VIDEO Stand Firm – “The Family of God Standing Firm”

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thessalonians 2:15, NIV

Don’t wait until you’re in a crisis to know what the Bible says, and don’t wait for adversity before drawing close to the Lord.

Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring…. When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever… If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all…. Stand firm, and you will win life…. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you….. Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong…. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ (Exodus 14:13; Proverbs 10:25, NIV; Isaiah 7:9; Luke 21:19; 1 Corinthians 15:58; 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 1:21 NIV, emphasis added).

We cannot remain firm in a belief if it’s based on the shifting sands of daily life. We must stand firm upon the Rock!

We are to stand firm in our faith with the certain knowledge that the battle is the Lord’s. Our faith in His victory—a victory that is already accomplished on the cross—is what overcomes the world.  Ray Stedman


Sermon: “The Family of God Standing Firm” on 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17

Our Recognized Source of Hope

The Source of Hope

 

The psalmist recognized that God is the source of our hope. He declared, “And now, Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in You” (Psalm 39:7).

To understand how the Lord brings that hope into our lives, let’s again read what Paul wrote to the Romans. “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). But how does that give us hope?

“Perseverance”
When Paul wrote about the relationship between perseverance and hope, he was referring to the kind of patience motivated by seeking the good of others (Romans 15:1–3). Christ Himself endured pain on behalf of others to demonstrate the heart and goodness of God (vv. 3, 5–7).

We persevere by hope to realize a worthy goal.

History shows the worthiness of such perseverance. In the late 1700s, a small but growing movement to abolish slavery from the British Empire needed a voice in the British Parliament. The abolitionists pursued a young Member of Parliament named William Wilberforce. His Christian faith proved to be fertile ground for seeking freedom for all.

But the path to abolish slavery did not come easily. The abolitionists faced daunting odds. Repeatedly, Wilberforce introduced bills to abolish the slave trade, only to have those bills resoundingly defeated.

Over time, Wilberforce and his growing team of abolitionists continued to wear down the opposition. It cost him a large part of his fortune and had a debilitating impact on his health. But he persevered.

Finally, on March 25, 1807, the king gave royal assent to the Slave Trade Act—after 20 years of perseverance on the part of William Wilberforce and his colleagues.

Wilberforce and his friends show how perseverance can help us reach a worthy goal. The apostle Paul saw one such goal of perseverance to be hope.

But Paul also saw another relationship between hope and perseverance. In the same letter he wrote:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (5:3–5).

… patience motivated by seeking the good of others…

Taken together with Romans 15:4, this establishes an important truth. We persevere by hope to realize a worthy goal. Yet at the same time, our perseverance produces hope. As such, hope is both the means of our perseverance and a byproduct of it as we rest in God. We can never fully understand or develop hope without trials, because trials bring about the need for perseverance. In seasons of struggle, perseverance allows us to experience the love of God in new ways. And the hope that it produces will be deeper and greater than anything we could have gained through ease and comfort. In perseverance we can experience:

Hope and the Grace of God. In the things we are not able to do, God is more than enough. To our inadequacy, God responds with lavish grace. Paul discovered this grace to be greater than any season of suffering. Three times he had asked God for deliverance from a certain trial. He records God’s response for us in 2 Corinthians 12:9: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” To which Paul responded, “Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”

We can engage life with confident expectation.

Hope and the Protection of God. The uncertainties of life can fill our hearts with terror. But when we persevere by faith, we will discover that God is our protection even in the darkest times. Our safety in Christ gives us hope through His power, for followers of Christ are those “who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).

The power of God is such a ready source of hope that it caused the psalmist to worship:

But as for me, I shall sing of Your strength; Yes, I shall joyfully sing of Your lovingkindness in the morning, For You have been my stronghold And a refuge in the day of my distress (Psalm 59:16).

We do not have to approach life with a heart of dread or despair. We can engage life with confident expectation.

Hope and the Provision of God. According to the writer of Hebrews, because Jesus understands our weaknesses and temptations, we are to “draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (4:16).

