Philippians 1:3-11 3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 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. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God.
When I was in second and third grade I lived in Wichita, Kansas. There we had an organization that is a bit like the Girl Scouts, but it was called “Campfire Girls.” The first level of the Campfire Girls was called “Bluebirds.” I was a Bluebird. At every meeting we would hold our little hands up and say our pledge or motto. It went like this:
To have fun.
To learn to make things.
To remember to finish what I begin.
To keep my temper most of the time.
To learn about nature and living outdoors.
To make friends.
Pretty basic. Pretty good things to focus on. I’m almost 47 and these ideas have stuck with me for about forty years now. I’m not so great with crafts, and I have never learned to love living outdoors, but I do enjoy having fun. I do like to make friends, and completing what I start has always been a high priority to me. Perhaps that is part of the image of God in me; that trait of wanting to finish what I begin. We read here in Philippians 1:6 where Paul tells the church he is writing to that they can rest assured knowing that God is at work in them and He will take it all the way to completion. Look at your neighbor and tell them, “You’re a work in progress.”
The truth is, God is at work to bring about wholeness in our lives. He is at work to accomplish His plans in and through our lives. He is in the process of helping us become who we already are by faith, the children of God. He is transforming our lives so that we become like Jesus. And when God goes to work, Paul wants us to know that He takes His work seriously. He takes it all the way to a finished and perfect product. Let me give you three things to think about. Perhaps you will want to write them down:
God has completed His work for us.
God is completing His work in us.
God is completing His work through us.
1. God has completed His work for us.
Jesus, the Son of God, God in the flesh, is a completer. In John 4:34 Jesus said, ”My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to FINISH his work.
The work Jesus had to finish was a rescue mission. It was a salvation work. It was a dirty job, and Jesus was the only One who could do it. Sin demands a sacrifice. The payment for sin is blood. Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin.” Because sin is the most vile and offensive thing a person could do against God, it requires that the most precious and priceless thing, the sacrifice of His Son, to be the ransom for the sins of the world.
When Jesus was crucified He took on the sins of the world, past, present and future. Sin brings the judgment of God. God’s judgment, His wrath, the punishment for every sin from every person, past, present and future was placed on Jesus.
Everything that needed to happen in order for us to go free from sin was accomplished on the cross. Listen to John 19:28-30 28 Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. 30 When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The Greek word, Tetelestai, is the word Jesus cried out when He said, “It is finished.” This word was a word that was written on business documents or receipts during the New Testament times. When that word was written on those things it indicated that the bill had been paid in full. It revealed the price had been fully paid. Those at the cross would have heard Jesus declare the price for sin had been fully paid. The nuances of this word, “Tetelestai” are worth exploring.
An artist might have said Tetelestai! when he finished a painting in order to announce, “The picture is perfect.” Jesus, the Master Artisan, declared from the cross that the picture of salvation He had drawn from eternity past was always perfect but now complete. It is finished!
A servant might have confidently said Tetelestai! when asked by his master if the work he had been assigned to do was complete. The servant would say, “Yes, master. I have finished the work.” Jesus, the Suffering Servant, completed the work His Father had given Him. It is finished!
A judge might have said Tetelestai! when he conferred a sentence or when issuing a ruling that a sentence had been completed. The judge would say, “Justice has been served.” There is only one Lawgiver and Judge–only One who is able to save and destroy. And as the Father turned His back on His Son, the Father was well pleased. It pleased the Father to crush His Son. It is finished!
A priest might have said Tetelestai! when he recognized an unblemished and acceptable sacrifice for God. The priest would announce to the person offering the sacrifice that the offering was acceptable according to the law of God. And, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Hebrews 4:14-16). Yes, our Great High Priest, Jesus the Lord, not only mediates for His people as a priest but also He Himself was and is the perfect sacrifice. It is finished!
A merchant might have said Tetelestai! after stamping a bill “the debt has been paid.” The Christian’s debt has been paid in full by the propitiation of Jesus Christ. By Jesus paying the Christian’s sin debt in full, “God [has] made [us] alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him,” (Colossians 2:13-15). It is finished!
