Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Stand Firm


Rev. Ben Casteneda (Guest preacher)

The word for this evening comes from Philippians chapter three, verses Seventeen, through chapter four, verse one. So I'd invite you, if you have your bibles, to turn there with me, Phippians chapter three, starting with verse seventeen. As we continue walking our way through Philippians. Brothers, join in imitating me and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. For many of whom I've 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 Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. And Chapter Four, verse one. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved Amen. May God bless his word to us this evening. You may be seated so. I have a two year old son, Jonathan, as well as a three month old son as well, David. But what's NEAT is that my two year old son has sort of gotten to the stage in his life where he imitates everyone and everything he sees and hears and it going on around him and it's really endearing to me because he's copying me. It's sort of flattering. When I take my backpack of books and leave the House to go work and study at Rincon Mountain, Jonathan wants to come with me and so he picks up his diaper bag and says can we go, let me get my shoes, let's go. When I ride my bicycle and leaving the house, he'll come along on his tricycle and say can I tag along, can I follow? When I'm washing the dishes, he's right there washing the dishes to wanting to help, wanting to be there, wing to copy me. He does what he sees me doing, what others do around him, and so I've learned, though, that this is not just a particular stage in life, it's not just something that two year olds do, it's something that all of us do. It's, in fact, it's just the way God designed us, that one of the best ways that we learn is by imitating someone else, by copying them, watching them, seeing how they do things and then following along. We learn by imitating others. Budding musicians, they imitate the techniques of the greats. Athletes will practice again and again the moves of their favorite sports players. Parents, if you think about this, parents often practice the same kind of disciplinary habits and interactions, what methods of interacting with their kids that their parents did with them as because, you know, it's what they've seen, it's what they've experienced, just what they know. But, as at last example suggests, sometimes imitating others can be a dangerous thing.

What it really boils down to is who are you imitating? Who are you coppying? Who are you following? Who is leading you in this way? And that's Paul's point in our passage this evening. Who Are you, in imitating be can he says here basically that whoever you are imitating, it's that shows where your allegiance is. Whoever you imitate shows where your true allegiance lies. And I talked about allegiance intentionally because in this passage, and I don't know if you caught it as we were reading, but there's there's a lot of political language in this. It's actually a very politically oriented and charged passage it one of the key phrases in terms in this passage is citizenship, being a citizen of Philippi, of Rome, and then he talks about being a citizen of Heaven. And so it all boils down to, Paul, says, a question of citizenship, where it is your allegiance lie? And Paul wants us to realize that in terms of spiritual citizenship, there's really only two options. Either you belong to the city of God or the city of Man. You can't have dual citizenship. It's impossible. It's one or the other. And whichever city you belong to is then demonstrated by what you do, how you act, who you follow. So Paul flushes us out, for us in our passage, first by telling us to image state him, and then by giving us two reasons why we should be imitating him. So first the imitation of Paul reads me again verse Seventeen Brothers Join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. And if you're a Christian here this evening, Paul's words here, imitate me can be kind of disconcerting. Imitate me. It's something that we're not too comfortable with saying on our own, is it? When we talk about imitating me, imitate me, follow me, do what I do, say what I say, act how I act. When we say it, we're saying, look at me, I'm a cut above the rest. Might just look at my work. It speaks for itself. I'm the top dog. This is something, an honor that I'm worthy of. And so we wonder, is this what Paul's actually saying? It's he being arrogant here? Is He being friedful? And that that too sounds kind of weird. We don't want to say that. So what's going on here? What is Paul talking about? Because it sounds like it's boasting, and it's interesting him, as Chris preached a couple weeks ago here, if you look further back in chapter three, Paul says I could boast. I have every right to boast. In fact, just look back with me at versus five and six. He says that he could boast about his resume if he wanted to. Actually, starting with verse four, though, I have reason reason for confidence in the flesh also, if anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh. I have more circumcised on the eighth day of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, as to the law of Pharisee, as to zeal, a persecutor of the Church, as to righteousness under the law. blameless. He's saying, here's my pedigree, you, you can see it for yourself. Just go and ask anyone.

