I'm Sure of This
September 15, 2013 Speaker: Series: How Can I Know That I Am Right With God?
Topic: Bible Passage: Philippians 1:4–1:7
Title: "I'm Sure of This" Text: Philippians 1:4-7
Date: September 14-15, 2013 Larry Kirk
“I'm Sure of This”
In Philippians 1 Paul is writing a group of Christians in the town of Philippi and he's saying something pretty powerful. He's saying (especially in verse 6) he is sure God is working in their lives and that God, who has begun a good work in them, will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. The day of Christ is the day of the second coming. Paul is sure God will save their souls, redeem them fully and complete his work of sanctification in them at the end of history.
Most people today are pretty suspicious of anything anyone claims to be sure of. For one thing it really is hard to be sure about anything these days. Our world is torn up by war, natural disasters, and the unintended unforeseen consequences of human choices. On a personal level people struggle to be sure about their jobs, their marriages their health and safety pretty much everything. It isn't easy to believe you could ever be sure about anything. How can Paul be so sure about what he says he's sure about? What's the basis for his confidence when it comes to these Christians he is writing to. Could they also be sure of this for themselves? More important: could you have this kind of assurance in your life for your relationship with God?
When I titled this series, “How can I know I am right with God?” This is what I am talking about. I'm not talking about whether you are walking with God in perfect harmony and fellowship but is your fundamental relationship with God right in this sense - Do you know God has begun a good work in you that he will bring to completion in the day of Christ? Do you know that you are a child of God and that in that sense you are right with God in terms of the big questions?
The Bible very clearly addresses two dangers in spiritual life.
1. The first is a false confidence. Just because you prayed a prayer at camp or were baptized or believe in God and come to church doesn't mean you are a true Christian. We need to examine our lives, asking questions like this: “Am I personally trusting in Christ alone as my Lord and Savior? Do I see evidence in my life that His grace is at work in my heart?” False confidence is a real danger.
2. But the second danger is the failure to have true confidence when you should and could. You can not fully experience, a Christ-centered, God-filled life, if you are full of insecurity and uncertainty in your relationship to God. It is important that we worship God but our songs of worship assume that we have a relationship with God that is rooted in grace. It is also important that we live our lives on mission in this world, but to live on mission, and try to help other to know God we have to know that we know him. We need the confidence that Paul speaks of. Now, the Scripture we read this morning from Philippians teaches us about this true confidence in Christ. What does it say?
First, it says confidence in Christ life comes in part from realizing that.
I. FROM BEGINNING TO END THE CHRISTIAN LIFE IS
GOD'S WORK IN YOU.
Verse 6 is talking about God when it says; "... 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. ”
It is especially emphasized in this passage that
A. True Christianity is a good work that begins with God.
Acts 16 tells the story of how when Paul first came to this city of Philippi. Acts 16:14 says that as Paul; was teaching about Jesus Christ, One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
That is how the good work of grace begins in every individual's life. You hear the message and God opens your heart to respond. In John 6:44 Jesus said, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
The Bible teaches that left to ourselves we do not seek God. It's only when God begins to work in us that we respond to Him. This teaching in Scripture humbles us and it may be mysterious to us or even confusing to say that God has to choose us before we can choose him. But this teaching surfaces in the Bible in places like this where it's purpose is to give us confidence that since it is God who begins his work in and on us we can be sure that he will be the one who will complete it in us and for us.
True Christianity is not a good work you do for God it is a good work God begins and carries on in you. That's why....
B. God wants us to be confident about
the work of grace he is doing in us.
There are at least three things that give us this confidence in Christ…
1st. You can be confident because of the Word of God. In Acts 16 you also read how a dramatic set of circumstances caused the jailor in Philippi to come to Paul and ask how he could be saved. Acts 16:30-31 says; Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”" Notice the confidence and certainty that was in the message from the first day; 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." It is as definite as that! Our emotions, our feelings can come and go. They can be deceptive and they are susceptible to all kinds of circumstances. But the promises of God in the Bible are unchangeable and absolutely reliable.
You find these promises in the words of Jesus. In John 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
You hear it in the preaching of the apostles in Acts.