A soldier might have said Tetelestai! as a battle cry toward a vanquished foe. The soldier would yell, “You are finished!” Jesus’ cry on the cross was not a cry of despair or defeat. Oh, no. When Jesus cried with a loud voice, He was declaring victory of the enemy–Satan, sin, and death. It is finished!
The Artist had the last word as to the meaning of the painting—not the art critic. The Servant knew if the work in the house had been completed and approved by the Master—not the stranger who entered the house. The Judge determined the sentence, its execution, and its satisfaction—not the convicted criminal. The Priest determined if one’s sacrifice was acceptable to God—not the penitent sinner. The Merchant determined if a debt was paid—not the debtor. The Victorious Warrior determined the future of his combatant—not the defeated enemy.
Jesus said, “It is finished!” And He meant it. (Taken from: https://carm.org/it-is-finished)
And before I finish with this word that means “it is finished” let me tell you happens to be in the perfect tense in the Greek. That is important because the perfect tense refers to something that is over, to something that has already taken place, but its results continue into the present day!
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, we don’t just look back at the cross and say, “Yep, that happened,” but the thrill we have is that we can say, “Yep that happened, and it is still happening!” It is still taking place. The finished work of Jesus on the cross is still firmly in place and at work for me to provide for my salvation! The blood that gives me strength from day to day, it will NEVER lose its power! Hallelujah!
I’m taking an online Old Testament class through Mid America Christian University. When I took the first quiz, I got a score that surprised me because I felt I answered the questions correctly. I investigated the situation only to find there were some questions I had failed to answer. There were some things I had left blank. Fortunately, in this format, you are allowed a do-over, so I was able to go back and re-take the test, finishing all of the questions.
Listen, when Jesus died on the cross, He left no unfinished business behind! When the word “Tetelestai” rolled off the cracked and parched lips of Jesus on the cross, it meant “It was finished in the past, it is still finished today, and it will remain finished in the future.” No one can undo or overturn the finished work of Jesus on the cross! Glory to God!
God has worked for you in providing salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son. Let’s keep our eyes on Him. Not only did He complete the work for us, but He will complete the work in us. Hebrews 12:2 (KJV) 2 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 right hand of the throne of God.
That leads me to point 2 this morning.
God is completing His work in us.
Philippians 2:12-15 12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. 14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
The power of God at work within us is the transforming and empowering help of the Holy Spirit. The word “works” in verse 13 on the screen is the word from which our English word “energy” is derived. Literally, the divine energy of God is at work in us.
God does a work in us as we read, hear, and obey His Word. God trains us and shapes our thoughts and behavior as we take His Word in. Only God can change a person’s heart and mind. Learning to think like Jesus and desire God’s will from our hearts is a work God takes on inside of those who will surrender. Sometimes it is so subtle, but over time, we are the recipients of lasting inward change.
A converted cannibal in the South Sea islands was sitting by a large pot reading his Bible when an anthropologist wearing a pith helmet approached him and asked, “What are you doing?” The native replied, “I’m reading the Bible.”
The anthropologist scoffed and said, “Don’t you know that modern, civilized man had rejected that book? It’s nothing but a pack of lies. You shouldn’t waste your time reading it.” The cannibal looked him over from head to toe and slowly replied, “Sir, if it weren’t for this book, you’d be in that pot.” (http://www.lifeway.com/article/sermon-change-spiritual-growth-transformation-philippians-2)
The Word of God had changed his life, and his appetite. Something happens on the inside of a person who will seek to engage with and surrender to the Word of God.
Another internal aspect to God’s work in us conviction and direction the Holy Spirit exerts on us. Think of the Holy Spirit as the caution and red light that tells you to pay attention, to think about what you are doing and to stop when you get to an intersection in life you aren’t supposed to cross. The Holy Spirit becomes an internal warning system that not only will caution us and convict us of sin, but the Holy Spirit will applaud us and confirm God’s direction for us when we go the right way giving us courage to move forward without fear.
