Open your Bible to Philippians chapter 1 verse 6: "Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." People talk about having favorite Bible verses. I have to confess that Philippians 1:6 is one of my favorites. The truth that God has revealed here is something every Christian needs to understand. If you are a true Christian today it is because God began and is continuing a mighty work in your life. That work is absolutely guaranteed to turn out successfully, because it is God’s work, not man’s. If you have been born again by the Spirit of God, then you don’t need to be afraid of ever being lost, because the God who called you will be faithful to complete the work he began in you.
In this short verse Paul tells us four things about the good work that has begun in the life of a Christian:
First of all, Paul speaks of…
I. THE AUTHOR OF THE WORK
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
Who is the "he" of this verse? My brothers and sisters it is God himself. Paul does not refer to the good work he had done in Philippi. Paul was the missionary who was sent by God to preach the Gospel in Philippi. Paul did a great work there. He established the church and built it up. But when he writes this letter he does not refer at all to the work he had done. It was God’s work -- through him. In Acts 14:27 when Paul and Barnabas returned from their first missionary journey they gathered the church together in Antioch, not to give an account of what they had done but what God had done: "On arriving there, they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them and how he had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles." It wasn’t Paul; it wasn’t Barnabus; it was God who began that good work in them! Salvation is a work of God.
Now it is not surprising that Paul should emphasize that salvation is all of God and not of man. Paul never forgot what he had been before God reached down and saved him. In I Timothy 1:12-14: "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus." He says, I was a blasphemer! I was a persecutor! I was violent! He was a blasphemer because he adamantly spoke against Jesus and denied he was the Messiah. He was a persecutor…a ravenous enemy of the faith. He arrested and imprisoned men and women and tried to make them renounce their faith. Third, he was a violent man. The word Paul uses here (hubris) means "a man of insolent and brutal violence." He delighted in inflicting pain on other people. But then as he was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians, the Lord suddenly appeared to him. Acts 9:3: "As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, ’Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’" It wasn’t Paul’s plan to become a Christian. It was God who initiated the work in him. He says in I Timothy 1:15-16: "Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life."
Not only did God initiate the work in Paul. Paul remembered how God also initiated the work in the Christians at Philippi. In Acts 16 verses 6 and 7 we are told that Paul did not intend to go to Philippi. He wanted to go somewhere else. He wanted to preach somewhere in Asia. That seemed to him the right thing to do. But it says, "the Spirit of Jesus would not allow him to." Then Paul had a vision during the night. God gave him this vision. A man of Macedonia appeared to him and said, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." As a result of that vision Paul crossed the sea and landed in Europe. So my brothers and sisters, this work is not about us, but everything to do with the author of the work.
The second point is…
II. THE NATURE OF THE WORK
The key to understanding this second principle is the word "in." "He who began a good work IN you." What Paul is talking about here is what the Bible calls being born from above or being born again. A Christian is not someone who has simply changed his ways and decided to reform his life and be a little bit better and more religious. A Christian is someone in whom God has done a work that is so radical it can only be described as being born again. The Bible refers to this change as being raised from the dead, or being transformed into a new creation. In Ephesians 2:4 Paul tells us that "God who is rich in mercy, MADE US ALIVE with Christ even when we were DEAD in transgressions…” And he says in II Corinthians 5:17 "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a NEW CREATION; the old has gone, the new has come!"
Becoming a Christian is the deepest and most wonderful change that a person can ever know. It is not a superficial and temporary change. It is a powerful work of God in the very center of our being. John Wesley called it, "the life of God in the soul of man." The Prophet Ezekiel describes it beautifully in Ezekiel 36:25-27: God said, "I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws…" My brothers and sisters, if I needed a physical heart transplant, I would probably go the Medical College of South Carolina in Charleston or Emory in Atlanta. But what God performs on us is a spiritual heart transplant. He removes our hard old heart and gives us a new heart, a heart of love, a heart of compassion, and a heart of forgiveness -- a heart that loves Him and wants to follow His ways and obey His commandments.
What God begins he continues in us. "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…" I have been told about the ABCs of becoming a Christian: A-stands for Admit you are a sinner. B-stands for Believe God loves you and sent Jesus to be your Savior. C-stands for Come to Him just as you are, and trust in Him as the One, who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. But did you know there are also ABCs of spiritual growth? Yes. A-stands for ADVERSITY. B-stands for BUILDS. C-stands for CHARACTER. Adversity Builds Character! We can’t grow in Christ-likeness without struggle. We can’t come to spiritual maturity apart from being put through the fire. But the fires of disappointment, heartaches, and trials are all part of the great process of God continuing the good work he began in us.