Grace. Protection. Provision. Together they are sources of hope that we don’t fully comprehend until we experience them amid conditions that threaten to destroy us. Yet looking back we can say with the apostle Paul, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8–9).

The reality that Paul expressed is an honest reminder that followers of Christ are not immune from heartaches, turmoil, challenges, and struggles. We will experience the “many dangers, toils, and snares,” but not like those who have no God and no hope. Because of the object of our faith, followers of Christ are people of genuine hope.

Finding Hope in the Stories of the Bible
God’s ability to work on our behalf has been repeatedly tested in the lives of men and women just like us. They learned that God could be trusted in the toughest times. The New Testament writer James encourages us to learn from their experiences. “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (James 5:10).

Their past experiences with God prepared them…

As a youthful shepherd, David showed up at the battlefield when the giant Goliath challenged the armies and God of Israel. First Samuel 17 tells us how David volunteered to face the Philistine champion because God had previously enabled him to protect his father’s flock against the attack of a lion and a bear (vv. 34–37). Because of his experience with God’s faithful protection in past confrontations, David had a confident expectation.

In Daniel 3, three young Hebrew captives in Babylon were commanded to dishonor God by bowing before a giant idol. Armed with the remembrance of God’s deliverance of them when their convictions were challenged in Daniel 1 and their lives were threatened in Daniel 2, they stood fast. Their past experiences with God prepared them to trust in Him in this challenge as well.

We hear and read these stories so often that they lose their impact. But these were not superheroes with special enabling. They were ordinary people facing the challenges of life.

They faced those challenges with hope because their past experiences with God told them that He was worthy of their trust and confidence. Dread and apprehension turned to confidence and expectation because God had proven Himself faithful.

The Scriptures give us hope because the God described in the Bible is not only their God, He is ours! And He has not changed. He is still “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20).

Fully Submitted

Philippians 2:1-11

The Bible tells us that though Jesus was “in very nature God” (Phil. 2:6 NIV), He left heaven to come to earth, where He lived in submission to His Father’s plans. Giving the Father complete control over everything He did, the Son held nothing back—not even His life, which He sacrificed on the cross for our sake.

Why did Jesus do this? Because He had perfect trust in His Father—He knew that God has sovereign control over everything and that all His decisions are good, as they are based on divine love, mercy, and justice. He was also certain that God always takes into account what is best for us, and His will is to lead His children towards repentance and growth. Jesus obeyed to bring glory to the Father’s name (John 17:4).

We are to live the same way—surrendered to God’s will. This means acknowledging that He has the right to order our life, and we are to give Him control over every aspect, including finances, family, friends, and fun.

By submitting to God, we declare our trust in Him and our willingness to accept whatever He sends us—riches or poverty, health or sickness, marriage or singleness. Full submission is how we glorify the Father, grow in Him, and receive His favor.

The Spirits Which Are in Prison

“For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” (1 Peter 3:18-19)

Just who were these imprisoned spirits to whom Christ preached when He had been “put to death in the flesh”? This has been a controversial verse, so one should not be dogmatic in discussing it. However, the idea that these were souls in purgatory to whom Christ was offering a second chance is clearly wrong, for Hebrews 9:27 declares plainly that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.”

One point often overlooked is that the word “spirits” can apply to angels as well as human beings. In fact, when it occurs in the plural, as it does here, it refers specifically to angels in at least 26 of its 30 occurrences.

This strongly suggests that these were evil spirits to whom Christ was (literally) “proclaiming” the victory He had won over Satan when He had “once suffered for sins” on the cross (the same word is translated “proclaimed” in Luke 12:3—“proclaimed upon the housetops”). These fallen angels had tried to corrupt all flesh “in the days of Noah” (1 Peter 3:20; see Genesis 6:1-4, 12), and therefore had been cast “down to hell” and “delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Peter 2:4).

