God Always Finishes What He Starts

// April 17th, 2019 // Sermons

This entry is part 15 of 15 in the series Last Days Christianity

This is now the final sermon in this series…  You can listen online or download it and listen later…God Always Finishes What He Starts…from Paul’s letter to the church at Thessalonica.  As I said at the outset, the church was made up of new believers – a young church – that needed to have some solid doctrinal teaching from the Word to equip them to face the tough things ahead of them.  That’s what we have looked at in this series.

Because we live in a “microwave” society, we are always looking for the quickest and easiest route.  Some have described more recent generations as seekers of immediate gratification.  But then, when you are reading through the NT it is easy to start to wonder why we don’t see God do the amazing answers to prayer as what they experienced.

I’m convinced that He does answer prayer, and often we don’t see the “off-the-charts” stuff is because we have not asked, or we are asking God for something that He has said, “Wait!”  We don’t like to wait!

In 1975 I joined a group of people from our church in Saskatchewan, on a trip to St. Paul, Minnesota, for a week-long seminar called Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts.  We were given buttons, “PBPGINFWMY”.  For that reason, I love Phil. 1:6 – “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

When you look back over your life, does it amaze you to notice what God has done?  He is still a miracle-working God!  His miracles happen in His time!  May God be glorified – He is in the process of sanctifying us.

Based on Phil. 1:6, we need to recognize that our sanctification is God’s work, not ours; it will take your whole life to complete your sanctification; it will only be done when our life on earth is done; and, God won’t stop until the work is finished; and uses everything that we encounter in life, to make us holy and more like Jesus.

  1. 23-24 are the Benediction that I have used for every sermon in this series…they are a prayer/blessing Paul is praying for his readers. Paul generally ends his letters with a benediction/short prayer.

Paul has finished the teaching and exhorting.  The closing benediction is a closing blessing.  Paul is telling them and us, “I have told you how to live the Christian life in the middle of a changing and even hostile world, but only God can make your efforts be fruitful and effective.”

So, he prays for their sanctification – a prayer that God will always answer because it is based on the principle of Living in the Last Days.  All our efforts, no matter how brave and zealous come to nought if attempted without God’s help.

I can preach until I’m blue-in-the-face, but if my preaching is not directed by God’s Holy Spirit and based on God’s Word, then all my preaching and doctrinal accuracy is rendered ineffective.  God is the one who faithfully establishes His truth in our hearts causing effective ministry to take place.  To be a faithful steward of what God has entrusted to me, I have to get to the place where I say, “Lord, I have done all I can and taught these people all I know…I need You to take over.  Unless you help the people understand, they won’t get it right.”

A simple definition of sanctification is:  God at work in your life and mine, to make us holy and set us apart for His use.

Sanctification is God choosing to invest into our lives, somewhat like parents investing in the lives of their kids.  When you invest in someone’s life, you care about how they turn out.  God has invested in us that which is accomplished through the death of His only Son.

Sanctification is God’s surety that that investment will not be wasted.  It is His work of assurance giving proof that God finishes what He starts.  He started His work in you the moment you came to Christ.  He continues working in us until the day that we will see Jesus face to face.

Sanctification, then, is God’s commitment to us. We’re going to make it. He will personally see to it.  And, no matter how confident some people might be, you and I – all of us – we are a work in progress!  We’re not finished yet—that’s why we pray and seek the Lord.  But, one day we will be finished—that’s what sanctification means.

Until this sermon series, I had never used 1 Thess. 5:23-24 as a Benediction – but in my preparation, it seemed to be an amazing blessing to speak into your lives, each Sunday.  In these verses, I see Paul being a good reporter and covering the 5 W’s of Sanctification.  First…

  1. Who — the God of peace Himself

A commitment/contract is only as good as the one making it.  The only One capable of performing such a great work of Sanctification in us has committed Himself to the task!  If I committed myself to sanctify you, it wouldn’t hold a lot of water…I can’t follow through.  But, our sanctification is absolutely sure because the God of peace Himself…” has committed Himself.

Only God can make you holy!  Only God can take every experience of your life and produce something good out of them all!  God is the source and initiator of all our spiritual growth and development.

In our struggle with sin we put our best foot forward and try to become holy all by ourselves…but, Isaiah said that our best effort is the same a pile of filthy rags.  No wonder Jesus told the rich young ruler, in Mark 10, “With man it is impossible…”  Sanctification begins with God – if you don’t start with Him, you never really start.  Second…

  1. What — has 2 parts:
  2. a) Sanctify you completely

As I said, “sanctify” means “to make holy” – to be set apart for God’s use.  It carries the idea of being made pure and fit to serve God.

The word “completely” or “through and through” as some translations say, intends to convey the idea of being totally sanctified – a finished project.   God has created a plan whereby every child of His – without exception – will be absolutely sanctified when he/she has finished their life on earth.

