Standing Firm

Pastor Kim Gilliland
March 13, 2022 Lent 2
SCRIPTURE: Philippians 3: 17 – 4: 1
Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.
Philippians 4: 1 (NIV)

LENT IS HERE

This is now the second Sunday in Lent as we approach the events of the cross and resurrection. Lent is a time of reflection and preparation, a time to take a serious and honest look at our lives and see how they line up with the lives that God want us to live. The truth is that none of us is perfect. All of us make mistakes. All of us fall short of God’s glory. That’s our reality.

The point of Lent, however, is not to beat ourselves up over our past mistakes. God doesn’t want that. Yes, he wants us to realize what we have done wrong. He wants us – in fact, he requires us – to confess our sins and repent. But he doesn’t want us to get stuck in our sin. There is no need to constantly dwell on past mistakes, wringing our hands and whimpering some form of, “Woe is me!” If you’re stuck in that mode than you just haven’t understood that when you confess your sins, God forgives you.

It’s like that old story that you might have heard before about the minister who heard about a woman who claimed to speak directly with God. He went to check her out and found her in the park sitting on a bench. He approached her and inquired of her if indeed she spoke with God. She assured him that she did. So, he said, “If you speak with God, then God should be able to tell you things that you would not otherwise know.”

“That’s correct,” she assured him.

“So, that means that God can reveal to you things that only he would know.”

“That’s what it means,” she said and then added, “but only if he is willing.”

The minister thought back to a time when he was a child. He had been in a store where he saw a chocolate bar that looked very yummy. He wanted it but didn’t have the money to pay for it. So, he looked around and, seeing that no one was looking, slipped it into his pocket and walked out of the store. It was the only time in his life that he could ever remember stealing anything and ever since then he had regretted it deeply. Even though he had confessed this sin to God he had always felt guilty about it even years later.

Remember this event, the minister looked at the woman and said, “If God reveals things to you then ask God to tell you what sin I committed when I was a child.”

The woman closed her eyes as if she was consulting with God. After a few moments, she opened her eyes, looked at the minister and said, “You have asked God about a sin that you have already confessed.”

“That’s true,” the minister replied, “but I want you to tell me what that sin was.”

“I can’t,” she said, “because you confessed your sin, God has forgotten it.”

The point is that God doesn’t dwell on your past sins. Once you have confessed them, then they are not held against you. So, don’t hold them against yourself. If have confessed, you are freed of the burden of them.

Lent is not so much about dwelling on the past as it is about how we can better live in a more godly way for the rest of our lives. To do that we need to know where we stand. We need to understand what God expects of us and we need to seek to live by his standards. I want to talk about that this morning and what it means to stand firm for Jesus.

WE LIVE IN THIS WORLD

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul writes about how the Christ followers in that city are supposed to live. Let’s begin with Philippians 3:17-19 (NIV):

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

In this passage, Paul talks about the those who follow good examples and those who don’t. He tells the Christians in Philippi to follow his example as the way the faithful people are to live their lives. And then in verses 18-19 he moves to those who live, not as Paul does, but as “enemies of the cross of Christ”. In verse 19 he speaks about what lies ahead for them: “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach and their glory is in their shame.” That is not good news. No one wants to be headed towards destruction. And yet the Bible says that is exactly where they are headed.

Why is that? Because, as Paul wrote in the last part of the verse, “Their mind is on earthly things.” Their minds are on earthly things. What does that mean? It means that those people aren’t seeking to follow the ways of Jesus. They are seeking to follow the ways of the world. And in seeking to follow the ways of the world, they are seeking to follow him who currently rules the world, that is Satan or the Devil or whatever you want to call him. That is who they are following.

Many people today are caught up in the ways of the world. In fact, that’s probably true of most people in our society. We still think of ourselves as a Christian country, founded on biblical principles but we really aren’t. While that once may have been true, it really no longer is. Christians have become a minority. Our values and our traditions are constantly being eroded but pop culture and the medea. When I go to the gym, I hear grown men in the change room using profanity in everyday language without thinking about it. Parents leave their kids to raise themselves while they chase their careers and the mighty dollar. By the age of twelve, boys are trying to be sexually active and our daughters are sexualized often from a very young age. Young couples who wait until they are married to begin their sexual journey together are looked upon as quaint and strange.

These are the ways of the world. It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s quite alarming. People don’t know God. They haven’t received Christ into their lives. They don’t know that they have to and, if they know, they don’t care. So many people are so hung up on following the ways of the world that they don’t give a second thought to what God wants for them. What does Paul say about that? He says, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame.”

The problem for us is that because we live in the world, we cannot avoid the things of this world. We cannot avoid the influences and pressures that bombard us through in the media each and every day. We watch the same TV shows, listen to the same radio stations and surf the same Internet as everyone else.

STANDING FIRM

Yet, in the midst of all of those worldly influences, we are called to stand firm. That’s not easy because those forces are strong and pervasive. The good news for us is that, in some areas, there are significant differences between Christians and the rest of society. Committed Christians do a lot more to help the poor and give significantly more to charities than do our secular brothers and sisters. We are also much more likely to get involved with our communities, in service clubs and in organizing children and youth sports.

