Sunday Sermon: ‘Standing Firm in the Lord’

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This morning we return to our study through the book of Philippians and we come today to Paul’s encouragement to stand firm in our faith.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

I. The Command to Stand Firm

A. The Command Given to Every Believer

Staying strong in the Lord isn’t something just for the super-saints. It’s a command given to every believer. A part of our service to Christ is to stand firm in our faith. Jude tells us to ‘defend the faith that has been entrusted to us.’ (see Jude 1:3) Paul told Timothy to ‘Fight the good fight of the faith.’ (see 1 Timothy 6:12)Earlier in the book of Philippians we read where Paul encouraged them to – “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.” (Philippians 1:27-28)

But standing strong in our faith doesn’t mean that we go out and look for trouble. We’re not to go into school or work and intentionally start an argument about our faith. Jude tells us to ‘contend for the faith’, not be ‘contentious about the faith.’ As believers, we shouldn’t be the person everyone else dreads to see coming. Yet, if we live for the Lord, we’re going to face opposition. Jesus told His disciples “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) As believers we are light in a world filled with darkness and often light is offensive to darkness.

B. The Philippians Need to Stand Firm

 1. Stand Firm Before the Legalists

The Philippians were apparently facing some struggles in their church. Last week we saw that there were those who were trying to teach that Christians should obey the Jewish Law in order to be saved. In the Bible they are sometimes referred to as the Judaizers. The word Judaizer comes from a Greek verb meaning [to live according to Jewish customs.] These individuals are also sometimes referred to as ‘legalists.’ A legalist is someone who tries to earn their relationship with God through the way they live. The Jewish legalists taught that although faith in Jesus is important, you must also obey certain rules and regulations in order to be saved.

2. Stand Firm Before the Lenient

The Judaizers weren’t the only ones troubling the Philippians. There was also another group whom we might refer to as the lenient. Whereas the legalists said that we should be very strict in how we live, the lenient said that since we are saved by grace and not by good works, we should stop worrying about how we live and start enjoying life. Yet, they too were in error. Look back at Philippians 3.

Philippians 3:18 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)

For the lenient, their primary concern was not serving the Lord, but gratifying their sensual desires. Paul said that these individuals were ‘enemies of the cross of Christ.’ They were enemies of the cross because their lifestyles betrayed the power of the cross to deliver us from sin and to help us live a godly life. Paul wrote to the Romans, “How can we who are now dead to sin continue to live in sin?” (see Romans 6:2)He wrote to the Corinthians, “Although all things are lawful, not all things are beneficial.” (see 1 Corinthians 10:23)Just because we can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that we should do it. Just because we do not have to do good works in order to be saved doesn’t mean that we can do anything we please. We must never forget that the Bible says that Christ “gave his life for us in order to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his peculiar people, committed to doing good deeds.” (see Titus 2:14)Christ redeemed us out of sin in order to make us His holy people.

3. Good Works and Our Salvation

Perhaps we should pause at this point and consider the relationship between God’s grace and our good works. What does the Bible teach us about salvation and good works?

a. We Are Not Saved by Our Good Works

Paul is not saying, “Stand fast in the Lord so that you will be saved” or, “stand fast in the Lord so that you will remain saved.” Salvation is not a reward for our performance. Salvation is a free gift offered to us through God’s grace. The Bible says –

Ephesians 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Our relationship with God is not something that any of us will ever be able to boast about because of how we have lived. No one will ever be able to stand before God and say “You owe me.”The angels aren’t going to fall down and worship us for our righteous living. All the glory will go to God because of the grace He has shown us through His Son. We read from Ephesians 1:6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.

 b. We Are Saved Unto Good Works

Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we are saved by grace and not our good works. But then the next verse says,

Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

God doesn’t save us in order to leave us in our sins. God saves us to bring us out of sin and to enable us to live for Him. The Bible says that we become a ‘new creation in Christ Jesus.’ (see 2 Corinthians 2:17)We are given ‘a new heart and a new spirit.’ (see Jeremiah 31:33)God also ‘places His Spirit within us’in order to help us live for Him. (see Ezekiel 36:27)

According to Ephesians 2:10, we become a part of ‘God’s handiwork for the purpose of doing good works.’We become a reflection of who God is and what Jesus Christ has done. Therefore, we must stand firm in our faith. We must not waver in who we are as a believer. We must stand strong.

C. The Admonition to Stand Firm

Paul’s admonition to stand firm in the faith is just as important for us today as it was for the Philippians many years ago. Sometime back I heard a very powerful message given by Charles Stanley. The title of his message was ‘A Warning Against Spiritual Drifting.’ His text was Hebrews 2:1. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

There are two very important truths found in this passage:

1. We can drift away from the truth.

To drift from the truth doesn’t mean that we turn our back on the Lord and deny Jesus Christ as our Savior. Some do that and the Bible says that they turn away from the faith because were never a part of the faith. John wrote, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us.”  (1 John 2:19) Such men are the seeds Jesus spoke of which fell into shallow soil and although they sprang up quickly, they eventually withered away. (see Matthew 13) They are those who profess what they never possess.

