And now, we return you to your regularly scheduled reading…
I am back from my trip to El Salvador and thankful to once again feel the keys of my computer under my fingertips. I have missed the therapeutic lull that arises when I put my thoughts on virtual paper and erase my numerous errors with the simple tap of a delete key. Ah, the blessings of living in a technological age!
Since the mission of this trip was to share the gospel, I had many opportunities to sit down and share my faith with the wonderful people of San Salvador. One thing I noticed while doing this was the lack of security many people had in knowing that, in Jesus, all things are complete because He finished it all. That is the root from which this writing grew. I hope it makes clear to all who read it that Jesus is the author, perfecter, and completer of our faith. We have no starting line apart from His finish line.
The Line We All Need to Cross
The Cross that Drew the Line
Jesus…said, “It is finished!” John 19:30 “…the end of your faith-the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:9
Begin with the end in mind. That is habit number two for ‘highly successful people’ and practice number one for ‘harmoniously saved people’. The idea is that, whatever you put your hand to, you look forward to the end result before you even begin. In other words, when you step up to the starting line, you look ahead to the finish line. It sounds wise. It sounds elementary enough. It contains only two positional words: the beginning and the end. No big deal. We’ve got this, right? And yet…
And yet this practice has made the list of the top seven habits we, by default, do not have. How can something so simplistic be so difficult to achieve? After all, do I not wake up each morning and plan to return to bed that night? Do I not open a Diet Coke and know that my goal is to drink it all? And, whenever I unwrap a Reese’s, do I not determine to eat both peanut butter cups? Yet, even in such mundane areas, I fail to cross the finish line. I stay up too late, I pour out half-empty cans, and I…well, I do finish off the Reese’s, but you get the point. Beginning with the end in mind is a practice that needs to be practiced; it needs to be repeated so often that it becomes habitual, and not just as it applies to our physical lives, but more importantly…most eternally, as it applies to our spiritual lives.
As believers, we all need to begin with the end in mind. In fact, for us, the finish line is actually our starting line. Without the line Jesus drew while on the cross, we’d have nowhere to place our feet; no demarcation of where we are to line up. But there is a line. A boldly drawn, perfectly poured, mercifully etched, crimson line. And upon this line, we find our starting point. Because Jesus finished the race, we are free to start the run.
I don’t know about you, but I know (all too well) about me. I’m a list maker. I write things down so I can cross them off. I, like others with encryptophobia (the fear of not writing things down), even add things to my list that I’ve already done just so I can cross them off! It’s a strange phenomenon and one I attribute to an innate need to accomplish something. I think (not to excuse or vindicate my habit) this drive is present because God wired us to seek the end of things; He wants us to look toward the finish line. I think this is true because we see this attribute in Jesus. He too had a list of things to accomplish while on earth and, when He had completed them, He crossed each one off with a drop of His blood.
As I look over Jesus’ earthly life, it is clear that He began with the end in mind. When He cried out, “It is finished!” from the cross, He had, quite literally, crossed off salvation, struggles, and security from His list. Jesus crossed these off of His list so we wouldn’t have them upon ours. We cannot obtain salvation, or overcome struggles, or find security apart from Jesus. So He finished these for us, that through faith we would be complete in Him. The first item Jesus crossed of His list was our salvation. Through His death, God received a sinless sacrifice to cover our sins. Our acceptance of this payment means we no longer have a sin debt. We no longer have to bring a blood sacrifice with us when we come to worship because Jesus put an end to that practice; His death was the final, and complete, sacrifice for all sin. What lies in the past is past; what lies in the present is past; and, what lies in the future is past. Behind us, beside us, before us; when it comes to our salvation, “It is finished.”
Along with our salvation, Jesus also crossed off purposeless struggles. He didn’t eradicate trials completely, but He ensured “that all things [would] work together for our good” (Romans 8:28) when we place our trust in Him. As believers, we learn to look at struggles in a new light and with a redeemed vision. Rather than seeing difficulties as obstacles meant to trip us up, we see them as obstacle courses meant to strengthen us and increase our agility. James writes that we should “consider it pure joy when [we] encounter trials because the testing of [our] faith develops perseverance” and that we should “allow perseverance to finish its work, that [we] may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-3). So, meaningless struggles? They too were crossed off of Jesus’ list when He said, “It is finished.”
Thirdly, there is the completion of our security. Having drawn a finish line for our salvation and for our struggles, Jesus fully intended for us to live, well…fully. Hopefully, gracefully, worshipfully, truthfully, prayerfully, bountifully, fruitfully, and purposefully. When we step into the fullness of His redemption, we also step fully into the assurance of His love and we have the security of knowing that “no one shall snatch us from His hand.” (John 10:27). Just as there was nothing we could do to earn our salvation, so too is there nothing we can do to lose our salvation. The security comes in knowing that it’s not the strength of our grasp that secures us to God, but the unfailing grip of His hand that keeps us nestled in the palm of His hand.
Beginning with the end in mind. Jesus did it. His thoughts were on us before He left Heaven; His finish line was drawn before we even knew there was a race to be run. But upon that line, we place our feet; upon that line we begin to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). While it is true that upon coming to Christ, God begins a new work in us, it is we who are placed at the starting line, not Jesus. His line was drawn at the cross and that line was a line of completion; His finish line becomes our starting line and, because of what Jesus crossed off His list, we are able to not only begin with the end in mind, but to begin with our mind already anchored to the end; anchored to the One who is the Alpha and the Omega (Rev. 1:8), the beginning and the end. For when it comes to our salvation, our struggles, and our security…most assuredly, “It is finished!”