Bread – Endings

September 9, 2013


Readings for Monday, September 9, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 13:1-10; Phil. 1:1-11; Mark 15:40-47; Psalms 41,44,52

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What is the end of man? It seems as if there are really only two answers – nothing or everything. Nothing is going to the grave and staying there. Everything is going to the grave to be brought into eternal life with Christ. If you don’t believe in Christ, then you would substitute “XXX” for Christ and fill it in.

Now there are then two basic ways to get to everything, according to the world religions. There is the way whereby man proves himself worthy of promotion, through good works, pious deeds, a moral life, obedience to the law, care for others, etc. In various forms, this is all of the world’s religions except one. We may believe in a god or gods, but the work is ours to do and we can either meet the standard or we can’t. In these various religions, the god may be presented in stern form (we never know whether we are good enough) or easy form (any good work will add up to something positive), but it is still us building the tower of Babel to heaven, so that we may ascend under our own power to the place of eternal life.

The second basic way to get to everything is to recognize that there are no good works by which we can ascend to heaven, but only one work, the work of God, where He comes to get us. There is one religion which tells us that God came for us, grabs tight to us, and gives us everything. That religion contains Christ as the centerpiece, God made man on earth, God the Son put to death for our sins that through Him our shortcomings, our sins, our filthy rags, might be forgiven for eternity. Because man has nothing to do with this rescue operation, it is a stumbling block to those of us who see ourselves first.

All this today is pre-cursor to almost a throw-away line by Paul in his letter today to the Philippians, which we read now: “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.” Phil. 1:6

One of the reasons I like to capitalize pronouns referring to God is to avoid the next question. In the preceding quotation from Philippians, “he” who? Who is being referred to? In the preceding sentence, it starts out with “God” (“I thank my God…”) and makes reference to the gospel (“…your partnership in the gospel…”), but does not mention Jesus Christ (although the introduction does make reference to Jesus (“To all the saints in Christ Jesus..”). The “he” certainly does not make reference to Paul, because he would have used the word “I.” So we have as likely candidates for the reference to be either “God” or “Christ Jesus”), and since Jesus is God, it may not matter. The ESV translation assumes in the study notes that the “he” refers to God, and that is fine.

So substituting the word “God” for “he,” we have two parts to the quoted sentence: “…that [God] who began a good work in you …” and “…that [God] …will bring it to completion…”

We often focus on the Good News that God saves through Jesus Christ, limiting our focus to the beginning of the relationship where, from our limited perspective, it seems like we chose Christ as our Savior (and Lord) [however, as noted above in this sentence, it is God who began the good work, not us, so it is God who chooses us, not vice versa]. However, what we should do, once this initial stage is past, is to recognize that it is God who not only begins but it is God who “will bring it to completion,” not us. The same God who begins the good work in us is the same God who by His mighty power will bring it to completion. God saved me and He is saving me. I neither saved myself nor am saving myself.

So this throw away sentence is no throw-away at all. It is the heart of the Good News. We are not only saved by God but we are being saved through the grave into eternal life. If it does not depend on me, then that is good because I am inherently flawed; God is not. I can be diverted by the wiles of the enemy; God cannot. If it were up to me, I would likely lose my salvation quite quickly; but it is not up to me and God “will” bring it (my salvation) to completion.

Thank God.

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© 2013 GBF

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