I know – and Ruthie can confirm it – I know that I’m not yet perfect.  We are a work-in-progress.  Under Construction could be hung around our necks.  But, because of God’s promise we can know there is a time coming when the hammer, chisel, sandpaper and knife will be put away and we will stand before the Lord with every aspect of our life made perfect.

Years ago we used to sing a little chorus called “Little by Little” – would you sing it with me?

Little by little, every day, Little by little in every way,

My Jesus, is changing me.

He’s changing me – Since I made a turn-about face,

I’ve been growing in His grace, my Jesus is changing me.

He’s changing me, my blessed Savior,

I’m not the same person that I used to be;

Sometimes its slow going, but there’s a knowing,

That someday perfect I will be.

That’s the way it is for all of us.  We grow little by little – not very fast, but then, our Lord is never in a hurry.  He is the Master Craftsman, and He has promised we will be sanctified completely

  • We’re not perfect yet—but we will be.
  • We’re not absolutely pure and holy today—but we will be.
  • We’re not walking in His wisdom today—but we will.
  • We’re not sinless right now—but we will be.
  • We’re not always fit for God’s use today—but we will be.

Renovating a human life is a job so tough only God would attempt it.  God has been at work in my life for over 50 years and the job still isn’t done.  One writer wrote, “I think God just eventually says to some people, ‘I’ve done all I can do down there.  Come up here and I’ll finish the job where the working conditions are much better.’”  In reality, that is what He eventually says to all of us.

Today we have holy parts of our lives, but when God is finished with us, we will be holy through and through – completely.  The 2nd part of “What”…

  1. b) May your whole spirit, soul and body

As a student at NBC we were asked to do a paper on the dichotomy of man versus the trichotomy of man – are we 2-part or 3-part beings?  Some of the students got into some serious debates about this.

Are we body and soul and spirit, or are soul and spirit essentially the same?  This verse is a strong support for those who favor the trichotomy point of view.

To me it was never a big enough issue to get worked-up about – I don’t think Paul wrote it to be a contentious issue.  What Paul is saying is that “the whole person” will be sanctified.  God intends to renovate the whole human in all his parts.  Nothing will left out or overlooked.  Every part will be made perfect.  First,

i/ The Body – we need to start with the understanding that your body, by itself, is neither good nor evil.  It is morally neutral.  But, what matters to God, is what you do with your body because it is the temple of God’s Holy Spirit.

And the bottom line, in everything we do, we are either consecrating or prostituting our body.  I like Pritchard’s look at this.  And, whichever list describes your life will reveal if your body is being sanctified.  He compared two simple lists:  Either…

  • Prostitution Or,          Consecration
  • Sensuality Worship
  • Gluttony Charity
  • Sloth Hard Work
  • Cruelty Kindness
  • Boasting Prayer
  • Filth Purity
  • Pampering Service
  • Hostility Forgiveness
  • Self-serving Noble deeds

So, how do you rate your body?  Is it consecrated to God?  Paul wrote in Rom. 6 calling for believers to present their body’s to God as instruments of righteousness; and in Rom. 12 about presenting our body as a “living sacrifice”.  If God has your body, He’s got you because you can’t go anywhere without your body tagging along.

ii/ The Soul – refers to the core of your being, what the Bible also calls the heart and mind.  It refers to the emotions, the desires, the self-conscious part of your personality.

Is your soul consecrated to God?  Have you yielded your thought life, your imaginations, your dreams and idle speculations, your ambitions, goals and priorities over to Him?  These are all part of the area of the soul.  And thirdly…

iii/ Spirit – The spirit is that part of us that makes it possible for us to relate to God.  Through our spirit we communicate with God in prayer and in worship.  As believers our spirit is influenced and directed by God’s Holy Spirit, who indwells us, so that we can pray, sing, meditate, be strengthened by God’s Words, fight spiritual battles, overcome the evil one, and draw near to God at all times.

Is your spirit yielded completely to God?

God created us to be – body, soul & spirit – totally yielded and obedient to Him.  Are you – am I – yielded and obedient to Him…fit for His use?   This brings us to the next part…not a “W”…

III. How — Kept blameless

This is a legal term meaning to be acquitted in the court of law.  When no one can bring a charge against you, you are “blameless”.

We all know we have weaknesses and could be charged with various sin.  God’s hope is that when we stand before Him, and He asks, “Does anyone in the whole universe know any reason why this person should not enter heaven?” – there would be absolute silence as no one—not the angels or demons, not saints nor sinners—no one in all the universe will be able to bring any charge against God’s elect.