I could boast if I wanted to, about my accomplishments and my achievements. He says that he could. He is someone who should be imitated in the eyes of the world. Paul is the pinnacle of Judaism in a lot of ways. And yet Paul says all that is worthless compared to the righteousness that he has found in Christ, compared to that perfect obedience that has been counted as his. In comparison to that, everything is like Dune. It's worthless, it's filthy, it's vile, has no value and meaning and worth. And so Paul here is telling us to imitate him, not in his strength but in his weakness, not in his sufficiency but in his dependency, not in his confidence in the flesh, but in his confidence in Christ, telling US imitate his faith. That's what he's talking about, and so this is completely counterintuitive. We wouldn't this isn't what we would think or say when we say imitate me. We wouldn't normally look for these qualities in a role model either. Weakness instead of strength, humility instead of, you know, force of personality. He's saying that. Well, when we think about role models, when we think about who to follow are the question that comes to our mind is what will get me furthest ahead? Whom can I imitate? Who Can I study under? Who Can I be apprentice to? That will be the most benefit to me? He says, no, this is not his thinking. Here. Paul is telling us to be deliberate and intentional instead about becoming, as Jesus said in the beattitude, poor in spirit. That's what Paul is talking about. He's calling us to realize that I had, I and you have no resources, no accomplishments, no achievements, nothing that could earn us anything with God. That in his sight, we come to him with nothing in our hands. So we have to cling solely to Christ. So imitate me is Paul's way. of saying, imitate my hope and dependency on Christ. In addition, this command here doesn't just tell us to imitate Paul. What else say? He says here in verse Seventeen, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. And so he's telling here also to extend this imitation to those godly Christians in your midst who are walking in the same way, who have the same faith, who have the same dependency on God and others. Paul is telling you to seek out these people and to, as he says here, literally fix your eyes on them, to observe them, watch them, see how they react to certain situations, interact with them, be mentored by them, sit under their teaching, as it were, under their way of life, and learn from them as well. And so, if I can make a bit of application here, who here at covenant would you see as being someone like that, someone godly whom you could imitate, someone who you could be mentored by and matured by because they're following the same faithful way of life that Paul is talking about here? Obviously your pastor and your elders, but who else?...

Paul talks and titus to versus two through five, about what godly men and women look like, folks that you can sit under and learn from. Do you have any of those here that you could talk with? Orn just listen, to listen to their experiences as they've walked through life. And so the last thing I want to say before I move on from this point is that this task, Paul says, is a community effort, and it's at first word there that he talks about not in the English. The English is brothers, but that join in imitating me. It's it's it's a utterly unique word. It's actually the only time it's ever used in any Greek literature ever, and so it's possible all that Paul just coined this word to describe what he's trying to get at. He's talking about being coimitators, commics, if you will, those who are encouraging each other and building up each other as together, we as a body imitate Paul and the Godly ones in our midst. It's that. It's that idea and friends. That's a it's interesting because that is a picture what the church is supposed to be. There are no Lone Ranger Christians. It's impossible it's not how God designed it, the author to the Hebrew says in chapter ten. Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is a habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the way, as you see, the day drawing near. And so we have this responsibility together to be encouraging and pressing on, keeping each other accountable as we walk this walk of faith, as we follow after Christ and after those that he has put us under. And so that's the first point, the imitation of Paul. And then Paul gives us two reasons why it's important to imitate him. In the first reason is this. It's easy to be deceived and go astray. Look with me again at verses eighteen and nineteen. For many of whom I've often told you, and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the Cross of Christ. Their end just destruction, their god is their belly and they glory in their shame, with mindset on earthly things. And so Paul is saying here, basically, don't be deceived. See, he cares too much for the Christians at Philippi to let anyone pull the wool over their eyes as to what a true Christian is supposed to look like. These people that Paul talks about, these enemies of the Cross, of Christ, from the context, seem like they are at least claiming to be Christians. They are folks who are in the church or sort of maybe on the periphery of the church gathering. They claim to belong to Christ but their actions, their behaviors don't match, they don't line up, and so, as a result, you hear this sadness in Paul's voice here, which actually kind of rare to see this sort of emotion in his writings. He says, I tell you, even with tears, they walk as enemies of Christ. So who are these enemies? Let's let's look at this a little bit more. They are probably those who are claiming to be Christians, but they're...

