Stand Firm in the Lord

Sermon 1794 Philippians 3.17-4.1 March 13, 2022

Stance. It’s everything in sports. The wrestler has to take and maintain a stance that allows him to move quickly and resist his opponent’s attacks. He is to stay standing. The football lineman gets into his three point stance so he also can move any direction quickly, yet not be knocked on his duff by the guy across the line of scrimmage.

As we get older stance is equally important. My dad had troubles with balance and walking. They prescribed therapy. I asked him what they did, imagining they abandoned him to a treadmill for forty minutes. “They make me sit on a big ball,” he told me. I was mystified. Do they do everything backwards in Wisconsin?

God’s word to us today is all about stance, how to maintain it and use it. The therapists in Wisconsin might just be on to something.

Stand Firm in the Lord

1. Mind the core.

2. Walk the line.

“Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power than enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body (20-21).”

Stand firm in the Lord. Mind the core.

One of the reasons we get worse at walking the older we get is the same reason little ones are terrible at walking to begin with. No, the beer gut does not become the 80 year old’s version of the toddler’s big head, though both may present some balance issues. It’s the inability to make adjustments. Walking is like driving. You move that steering wheel hundreds of times to stay going straight. Your body makes thousands of adjustments to keep you upright as you are walking. Both the elderly and the young don’t make those adjustments. The latter, because they are inexperienced, the former, because their core muscles are weak. That’s why my dad would sit on those balance balls. He couldn’t do sit-ups (anyone with back problems can see why), so the muscles in his abdomen, his core muscles, got exercise by trying to keep him perched on that balance ball. Mind the core.

Our spiritual core is a Savior from heaven. A Savior. We are eagerly awaiting a Savior from heaven because we need a Savior from heaven. Let’s go back to the nursery. The toddler knows what he is missing. He sees older brother striding around the house, grabbing whatever toys he wants in his free hands. Imagine what powers could be yours if you only could get up from all fours! Before Mom knows it, her little one is edging his way around the living room, holding onto couches, chairs, end tables.

Sin hobbles us. We can’t do what we want. Isn’t that what Paul said, “The good I would, that I do not. The evil that I do not want to do, that I keep on doing”? Unlike learning to walk, sin continues to shackle us throughout life. Unkind words jump out of our mouth. We are jealous of the successes of those close to us. One setback and we lose sight of days and months and years of blessing from the Lord. Unlike the toddler who gains experience and ends up walking, our sinful human nature refuses to learn, insists on falling, even boasts in its shameful victories. If we are looking for spiritual core muscles to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps, we aren’t going to find them. Sin has gutted us. Mind the core.

That’s why we eagerly await a Savior. Jesus is that Savior, the one who rescued us from our sins by his death on the cross. He is our core. Babies can get pretty bruised up. My youngest grandson already has a $10,000 face from a California plastic surgeon because of his last two tumbles with stitches. He will have to play hockey—he’s already got the face for it. We are covered with the bruises of sin. No amount of plastic surgery could cover it up. Jesus removed those bruises from us. “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows. By his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53.4, 5).”

The power of a stance in Jesus shows because on the Last Day Jesus will transform our bodies, raise them to be forever healthy, forever vigorous, forever strong, “like his glorious body,” Paul says. Perfectly holy and sinless. A perfect stance, nevermore to be knocked over. Mind the core. Don’t depart from it.

A good stance is a source of power. I don’t want my Christianity to be one of watch out for this, don’t do that. Yes, we must pay attention to the perils. But we also have to set forth the power of our faith. Jesus Christ, our Savior from heaven, makes us stand.

We stand when we defeat the devil’s temptations. Elsewhere in the Bible we see how we do it. We use the tools God has given us, the Word of God and prayer. When I go to the Word, the Holy Spirit fills me with power to say “no” to temptations. The Holy Spirit moves me to embrace the good way, God’s way. No matter how hard that choice appeared at the time, in the rear view mirror it was the far easier path than walking with the devil in his twisted lies. And prayer. Pray that God give us the strength, that he opens paths for escape or that God prevents the situation from even taking place. Those are the weapons we have at our disposal, so, having done all we can, God makes us strand. Mind the core.

We stand when we attack the devil’s position. After all, what good is a terrific stance if the football player or the wrestler can’t go on the offensive? God created us for action. He fashioned us as his army going out into the battlefield. Make disciples of all nations. Preach the Gospel to all creation. We stand firm in the Lord every time we share the Gospel or invite someone to come with us to church. People are finally venturing into society again. Don’t let church be the one place that still, in the minds of the world, appears to be under quarantine.

Stand firm in the Lord. Mind the core. Walk the line.

“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 (17-19).”

The other thing the therapists did for my Dad was have him walk a straight line, even if he had to use hand rails. Put one foot ahead of another. It would help his balance in that it gave him practice in making the necessary adjustments. Paul is asking us to walk the line of our faith. It will exercise our faith. It will follow the guidelines. Walk the line.

The guidelines are ever before us. They are the good examples previous generations of Christians have left us. We always said grace before every meal growing up. We are going to give God thanks for the food and drink he has given us. We always got to Sunday School, even if the parents had to make two trips to church (because we shared one pastor with three churches!). And we always sat with Mom and Dad in church, singing the hymns with them, putting into the offering plate the nickel Dad slipped each one of us during the sermon. Weddings, baptisms, confirmations, funerals, these were the cycles of our lives which revolved around church. It was just the way life was. Nobody was expecting a medal for it. It was just the way life was. That was the line we walked. It was the pattern given to us. And it was a good pattern, a great pattern to build a wonderful life on whether you became an auto mechanic in La Crescent or a neurosurgeon in Atlanta. The same pattern is before you and me. It is the same Sunday, the same Sunday school, the same washing of the Word, a gracious water of life. It is the same Lord, the same hope, the same faith. Walk the line. Christ has given us the power to do it.

Walk the line. The exercise is always before us. Yes, there are enemies of the cross of Christ. It takes discernment, practice, to see them. Paul is not talking about murderers, thieves, adulterers and those who traffic in human lives. They are easy to spot. Paul speaks of those in other places. He mentions enemies of the cross here. There are people who, normally would be regarded as good people, people to be imitated, who hate the cross. They hate the cross because there is no room for human pride in the cross of Christ. Before the cross, we all are beggars. They want to earn their own way before God by their own imagined good deeds. They don’t walk the line.

Walk the line. Don’t give in to the worship of self. That’s what “their god is their stomach” means. The Greeks viewed the stomach as the source of human emotions, personality, being. It makes sense. Bad news hits us in the stomach. We have a gut feeling. The worship of self makes emotion our god. The worship of self makes our feelings and lines of thought the only Bible worth following. We experience it every time somebody justifies a dubious decision with, “I am sure God wants me to be happy.” In an age like ours, the individual is being elevated to a level worthy of only God. The weight of responsibility and pressure of duty in such a situation is leading to mental health issues, social fragmentation and people incapable of interacting with others on a basis of mutual benefit and trust.

It doesn’t take a genius to see it, but it does take someone who can walk the line because they stand firm in the Lord.

Stand Firm in the Lord

1. Mind the core.

2. Walk the line.

“Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!”

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