By Pastor Josh Kirk
“And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6
As we looked at the various piles scattered around, words failed me under the baleful eye of my bride. The object of my wife’s attention was the garage. All she wanted was a hammer, but there was none in sight. I knew where it was, or at least the top three places it was likely to be, but getting to those most likely places required careful navigation of a labyrinth of spiky objects, uneven footing, and protruding handles of various yard tools. The main occupants of this menagerie of useful stuff were piles of unfinished projects. A stack of wood here, a box containing disassembled headlights and nail gun parts there, all piled in a disorganized jumble, added up to an overwhelming mess. Maybe you can relate. Various aspects of our lives, whether it be a living situation like a messy garage or a weak spiritual condition, all suffer because of our limitation. Limited time, money, energy, knowledge, motivation, or simply strength lead to unfinished projects and goals. Our God does not suffer from any of these. He has never lacked the necessary power or resources or motivation to accomplish all his holy will. Nothing gets left undone, including our sanctification. Paul is confident of this fact. He knows God doesn’t leave anything unfinished. When he starts something he finishes it. The good work he started in each of his chosen people will not be left to flounder or fade into irrelevance like many of the projects in my garage. An end date is promised. As we learned last week, sanctification is the process by which God sets us apart for holiness and begins to work that holiness in us. Philippians assures us that God will not leave us unfinished but will complete the work he began. What does this finished work look like? Scripture, while not exhaustive, nevertheless paints a clear picture of this finished work.
Glorification is a “reuniting of the body and soul together, whereby both shall be partners in glory, in the enjoyment of the three persons of the Trinity, all the saints and angels for ever” (Christopher Love, Heavens Glory, p.86). Our bodies have suffered for the sake of Jesus Christ in this world and it is a co-partner with the soul, living out our Christian obligations.; therefore it will be glorified with Christ also (Gal 6:17; 2 Cor 5:10). Our new, unified spiritual body will no longer be hindered by sin or weakness but will be able to fully partake in the enjoyment of fellowship with God and thankfulness for his gifts. No longer will we ever say, “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” Though there is much more we could say on this, I want to highlight a few implications
1) As we stated earlier, glorification is the end of sanctification; it is not a result completely divorced from means. It is necessary that we are grieved by various trials now so that we can be received into glory. Our endurance under suffering is not only good, it is necessary. Intentionally striving to kill our sin and run after Jesus is hard, but essential. None who live in and enjoy a life of sin in this world would find heaven enjoyable if they got there. Progressive sanctification is a necessary preparation for eternal life with Jesus. This fact should invigorate our efforts to work out our own salvation.
2) Glorification should give us hope because we know all afflictions we face, whether resulting from our own sin or others’, are temporary. Our fight for holiness seems a never ending battle. Most of us can resonate with Paul’s experience, “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing…So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?! (Rom 7:18-19; 21-24)”. Jesus will. Jesus will deliver us from this body of death and give us new bodies of life that no longer wage war against us, seeking to do what is wrong. Praise be to God, the total depravity we are all born into has an expiration date. What hope this brings to the struggling Christian! Can you imagine what it would be like to run a foot race without knowing how long the distance is or if there is ever an end? Our struggles can feel like this. There seems to be no end. But the reality is quite different. An end is promised and looking forward to that day should give us reason to endure today.
Maybe you’re reading this and your spiritual life looks like my garage: a disorganized mess. The hope that it will one day be clean should inspire you to get to work now. Maybe you don’t want to. Maybe it looks too hard. It very well might, and that’s why you need the church. In the instance with my garage, exercising dominion and order over that messy piece of my domain was thoroughly demotivating and overwhelming for me. But it wasn’t for my wife. The thought that the garage might one day actually be useful spurred her on to work through the mess and conquer it (with my begrudging help). The thought that one day we will be glorified and sin will no longer have dominion over us should not discourage us from doing anything, but rather assure us that the effort is worth it. Often, that effort will require more than just you. It will require the help of brothers and sisters who love you enough to step into your mess and help you get to work. Glorification should make us want to be the person who is devoted to clearing up the mess and stepping into the messes of others, for God’s great glory and our great joy.