...not. Their Counterfeit Christians. And so Paul is already, in this chapter and chapter three, introduced us to some phonies. Back in verse two, Paul Talks About look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. So Paul is introducing US here to those that we know as the Judaizers, those who are trying to force Christians, those in the body of Christ, to follow the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament, saying that these are still applicable and valid for you today, particularly circumcision and especial diet, that the Kosher Diet. And so they believe, these judaisers believe that you had to do these certain things in order to be acceptable before God. You had to bring your works with you to him. But Paul's response to them in verse two, as we read, is harsh. He calls them dogs and mutilators of the flesh, but in verse eighteen, in our passage, he cries. It's an interesting contrast, even in the same chapter, about two different enemies of Christ. And so, as a result, these probably are not the same groups of people. The ones here in verse eighteen are probably those that we would term Antinomians, those who are against the law, those who say the law doesn't applied to me anymore at all, even the Ten Commandments. I'm I've been forgiven by Christ. His righteousness is mine and as a result, I can live however I want. Essentially, that's what they're saying. And yet the whole point of our passage this evening is that it does matter how you live, how you walk, who you imitate. Faith produces fruit, friends, that's pretty good literation. Faith produces fruit. If Jesus had has counted you right in his sight, then he is at the same time also working in you, sanctifying you, purifying you from your sin. You have to have both. You have to have both. As Jesus says, a good tree will produce good fruit. You can't have one without the other. As Paul writes and Romans Chapter six, verse two, how can we who have died to sin still live in it? Some possible? It's wrong. It grates against the way that thing the way that God has designed it, the way things are supposed to be. And so, out of gratitude to Christ for all he has done for us, we should seek to be holy. We should seek to imitate Paul, just as Paul in First Corinthians Eleven, verse one, says I imitate Christ. And so, tragically, these people are deceiving themselves about who they really belong to. Paul doesn't leave us and suspense here as to their destination. He says that their end is destruction, and then he goes on and says their God is their belly, which probably is not just referring to gluttony, it's probably also referring to sensuality and lust. There's this whole self indulgent lifestyle that these people are involved in, in deeply committed to. And so what's being communicated here is that these pseudo Christians, as a result, then glory in their shame. In other words, their consciences have been so seared by repeated sin over and over and over that they don't feel...

...anything anymore. There it. There's no pangs of conscience, no guilt when they do disobey God and as a result, they boast in it, they brag about it, about what they do and what they've done. And then, lastly, Paul says, their minds are set on earthly things. So this is where their true allegiance lies. As John says in a first John to verse fifteen, if anyone loves the world, the love of the father is not in him. And so these people, Paul is saying, they've been sucked into a love of the world, they've been sucked into the things of the world and as result, the love of the father is not in them, and so this it would be tempting to just sort of like move on at this point. I think it's appropriate, particularly given Paul's grief over these people, to just just sit here and reflect for a second on us and to ask the question. Do we love the world? Where have we exchanged the love of God for the love of the stuff of the world, as John Says, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of possessions? Do you, when you look at yourself, do you see such things in you? Maybe you're not going out and you know committing these committing it fornication and whatever else that these folks were doing, but do you, when you look at Yourself, See Laziness, see self indulgence? When you look at your heart, what do you see? That's what Paul is asking us to do, to examine ourselves. What are your darling sins, as the other assistant pastor at rank on is fond of saying, what things would you hold onto and maybe you know are wrong, but you just can't quite give them up because they're too dear to you. And so, friends, is Paul says elsewhere, run to Jesus, give them to Jesus recognize that they have been paid for at the cross, but that you then the penalty has been paid, but that he is also freeing you from the power of sin as well, not just its penalty. The spirit is at work in you, changing your heart, and so give those things over to Christ. So that's reason number one why we should imitate Paul, all because it's easy to deceive ourselves. But then Paul also gives us a second reason, this one more hopeful, and it's that where citizens of Heaven, we read with me again versus twenty and twenty one. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. And so that word citizenship there, citizens of Heaven, that it's a loaded term for the Philippians, because Philippi, the city, was a Roman colony. It in BC forty two, I believe Julius Caesar fought a battle or not. Julius Augustus Caesar fought a battle there and defeated his enemies and as a result granted Philippi the right of being a Roman colony and, as a result, if you were a citizen of Philippi, you were also a citizen of Rome,...

