Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on April 26, 2015
Open your Bible to Philippians 4:1. Today we are going to examine only one verse. However, as many of you know, you can never really only examine one verse; for to understand that one verse you must, in a sense, examine the entire Bible.
What I find fascinating, is the mighty hand of God guiding our Church. Some of you will recognize that what are doing today is reinforcing what we are doing on Wednesday nights at our ACTS 242 Adult Bible study. This last Wednesday we were encouraged to meditate on the Word of God; to think about it; to contemplate it; to soak in it. As I have said before, reading the Bible is not a race. Our deepest desire is to know the one true God. If that means that we do it one verse at a time, then so be it. Therefore let us read our text, pray that God would give us understanding, and then meditate on God’s Word.
This last week I read a blog article by Jackson WU who was posting on a website named Training Leaders International. The title of his blog was “The Most Important Words in the Bible.” Can you guess what he believed to be the most important words? Perhaps you would guess Jesus...God…grace…cross…faith…hope…love. Those are all good words, but Jackson claimed that the most important words in the Bible were conjunctions. Do you know what conjunctions are? Conjunctions are words such as because, however, for, so, and therefore. These he claimed were the most important words in the entire Bible. Why? One reason is because conjunctions, many times, connect the command with the promise. Without conjunctions commands lack power, lack strength, they lack foundation. We can see this in our text today.
The first word that starts chapter 4 of Philippians is “Therefore.” This word is really in the Greek manuscript. They are not just throwing in that word to make it more readable. The Greek word is hóste. This is a conjunction. It joins two thoughts. It is somewhat unfortunate that these thoughts are separated by a chapter shift. So let us look at both sides of the conjunction. First let us look at the thought in verse 1.
The Greek word for stand firm is “stékó.” This word can be translated into English as stand firm, stand fast, persevere. As some of you have learned recently, when attempting to figure out what words mean in the Bible, we should use the Bible. So what we do is we conduct a word study on steko. We find other places that this word has been used. To do this you can use a concordance. If you are old school, you can use a concordance that is in book form, or if you are comfortable with the Computer then there are plenty of online concordances. I use Biblehub.com and on that site I use what is called Strong’s Concordance. Paul actually uses this word somewhat frequently in his letters. In fact, he has a used this word earlier in Philippians.
In the Lord
This leads to the question, don't relent, hold position, be strong in what? Paul's command is for the church to stand firm in the Lord. What does it mean to be in the Lord? First, I think we need to understand that to be in the Lord is a statement of position. It is a description of location. If I ask, where is the car? And someone answers, “it is in the garage.” This is a description of location.
This is exactly what Paul is speaking to. He is speaking of the Christian location. This is something I think so many people don't get, and by so many people I mean religious people, who think they are saved but are not saved. They view being a Christian, not as a location but as an activity. They see Christianity as something that is scheduled. This is not what it means to be a Christian. To be a Christian is to place your life entirely in the hands of Jesus Christ. To fully and completely abide in him. This is a radical repositioning of your life.
So the question we must all ask ourselves is, are you in the Lord, are you hidden in Christ, do you abide in Jesus, are you in the Ark of God's Grace, with the door shut behind you? Or are you playing church? If you are playing Church, the game you are actually playing is Russian roulette with your soul, for at any moment that door could shut in your face. And when God says time is up, then time is up. It is too late. Time is truly of the essence. The rain could start falling at any moment. Chose today to leave this world behind you and enter into a union with Jesus Christ.
Now for those who are in the Lord, does that mean being in the Ark is like a ride on the love boat? That being in Christ is like riding a pleasure boat in the Caribbean? Absolutely not, it is, in fact, more like a ride on battleship.
Implicit in these statements of standing firm is the existence of a force that is pushing against you, a force that is attempting to make you not stand, attempting to cause you to fall, attempting to knock you over, attempting to take the hill that you have secured.
What is Paul referring to? Paul is referring to the attacks that he just got speaking about in Chapter 3. The dogs, the evildoers, the mutilators of the flesh, enemies of the cross, whose God is their belly, glory in their shame, and set their minds on earthly things. This is the force that Paul is speaking of. It is the force of the World. The World that lies in the hands of Satan.
When you align yourself with Jesus Christ, and choose to follow Him and to be found in Him, you no longer walk as an enemy of the cross, but an enemy of the World. When we bear the image of Jesus Christ we are guaranteed to be treated the exact same way as our Savior. Jesus tells us this.
However, we must also be aware that persecution is not just murder it is also the threat of murder. This type persecution is becoming more and more prevalent. For those who participated in the Secret Church gathering on Friday night you are already aware of this, but the Church in which the live event was being broadcast, the Church at Brooks Hills, the Church we are going to be partnering with in our Guatemala Mission trip, received a threat. The threat was legitimate enough that they moved the taping to an undisclosed location.
But it is not just large events like Secret Church, with well known pastors speaking, it is also Christian businesses. I am sure you are familiar with Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. After speaking out that they were a Christian business that would not cater a gay wedding, they immediately started to receive threats, no not from ISIS, but from average Americans. One was a female high school coach, we tweeted, “Who is going to Walkerton, Indiana with me to burn down Memories Pizza.”
This is the America in which we live in. If you place your faith in Christ stand upon the inerrant Word of God, you will be persecuted. It won't just be from ISIS. It will be nice little high school volleyball coach that lives next door. In fact for many of you, it may come from even closer to home.
The question is, will you stand firm? Will you remain strong? Will you hold to what you are taught in God's Word? Will you persevere? Will you endure? Or will you fall? Will you sell your soul to gain favor with the World?
God has commanded us to stand firm in Christ, but how are we to do this when all the World seems to be chanting for our heads on a platter. This is were the word “therefore” is so crucial. For “therefore” points back to the foundation of the command. So what does the therefore point back to?