Keeping on, and being kept, in the Christian life
It’s the Rugby World Cup 2015 that’s dominating the sporting headlines just now. As I write, Scotland are due to play Japan later today – a match that has got a lot more worrying since the Japanese beat the Springboks in the opening fixture of the group.
During the 2007 tournament in France, I drove past a church whose notice-board carried an eye-catching poster of a rugby ball sailing between the posts, with the caption underneath: “GOD WILL CONVERT YOUR TRY.” It’s a reference to Philippians 1:6, where Paul says that he is: “… confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
So what do we mean, with this text and slogan together?
Well, let’s firstly “kick into touch” what we do not mean. We’re not suggesting that if we just try hard enough to live a good life, God will be happy with that, and will ‘see us right’ in the final analysis. Although many choose to believe this, it is not sound biblical doctrine.
No, we’re referring to God’s work in salvation – the fact that we can trust God completely for salvation. The verse highlights the past, present and future aspects of God’s salvation.
In the past, God began a good work in us. God’s gracious choice of his elect before the creation of the world is in the past, as is the cross of Christ where Jesus died and rose again to secure our salvation. Thus, all who trust in Christ are forgiven and accepted through him.
But not only that: in the present God is carrying on this work. God not only acts FOR believers in the past, but IN us in the present. After we accept God’s free offer of salvation and commit our lives to Christ, God does not leave us as raw material. He works in us, through the influence of his Spirit, to produce in us an increasing godliness - so that, gradually, we come more and more to resemble Christ.
Finally we see a glimpse of the future in this verse: God will carry on his work in us until it is finally completed at Christ’s return. Sometimes we may feel that we’re struggling in our Christian lives, but the promise of God is that HE will complete what HE has begun in us.
And for us, the important thing is to live in tune with God; to be open to this process he is working in us; to co-operate with God’s indwelling presence that we call the Holy Spirit.
So we thank God that, in the past, he has saved us.
We thank him that, in the present, he is continuing that work in us.
And we thank God for his promise that one day this work will be complete.
And until that work is complete we try our utmost, in dependence on God the Holy Spirit, to worship, honour, love, obey, follow and in every way live for, God. And we are promised by a wonderfully loving God that when we cross the line at the end he will, by his grace, convert our try – by finishing what he started in us.