law lived out by the Spirit looks like. We can say He was the Spirit of the law incarnate; and for that reason, the law was lived out in a different way than the scribes and Pharisees taught. That’s why the Jewish religious establishment disagreed with Christ. They insisted on the letter of the law and Christ demanded a Spirit-filled expression of the law. It is no wonder that the practices of the Jews were so different than how Jesus lived. The letter of the law is very different from the spirit of the law.
For example, the Pharisees were bent out of shape because Jesus’ disciples didn’t wash their hands before they ate. The Pharisees taught the letter of law meant you had to be pure externally. Jesus demonstrated purity of heart was what the law demanded. David Powlison illustrates it well in his book, Seeing With New Eyes:
Imagine that in 1905 God had promised your great-grandparents that someday he would give their descendants a Model T Ford, a radio communications system using Morse code, and a bi-plane. When he decided to deliver in 2003, he gave you a Dodge Viper, a satellite-linked cell-phone, and an F-117A Stealth Fighter. The promise was fulfilled . . . in ways beyond imagination.
When Jesus came He fulfilled the law in ways the religious could not imagine. His ways were by “the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.”
Watching new video of a 500 mph tsunami wave destroy an entire community, hearing the screams of people watching from higher ground, all I could do is weep and pray, “Oh, God, may the gospel tide sweep throughout Japan!” Christianity in Japan measures only 1.5% of the population. And much of that number is not sound evangelicalism. The Japanese are bound by a worldview that is totally foreign to the Bible. The concept of a Creator God is absolutely unheard by most. Japanese Christians are under severe pressure to renounce their faith or to mix it with the superstitious practices of Shintoism. According to Operation World, “It is believed that half of those baptized in Japan leave their churches within two or three years.”
Could not this apocalyptic like destruction be the means by which the hearts of the Japanese are open to the truth of the gospel? Is it not possible that this devastating tragedy is an opportunity to minister to the stoic people of Japan who must be asking the purpose of it all? Let us pray that what is a tragic disaster become the instrument of a merciful God to create a joyous deliverance. Pray for Japan’s awakening!
The next video in the History of the Modern Gospel series is up. It is titled “Good for Goodness’ Sake”. Please watch and let us know what you think!