Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, He begins it in us, He carries it on, and He perfects it.
Christ is the centre of the plan of our salvation and the source of every grace. It is He who calls us out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of His gospel. It is He who cleanses us from our previous life of sin and qualifies us to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies us by His grace, by virtue of His atonement on the cross of Calvary. It is He who plants our feet on the pathway to heaven.
However, the work of justification is only the beginning of our Christian walk. Today I want to focus on Jesus the perfecter of our faith. We are not only to lay the “foundation of repentance from dead works” but we are to “go on unto perfection” (Hebrews 6:1).
We are to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). We are to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us” (Hebrews 12:1). We are to gain victory after victory over our besetting sins and to “grow up into Christ in all things” (Ephesians 4:15). Our characters are to be “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Romans 12:2). This is the work of the indwelling Christ as the perfecter of our faith. This is the work of sanctification. This is the saving work of Christ in our lives. Notice, I said saving work.
It worries me when people use the word saved exclusively in the past tense. The New Testament word saved is in three different tenses. Past, present and future.
Our responsibility in Christ’s saving work
It is God that does the saving, He is the one that works this process in us. Yet at the same time, we have the command to work at our salvation diligently as if we are running a race for our lives.
“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
So we see salvation in the Bible is a process which is still being worked out in the life of the believer. And it is a process which will not be finally completed until the Last Day, as is indicated by Paul in the following verse:
“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11).
If we were to offer a general definition of salvation, including its past, present, and future dimensions, we would say “I have been saved; I am being saved; and I will be saved.” It embraces all three of the aspects of salvation which are present in the Bible.
And out of the three tenses of the verb in the New Testament, would you believe it, the most common is the future tense. The salvation that we look forward to.
From what are we being saved?
The question is, from what are we being saved, by grace?
Far too many Christians think that Jesus came to save us from hell, by grace. And that is a misunderstanding. Hell is simply the consequences of our sins, hell is the absence of fellowship with God. He didn't come to save us from hell. That was a bonus thrown in, but that was not his primary purpose. He came to save us from our sins, plural. All of them, every little one of them. That's why He came.
Snapshots of faith
Let’s have a look at God's plan of salvation in the life of some giants of the faith. Let's have a look at how the Lord perfected the faith of ordinary men, ordinary men just like you and I, and saved them from their sins.
The three characters I've chosen, to help us in our study, are Abraham, David and Peter. I have taken snapshots of their life to help us understand God's plan of salvation and Jesus as the perfecter of our faith.
Walk with me through these men’s lives, thinking through how their experience exemplifies Christ’s saving work.
|God calls them||Genesis 12:1||1 Samuel 16:12–13||Matthew 4:18–19|
|Their response of faith||Genesis 12:4||2 Samuel 17:45–46||Matthew 4:20|
|They sin against the Lord||Genesis 12:11–13
|2 Samuel 11:2–4
|They repent||Genesis 20:17–18
|Psalm 51:1–2||Matthew 26:75|
|They go on believing and trusting God||Hebrews 11:9–10||1 Chronicles 18–20||Acts 4:2, 4
|The test of their faith||Genesis 22:2||John 14:15||Revelation 2:10|
|By works their faith was made perfect||Hebrews 11:9
|1 Kings 15:5
So we see God's plan of salvation in the life of these ordinary men. Men that God turned into giants of the faith all because they believed, trusted and obeyed Him.
- All because they believed, He could save them from their sins.
- All because they believed, He could perfect their faith.
- All because they believed, He could make them over-comers.
And so beloved, salvation is a process, it begins when we first believe in Jesus and it continues through the rest of our lives, and it will be finished when He comes back.
“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).
Much more we shall be saved by His life, much more we shall be sanctified entirely by His life. But we don't have salvation apart from Christ. We aren't given salvation like a package. We aren't given eternal life like a package that is ours apart from Christ. The Bible says this life is in His Son, and as long as we stay in Jesus we have that life. That is why Jesus said, “I am the true vine stay in me. Because the branch does not have life in itself. It only has life while it's connected to the vine. And if it separates from the vine, it dies and it’s cut off and burnt,” says the Lord. So we are to abide in Christ. There is nothing we have outside of Christ. Nothing!
