Two Sundays ago I preached on Philippians chapter 1, but only got as far as verse 6. My goal, over the next few weeks in my letters to you as well as on my blog, is to continue working our way through the rest of chapter 1. That way, I'll be all set to speak to you again out of Philippians chapter 2 by the time Easter rolls around.  So here we go!

Review: Philippians is a book/ letter that radiates with a sense of joy.  In every story recounted by Paul, in every circumstance and in every possible outcome, a clear call to rejoice in spite of circumstances or even because of them pervades the apostles words, so that we too, whether affected by pretense or truth, blessing or suffering, life or death, are made able with Paul to “rejoice in the LORD, always!” Over the next few weeks and letters, my hope is to show you why, how and in what ways we can “rejoice always.” 

I mentioned in my sermon that the source of Paul’s joy whenever he ‘remembers’ the church in Philippi is first and foremost their “…partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5), and that this ‘partnership’ began with Salvation. We looked back to the account of that ‘first day’ in Philippi from the book of Acts, and noted the make-up of that humble beginning:

~ A foreign woman who is (or almost is) a Jewish proselyte

~ A demon-possessed, fortune-telling slave girl

~ A suicidal Roman prison guard!

Our conclusion #1: You can rejoice in the fact that it doesn’t matter what you’re like when God saves you – upstanding citizen or felon, God has to start over with both in the same place – by raising you from the dead! When you were saved you were “born again!” It’s a new you! “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17).

Then we talked about the wonderfully encouraging v.6, reminding us that what God starts (Salvation -“from the first day”), He always finishes – and what does that finished work of salvation look like? It looks like Jesus! We discussed that the finished product of salvation is a person “conformed to the image of Christ” so that each one of us can echo Paul’s claim in verse 20, saying in total confidence, “Christ is (already, and will be fully) glorified in my body.” Almighty God has made a promise (in fact, many promises) to you if you are saved.  The promise in this passage is that “He who began a good work in you will complete it.” Not because of how good you are, or how respectable your family is, or because of how well you treat your wife and kids.  No.  It’s because of Jesus. 

And His promise to you is not weakened or devalued or diluted because you come to Him as a crummy person with a rotten past and a tainted history full of embarrassing sins. No! His promise to complete what He began in you remains unchanged by our behaviors because it’s not based on our behaviors – it’s based on Jesus. Just like you weren’t saved because of any goodness in you, so you are not sanctified (made holy) by your own goodness.  It’s all, always, based on the grace of God in Christ. “For the grace of God that brings salvation (the grace that saves us) has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say ‘no’ to ungodliness and worldy passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (the grace that sanctifies us)” (Titus 2:11,12). The grace that saves us is the same grace that makes us holy.

Now granted, God’s promise may not change even though you choose to live in rebellion against Him after salvation, but you’d better believe that how you experience that promise will change! We believe the Bible teaches a person cannot ‘lose’his/her salvation.  We do believe a Christian can lose the experience of joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.  Christian can stop experiencing the ‘fruit of the spirit’ in their daily lives when they live in rebellion against God.  They remain ‘saved’ – but

they also remain miserable – until they return to God in repentance, saying to Him as did King David after his string of atrocious sins, “Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
 Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
 and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 51:11-12). I think in my sermon I brought up Jonah at this point. This cartoon says it best:

Once you are saved, God’s promises apply directly to you because you are united with Christ.  When you ‘accepted Jesus as your savior,’ what you said in effect to God is “I’m with Him.  I’m with Jesus.” God has voluntarily bound Himself to you through His promises because He voluntarily bound Himself to Jesus first – and now Jesus lives in you.  You have a union with Christ that is legally binding in the courts of heaven and mystically formed in the sovereignty of God. A.B. Simpson describes it this way:

“From one father (Adam) all the generations of earth have spring, inheriting his curse and transmitted nature and depravity, by virtue of their oneness with him in blood and birth. So Christ, the second Adam, has also His spiritual seed and offspring, and by virtue of their union with Him (through salvation) they share His high place of acceptance and sonship, and partake in all the benefits of His obedience and satisfaction to the claims of justice” (Simpson, A.B.)

Check out this video... 

('Imputed' = When a quality of one person is applied or credited to someone else.)

Even if you aren’t able to shake the way you’ve always looked at yourself, even if you can’t help but see yourself as a hopeless mess, even though you are ‘not yet’ as you ‘will be,’ still, God looks at you and sees Jesus. Because now, you’re with Him. And even more importantly, as a Christian, now you're in HIm and He's in you. Just as in OT times when God dealt with His people in anticipation of and in view of the person and “cross-work” of Christ, so now God deals with you in light of His Son Jesus and in anticipation of His completed work in you. GOOD NEWS! Continues Simpson,

“…The new creation and the spiritual regeneration of man in the image of God is beautifully foreshadowed in the story of Genesis… And again the words are repeated in substance, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness’ (Gen. 1:26)” (31 Simpson, A.B  Christ in the Bible CommentaryVol.1).