The writer of Hebrews is talking about those who stray away from the faith. They are believers who grow cold in their relationship with the Lord. They would say that they love the Lord, even though they’re not living for Him. They are those who become cold and calloused in our relationship with the Lord. They lose their first love as the Lord spoke of concerning the church of Ephesus. (see Revelation 2:4-5) They are those who become lukewarm in their relationship with the Lord as Jesus said of the believers of Laodicea. (see Revelation 3:15-16)

2. Therefore, We Must Give Careful Attention to the Truth 

Hebrews 2:1. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”

I believe that if you talked with most pastors in America, they would tell you that that this is where much of the church is at today. By saying this, I don’t think that these men are trying to be overly critical. They are extremely concerned. More and more they see their people becoming distracted by the things of this world and giving less and less attention to the things of God. Many believers these days don’t seem to be hungry for the Word of God. Instead, they seem bored with the church and many of the things of God. Perhaps they are bored because church is boring or maybe they are bored because they have lost their appetite for spiritual things. Maybe we’re like the kid that eats a candy bar on the way home from school and then curls his lip when they see what mom has prepared for supper.

In his message Charles Stanley said – “We live in a fallen world. It is filled with everything imaginable to draw us away from God.” We must be careful because we live in a world full of distractions. But then he said something else that stopped me dead in my tracks. He said, “Nobody ever drifts into a holy life. No one ever drifts into sanctification. No one ever drifts into godly living. No one ever drifts into obedience to God.”[1]

It’s true, no one naturally drifts towards God. Instead, we naturally drift away from God. No one ever naturally drifts towards living a separated life. Instead, we naturally drift towards living a sinful life. No one ever naturally drifts towards obedience. Instead, we naturally drift towards disobedience. Left to ourselves, we naturally drift away from God and the good works He has purposed for us to do. We naturally drift away from it because we live in world that is full of sin and because we are still struggling with a nature that has an appetite for it. Therefore, if we’re going to stand firm in the Lord, we must be very intentional in our relationship with God.

II. How to Stand Firm in Our Faith

How do we stay steadfast in the Lord? How do we stand firm in a world that is always tempting us to compromise? Let me point out to you three things Paul says. 

A. We Must Determine that Walking with God is Our Top Priority

Philippians 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul recognized that he had not yet arrived. Paul understood that he had not reached the point of where he could coast. Paul realized that he must continue to pursue Christ and His will for his life.

Lately you have been studying about David in Sunday School and how he fell into great sin. Many have asked, ‘How could a man who is supposed to be after God’s own heart do such terrible things?’David did these things because he drifted away from the truth. He allowed God’s truth to slip away from him. David became comfortable and then he became complacent. And is he remined in his complacency he eventually turned cold. And as he continued to be cold, he eventually became calloused. It didn’t happen overnight. It was a slow fade.

That’s why it says in Hebrews 3:13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.Notice two things about sin:

The word harden means to make stubborn. Sin will make us stubborn and resistant to spiritual truth. And sometimes we become angry or upset when a brother or sister in Christ tries to talk to us. Sin makes us hard and calloused and resistant to submission to God.

In contrast to all of this, Paul said, “I have not yet arrived. I have not yet come to the place where God wants me to be. I am not yet perfect or fully mature.”He also said, “I am not content to stay where I am at.”“Instead, I follow after Christ.”Knowing his Savior and becoming more and more like Him became Paul’s top priority.

Is that important? Must we be intentionally focused upon our relationship with the Lord? James said, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)Jesus said that “no man can serve two masters.” (see Matthew 6:24)Paul determined that Jesus was his Master and that he was going to give everything he had to pleasing Him. How did Paul pursue Christ?

1.  Paul Didn’t Live in the Past

Philippians 3:13 …forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before…

The past may include some spiritual successes as well as some spiritual failures. Regardless of what the past was, Paul didn’t live in it. The past was past and therefore he focused on the future.

2. Paul Reached for What God Had For Him in the Future

Paul said, “I forget what is in the past and reach for what is in the future. I keep pressing forward in order to reach the goal.”The words he uses here refers to a runner that is straining with everything he has in order to cross the finish line.

Adrian Rogers once said, “When you get to where you’re headed, where will you be?”Paul wanted to know that when he got to the end of his race, he would be at the throne of Jesus. He wanted to receive the ‘crown of life’ as he refers to in 2 Timothy 4. He wanted to hear his Lord say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)

B. We Must Determine to be Obedient to Whatever the Lord Tells Us to Do

Philippians 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect…

The word ‘perfect’, as it is used here, doesn’t mean to be without any error. Paul has already said that he’s not yet perfect. He hasn’t arrived. Perfect, as it is used here, means to be ‘mature.’ It refers to someone who has been a believer for a while and has grown in the Lord and who knows that what Paul is saying is the truth.

Philippians 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

Notice that he says – “Whereto we have already attained…” or in other words – “Let us hold onto what we have already learned and received. Don’t go backwards. Go forwards.”

If we would be honest, often the problem is not us not knowing what to do. The problem is that we don’t want to do it. Yet, in order to grow in the Lord, we must make some important decisions. Which brings up Paul’s third word of encouragement.

C. We Must Drive Down Some Spiritual Stakes

Philippians 4:1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

In order to grow and mature as a believer, we must drive down some spiritual stakes. We must determine within ourselves,

“Who am I?”

“What do I believe?”

“What is my relationship with the Lord?”

“Am I a believer? Am I one of His followers? Am I one of His disciples? Am I a Christian?”

“If so, then___________________________________________________________________.”

Driving down some stakes doesn’t mean that the battle will be over. If anything, it may become even more intense. Satan is going to do everything he can to keep us down and defeated. Yet, the Bible says, “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4) As we will study a couple of weeks, Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

I pray that this message has been both challenging and encouraging to you. God bless you my brethren. email: pastorterry@tobcchuch.com

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[1]Charles Stanley, A Warning Against Spiritual Drifting’ (https://www.intouch.org/listen/featured/a-warning-against-spiritual-drifting) July 4, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

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