I love this quote by Rick Warren. He says that Christlikeness is not produced by imitation, but by inhabitation. We allow Christ to live through us. “For this is the secret: Christ lives in you.” –Colossians 1:27 NLT
I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record, but I love Paul’s words in Ephesians 3. When he spoke the prayer for the people at the church in Ephesus that begins in verse 16 he wasn’t praying for their physical body to be healed. He wasn’t praying that God would supply them with a new job or more resources. He didn’t ask that their relationships would be blessed or that they would “have a great day.” He prayed for what was going on inside of them. Look at the text with me.
Ephesians 3:16-21 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge–that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is AT WORK WITHIN US, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
God promises to finish what He starts in us, and that includes what He is doing on the inside where we are tempted to get jealous or angry, where we can easily hold a grudge or decide to get even with someone. He wants to work on the inside where we are anxious or insecure, where our thoughts become obsessive and controlling. Our faith in God and what we are willing to believe Him for are all internal and unseen, but very powerful works of God in us.
Paul knew that his prayers for the Ephesians were strategic because what God accomplishes on the inside of us is far more important than any external blessing He can give us. Why? Because is it that internal strength that will give us staying power. It is that internal confidence that will give us endurance. It is that internal peace that will keep us from trying to take a quick short cut when things get tough.
3. The last thing I want to say to you this morning is that God is completing His work through us. When you look back at the Old Testament and the Covenant God made with Abraham in Genesis 12 you will see that God wants to use us the same way He used Abraham and the same way He used Jesus. We are blessed by God to be a blessing to the rest of the world. God wants to work through us to display His love and grace and to tell His salvation story.
Go back to Philippians 2:14 if you will. There Paul says, “Do everything without complaining or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
Paul is basically saying, “Don’t let your bad attitude get in the way of your mission.” You are supposed to shine like a star. People are supposed to see you and take note that your life is different. They are supposed to be able to see that you are living victoriously. They are supposed to see that you have been rescued from depravity (the penalty of sin). We are supposed to stand out. We can stand out for the wrong reasons! Paul wants us to stand out for God’s reasons so He can work through us to continue to bring His hope to the world.
The very cool thing about the way God can work through you is that He can work through your past which includes your failures and mistakes. When people see how God can redeem your story, when they can see that He never stopped loving you even when you failed Him, that He didn’t give up on you even when you walked away from Him and started living for yourself, it gives them hope that that same God can still use them for His purposes too.
God has given us gifts and talents to use in His name and power, and as we do, He works through us to perform miracles and speak messages into people’s lives. You want proof that God can use you? Read the Bible. There are all kinds of crazy people who lived crazy lives that wound up being used in a mighty way for God’s glory. You see it isn’t about who we are or what we have done when it comes to God working through us, but it is all about who Jesus is and what He has done, and that He can do amazing things in spite of us in and through our lives.
Perhaps you are here this morning and you didn’t know God had worked for you. You didn’t understand that your salvation was more than a choice that you had to make, but it was a gift God worked to give you, and it cost Him everything. And when He purchased your salvation, you were covered. Your sin was taken care of. You just have to want to accept what He did on your behalf.
Maybe you are here today, and you have been a church-goer, but you haven’t really surrendered everything on the inside so that God can complete that deep, spiritual transformation in your life. Those rough edges that need smoothed off your personality, those attitudinal issues, the inside scars you are carrying from childhood that still need healed, you can allow God to get a little busier on the inside of your being. He has work to finish in you.
Or maybe you haven’t had the thrill yet, the experience of what it means to know God is working through you to changes lives around you. Maybe you didn’t know that your past wasn’t an issue, but that it is now an asset in the hands of God. Maybe you didn’t realize that if you just present yourself for His service, He will empower you to courageously share your faith in Him. But you know now, and you want God to work through your life.
Oh what amazing things happen when God gets to work! He is a finisher. He will finish what He has started for you, in you, and through you if you will allow Him to this morning!