Conclusion #2: You can rejoice in the promise that what God starts, He always finishes!

The next part of the chapter talks about a Christian’s “partnership in the gospel,” which is a supernatural bi-product of salvation and comes with some startling implications… but we’ll save that for the next letter! 

Surrounded By Grace,


  1. Your secnd conclusion bewildered me. "You can rejoice in the promise that what God starts, He always completes!"

    It just put this mental immage in my mind that the day my dad died, going on a run for exercise, someting with his heart happened and he was dead for X amount of minutes.

    It reminded me how if God had him die for those miutes, then why were the people able to brng him back? Was this some sort of test in a way, was he supposed to live or die, and if the answer is live, then why did he die for that short time in the first place?

  2. Hi Brit ~ wow, what a scary thing to have happen to your dad... he's okay now though? I sincerely hope so.

    Let me make sure I understand what you're asking. I think you're asking - 'If God always finishes what He starts, then why was my dad able to be brought back? Why didn't God finish what he started with the heart attack?'
    Is that close?

    If so, you're saying it was God who started the heart-attack in the first place. I guess I'd start by saying that wasn't something God did. Did God know about it? Yes. Did God have the power to stop it? Yes. Did God stop it? Apparently not. Why didn't God stop it? I'd be lying if I said I knew. But did God make your dad have that heart attack?

    Now - three things:
    1) Any good thing that happens to us in life, God is responsible for it. Parents that love you, a roof over your head, food everyday, a dad who didn't die that day - all good, all God.

    2) God doesn't make bad things happen, but the Bible says that for Christians, He can take any situation, no matter how bad, and make it into something good. And if He does that for someone who is not a Christian - that is something crazy special... maybe it's even God trying really hard to get that person's attention.

    3) All the bad stuff that is in the world and that happens to us is not God's fault - it's ours. When God made the world and everything in it, according to the Bible, He finished, looked at all He had made, and said "It is good." God made a good world, a perfect world. It was people who chose to let evil in, and every painful thing we experience (sickness, war, death, aging, etc) is us living out the consequences of Adam's choice to disobey God. Sucks, I know.

    So I'm not blaming your dad for doing something wrong that brought on the heart attack, I'm blaming the dad of all mankind, Adam. Like that quote from my post said, since we believe he was the first person created, and since we believe we all came from him, Adam represented all of us by his actions. It was like he spoke for us. "I choose sin." We're stuck with his choice.

    My post was most specifically about what God promises to do and finish in the lives of people once they become Christians: He promises to make them like Jesus. When I talk about 'What God Starts,' I mean the things the Bible makes clear God initiated, or the promises made by God.

    Sin isn't one of those things. God is not responsible for sin or for the consequences of sin that wreck our lives. But you know what? That's why we get so excited about Jesus. Even though God did not 'start' the problem of sin in our world, He loved us so much that He would not just stand by and watch us suffer without hope. He knew that the sin we started would finish us off, so He decided to intervene and finish sin off instead. And that's where Jesus and the cross come in.

    God became a man and finished the sin problem. He lived the perfect life Adam was (and we are) supposed to live and then He took the consequences of the sin man started all on Himself. He was punished for our disobedience, dying an awful death on a cross, a tortuous and humiliating death reserved for criminals. And do you know what He said on the cross, right before He died? "It is Finished." That is what Jesus said. The sin problem that God didn't start - He even finished that.

    And this is where that youtube video comes in - if we accept that Jesus was punished in our place and did all that was needed to make God love us and forgive us - and if we believe that He's the only way to know God and escape the worst consequences of sin (we either accept that Jesus got punished for us, or we deny it and choose to take the punishment ourselves) - and if we choose to 'side with Him,' to follow HIm - then all our sin gets 'imputed' to Jesus (it's off of us!) and all the goodness and holiness of Jesus gets 'imputed' to us. Good trade. Fair trade? No.

    Jesus got the raw end. But that's how much He loved us. Amazing trade. Amazing grace.

    And that... is a very, very, very long answer. I hope that somewhere in there you got at least part of your question answered. I promise to answer your other question from the previous post soon too.


  3. Josh - I like the how to run from God comic. I'm hoping, by the way to be running through your neighborhood in May. So don't be surprised if I show up with a gang of Bergevins on your doorstep like a scary stalker from your past.

    I know where you live.. Well, not specifically, but at least in what town. So in case you're thinking about running, you have plenty of warning, plus the added comfort that I'm not God.

    Your blog is cool. The article in aLife was even cooler. Your pal, Jer

  4. J.B., my long-lost brother! Wow, I am so honored to have had you visit me here friend! If you are even within 500 miles of Weaverville I will hold it personally against you if you don't "show up with a gang of Bergevins on your doorstep!" We will kill the fatted calf... or, the... Look, we'll thaw out the leftover bear meat, ok?

    Glad you like my blog... I've been a miserable friend and not visited yours. That will change.

    Hoping to see you soon brother.


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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~