We may not be able to understand it now but in the future we will see how these things are all part of the great process of God continuing the good work he began. He has an ultimate purpose in the work he is doing. The vital issue for all us is to know for certain that this work is taking place in us.
Which brings us to the third principle…
III. THE CERTAINTY OF THE WORK
There is no doubt about it, says Paul: "I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." His confidence is based on the character of God himself. God never starts a work and leaves it unfinished! That would be a contradiction of his character. God is not like man. We start things but we do not finish them. Thank God that my hope in Christ does not rest upon my will power. It rests upon the fact that God would never have started the work in me if he had not decided to finish it. Paul says the same thing in Romans 5:10: "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life." What Paul means is: if Christ died for you when you were an enemy and a rebel and hated him; how much more, then, will God keep and sustain you and finish the work he began. The character of God guarantees the completion of the work. That’s why Jesus could say to the Father in John 17:4 “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” That’s why Paul could say to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
And that’s why the Hebrew writer could say “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the hand of the throne of God.”
In Paul Billheimer book “Don’t Waste Your Sorrows”. He says when you relapse into discouragement, resentment, bitterness and defeat you are wasting your sorrows -- not realizing that the sorrows, heartaches, disappointments you are enduring now are being used by God to conform you to the image of Christ and to prepare you to reign with Him.
IV. THE PURPOSE OF THE WORK
Paul gives the answer: "Being confident of this very thing that he who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Christ Jesus."
We are being prepared for the Day of Jesus Christ. What is the Day of Christ Jesus? It is the great day when the Son of God will return to this earth in power and glory. This is the day of God’s final triumph over evil. And when Christ comes we will share in His glory! Listen to how Paul describes this coming glory in Romans 8:18-19: "I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed."
The picture Paul draws in Romans 8:18-19 is of the whole creation craning its neck, waiting with eager expectation for that glorious day when Christ returns and the sons of God are revealed. At a wedding, when the bride comes down the aisle in all her radiant beauty, everyone cranes their neck to get a look at her! You are the Bride of Christ! You are being prepared now for the Day of Jesus Christ, when He comes as the Bridegroom to claim his chosen bride. On that day the entire universe will stand in awe of what the grace of God has done. In Ephesians 5:26 Paul says “That right now He is making the church holy, cleansing her by the washing of the Word, in order to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”
Jesus speaks of that future glory in Matthew 13:41-43: "The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father."
And the reason we will shine forth like the sun is because of what Jesus did at Calvary over 2000 years ago.
He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities,
And with his stripes we are healed,
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
He was brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
He was crucified, dead, and buried.
He was placed in a borrowed tomb.
But Early on the third day, the greatest pronouncement that has ever been made came from a graveyard when an angel of the Lord spoke to several women and said
“Fear not ye; for I know that ye seek Jesus who was crucified.
He is not here; for he is risen
The Good News that I have come to announce to you today is that “Jesus Has Won”.
He is victor now, winner henceforth, and champion forevermore.
He is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.
He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
And because he lives, truth lives, hope endures, love triumphs, and virtue is justified
Because he lives, honesty has overcome, righteousness is proven, and sanctification is empowered
Because he lives, holiness is real, salvation has come, grace is sufficient and mercy is invincible.
But Most of all, because he lives I can face tomorrow
Because he lives all fear is gone
Because I know he holds the future
And life is worth the living, because he lives.
He’s Sweet I Know, He’s Sweet I know
Dark Clouds May Rise, and Strong Winds May Blow
But I’ll Tell The World, Wherever I Go
I Found A Savior, He’s Sweet I Know.
My brothers and sisters, nothing God permits in your life is accidental or without design. He is shaping you and preparing you for the glorious future he has in mind for you when the whole universe will stand in awe at the workmanship of God. By the grace of God we are destined to shine like the sun in glory in the Day of Christ Jesus.
Can you say this morning: Yes, I do love the Lord Jesus Christ with a fervent love. I have a hunger to know His Word. My heart longs to please him, and it grieves me to think of disobeying His commands. My delight is to live for Him. Whatever he brings into my life I know he is using it to conform me to the image of Christ
If this describes you then there is evidence that God has begun a good work in you! I pray that each one of us here this morning can join the great Apostle Paul in saying, "I am confident of this, that God who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."