A famous Scottish Theologian years ago wrote a book titled, "The Root and Soil Of Holiness”. In it he talks about these promises of God. He says,
The apostles evidently had great confidence in the gospel. They gave it fair play, and spoke it out in all its absolute freeness, as men who could trust it for its moral influence, as well as for its saving power, and who felt that the more speedily and certainly its good news were realized by the sinner, the more would that moral influence come into play. They did not hide it, nor trammel it, nor fence it round with conditions, as if doubtful of the policy of preaching it freely. "Be it known unto you,' they said, "men and brethren, that through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified" (Acts 13:38,39). They had no misgivings as to its bearings on morality, nor were they afraid of men believing it too soon, or getting too immediate relief from it.
He goes on to point out that when you read the writing and preaching of the apostles and how they offer God's grace to people they don't seem worried about people coming to Christ or believing these promises too quickly or too confidently or without enough preparation. Their point in preaching was not to get men and women to begin a course of preparation for receiving Christ but to call and invite them to receive Christ on the spot, at once. They preached and offered immediate forgiveness, salvation, and reconciliation with God through faith in the gospel and they presented this message as the strongest motive for a radically changed life.
One reason we can be confident of our relationship to God is because of the clarity of the promises of God in the gospel.
2nd. You can also be confident because of the work of God. As Paul describes salvation here in verse 6, he describes it not just as forgiveness written down in some book off in heaven somewhere but also as a good work which Christ begins to work within us now. It follows that if God has begun a good work in you there will be evidence of that good work in your life. So your confidence is strengthened because you not only have the promises of God you also see God working in you. If you experience a new birth spiritually there are going to be changes that show up in your life.
Illustration: Don't settle for having just prayed a prayer or asking Jesus into your heart because someone led you in that if you have never experienced grace in a way that began to change you. You could probably train a parrot to “ask Jesus into its heart” if all it means is repeating those words. There is no basis for confidence in that. On the other hand when you look for evidence of grace and faith in your life don't look for perfection. Also beware of anyone laying on you some list of man-made expectation - telling you if you are really saved you won't do this or that - whatever their list might be.
I recently read the testimony of a man who is a Christian and a recovering alcoholic. He said something like this:
I still have a craving for liquor. I have to fight it daily. I've heard a number of preachers say that if you still crave liquor, you aren't saved. That really makes me mad. Here I am fighting the craving for liquor and someone tells me that this means I am unsaved! That is crazy. Being a Christian doesn't mean that we aren't tempted anymore. It also doesn't mean that all of our bad habits instantly vanish when we are born again.
For him the good fruit was not that he was suddenly completely free from his former problems and sins but that now he was willing and able to stand and fight against those things and win.
When I first became a Christian my language stayed pretty spicy and my recreational drug abuse remained, for a season, a way of life in which I struggled but my heart changed toward my dad and toward other people almost as if over night. Where did that come from? I didn't resolve to change, I was changed and the first things that changed might not have been the ones the church would have prescribed but they were real and people who knew me noticed.
Philippians 1:6 says; God began a good work in you! Those words are important. The evidence of your salvation will not be a work completed but a work begun! The question that we need to learn to ask this: "In spite of my sins and my struggles, do I see evidence that God has begun and is continuing a good work in me? Do you confess your sins, turn from them, and long for a better relationship with God? Is there evidence God has begun a good work in you?
You can be confident because of the Word of God in the Bible and that confidence can be strengthened by the work of God in your life.
3rd. You can also be confident because of the witness of the Spirit of God. Paul says that the Philippians “were partakers of grace with Him. This suggests something they had experienced personally.
