Sunday, February 20, 2011

Stand Fast

Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. (Philippians 4:01, NKJV).

Part of walking the walk is standing fast. There is no room for moral or doctrinal relativism in Biblical Christianity. None. 

By this I mean, the truth of Christ is not "mostly true", or "true for me", or "true in some circumstances or contexts". It is simply true, period. You may disbelieve it, but like all facts, you're feelings or perceptions about it have nothing  to do with its undeniable independent reality. This means, in part, that Christ is the Son of God and Savior of the world regardless of your vote on the matter. 

And the things that are revealed in Scripture about God, man, sin, condemnation and redemption are definite and concrete. There can never be a nuanced Christianity. It is what it is. So you either stand fast in the Lord, or get crushed. For He is “[a] stone of stumbling And a rock of offense…” (1 Peter 2:8, NKJV). And “[whoever] falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20:18, NKJV).
Standing fast means not compromising. It only makes sense. Facts cannot be compromised. Christ's coming to redeem the world from sin through His death is the most significant fact of existence, thus far. There is another, future, fact, equally significant. His return to reclaim the Title Deed of earth. When that occurs, after seven of the deadliest, most calamitous years of human history, the Day of Salvation is ended, and the Day of Judgment has come. Between His First and Second Coming is now - the Church Age. This will reach its final chapter when the living church is taken up out of the planet to meet the Lord in the clouds (1Co 15:50-58; 1Th 4:13-18). At that time, all that restrains the evil rampant in this current age will be removed, and Hell will break loose upon the earth. Literally. In the meantime, we who believe are to stand fast, to be immovable in the things of God. 

For those who do not believe, who may read this and scoff, or be offended, or embarrassed, know this: your feelings regarding these future facts of history are irrelevant. You may hope and pray it is fantasy, or wishful thinking, or deranged Christian fundamentalism, or you may choose instead to respond to the tug of fear in your heart as you see the world system unravelling day by day, in complete accord with ancient Hebrew and Christian prophecy, and seek the One who created you, and sent His Son to save you. It is your choice. And to those who continue in godless rebellion, know that the hardness of your heart was written about nearly 2000 years ago.

Beloved, I now write to you this second epistle (in both of which I stir up your pure minds by way of reminder), that you may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us, the apostles of the Lord and Savior, knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:1-10, NKJV).
While standing fast is the exhortative crux of this verse, do not miss yet another series of insights into the Pastor's heart of the Apostle Paul. Or, as he provides with all his encouragements to godly behavior, the summary motivation behind it. 

Therefore is the opening argument. All of the letter to the church at Philippi up to this point is focused on that one word. Since Christ guarantees to finish the work of sanctification that He has begun in our hearts, since there is no way to lose that which He died to give us, since He has revealed to us His mind and poured out His divine life on our behalf, since He works in us both to will and to do His good pleasure, since there is nothing in existence that compares with the value of possessing Him, since His immeasurable gift to us through faith is eternal life, therefore so stand fast in the Lord. This is Paul's pattern in each of his brilliant epistles, providing the richness of all that God and Christ has done for us, and then, and only then, does he exhort us in how to respond; not out of ritual obligation, but from a heart of love. The popular misconception of Christianity as being a religious system of do's and don't's in order to earn God's favor and entrance into Heaven is severely uninformed. The truth is that God has done it all. Our part is to humble ourselves to repent and believe. He then works in us till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; (Ephesians 4:13, NKJV).
Finally, as he does frequently in his writings, the apostle reveals his love for his people, referring to them as my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown. Note the lyrical quality of that phrase, and the poetic repetition of the word translated beloved. This is a form of that spectacular Greek term, agape, about which much has been written here. It is that incredible, self-sacrificial love emanating first from the heart of God Himself, and then poured out by the Holy Spirit upon each of us who have believed in Christ.

I suspect that Paul, for all the hardships of his life, was a man who walked in deep seated satisfaction because he seemed rarely to focus upon himself, but rather on his longed-for brethren. Picture, if you will, a father so missing the presence of his beloved children, that his every waking thought is of a future anticipated reunion, where he can again be among  those who are closest to his heart. So proud was he of their progress and growth of faith that he saw them as his jewels and rewards, his joy and crown.

Of course his desire was for them to stand fast in the Lord. Knowing the truth of God, and of man, and of sin, what father (or mother) would want anything different?