Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Standing Firm

Click Here to Listen to the Sunday, May 22, 2011 Sermon by Pastor Chip Moody

Click Here to Download the Philippians Outline Chart

Scripture Reference:  Philippians 3:10 - 4:1

Stand firm. Stand fast. Stay faithful. Keep the faith. Never give up. Stand your ground.

We all want to be that guy who never gives up when the chips are down; to be the one who remains strong and faithful to his family, his friends, his principles. It takes the courage we want to have; it takes the determination we want to exhibit. We want to be faithful to Jesus Christ in a world that assaults us with their insults, their skepticism, their impatience, their intolerance.

Stand firm. Oh, how we want to do so.

Here is what the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:1: “. . . THAT is how you should stand firm in the Lord!”

Whoa, wait a minute. I need the HOW part to help me stand firm in the Lord. Where is that part?  In one of those ironies that pop up now and then, Stephen Langton, who established the Bible’s chapter divisions in the year 1205, made a booboo here. Verse 4:1 should have been in chapter 3. (To his credit, he got most of the chapter divisions right.)

So we back up to chapter three to find out HOW to stand firm in the faith. But the HOW isn’t what you think it is.

No talk of church business meetings, committees, building funds, Sunday Schools, or seminaries. No talk of degrees, certifications, titles, or pedigrees. In fact, Paul makes clear that these things are “of the flesh.:”  He means that they have no eternal value, and are in fact tainted with the brokenness of the fall as much as anything else we bring to the table of life. He thinks that compared to the glory that is to come that these things are trash:

“. . . I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord . . . I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ  and be found in him . . .” Philippians 3:8-9  

He was telling the disciples at Philippi that standing firm is something other than what we can do for ourselves. It is something God must do in us. He uses the athletic imagery of the Roman games to illustrate:

“Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Forget what lies behind. Strain toward what lies ahead.

That’s it? That’s how you stand firm in the faith?


The passage goes on to say:

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained.  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” 

I boldfaced the words I wanted you to see most. Note that he says our citizenship IS in heaven. Present tense. It is now that you are citizens of the Kingdom of God. It is not something we are waiting for.

Second, the power that transforms us into his likeness is his. We can’t do it. God says he can. No, actually he says he will. Done deal.

So we are citizens of the right kingdom by Jesus’ sacrifice for us. And it is he who empowers our ongoing progress in becoming like him.

That’s why Paul can write: “Forget what lies behind. Strain toward what lies ahead.”

The past? Forget it. It doesn’t count anymore. Sure, learn from it. But it isn’t worth worrying about.

The future? It belongs to God, not to you or me. We only think we influence it. (For some reason we keep thinking we are in charge of our life.) Paul is telling us to keep our eyes on the Christ who has saved us, is saving us, and will save us.

“Forget what lies behind. Strain toward what lies ahead.”

And THAT is how to stand firm.

Sound too simple? Maybe it’s meant to be.

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One final note:  This was the last Sunday for Chip as Pastor at Mountain View Christian Church.  Pastor Chip has retired from the day-to-day life as a pastor at MVCC.  This doesn't mean that he's slowing down, heaven's no.  Chip is the Dean of Students at Phoenix Seminary and is teaching the next generation of Pastors and Church Leaders for God's church.  We, at Mountain View, wish many blessings on Chip and Gina Moody and thank them dearly for the 22 years of service that they have given this community.

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