4 May 2018
(c) Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw 2018
Some time ago I had a discussion with someone who was ready to give up on the Christian life, saying it was too difficult, that it seemed that the Triune God did not care. In our hustle and bustle of life, we sometimes forget that God is persevering with us more than we are with Him. God finishes what He begins, unlike us. If He did not, we would never make it to heaven. As humans, you and I are always beginning things that we never seem to find time to finish. But consider God’s matchless grace in Philippians 1:6, that what He begins He finishes: “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it at the day of Jesus Christ.” “At the day of Jesus Christ” would seem to be the Last Day, the Day when all things are completed. We must recall that justification, as single work, was completed on the Cross, but sanctification, that which Paul speaks about here, is an ongoing process that begins at justification and is completed at the Last Day. Justification is an act; sanctification is a process.
Look at the butterfly wing—was it begun and not finished? Look at the woodpecker—was its specialized bill not finished? Look at the atom—was it a partial work? Look at the moon—is it a work abandoned? Look at yourself, the apex of God’s creation, the only creature made in God’s image—will you be thrown away after the work was begun? God works by a plan. He begins a work of grace in us, not as an experiment to see if we and He can make it together, but that He may complete His design in and for us. Can you imagine an architect who begins a project without plans, just going along to see how things work out?
If the Triune God began a work in us but did not finish it, who would lose more, God or us? It would definitely be God, for then He would be known as a failure. Others could say that God just could not handle it, that He gave it His best effort but finally gave up on us, that we were just too much for Him.
Moreover, according to Paul here in Philippians 1:6, who initiated the work in you, you or God? God! And if God did initiate the work of sanctification, will He decide against it later? As one man expressed it in a hymn:
I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew
He moved my soul to seek Him, seeking me;
It was not I that found [Thee], O Savior true;
No, I was found [by] Thee.
And is it not true that we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)? His love and grace are initial and ours responsive, for it was He who began the work in us, not we in Him!
And how do we know that God has begun a work in us? We can tell by our obedience, by the love we have for God, for mankind, for how much we love God’s Bible, by our faithful attendance at worship on the Lord’s Day, praying, and so on. Faith, hope, and love will be the hallmarks of our lives.
Let me give you a good example. Years ago I led a man to Christ who was only 18 years old. He mouthed some words, good words, but I wondered how committed he was to them. He was very much in love with a young lady, but she was not a Christian. When I told him and showed him from the Bible that God did not allow a believer to marry an unbeliever, he paused for a long time and said with tears in his eyes: “If that’s what God says, that’s what I’ll do.” His life has revealed the same commitment all these 49 years. More than anything else, one’s obedience to God reveals whether there has been true conversion or not, but our obedience does not merit our acceptance with God.
3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).
And do you know why it is God who first seeks us, and why we are responsive to Him, why it is that He saves us in this way? It is so that we cannot boast (see Eph 2:8-10). We’ll never be able to say that God did 99%, but if it were not for the 1% I did, I would never have made it to heaven.
Let us rejoice that for all those who trust in the death and righteousness of Christ for forgiveness of sins, our Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, has taken charge of our salvation, that our sins are forgiven, that His Name and reputation are on the line, and that by His persevering grace, we shall make it home! AMEN. Ω