1 Cor 10:12
1 Cor 16:13-14
I just had in my heart this matter of the day that we are in, and the need of standing.
The picture in Romans is that without Christ, outside of Christ, we are in the mud, we are in the mire, there is no standing, we cannot stand, we collapse, we fail, we fall back into sin, all the resolutions in the world do not work, all the willpower does not work, and we cannot stand. Mephibosheth could not stand – he was lame in both feet (2 Sam 9:13). And that is our position – we are unable to stand.
Now, that was not God’s purpose. And man is unique in that he stands! From all the animals, it is a distinguishing creatorial feature – standing. Why did God do that? Man is upright – man is standing. There is a glory connected with it. God is working to imprint His image and His likeness on man. We deal with a holy and upright God. And a God whose word stands whatever falls; His counsels stand, there is what is firm there – every blessing. And He would imbue that on the creature.
But, as it happened, sin came in, and man lost his dignity, he lost his standing. He is fallen – fallen, that is interesting. We speak about the Fall of Man – he is not standing, he is fallen. Bring up the Ten Commandments again, and if you are in any doubt, there it is – do not lie, do not steal, you know, these things. Fallen! ‘Ah,’ man thinks, ‘if I smash the mirror of Scripture, it will all be fine’ – no, you have still got to deal with who you are. ‘Throw away the Bible, and you will be fine’ – no! Men have still got to deal with their condition. This fallen, wicked nature!
But God has in mind that there is to be real standing. And He would give the power to stand, but in the One Who stood the test. So you have Adam failing in all these tests, and the Spirit guided the Lord how to be tested. It is a very interesting thing, temptation from the side of trial, to prove, to show what was there. Satan coming there tempting Him, or to lure Him into sin. In the wonderful Lord Jesus, temptation could be brought from the outside, but there was nothing that could be brought from within, there was nothing there to respond. And He stood. He stood right through the Gospels!
So the religious man, with all his outward works and everything, is put in the shade, practically, by the light that was displayed in the life of Christ – a Man standing. Manhood according to God – this is what God had in mind in manhood. If Satan is going to challenge God in a man, God will reply in a Man. That is what He has in mind.
Christ is in heaven, and now as we stand in Him everything that opposes, every high thought, everything will fall before His thoughts, before His people that are standing in the good of the finished work of Christ. A huge price was paid so that we could stand – love – God gave all that He could give in giving His Son – He gave everything He could give. It should affect your heart. Are you unmoved? Do you realise what God has paid to accomplish that? Yes, it is free and available for you – but at a huge price; a huge and awesome price has been paid by God. We shall never know the full extent of it.
But He is moving to stir you up to stand, to stir me up to stand. I think we have come to here, “Therefore having been justified on the principle of faith, we have peace towards God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” A young woman I know went to a Christian school, and the teacher was explaining about justification, and suddenly she really understood it. ‘I am justified before God’ – and she said, ‘I just ran down the hall!’ It is that exciting! Can you see what God has done in Christ? That is wonderful! Justified before Him, through the work of Christ. What a balm for your soul! It is not an achievement-based thing. If God had made it some achievement – we had to go to Spain and go on our knees for 40 miles in order to get accepted – no, what about the people who are confined to beds? That would be an insurmountable obstacle. If you made the terms of the gospel in some other way, then there would be folks it would not be available to. The simple terms of the gospel mean that anybody can stand, and Mephibosheth can stand. What? That is right, he can, he can stand – he stood for the rights of David.
And it says here, “Through our Lord Jesus Christ; by Whom we have also access by faith into this favour in which we stand.” We cannot phrase it better. Paul says things in such succinct and profound ways – you cannot improve on the way he puts it here. He says, “By Whom we have” – present possession, right? – “access by faith” – and here is the response side we were talking about in the reading; these things are to be laid hold of in faith. Okay, that is a hard thing.
We made this little tabernacle model with our neighbourhood children. And the tabernacle is great, because you have physical things that show spiritual principles. So there is only one door into the tabernacle, which speaks of one way in – Christ.
