I remember hearing a sermon where the minister asked the congregation: “Do you know the tenses of salvation?”
He went on to explain what he meant, that:
- Jesus has delivered you from the penalty of sin in the past
- Jesus is delivering you from the power of sin in the present
- Jesus will deliver you from the presence of sin in the future.
This memory has come to mind in recent days because I’ve seen these tenses again, all the more clearly, as I’ve prepared to preach in our Sunday morning services. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is full of these three tenses – the past, present, and future – with Jesus.
Do you marvel at Jesus for what he’s done for your past, present and future?
Or to put it another way, especially if you feel there’s something lacking in your joy in knowing Jesus: Might there be a greater fullness to Jesus’ salvation which you are yet to behold?
I think the minister’s three tenses are brilliant. I long for sin to be a distant memory. But if there’s one minor criticism, it’s this: they focus primarily on the removal of sin.
Paul knows that, because of Jesus, sin is dealt with. But in Philippians, he doesn’t focus primarily on sin’s removal, but on what the Christian gains: Jesus himself.
How does Jesus affect our past?
We were saved because he “began a good work” in us (1:6). We were granted faith in Jesus (1v29). Whatever used to be precious to us, we now consider as nothing compared to the “surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8).
So, do you know that any affection you have for Jesus is because he has set up home in your life?
How does Jesus affect our present?
“To live is Christ”, says Paul (1v21). This encapsulates not just that Jesus is Lord, and that every moment must be weighed before him. But also that the example of service Jesus shows us in going to the cross is the life we now also must lead.
So Jesus is our Lord, our new master, our direction, our purpose, and our example. Because we are sure of his everlasting love for us, we follow in his footsteps.
And how does Jesus affect our future?
We await our Saviour, says Paul (3v20). For Paul, salvation will be fully and finally accomplished in the future. So we are assured now, but not complacent. We look ahead to the future, to the day of Christ.
On that day we will see him. And we will receive the fullness of the blessings he has for us. As Paul says, he “will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body” (3v21).
The joy of knowing Jesus is an all-encompassing joy which is given to us to span every moment of our lives and to bring fullness and life to every situation, relationship and experience we have.
In other words, knowing Jesus is a gift which impacts everything – past, present and future. May we grow to know him in every moment as our Lord and Saviour.
With love in Christ