Without any degree of separation
Ever start stuff and then somewhere along the way it never quite makes it to "finished"? I have lots of these projects! I wanted to learn to crochet - well that isn't gonna happen since I live in Arizona and would never wear one thing I could make! I wanted to learn to paint with water colors - another wayside project abandoned somewhere between learning to sketch and outline and actually having the talent to do it! I wanted to learn how to take care of a car's engine - I got about ten percent into this one when I discovered these things are way too complicated anymore for me to do more than drive it to the local Jiffy Lube for an oil change! I guess we all have those "start" and "stop" moments in life - when we realize we bit off more than we could chew, or just plain didn't know what we were getting into. What isn't up to us "getting through" is this thing called "salvation". You see, God began that work, so we can all be assured it will be finished - and finished well!
I am confident that the Creator, who has begun such a great work among you, will not stop in mid-design but will keep perfecting you until the day Jesus the Anointed, our Liberating King, returns to redeem the world. (Philippians 1:6 VOICE)
Begin: To perform the first or earliest part of any action. If the "beginning" part of our salvation is in God's hands, in the work he accomplished at the cross, then it is off to the best start! If it were up to us, I'm sure we would find some way to make it as complicated, but as painless as possible. If it were us having to die on the cross, we'd find some other means!
Great: Unusual in power, intensity, or degree; first-rate; remarkable; exceptionally outstanding. The things we begin in life may not exactly measure up to things others would consider "remarkable" or "first-rate". In fact, if I look around at the things I have begun in my life, I'd have to say what I envisioned as being "first rate" when I started sort of made it to not more than "third rate" at best! The power God has behind his plans for our lives is better than anything we could muster up on our own. In fact, the plans themselves are "first-rate"!
Keep: To hold in a given place. I think it is important for us to realize God gives us our place of "right-standing" with him, not based on our own merit, but on the gift of grace he extends to us through the blood of his dear Son, Jesus. It is a "placement" which is straight from his hands - we didn't do anything to achieve it. If we were the ones achieving that "place" in life, we'd constantly have to struggle to keep ourselves in that place. The truth of the matter is that we cannot "keep" (hold in place) our "right-standing" with God - only he can (and does) do that!
Perfecting: Conforming absolutely (without degree of separation) to the definition of an ideal type (Christ). What God begins in us is this "conforming" process of making us like Christ in every way - because he sees us without any degree of "separation". We see ourselves with many degrees of separation - but in God's eyes, he only sees us as he views his dear Son, Jesus. There is no difference in how he sees us because we become one with Christ in salvation - there are no longer any degrees of separation!
We might think what is begun will never get to completion in our lives, but what seems impossible to us is actually already accomplished in God's eyes! We don't always see the evidence of what he has set in motion, but we can trust him to finish what he has begun! Just sayin!