So, maybe it is hard to embrace some of the thoughts that Scripture puts before you, but we need to embrace them in faith. Maybe, as you look around at Christianity in the world today, you do not see what you see in the Scriptures. Okay? But you embrace the scriptural pattern in your affections. You may say, ‘All I see is this one-man pastor/laity model. I do not see plurality of leadership. I do not see a scriptural pattern.’ You know, if you just wipe the board, forget for a moment everything that you see out there in Christendom, what would you then see, drawing only from the Scriptures? So these things are embraced in faith – the thoughts of Scripture are embraced in faith. So, whether you see it or not, you embrace what God says, and then He makes it precious and formative to your soul. So God is putting it before you, like a great meal – it is no good to you unless you partake of it. It is a wonderful, wonderful inheritance!
Now, the world is hyping up things – I am well aware of it, and I get swept away sometimes too. They have all their stuff they are trying to sell you. And, well, some things have some relevance, but they cannot touch what God has to offer. And as you start to enjoy God’s things, they become more tasty. As you start to partake, it gives strength, but then you come into opposition, which forces you back to the Bible, and into greater dependence, and thus you are strengthened again. So opposition works too in blessing to the believer. Wonderful!
So it says, “By Whom we have also access by faith into this favour in which we stand.” I was at a burial of a brother who was very much impressed about the favour of God, and just being in the favour of God. Do you know that? Is that something you are conscious of? The Lord would keep you there – with a sense of His favour. Wow, not just accepted, which is huge, but in His favour! Well, how do you relate the suffering of the saints to the favour of God? One of the worthies said – it is a good one – he would rather suffer than sin. So to be maintained in the life in God’s favour, you are saying, ‘I am going to accept the trials, I am going to stand, but rather than sin, I am prepared to suffer.’ One of the old hymns says, ‘Willing to suffer others to save’ – this is a good thought, because that is what the Lord did for us. Are you willing to suffer that others are saved? If you are standing in Christ, brought into this favour, in the sense of this favour – you can affect others. This is the wonderful thing about standing.
“And we boast in hope of the glory of God.” Godless men are saying, ‘The outlook is hopeless,’ and financially, politically, morally they are right. But God sets an unchanging blessed hope before the Christian. It is different, it is fixed, it is settled, and it is firm. Which leaves us the challenge of the time between now and the Lord’s return. And we are even getting some of the benefits of the inheritance already, in eternal life. So, God sets before you a future hope. Nobody in the world can do that! No boss can do that, no business ambition can set before you an assured future! No, man’s future can be taken away at a moment’s notice, in the click of a finger. Your life can change tomorrow. Mine did – I had a heart attack, and suddenly you are staring death in your face, right up close. Your life changes in a moment. So, you need to be assured of your standing now. What do we stand in? In Christ.
The second Scripture warns of a false standing. It says, “Let him that thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Yes! We need the challenge of Scripture, we need this verse too. Oh, yes! How many times we thought we were standing totally on what was scriptural then, and then the whole thing crumbles, because it was not. You were not standing on what was right, you were standing on pretension, or false doctrine, or false interpretations of Scripture: it was false, those things collapse. And the collapse can be huge. And the collapse is very often necessary in God’s ways. You fall right on your face. Yes. And Peter did – right? Peter – he thought he would stand – “I will in no wise deny Thee” (Matt 26:35). And we all have that spirit, you know. ‘Well, if that brother had just a little bit more faith,’ ‘I would have been more faithful in that situation’ – no, wrong, wrong! We are all prone to pride, prone to self-confidence, and it comes in so easily. Very often in Scripture it is after a victory, after the Lord really helps, and everybody is all excited, and people say, ‘Oh, we do not need to bother to ask God on this battle, because we won that one over there,’ and then, as with Israel, there is failure in the next battle. This has happened amongst God’s people time and time again. We thought we stood, we thought it was all biblical, scriptural, for sure – no, it was not. And we were not prepared to listen to people who were telling us we were going off the rails. We need one another to remain standing, right? We need to have enough goodwill that a brother can come up to us and say, ‘Well, in this area of life, you are going way off the rails, and this is why,’ and be unafraid to name sin for what it is. Let us just call it sin. Let us not beat around the bush. Mean it, and we can be of help to one another in standing.
