Sunday, 26 August 2012

It Is Finished!

I am sure like most of us, you have unfinished projects laying around the house (especially in the garage or workshop) - projects that you ‘will eventually get around to finishing’.  Maybe it’s that jigsaw puzzle that you will ‘one day’ complete.  Or maybe it’s the dining room chairs or that bedroom door that need to be painted ‘one of these days’.  Or maybe it’s the book you are ‘working on and eventually publish’.  Or perhaps it’s the quilt that you ‘just need to sit down and finish it’.  Whatever the case, most of us have unfinished projects.  But you know what, God doesn’t have any projects that He ‘will one day finish’ or ‘one day get around to’.  No!  What God starts, He finishes!  Always.  Every time.

Paul writes in Phil 1.6 - ‘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.  Let’s break that verse into 4 parts, but slightly out of order.

The Meaning of the Work - First, we see that there is ‘a good work in you’.  What is this good work Paul is talking about?  I believe we can all agree that this verse can be applied to our walk of faith and thus the work is the gift of salvation - that we are saved from hell, saved unto God; that we are forgiven of all our sins and have eternal life.  So how does this work become ‘in you’ as Paul writes?  Simply by faith in the Risen Lord Jesus Christ.

Do you know your ABC’s of salvation?   (A)dmit your sins and that you are a sinner.  (B)elieve Jesus died for you.  (C)ome to Him and accept His free gift of salvation.  That simple!  It must be ‘in you’ because God’s work of salvation isn’t superficial.  It is not the external things that we do that saves us.  It is not doing more good than bad, not our Christian parents or upbringing, not our service or tithing, not our religiosity that saves us.  None of those is the good work that Paul is writing about her.  No, it is the work of salvation and it starts in our hearts (it’s personal) and then moves out into our lives (it’s practical).  And it is a good work - God can only do good!

The Person of the Work - Paul writes ‘He who has begun’.  So who is Paul talking about, who has begun the work?  Pretty obvious that in context, it is God!  Almighty God, Creator of the Universe!  It is He who spoke the world into existence.  It is He who hung the stars and the moon and the sun in the sky.  It is He who set this universe in motion, who spoke and it was.   It is the Almighty, all-powerful God, the Lord of Hosts, Jehovah Sabaoth.

And it is the same God who has begun His work in us!  See, it is not man who initiates the good work of salvation - no, God does!  Yet, man still thinks he can do enough good to earn God’s acceptance or His love or approval.  Maybe some of you have grown up being taught that - ‘keep these rules and regulations.  Be good, do good and you’ll get to heaven!’  Absolutely not!  The only way to get to heaven is through Jesus Christ (John 14.6) and the only way for God to save anyone is by faith in Jesus Christ.  It is God who began this work, not man.

The Certainty of the Work - next, Paul writes ‘will complete it’.   God WILL complete this work.  That is His Word and it is His promise - He is faithful to complete the work in us.  Paul also writes that he himself was ‘confident’ of this - he’s 100% sure!   Now, there are 2 key implications of this.  First, we won’t lose our salvation because God promises to finish it.  He is working on us now and will complete it in the future one day.  God holds us in His hands and we are secure in Him and in His work.  We as humans might start a project, work for a while, lose interest and eventually stop.  But God never does that w/ us - it is not in His character to leave any work unfinished. We have security knowing that what He started in us, He WILL complete.

Secondly, it is God who finishes the good work in us, not us.  It is not God starting the work, then sitting back and allowing us to take over and finish it for Him while He has a cup of coffee!  No, God not only begins the good work, He finishes it.  In fact, Jesus, God the Son cried out while on the Cross - ‘it is finished’!  Feel the burden being lifted off your shoulders?  God completes the work He began in us!  Not us.  (To balance this, we must also remember that SANCTIFICATION does depend on our obedience in living out the Word of God.  Paul writes in Phil 2.12-13 that we are to ‘work out our own salvation….for it is God who works in you both to will and to do…’.  We do have a part in our sanctification!)

The Timing of the Work - so when does all this take place?  It starts the day we accepted Jesus into our lives as Savior and Lord and it continues ‘until the day of Jesus Christ’.   It is complete when we stand before God in heaven!  Either when Jesus returns for us and takes us up to heaven.  Or if we die before Jesus returns, we go immediately into the presence of God in heaven!  Either way, it is the day we meet Jesus again!  So come quickly Lord Jesus!