The Good New Bible says – God will sanctify us so that we are “free from every fault.”  Phillips speaks of “spotless integrity.”  This is God’s desire for all His children.  We can’t get there without Him!  #4…

  1. When — At the Coming of Our Lord Jesus

When Jesus returns, two things will happen for the believer:

  1. Our character will be revealed
  2. Our perfection will be complete

Do you ever get discouraged about the slow progress you are making?  I do!  Sometimes it seems as if I take 1 step backward for every step forward.

A good question to ask – “Are you more Christ-like today than you were a year ago?”  Does your life look more like Jesus than it used to?

It is also my experience that when I happen to see some of the progress I have made, I simultaneously become aware of how far I still have to go.  The reason for this is God wants us to depend on Him for everything in life.  He intentionally designed life so that it only works when He is given full control.  When we try to run things, it just starts to fall apart.  Only God can give us what we need to be victorious.  Question #5…

  1. Why does it Work?—He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it.

This is the foundation for the doctrine of eternal security.  Those who are saved are saved forever because God is faithful to keep His promises.  All our hope rests on the faithfulness of God!

“The one who calls you is faithful.”  We are “the called” – the elect of God, the children of God.  We’re not finished, not glorified, not perfected, not completed – as I said, we’re all “under construction.”

  • If you focus on your weakness, you will lose your confidence.
  • If you focus on God’s faithfulness, your confidence will grow.

Anything we do to try to help God in the re-construction project of our lives, only makes things worse.  But God is faithful.  He patiently picks up his chisel and goes back to work.

In Ps. 138:8 we find something we need to hear, “Finish what you started in me, O God.” (The Message Bible). What a wonderful promise.

Paul ends his prayer with “He will surely do it.”  He doesn’t say, “He may do it” or “He could do it” or “He’ll do it if he feels like it.”  And definitely not, “He do it if we do our part.”  Just a simple declaration that God will do it.

When it’s all said and done, what matters is not my strong hold on God, his strong hold on me.  I believe in the Calvinist doctrine of the perseverance of God and the preservation of the saints.  But, we need to understand that we are preserved because God perseveres!

In his prayer, Paul has asked that the Thessalonians believers be entirely sanctified in every part of their being when Jesus returns.  Only God can do that—and God will do it for He is faithful!

This truth should:

  1. Give us confidence in God, because He is faithful to His promises.
  2. Give us assurance of salvation – our salvation is not based on how we feel…it is based on God promises.
  3. Give us motivation to press in, to dig deeper, in our relationship with Him.
  4. Give us perseverance in prayer – to pray through until the answer comes.
  5. Help develop patience with others. If I want others to be patient with me because God is not finished His work yet, then I should be more patient with others, because God is not finished His work in them, either.
  6. Teach us gratitude for every step we take in the right direction. Don’t try to walk before you can crawl, run before you can walk, or fly before you can run.  Be thankful for every right step in your walk with God!

That sanctification that Paul prayed about – God has called us to a life of holiness.  He has made it possible by sending his Son as a propitiation for our sins.  That word, “propitiation” is used 4 times in the NT.

It means 2 things:  the price for our atonement has been paid, and as a result, the wrath of God towards us, has been appeased.  He started a good work in us by inclining us to believe the gospel.  And, He continues His sanctifying purpose every day of our lives.  He has determined that we will one day be complete, perfect, holy, sanctified.

That expectation of seeing Christ, face-to-face, should be a great motivator to live holy, every day.

And so, once the corporate worship has ended, v. 25, the saints minister to one another.  They greet one another, and seek to encourage each other.

Despite the fact that lunch gets late some days, I really like the fact that many people hang around the church for quite a long time each Sunday.  Our previous church, it almost seemed like the people wanted to get away from each other as fast as they could.  I see fellowship as an essential part of worship.

In v. 27, Paul wrote, “Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.”  This is not a sensual thing.  Typically, the men would kiss the men and women would kiss the women.  J.B. Phillips paraphrased this verse to say, “Give a handshake all around among the brotherhood.”  I like to give my brothers-in-Christ a hug and tell them, “I love you in the Lord!”

Then, Paul ended with another reminder that the Word of God is the important thing in the local church.  The Word must govern our conduct and guide our lives.  We are to read the Word when the saints are gathered together, and we also need to hear the Word in the fellowship of the local church.

I started out this series by saying that this is a practical book that teaches us how to live for Christ in these Last Days.  We need to live our lives with the constant awareness that Jesus is coming soon – living in such a way that I won’t have to be embarrassed when I meet him face-to-face.

I need to place myself in God’s hands and cooperate with the Master Designer as he shapes us into the image of His Son, Jesus.  To tell Him, “Lord, here am I.  Make me what you want me to be.”

Your standing in life doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that we live with an awareness that He is at work and that He will not stop until the job is finished.  And when it is, “perfect we will be!”

Let’s pray…

Series Navigation<< Gospel Protocol

Comments are closed.