We haven't been given anything to have by ourselves without Christ. Everything we have, we have in Him.
And if we go on abiding in Him, He will go on saving us, and He will present us blameless, and He will present us without blemish. And if we stay in Him we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Notice I said, “IF.”
However, Satan has sinisterly penetrated a lot of churches and supplanted the message of the cross with a poisonous gospel, a diluted gospel that is rousing to the itching ear. A gospel that has deceived many and we need to take heed. The devil has generated a big lie out there, and that lie is you cannot have Christian perfection, you cannot have that experience where you are blameless, you cannot have perfect love, perfect mercy.
Beloved, before the Lord comes back, God wants us to be overcomers, He wants us to be victorious, praise God who gives us the victory. Why would Jesus say to him that overcomes, if it wasn't possible for us to overcome?
The lie of the devil is he wants to get us to where we are content and don't even expect that we should have growth and sanctification and victory over sin in our lives.
He wants us to think that God is going to save us in and with our sins as oppose to from our sins.
The gospel’s power
Beloved, the gospel of Christ, is:
“the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, ... For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith” (Romans 1:16-18).
The gospel is the way in which God exerts His power in our life to completely save us, to purify us. As we believe in the gospel, God’s divine power removes all obstacles to our redemption.
“For the message of the cross is the power of God to us, who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18).
It is the power of God in quickening dead sinners, enlightening blind eyes, unstopping deaf ears, softening hard hearts, making of enemies friends and the complete deliverance from all sin and death.
In the gospel, the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith. How is the righteousness of God revealed? How is the righteousness of God revealed? IN US! IN YOU AND I! God’s righteousness is not a phantom. As we hear and believe the gospel we behold His righteousness in our life. Not only does He give us credit for His Son’s righteousness, but He gives us power to live a righteous life. As we exercise faith, we are able to receive more and still more of the righteousness of God, thus:
“beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
If you believe! If you believe all things are possible. That's what righteousness by faith is. If you believe. God does things after we believe, that He doesn't do until we believe. The Lord is looking for a people who believe, His looking for someone in whom He can show Himself mighty. Those who believe that He can change them, those who believe that He can give them victory, those who believe He can transform them, those who believe He can give them power to be overcomers.
Do you believe?
What stops Christians today?
The problem with Christians today is there is no true repentance.
We need to forsake our sins to have mercy. Only he who forsakes his sins is demonstrating repentance. Only he who forsakes his sins is demonstrating godly sorrow. Only he who forsakes his sins is demonstrating that he is believing and trusting the Lord.
“He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
That is the problem with Christianity today, they commit a sin, they ask for forgiveness and they continue to do it over and over and over again. That is not trusting and believing the Lord.
He is looking for a people that believe, His looking for a people that trust Him.
- Do you really believe that God is mighty?
- He was mighty in Abraham’s life! He was mighty in David’s life!
- He was mighty in Peter’s life!
- But is He mighty in your life? Is He really mighty in your life?
- Do you really believe that God is great?
- Then what do you have in your life that He cannot help you overcome?
The goal of the gospel
Beloved, the goal of the Gospel is to restore all that was lost through sin, the plan of salvation is to bring men back to the perfect image of Christ. That is the goal of final salvation.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11-13).
Beloved, the body of Christ, that’s you and I, is to attain to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. Christian perfection is pure love, love expelling sin. Love and sin are mutually exclusive. As we are cleansed from sin, “from all filthiness of both flesh and spirit” we are embued with those virtues which are in Christ Jesus; being “transformed into the image of Christ.”
The ultimate end is to, “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself.” This is perfection, and glory and happiness.
If you are truly trusting the Lord, and if you indeed continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel, He will purge out all that is contrary to love. He will perfect your faith, He will present you blameless, without blemish, holy, free from accusation to Himself. This is the gospel (Colossians 1).
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).
Beloved, the Lord is faithful, He will keep his promise. He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; provided you go on believing, trusting and obeying the Lord.