But as Peter had preached on the day of Pentecost: “His soul was not left in hell . . . . This Jesus hath God raised up” and “hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:31-32, 36). Thus, He is now our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom some day soon “every knee should bow, . . . in heaven, and . . . in earth, and . . . under the earth” (Philippians 2:10). HMM

The Text Plus the Holy Spirit Is A Winner

And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, but their heart goeth after their covetousness.

—Ezekiel 33:31

 

When you are trying to find out the condition of a church, do not just inquire whether it is evangelical. Ask whether it is an evangelical rationalistic church that says, “The text is enough,” or whether it is a church that believes that the text plus the Holy Spirit is enough….

I would rather be part of a small group with inner knowledge than part of a vast group with only intellectual knowledge. In that great day of Christ’s coming, all that will matter is whether or not I have been inwardly illuminated, inwardly regenerated, inwardly purified.   FBR030, 032

I too, Lord, “would rather be part of a small group with inner knowledge than part of a vast group with only intellectual knowledge.” Fill us with Your Spirit and Your presence today. Amen.

 

Fuel for the Fire

And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost.

—Acts 4:31

 

A church can go on holding the creed and the truth for generations and grow old. New people can follow and receive that same code and also grow old. Then some revivalist comes in and fires his guns and gets everybody stirred, and prayer moves God down on the scene and revival comes to that church.

People who thought they were saved get saved. People who had only believed in a code now believe in Christ. And what has really happened? It is simply New Testament Christianity having its place. It is not any deluxe edition of Christianity; it is what Christianity should have been from the beginning….

[T]he Holy Spirit will not come on a church where there is no biblical body of truth. The Holy Spirit never comes into a vacuum, but where the Word of God is, there is fuel, and the fire falls and burns up the sacrifice. FBR027-029

His Word is not mere intellectual light, but spiritual life and celestial fire….[R]ead it with burning hearts and glowing love as the love letter of His affection and the mirror of His face. CTBC, Vol. 4/347

 

To See the End

1 Peter 1:9

The world is always ready to sit at the deathbed of Christianity. From time to time it has confidently proclaimed the end of Christ and all for which He stands.

Sad, indeed, but far more sad when a disciple suffers a spiritual declension and sits down “to see the end” (Matthew 26:58). Not merely an eclipse, a temporary obliteration, but the dark, dismal and final end; the end of all the hopes that came suddenly to life on that bright morning when brother Andrew cried, “We have found Him!” (John 1:41). The end of the grand adventure, the miracles, the walking and talking, the confession at Caesarea Philippi, the holy transfiguration, the intimate supper, the tender prayer, “I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32). The end! The collapse, the defeat, the final disillusionment.

The disciple becomes a spectator of the last act in the tragedy, before the curtain rings down upon unrelieved night. In and out of the entries and passages, along the narrow streets, the dejected and desperate Peter was drawn on. Fearing to advance, and unable to retreat, his fierce love and insatiable curiosity fighting against his failing faith, he went forward. The crisis held him, compelled him to go on and “see the end.” Matthew 26 is a terrible chapter for Peter; from the 23rd verse on, he cannot get out of the story. There all his swift declensions and denials appear, until the terrible 75th verse, with its bitter tears.

First, he placed a distance between himself and his Lord. I find myself speculating about the measurement of those words, “afar off” (Matthew 26:58 KJV). How far? Then I remind myself that we do not measure spiritual distances in yards or miles, but in love and loyalties. How far is it from the embittered heart of a loveless husband to the empty heart of the disappointed wife?

Was it the second step in the disciple’s collapse when he “went in” (Matt. 26:58 KJV) among the enemies of Jesus? Gripped in a dreadful reaction of despair, he went into dangerous company as he joined the coldly hostile crowd. Christians cannot be neutral. When we are told that he “sat down,” we realize that his convictions are lost in the crowd.

It was nearly the end of Peter. The love of Christ saved this man—the love that knows no end. The love of Christ will save you and me. Indeed, I have no other hope, have you? The end? Not the end of Jesus, but the end of a chapter in a disciple’s weakness, and the beginning of an experience which enables us to bow our heads for his apostolic blessing: “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9 KJV).

Albert Orsborn, The War Cry

 

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