“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…” Philippians 1:6
Yesterday, I chose this verse. And this morning I’m reading it again, Lord, and wondering why I chose this one. And with everything that’s been going on with hearing Your Word recently and hearing and experiencing Your witness through testimonies around me, I can’t help but think about that good work You have begun. And I find myself asking this question, “What really is the ‘good work’ that You are talking about here?”
It’s so easy for me to just think that the good work is the good things that I want to do, that these things are what You want me to be doing, like caring for the poor, loving my neighbors and my enemies, forgiving, and all those things. But what if this goes deeper? What if Paul is talking about the root of the good work? And what if it’s not my work at all, but solely what You are doing through me and in me? I mean, Your Word tells me that not a single one of us humans is good, no not one. So how do You begin a good thing in me?
The Greek here for “good works” is “ergon agathon.” “Agathon” has to do with what’s “useful, pleasant, agreeable, excellent, upright,” but if we go back to it’s etymology it points us to the word “awe.” Now listen to the Hebrew parallel, because Paul would have been fully aware of it. Here’s what Skip Moen shares, “[f]undamental to Hebrew thought is the relationship between God and good. ‘God is good’ expresses the basic confession of Judaism. Therefore, what is ultimately good is defined solely by God Himself. Yeshua [Jesus] acknowledged this essential identity when He said, ‘Why do you call me good? Only God is good.'” So any “good work” must be solely the handiwork of God, because only God can inspire true awe.
Now stop and think about this. I was created to bear the awe of God in me and out of me and through me. This is the work that He is doing in me. This is His goodness being formed in me and shining from me as I surrender and respond in His will. In order for this to take place, two things are necessary. I must abide in Christ. “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.” (John 15:4) Our life is in Christ. If it’s not, it’s not really living. Am I abiding in You, Lord, really? Are You abiding in me, really? These just aren’t words and doctrine; this is truth and reality. Can I say this is true in my life? But this isn’t all. There are two things.
I’m not complete in You if I only abide in You. Really. I must also die. These two things must be present in my life. I must abide AND die. That’s what Jesus was saying when He spoke these words, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 5:24) Paul even tells us to “work out” our own salvation “with fear and trembling.” Why? Because it’s not up to me. I have to let You, Lord, have Your way in me. Every day I have to surrender my own will and choose You. Every day I have to say “No” to my will and “Yes” to Yours. It’s a life in You, abiding in You, but I stay there moment by moment by dying to my self and my own desires and living to You.
This is what the Gospel is all about. This is the Gospel in action. This is the life of the Gospel. I suppose I could replace the word Gospel with Christ or Jesus or Yeshua. You are the Gospel. It’s not just that it’s good news about You that I’m supposed to be spreading, even though that’s part of it. Scripture says the treasure is me! I’m what Your Gospel is all about. This “ergon agathon” is all about the risen Lord and Savior doing the miraculous work of redemption and life in me, in His children, in His treasures, in His vessels. Stop and think about that. You and I are walking Gospels! If Jesus lives and abides in us and we in Him and we are continually dying to ourselves and allowing Him to live through us, we are demonstrating the power of the life of Christ, the Gospel itself, the Good News of why Jesus came!
Why did You come, Jesus? To not only save sinners but to save them unto life in You and to make them Your very own treasure, Your very own spotless bride, to unify them with You again. I am to demonstrate with my life the power and purpose of Your resurrection. That is the awesome work that You are doing in me. That is what draws other people to You. That is truly amazing and only You can do that.
Listen over and over again to how You have intwined the Gospel, all that You are and all that You purpose into our lives. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it.” ( Mark 8:35) “Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the Gospel, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.'” (Mark 10:29) Yes, we must abide in Christ and be willing to die daily to ourselves to let Christ live in us. This is true Christianity and You can’t separate these two.
Jesus said “the Gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations.” How do we do that? We abide and die and we proclaim not only with the written Word but by His Word written out in our lives and demonstrated in our lives. Our lives become the demonstration of the power of His Word. We become the reality of His Word, the Gospel in living color!
Remember the woman who gave her last mite? Remember the woman who poured the alabaster box of ointment over Jesus? That’s what He is calling us to. They were proclaiming the Gospel to the whole world and they didn’t even have the words. But their message was so powerful in the Lord that He said, “And truly, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9) Wow! So when You tell me Jesus to “Go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to the whole creation” it takes on a whole deeper meaning now. You must be the One proclaiming the power of the Gospel through me by my changed life, not just my words.
Just like Paul, we have been called and set apart for Your Gospel. You alone are the Witness who knows if the works that I am performing are of me or You. Well, I know also. I want to serve You with all of my spirit and all of my being. I want to live in Your Gospel. I want You to live out Your Gospel through me. I want to preach not only with Your awesome Word, but with every bit of power and love and grace and more that You give me to demonstrate it with and in my life. I want to die to self so I can abide and live in You fully. This is the way I am eager to preach, with my mouth and with my life. I want to truly be able to not only say, but demonstrate with every fiber of my being that “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” It’s the power of my life. It’s You in me. That’ s it. The Gospel is the life and power of You, Jesus, in us.
Jesus in me. Like Paul, You have called us to create Your living Gospel in us. We preach You with our lives, not eloquent words of wisdom. People must see the power of the cross of Christ. People must see it’s reality. They must see it in our lives.
I can’t help thinking about 1 Corinthians 9:14 where Paul says that those “who proclaim the Gospel should live of the Gospel.” And I also know that people were complaining because people within the church were providing his needs and it’s about providing for the Lord’s laborers. But it also tells me that those who live out the Gospel, as Paul did, those who let Christ have His way in all their life, will also be cared for by the power and provision of Christ, by that same Gospel they are living. Later, Paul tells me that living out the Gospel allows us to bless others. And we’re not blessing them with our selves or our words, but we are blessing them with Jesus Himself.
This is so gloriously beautiful. You, Lord, have called us to live in and live out this Gospel that is You in us. You have called us to be partakers with You. You have called us to be Your ministers in You according to God’s awesome grace by the working of Your power, Your “ergon agathon.” This is faith in action, when we let You have Your way in us. Because the Gospel isn’t just in word, but it’s in power and in the Holy Spirit and in full, not partial conviction. And those who live in Your Gospel prove themselves. (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
These are the ones You choose to make Yourself known in. These are the ones You choose to demonstrate the riches of Your glory, to make Your mystery known, that mystery of Christ in us, our hope of glory! (Col. 1:27) So, as I received You, Lord, in all Your fulness, that’s how I ought to walk in You, continually, daily rooted and built up in You, continually being established in the faith by You, continually being taught by You, continually giving thanks in You and for You. (Col 2:6,7) It has nothing to do with philosophy or tradition but everything to do with the resurrection of Christ, the Gospel, in me. “For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.” (Col. 2:9,10) I want nothing more than to abide fully in You and to die to self so that I can live fully in You. So help me by Your power to do Your good work in me.