...with all the perks and privileges that that brought with it, the legal system and good roads and protection, and meant a lot to the Philippians. They were very proud of the fact that they were Romans, and so the Philippians got what Paul was talking about. Here he's making actually a very subversive claim. He's telling him that our citizenship, your primary citizenship, is in heaven, not Rome, and that that is just mindboggling, considering the political situation at that time. Rome was the world. It was the world economically, militarily, politically, that was it. He's saying this is more important than that. First and foremost, your citizens of Heaven, and Paul Supports His argument by calling Christ two titles that would only have been used at that time, at least publicly, of Caesar, the titles savior and Lord, and those two titles actually were minted on the Greek coins of that day as well, reminding everyone just who was in charge. Caesar is savior, he rescued us, he delivers us from disease and war, protects us, and he's also our Lord. He rules the known world. Paul is saying we have a better savior, one who is not just rescued us from foes abroad, but one who has delivered us from the punishment that we deserve for our sin. We have a better Lord, one who doesn't just rule a small portion, a corner of the world, but one who one day, every knee will bow to and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, as Paul has already talked about here. In Philippians too, this is your better savior and this is your better Lord. And then, as Paul announces here, he's coming back. When he comes, when he returns, and in that day again, when Caesar came to a city, when he visited a city, it was a huge celebration. Our Savior and our Lord is coming to visit. And Paul here is saying you're better savior and Lord is coming, not to visit but to stay, and he's bringing with him something far better than Caesar could ever give. He's going to make you and he's going to remake you. He's going to give you a resurrection body conformed to his own glorified body. So Paul's Point is that Christ is better than Caesar and he's coming soon. Paul just sort of at the end of this verse twenty one then just throws out the sort of tagline at the end. It's really funny actually, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself, compared to the power of Christ in his coming, the power that can totally change your body and transform you, at his coming, into his likeness perfectly, to a body that will not experience pain and sorrow and suffering when all evil has been crushed under his feet. Compared to that kind...

...of power, the power of Rome is nothing. Your truces and ship, your betters and ship who you are as citizens of Heaven. And then Paul, lastly, the wrap us up, sort of ties all these things together. And Chapter Four, verse one, therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown stand firmed us in the Lord, my beloved and so Paul began by telling us and teaching us to imitate him. But here, at the end, he tells us to stand firm. There he told us to walk in this particular way here, he tells us, don't move, stay still, stand firm, be rooted and rooted in Christ. It's as if he's saying, let me simplify all this for you. Let me just boil it down. Do you want to know what the mature Christian Walk Looks like? It looks like standing still on that sure, unshakable rock. It looks like sinking your roots deep into him, less the the storms of this life would knock you over. It looks like giving up everything simply to grab hold of the one who is grabbed hold of us and brought us to himself, and in doing so, Jesus then redefines who we are. He takes the weak, the unlovely, the despised, and makes us beautiful, beloved jewels in his crown. You're my crown, in my joy. This is a one to whom we owe everything. We owe him our life, we owe him are allegiance, we owe himm are obedience. And this, friends, is why we must trust him, trusting him with all that we are, all that we have, day in and day out, following after him. Amen, let's pray.

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