Illustration: I remember reading the story of a pastor who came from a broken home. He had a very unhappy childhood in which his father abused him. After he became a Christian, on occasion he particularly wanted to get away by himself and spend time some time alone with God. He decided to go out to the country where he would have the whole day to pray without interruptions. But when he did this he just ended up frustrated after a while. It wasn't the experience he had hoped for. So he drove home again feeling pretty disappointed. After he got home he went into see his two-month-old baby Zachary. He picked his little baby boy up and as he held him he felt an incredible love welling up inside him. He started weeping. He starting talking to his son, this little two month old, he was saying, Zachary, I love you with all my heart, I'm always going to protect you. I'm always going to care for you. I'm always going to be your friend no matter what you do.” As he was standing there holding his baby, feeling these things, and talking this way, he suddenly sensed that he was in God's arms and that God was saying, “Carl, you are my son, and I love you. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, I'll always care for you, I'll always provide for you, I'll always guide you.” (told by Nicky Gumble, Questions of Life, p. 67) What was happening there is that the Holy Spirit was bearing witness to his spirit and assuring him that he was God's child. Romans 8:16 says: The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
This is something internal, personal, spiritual but very real. The Word of God gives us promises. We know what God has promised and we believe it to be true. The work of God gives us evidence that God's doing something in us. The witness of the Spirit is an even more internal and spiritual sense of God's grace. For some of you one or more of these Biblical reasons for confidence in Christ may be stronger. What God wants you to see is that if you have received Christ as your Lord and Savior it is not arrogant to be confident in your relationship to Him.
Part of the power of this passage is that it tells us not only that we can be confident in our present relationship with Christ but also that we can be confident in the future of our relationship with Christ.
II. IF GOD HAS BEGUN A GOOD WORK IN YOU
HE WILL BRING IT TO COMPLETION.
That's the confidence of verse 6; 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. Paul does not say; ""I am confident that you are always going to be faithful, and committed, and strong enough." Our confidence in our relationship with Christ comes form the fact that what God commences, He continues and completes.
There are some particularly powerful promises in the Bible about this point. First...
A. Jesus promises us that no one who turns to him
and trusts in him will ever be lost.
In John 10:28-29 He says; " I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. 30 I and the Father are one.” When you receive Christ he takes you by the hand and he holds on to you and your security and your salvation does not depend on your grasp of God but on God's grasp of you. What he is promising you is that he will never let you go.
B. God promises you that once you come to Christ and receive forgiveness, you can experience judgment but you can never experience condemnation.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 the apostle Paul gives an interesting illustration. He says for the Christian life and service is like a building. Using this illustration he makes four points.
1.) The foundation is Jesus Christ. " For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” When you turn to Christ and trust in him you have the foundation.
2.) The way you live your life is the way you build on the foundation. He continues; “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— ” Good works, true expressions of love for God and for people are like gold, silver, and precious stones they are things of lasting value. Sinful, and selfish, and false things are just wood, hay, and straw.
3. One day, even those who have received Christ are going to have to stand before God and be accountable for the way they have lived their lives. " … each one's work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. "
4. Now notice what the alternatives are for the person who by faith has received Christ and has Christ as his foundation "... If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. God is saying you can build in your life things of value that express your faith and your love. And if you do God will reward you. But you can also fill your life with things that are of little lasting value at all. If you do that when God examines your life it will be as if everything you have lived for is destroyed. Your life will have been wasted. Notice that last sentence; "If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. "
If God has begun a good work in you then it is inconceivable that there will not be some good works, some gold, silver, and precious stones produced in your life as well. But God pictures a person who has received Christ - who is trusting, believing in Christ as Savior and Lord but has very little in his life that God can reward in order that God might make it clear to us that our salvation is entirely by grace from the first moment you turn to Christ and trust in Him. Why would God go to such an extreme if he didn't want you to know, to be sure, of your relationship with him?
Imagine a man holding a woman at gunpoint demanding that she love him from the heart or else lose her life. The demand and the threat would make it all but impossible for her to ever really respond with love. God doesn't come at you like that. He takes away the condemnation so that we can love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). He wants that response of a life-well lived, and true love for him. But he wants it from the heart and real.
So be sure. Be sure you have come to Christ, believe his promises in the gospel, look for the signs that he is at work for you, listen for the witness of the Holy Spirit telling you - you are a child of God and then with that foundation firmly on Christ build a life of good works for the right reasons. In Christ you have a Father in heaven who will never - ever leave you or let you go. Because of that live for him. Live for him and work for him and worship him.
More in How Can I Know That I Am Right With God?
September 8, 2013Grace And Faith