But now the not-so-good news which is that in many other areas we’re just the same as everyone else. Christians are only marginally less likely to have failed marriages. Rates of family violence are virtually identical with the rest of the society. Statistically, in fact, more conservative Christians are even more likely to be guilty of spousal abuse than non-religious people. Our children are only slightly less likely to be sexually active before marriage than the rest of society. In many ways we’re no different from everyone else. The values, the ethics and the morality that the world throws at us are having a negative effect on the way that we live our lives.

How do we change that? How do we turn the corner and live the way that God wants us to live? How do we stand firm against the constant pressure that is on us to conform to the ways of the world? That’s what Lent is all about. It’s about figuring out how to do that in our own lives. It’s about making commitments to live not by the changing standards of the world but by the timeless standards that are given to us in the truth of Scripture.

So, how do we stand firm? We stand firm by realizing that there are three lies that are designed to get us to follow in the ways of the world. If we know these lies and are able to recognize them when they are presented to us, then we are far more likely to stand firm for God.

LIE #1 – THIS IS ALL THERE IS

So, what are those three lies? Here’s the first one: This is all there is. The life we get between the time that we are born and the time that we die is all there is. There is nothing else. There is no afterlife. There is no heaven. There is no hell. There is just this and when this ends so do you.

Think about that for a moment. If you believe that this is all there is, then why not do everything you can whenever and wherever you want. After all, there are no eternal consequences. There is no ultimate accountability or judgment. When you die, so does your sin. So, why worry about it? If it feels good and I like it than I should be able to do it. There’s no real morality. There are no real boundaries. I can do whatever I want as long as I don’t hurt anyone else. If I want to drink myself silly, I should be able to do that. If I want to drive my car 200 kph down the 401, that should be my prerogative. If I want to walk around the street naked in broad daylight, so be it. You may not like it but so what; it’s really not hurting you or anyone else. And if you don’t like it, then don’t look.

What does the Bible say about this being all there is? It says that it is a lie. John 3:36 (NIV) says this: “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.” The Bible is pretty clear. There is a heaven and there is a hell. You either put your faith in Christ or you reject him. There is no question that the afterlife is real. The only question is where will you be spending it.

LIE #2 – IT’S ALL ABOUT ME

That’s Satan’s first big lie; that this is all there is. The second lie is that it’s all about me. I’m the most important person in the world and my main goal is to look after my own needs. According to this lie, I don’t have to be concerned about others – at least not very much. My only concern is for my own personal self-gratification. It’s all about me. My wants. My needs. My dreams and desires. That has to be my main focus because if I can get my needs met and reach my goals than I will be successful and life will be grand.

If this were true, how would it change your life? I expect that you would become more selfish. You would hoard your resources for yourself. You would be less inclined to give to the poor or help out at the food bank or volunteer in a community organization, unless of course there was something in it for you. The world would look very different if we all thought that life was all about me. Can you imagine youth baseball and soccer without the tireless efforts of volunteers? Can you imagine how many people in Essex County would be hungry without the people who volunteer at the food bank? Can you imagine this church operating with only it’s paid staff? Without our selfless volunteers, the church would collapse.

The world says that it’s all about me. But what does God say? Listen to what the early church did in Acts 2:42, 44-45 (NIV): “They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need.” These people were not selfish, thinking everything revolved around them. They were about caring for others in the community, about reaching out to others even to the point of sacrifice in order to further the cause of Christ.

There is the way of the world which says that it’s all about me and there is the way of the people in the church in Acts who gave away everything it had in order to serve others. Which example do you suppose God wants us to follow? I don’t have to tell you because you already know.

LIE #3 – GOD ACCEPTS EVERYONE

Satan’s first lie is that there is no afterlife, that this is all there is. His second lie is that it’s all about me. The third lie that he uses to try to fool us is that God accepts me no matter what I do. Maybe that’s the biggest one of all. The world says that there are many ways to please God which means that there are many ways to get to heaven. It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or a Jew or a Buddhist or a Moslem, an agnostic or an atheist. Those are all just different paths to God. They might not all be the same but they all basically lead to the same place. Just be a good person and don’t hurt anyone and God will accept you. That thinking is called universalism. It says that God loves everyone and God accepts everyone regardless of the choices they make and the actions they take.

But listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 7:13-14 (CEV): “Go through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate that leads to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.”

The world tells us that the gate that leads to God is wide. It’s so wide, in fact, that everyone manages to find it. It doesn’t matter what you believe or what you have done. God’s going to accept you anyway. But what does Jesus say? He says that the wide road does not lead to the kingdom of God but to destruction. Instead, it is the narrow road that few find that leads to eternal life.

Be very clear. Not every path leads to God. In fact, Jesus was very clear that there is only one way to please God and that is through faith in Christ. Is it God’s desire that everyone go to heaven? Of course, it is. That’s why it is so absolutely crucial that we who know Christ share his Gospel with those we meet.

