For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.Philippians 1:6(NASB)
Every man and woman born of the Spirit is being conformed into the image of the lovely Lord Jesus. This sanctification process, starts at rebirth, when we are born of the Spirit, through faith in Christ. It is an ongoing process that will be brought to full completion and beautiful perfection in the day that Christ takes us to be with Himself, at the end of this Church dispensation, "for those who God justifies, He also glorifies."
God desires each of His children to be changed from one state of glory to the next. It is God's will that each of us is transformed into the image and likeness of Christ, for God is perfect, and we are to be perfect as He is perfect. But the work that needs to be carried out in the life of each believer is a work of God, NOT a work of our own flesh.
God alone started the work in our life by faith when we were born again. Only God can continue His work of sanctification during our earthly life, and only He can finish the good work He started, when we were declared righteous, by faith – for in no sense can a man make himself perfect - for by works of the flesh will no man living be justified, sanctified, or glorified. The work of salvation belongs to God alone.
A work of grace started in our life the moment we were saved. That work of grace is rooted in the divine goodness of the Father Who purposed to send His Son into the world to be the sacrifice for our sin. The work of grace in each of us will be completed when we see Him as He is - at the Rapture of the saints - i.e. the resurrection of the 'dead-in-Christ'.
Paul knew that when God begins a good work in a new-born believer, He will most certainly bring it to completion, which is why he declared, "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus." Yes, the justifying work God started at our initial salvation, and will be brought to its final conclusion by Him, when we are glorified - spirit, soul, and body. But what of the years between our justification and our glorification? What of our sanctification?
Only God can carry out the work of justification in the life of a believer. Only He can bring His work to its final conclusion when we will receive our glorified bodies, and only HE can continue the ongoing work of sanctification that brings a baby Christian to spiritual maturity. We are not required to do anything to get saved or remain saved.. it is by the grace of God alone that we are saved. We were saved by faith and are to live by faith.
It is by grace alone through faith, that we were redeemed from the slave-market of sin, and He alone can work the works of God in our earthy life in the ongoing process of sanctification. He is the Author and Finisher of the good work He started in us, so that we all reach spiritual maturity. We were not in a position to do anything to be justified or glorified in God's eyes, nor are we in a position to carry out the progressive work of sanctification, which is needed if we are to grow from Christian infancy to spiritual adulthood.
So, the question that is often asked - what am I to do to develop spiritually? How am I to grow in grace and become a mature believer? Am I to be some sort of puppet that God is manipulating? Am I to sit and twiddle my thumbs and not be involved in the sanctification of my soul, during my earthly life? I thought I was to carry out good works, which will receive a reward - so where do I fit in? What am I to do?
Well, God can ONLY carry out the good works He has prepared for us to do in a life that is submitted to Him. He can only produce spiritual fruit in us, as we abide in Him and walk in spirit and truth. Good works are only carried out through the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is as we submit to His leading, only doing the things that we hear from Him, and remaining in fellowship with the Father through confessing our sin to HIM, that we will grow in grace, as He desires.
However, we are not to be passive and inactive in our Christian walk. We are NOT puppets - not at all! We are to be actively submitted to God. We are to be passively productive. We are to be actively dependent on Him. We are to carry out the work He has prepared for us to do in His strength and for His glory - so that it is not I but Christ living IN me and His Spirit working THROUGH me, every step of the way - until we can say with Paul, "it is not I that live but Christ that lives in me!"
God will certainly perfect the good work He started in each of us - but may we live our lives in full cooperation with Him, as we present our bodies to Him as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to Him... so that we achieve spiritual maturity in this life, and in the ages to come, will receive our glorified bodies and rich rewards. Hallelujah!
Dear Lord, thank You that You began this amazing work of grace in the soul of each believer. You knew each one of us before we were formed in our mother's womb, and You scheduled each day of our lives. In Your grace and mercy, You will perfect and complete the good work that You began, to our eternal benefit, and to Your eternal praise. In Jesus' name, AMEN.