The Lord’s salvation is awesome. Every recipient of this experience becomes a new creation. Old things are passed away, the Bible says (2 Corinthians 5:17). People who once hated God fall in love with Him. One of the most fascinating things I witnessed during my years as a pastor is that through the life-changing gospel of Christ, even those whom society has given up on can find newness of life and become champions for God.
I am still amazed at my own relationship with Christ, which began over 27 years ago. God radically changed my life instantly. A couple of my colleagues could not believe that the same person who drank beer with them during lunch the previous week was now saying he did not drink anymore. They never saw me go back on that testimony.
On the other hand, none of us has arrived. The Lord continues to work in our lives. We may not be aware that this is happening. He integrates this progressive work into our daily lives, exploiting opportunities to shape us into the image of His dear Son.
I believe that if Christians would be truthful, most of them would admit that they are not satisfied with their current relationship with Christ. Perhaps it’s because they are struggling morally in one or more areas in their life, and they can’t seem to get victory. Or maybe they feel inept to effectively do what they know God has called them to do in the ministry. Maybe they don’t even know exactly what it is, but they just know something is missing in their relationship with the Lord.
Listen to what the Lord inspired Paul the apostle to say about this: “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). I want to look at three key words in this verse:
The first word is confident. We must know without a shadow of a doubt that God continues to work in our lives. Have you ever heard a Christian who has a bad temper try to justify his outbursts of rage? He may say, “I can’t help it; God made me this way.” But it’s not the will of God for His children to go about erupting into tantrums. We need to pray for victory in that area. Such prayer for personal change must be undergirded by a confidence that it is the will of God to continuously change us into the image of Christ.
The second word is begun. The good work the Lord has begun in us is salvation. This experience does not denote spiritual maturity. The truth is that when we first got saved we didn’t act much differently than we did before we met Christ. That’s because we were babes in Christ. Not knowing what to do, we did what we knew. Through salvation, however, the Lord has provided us everything we need to become the great champion He wants us to ultimately become.
The third word is perform. I quoted Paul’s words from the King James Version of the Bible. The word “perform” from this verse means to “bring to completion.” You see, God wants to complete the good work He has begun in us. He will not be finished with us until the very end of our journey here. Thanks to the Lord’s salvation in our lives, we are no longer what we used to be, but because of His progressive work in our lives, neither are we yet what we are destined to become!
Paul’s letter to the Philippians is addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi” (Philippians 1:1). The word “saints” applies only to those who have been saved. But it is important to understand that though salvation is instant, sanctification is a lifetime endeavor.
A lot of misconception has been perpetuated by believers who refuse to be for real. They have promoted this false idea that when a person becomes born again he almost walks on water. Some unbelievers who might accept Christ feel intimidated because they have been given this misconception that being a Christian denotes perfection. Not that we necessarily make statements that bluntly, but at times when someone fails we comment, “I know he said he was a Christian, but he must not be if he did something like that.” Well, friend, sometimes Christians do nonChristianlike things.
Even prominent ministers bear out the truth of what I am saying. As I write this message, I am reminded of three ministers who made the news big time last year in bad ways. I won’t name them. My intent is not to add embarrassment to them, but to expand on my point. Each of these ministers had national influence. A couple of them pastored megachurches. Because of their moral failures, none of them presently remain in those leadership positions.
Understandably, many Christians who had supported these ministers felt betrayed. They came on TV and stood behind pulpits telling the people of God how to live a victorious Christian life, and they themselves were not doing the same, some argue. Then some of the Christians at the grassroots felt that if these bigger than life preachers failed in such a big way, what hope was there for the little guy?
There is no way to put a positive spin on what those preachers did, the events were tragic for the body of Christ, the devil rejoiced over them, and the ministers involved no doubt endured much pain. But it is also important for us to remember that though ministers are saved and called to preach, God is still working on them as well. Being called to preach the gospel does not denote perfection.
The Bible says that the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: “and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would” (Galatians 5:17). God inspired Paul to write this to the Christians at Galatia. He is telling us that a war exists within us. It’s between our born again spirit and our flesh. The one always goes contrary to the direction of the other. In this life, we will never be immune to be being tempted in our flesh. God’s will for each of us, however, is that we learn how to walk in the Spirit that we not fulfill the desires of our flesh (verse 16). This we will do if we cooperate with His progressive work in our lives. By that I mean we must be committed to fully developing. Some Christians fail to mature because they are not ready to die to themselves in some areas.
Perhaps as you read this article you are not where you want to be in Christ. You may even wonder how you will ever reach spiritual maturity, based on where you currently are, and where you desire to be. But believe me, friend, the Lord is not finished with you yet.
He deals with each of us differently for a number of reasons. You may be struggling in an area that you have been battling for the past decade, yet you know of new converts who had the same problem but God just miraculously took it away from them at salvation. That seems so unfair, right? Your theology is as good as mine as to why it happens that way. For example, I know believers who have been delivered from drugs and alcohol but who can’t seem to leave cigarettes alone. But I say never give up. Never read into your lack of progress in an area of spiritual development that God wants you to remain that way. Rather, for the struggles that make you feel less than complete, you must pray and seek the face of God, being confident that He has begun a good work in you, and He is committed to finishing the same.
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Praise God! I am so glad that God is not finished with me yet. He has not brought me this far to leave me. He is going to finished what He started in my life. Thanks so much for this reminder. God bless you!