I’ve asked this question many times in the past and I’m going to ask it one more time: Who is going to be in heaven because of you? Who is going to hear the Good News of salvation because you found the courage to share it with them? Maybe you didn’t lead them to Christ but maybe you planted a few seeds or maybe you watered seeds that others had already planted. What have you done to help someone else along the road to meet Jesus? That’s a good question and one that we to take very seriously.

These are three of the lies of Satan. The first one is that there is no afterlife. The second is that it’s all about me. And the third is that God accepts everyone. To stand firm against the world is to stand firm against the lies of the ruler of this world.

During the rest of Lent, let’s make a commitment to understand what the Bible says and to see where we fall short. Are there place in our lives where we live the life that Jesus calls us to live? Of course, there are, and there are many. But there are also areas where we all need to improve. Lent is a time to do that.

We’ve spent some time talking about those who live as enemies to the cross of Christ. But what about the faithful? Does the Paul say about them in his letter to the Philippians. Let’s find out in Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV):

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.

This is an affirmation that those who follow Jesus will be transformed by him not only in this world but also in the next where our true citizenship resides.

Paul then finishes this section of his letter by writing this in Philippians 4:1 (NIV):

Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

We are called to stand firm in faith against the powers of the world and the lies of Satan. When we do, when we stand firm for Jesus, he is faithful and just and welcomes us into his kingdom for eternity.

Philippians 3:17-19

17 Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. 18 For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things.

John 3:36

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Acts 2:42, 44-45

They devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching and to the fellowship to the breaking of bread and to prayer… All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need

Matthew 7:13-14

Go through the narrow gate. The gate that leads to destruction is wide, and the road that leads there is easy to follow. A lot of people go through that gate. But the gate that leads to life is very narrow. The road that leads there is so hard to follow that only a few people find it.

Philippians 3:20-4:1

20 But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 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.

4 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God of Creation, we praise you for all your mercies and goodness. We thank you for the sounds of laughter and the joy of song. Thank you for this Lenten season as we come together in your name.

On this day we give thanks for the birth of Sydney Robyn, a daughter for Nicole and Justin Chauvin. Thank you for a safe arrival and a new life full of dreams and promises.

As your Holy people, we pray for unity within your church. We are called to be one body in Christ. We ask you, God of Love, to help us to break down the denominational barriers that often causes division among us. Bring us together as your hands, feet and voices in a fallen world that needs so desperately to hear your Good News of hope and salvation.

We pray this day, for those living through the unnecessary war in Ukraine. We would pray for increased security for all people. May your Spirit inspire faithful people to find peaceful solutions and the to end aggression. May your justice reign, O God.

We would ask your blessings upon the world, O God of Creation. In a world of strife, we pray for peace. In a world of darkness, we pray for light. In a world of fear, we pray for love. In a world of suffering, we pray for healing and fulfilment. Lift us up above the problems of our own making and set our feet upon the higher ground when your Spirit would lead us.

You, O God are the Great Physician and we pray for those sick at home or in hospital. We remember especially Carol, Mark, Ron and Pauline.

Enable us to do your will, God. We need you to guide us and teach us. Enable us to hear the still small voice within that calls us to fulfill your purposes in our lives. Your ways are not our ways. God of Mercy, help us to trust you in all things, without fear. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

March 13, 2022 / Lent 2

SCRIPTURE

Genesis 15:1-12, 17-18; Psalm 27; Luke 13:31-35; Philippians 3:17-4:1

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is our Light and our Salvation. We have no need to fear.

God hears us when we call for mercy in times of need.

Let us worship God who blesses us with goodness.

PRAYER OF ADORATION

You, O God, are our protection and our shield. You stand before us to guide our feet along your path. You surround us with your angels to guard us from the forces of evil which threaten our lives. We gather in this house of worship, the inspiration of your Spirit, the work of our hands. Hear us as we pray to you. Listen to our songs of praise and adoration. Fill us anew with a full measure of your awesome Spirit to gift us with life, hope and renewal. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Compassionate God, in spite of your blessings, we have often failed to turn to you. Do not be angry with us when we falter. Do not destroy us when our sin mounts up in heaps of refuse. You know how proud and bitter we can be. You know our arrogance and our conceit, our fears and our failings. We confess them before you. Move us away from our narrow self-concern and fill us with a love for others.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

As a mother hen gathers her chicks under her wings, so God gathers us. Be renewed by the power of God’s love. Have the assurance that confessed sins are forgiven and forgotten. In Jesus, we have our salvation and our healing.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

You, God, have given us so much. You even gave us your Son that we might have life. We give our offerings and gifts to you that they may be the means for others to experience new life. Use them for your purpose. Use us for your will. Your kingdom come. Your realm reign forever. Amen.

COMMISSIONING Go forth in the name of Jesus with the sure and certain knowledge that our citizenship is in heaven where God lives and reigns. Go in the transforming power of the Spirit to change the world in small and gentle ways.

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