Standing Firm in the Lord

Phil. 3:17-4:1

Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according tothe example you have in us. For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord JesusChrist, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the powerthat enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.

This is part of a series of sermons on Philippians. My task is that outlined in Neh. 8:8.

Nehemiah 8:8 ESV

They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.

I’d like to answer three questions in relation to our text: 

  • What does it mean to stand firm in the Lord? 
  • Why should we stand firm in the Lord? and 
  • How do we stand firm in the Lord? 

Paul’s Love for the Philippians

Our focus is on Phil. 4:1. Here we see that Paul encourages the Philippians to stand firm in the Lord because of his love for and pride in them. They will be his reward someday. By way of application, this means we who teach and preach should do so out of love for the people whom we serve. We should help them stand firm in the Lord, and, although I am getting ahead of myself, that means helping them to become spiritually minded and not earthly minded. This is a great responsibility.

“Stekete”

The word Paul uses for “stand firm” is stekete – a word used for a soldier standing firm in the shock of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him. This means we hold our ground, we remain constant, faithful, and steadfast, in spite of all the pressures, temptations, and troubles that come at us. In this world we will experience trouble, but through it all we remain loyal to the Lord. We will maintain our position and eventually and gradually make progress. We will not retreat or run away from the fight!

“In the Lord”

The words “in the Lord” indicates that our standing firm has to do with our relationship to Jesus Christ and to the Christian life in general. And this reminds me that this message is primarily for those who are already in the Lord. You can’t stand firm in the Lord if you aren’t first in him. If you haven’t received him yet as your Lord and Savior, please know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. We can’t save ourselves, but what we couldn’t do for ourselves, he did for us by dying for our sins. And if you put your faith in him as your Lord and Savior, the Bible says —

Romans 10:9-11

Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart, one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame” … For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

That’s what it means to be “in the Lord”. You have a personal relationship with him. He is your Lord and Savior. You are saved and safe in him. The next step is to stand firm. Maintain your position. Make progress instead of retreating. Don’t lose what you’ve gained. Press on and win the prize!

Immediate Context: “In this manner…”

Let’s now consider the immediate context to understand this verse. Other translations translate this verse as saying, “In this manner” or “this is how you stand firm in the Lord.” This indicates that 4:1 is the conclusion to something discussed in the preceding verses. So, let’s examine verses 20 to 21 of ch. 3.

Ch. 3:20-21 tells us Christians who we are, to whom we belong, and what our destiny will be: Our Identity, our Deity, our Destiny. We are citizens of heaven. From there we are waiting for our Lord and Savior. When he returns, he will change our bodies to become like his glorious body. That’s what in store for us. And this prospect should encourage us to stand firm. We would not want to miss out on this wonderful future, so we better remain loyal to our King. The thought here is similar to that expressed in 3:10-14. I should press on, strain with all my might to reach the prize, i.e., attain the resurrection from the dead, Christlikeness, conformity of my body to the glorious body of Christ.

So, standing firm involves contemplating our heavenly citizenship, our heavenly Lord, and our heavenly destiny. In short, heavenly mindedness motivates us to stand firm. Heavenly mindedness leads to faithfulness.

Parallel Passages

We’re now going to look at parallel passages which contain the same thought although not expressed in exactly the same words. We’ll let Scripture interpret Scripture. But the pattern is the same: The prospect of glorification (which is heavenly mindedness) motivates us to stand firm (c.f., 1 John 3:2-3)

Thus, in –

1 Corinthians 15:51-53,58 ESV

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, [52] in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. [53] For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. [58] Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Galatians 6:7-9 ESV

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. [8] For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. [9] And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

Romans 8:6,10-11 ESV

For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. [10] But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. [11] If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Do you see a pattern here? Generally speaking, Paul first lays down a doctrinal foundation before he proceeds to practical application. He wants you first to understand Christian truth before he proceeds to Christian living. It’s the understanding of the truth which motivates Christian behavior. Christian motivation is not about manipulating the emotions so that one is inspired to do something. It’s about renewing the mind to understand spiritual truth, and then with the Spirit’s help, one’s behavior will change as well.

Romans 12:2 ESV

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Compare Eph. 4:23: “Be ye renewed in the spirit of your minds.”

Doctrine, then practice! To be sure, mere knowledge puffs up. There are those who are always learning but never arrive at an understanding of the truth. One must still apply what he knows. But even then, without right thinking, there can be no truly right action

John 8:31-32 ESV

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, [32] and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Conclusion: Heavenly Mindedness Leads to Faithfulness (i.e., Standing Firm in the Lord.)

The question is: what do we set our minds on? Is it possible that our Christian walk is shaky and inconsistent because we are caught up with earthly things instead of focusing on heavenly things, such as the glory which awaits us? Paul connects heavenly mindedness to standing firm. But in Phil. 3:18-19 he gives us an example of those who don’t stand firm, and they don’t stand firm because they’re worldly and earthly minded.

Mark 4:16-19 ESV

And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. [17] And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. [18] And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, [19] but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

2 Timothy 4:10 ESV

For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia.

So, what’s the cure for this?

Colossians 3:1-5 ESV

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. [2] Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. [3] For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. [4] When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. [5] Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.

So, if you want to stand firm, you have to focus your mind on the right things: Focus on heaven, focus on Christ, focus on your heavenly destiny. Forget immorality, forget lust, forget greed.

To close, are you standing firm in the Lord? Are you focusing on heavenly things?

Let us pray …

(Photo by 贝莉儿 DANIST on Unsplash)

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