Connections 12.05.2021: Completed Love

Philippians 1:1-11

Wouldn’t you have liked to be there on that long ago day when the Christians of Philippi gathered to hear the letter from Paul that they had just received? It’s not hard to imagine being among the listeners, joining them in being mesmerized by the apostle’s encouraging and inspiring words.

Some of Paul’s opening words would have grabbed me: “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). I’m sure those words would have grabbed me then in the same way they grab me now. They grab me now because they so well capture my heart’s burning desire: I want to finish well.

Maybe you think in ways similar to the ways I think. I want to be all I can be. I want to do all I can do. I want to reach my full potential.

I say all of that knowing how far I have to go. I say it knowing that one reason I still have so far to go is that I have so much ground to make up. I say it knowing that I have so much ground to make up because I have at so few points in my life lived up to my potential.

But Paul encourages me because he doesn’t say that it’s up to me to finish well. He rather says that God will finish what God started in me. This assumes that God has always been working in and through me and that God will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Indeed, what God is doing in my life is part of what God is doing in time and space until Jesus comes back. I can count on it. We can count on it.

Paul offers some specifics about what God’s working in us looks like: “And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God” (vv. 9-11). As God works in us, we grow in love. As we grow in love, we will grow in knowing what it means to live in loving ways. As we grow more in showing love, will grow more toward being all God wants us to be.

This Sunday is the second Sunday of Advent. Many of us will light the candle of love on the Advent wreath. As we do, let’s do so in a spirit of assurance that God will indeed finish what God has begun in us. Let’s be assured that God will form us into the loving people that God intends for us to become.

Discussion

  • Why does Paul thank God for the Philippians? Do we have similar reasons to be thankful for each other?
  • If God is going to complete what God started in us, what role do we play? What responsibilities do we have in the process?
  • How can we “determine what is best” (v. 10a)?
  • What does it mean for us to “be pure and blameless” when “the day of Christ” comes (v. 10b)? What role does love play in our being blameless and pure?

Michael Ruffin is husband to Debra, father to Joshua (Michelle) and Sara (Benjamin), grandfather to Sullivan and Isabella. A graduate of Mercer University and Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, he has previously served as a pastor and as a university professor. He lives on the Ruffin Family Farm in Yatesville, Georgia. He is the Connections Series Curriculum Editor.

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