In closing, imagine with me a master potter taking a lump of clay.  It’s basically just dirt and water, right?  Just mud..  He puts it on the potter’s wheel and starts it spinning.  Then he works that lump, up and down, in and out - pulling, molding, shaping the lump.  Until it begins to take shape and becomes the vase or pot he imagined in his mind.  But he’s not finished.  If he stops then, the lump would deform again, fall in on itself and be ruined.  He must let it dry and then fire, bake it.  Perhaps paint it.  And then finally glazes it and bakes or fires it again.  And then - finished!  A masterpiece.

That is what God the Master Potter is doing with each of us and He won’t stop until we’re formed, baked, glazed and finished!  A masterpiece!  Amen!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Sowing and Reaping

Over the last few days, I have been studying this biblical concept of sowing and reaping, and have been very challenged (and scared - see last point below) by what I have learned about this principle.  I have never really stopped to think about all the different aspects of this principle, but am glad I did!  As I said before, it's a very challenging principle to live out daily!  Anyways, below are some highlights I have gathered during the study...

You reap WHAT you sow.  Apple seeds produce apples (not oranges).  Corn seeds produce corn (not kiwi-fruits).  Tomato seeds produce what?  Tomatoes, obviously!  At the creation of the world, God said let the grass, herb and tree reproduce ‘according to its kind’ (Gen 1.11).  And so it has been ever since (sorry evolutionists, that's just the way it is)!

So if a person sows evil constantly, then eventually he/she will reap evil back, in the form of consequences, even direct judgment.  Yet, so many people (even Christians) sow in one field but want to reap in another!  They want to sow in the field of worldliness and sin, but they want to reap from the field of righteousness!

Take for example Princess Di and Mother Teresa - remember back in 1997, both ladies passed away in the same week in August?  Remember all the media Lady Di got - front page on every newspaper and magazine for weeks!  And Mother Teresa got perhaps a couple paragraphs in a few newspapers.  The first lady lived a life of often sowing to the flesh and the world.  (Yes, she did a lot for charities, but her personal life was pretty worldly, with her marital affair and divorce).  The second lady lived her life for others, sacrificing all.  She truly sowed love and compassion. 

And see, most people want to live like Princess Di in luxury and style, but die like Mother Teresa in sacrificial giving!  They want to sow to the world and the flesh but reap the blessings of sacrifice, compassion and love.  It don't work that way - your reap what you sow!  The Bible says ‘For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life’ (Gal 6.6-10).

You reap AFTER you sow.  Harvest comes after the plowing and sowing.  You never reap before you sow, do you?!   No, you must plow the field, sow next and then you will reap in time, when the harvest is ready.  Not right away.

The Bible states ‘And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in DUE SEASON we shall reap if we do not lose heart’ (Gal 6.9 - my emphasis). There is an appointed time for harvest.  So when a person sows evil now, they might not reap judgment immediately because God is longsuffering and is waiting for people to repent.  But there is a future time when they will reap what they sow!

Yet, people mistake God’s longsuffering for acceptance.  They think that if God hasn’t done anything yet, then it must be ok; He must accept it!  No, nothing happens immediately because God is longsuffering and patient.  But in due season, when sin is ripe, God will judge and people will reap.

You reap MORE than you sow.  When you plant one apple or corn seed, do you simply reap one apple or one corn cob?  No, normally you reap more!  Likewise, when we sow evilness, in time, we will reap - and more!  The judgment and consequences can often be more than what was sown!

You might say - unfair!  But God is just; He will mete out discipline justly.  Think of it this way - if you sow tiny evils over a lifetime, it adds up.  So don’t be surprised when judgment comes, that it is intense.  It might seem like more than the sin, but actually, sin has been adding up for years.  This is what is implied when Hosea declares ‘They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind’ (Hosea 8.7).  For years Israel sowed sin and evil and soon they will reap the consequences of those years!  They sowed the wind, but soon will reap the whirlwind!

What are we sowing in our lives, marriages and families?  Are we sowing to the flesh or the Spirit?  This principle applies in the positive also - we can sow good things and reap blessings!  Maybe not immediately, but we will reap one day.  And more than we have sown!

So let us sow to the Spirit, let us sow goodness, kindness and compassion.  Let us sow truth, mercy and life!  Let us sow into the lives of our spouses, children, co-workers, neighbors, friends and acquaintances.  Let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap the fruit of our faithful labors!