In this area there was a massive battle between the Romans and the wild barbarian British. One hundred thousand, over a hundred thousand wild men, huge men too – the Romans were small guys. But the Romans fought side by side, spears out, shields up, shields over, and the barbarians pounded them, but they could not crush the Romans. It was no lack of bravery, some warriors threw themselves on their spears in order to make a way for others behind. The Romans retreated back, spears up, retreated back, spears up – and the barbarians were defeated, soundly defeated. The Romans kept their position. They stood for each other, side by side. This is standing. So if your brother is falling, or weakening, practically, you want to be ministering to him to strengthen him, because you need him there protecting your flank. Right? Peter needs John, John needs Peter – they need each other. We all need each other.
And there is God’s provision. Forget man’s thoughts of how the body of Christ should function – go back to the Scripture. It was something that impressed my newly converted parents: they said, ‘Is anybody trying to work out Paul’s teaching?’ That is a good thought. Is anybody trying to work out Paul’s teaching in relation to the Church? And that is a big battle currently. Are we maintaining position, are we in formation, are we standing side by side? We sang about this ‘Great Captain of salvation’ (Hymn 395) – I love that hymn, because there is a military aspect to Christianity, and I would impress that on each one today. We are being called today to stand, and to enter the conflict. There were those that sat on the beaches, you remember, in Deborah’s day (Judges 5:17) – just as at the seaside, and took life easy – fiddling around with their cell phones, to give it a modern aspect. And we live in an affluent age, and there is plenty of stuff and plenty of reasons why we should not get involved, right? We have this, ‘I am busy,’ ‘I have got my schoolwork, my studies …’
Well, let us think about that one. There was a young man, he was going to university, with a full course of studies. But he was determined that his study of Scripture would not suffer. He committed himself and followed through in his purpose of heart, and he became an incredible Bible expositor. Part of the armour of God is the sword of the Spirit. Without the word of God you are no match for Satan, you are no match for these professors, and their human logic – you are no match, but the word of God is. Absolutely! And it prevails every time. Men may say, ‘Oh, but I do not believe the Bible.’ Someone once said to me that if we do not use the Scriptures, that is like throwing away your sword. Just give them another jab with it! Whether they believe in it or not, men feel the point of that sword! And it brings in conviction, and it has a power beyond human words. It is what God has equipped you with, to stand.
But the warning here is, “Take heed.” If you think you stand, you will fall. So what we are saying about the Spirit is really, really vital. Is it going to be in the strength of the flesh, or in the strength of the Spirit? This combat has to be in the Spirit’s strength. And do not fall into formulas – ‘Oh, this worked really well last time, I will just use it again this time’ – no. In evangelism, in work, in service – whatever – you need the Lord’s present mind now. ‘I need it right now’ – and He would give it to you. This is the wonderful thing; the resource is there, but it has been untapped, it has been unused (I speak for myself); so many times that happens. He is there, waiting, He provides the strength, and what we stand on is the finished work of Christ. And that is solid ground.
And that is another thing in combat, right? You need to have solid ground, and a trick in many battles is to get the enemy in a marsh or all bogged down, and they cannot fight. Well, that is what Satan does – he gets us all tied up in this world, and all bogged down, and we do not have the manoeuvrability. Sin and earthliness limit your ability to fight or to be effective. And if he gets us bogged down – maybe it is not sin, maybe it is just earthly things, maybe it is just things that fill up our lives – you lose mobility. Remember those ones that were in the battle with Gideon, they just scooped the water, on the run (Judges 7:5‑7).
And victory does not require many, that is the other thing. A few committed persons, side by side, for the Lord: so you have a Jonathan and his armour bearer (1 Sam 14:1‑23) – that is pretty few, two young men, wow! How do you guys hope to get a victory, with two? It is possible! It is good to bring our brother into our exercise. Maybe you have something to put your hand to, ‘Well, let us do this.’ I think there is something in that the Lord sent His disciples off two by two (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1) – anyway, just something to think about!
So, the next Scripture is in 1 Corinthians 16, and again, this gives a real military sort of flavour. “Be vigilant,” it says, “stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong. Let all things ye do be done in love.” Well, do you hear that? Do you hear His call? This is our Captain calling. It is the voice of Christ. He is calling you! For it says, “Be vigilant.” “Be vigilant.” Firstly as to myself, how quickly I get sidetracked! Affection for Christ, or attachment to Christ, is so vital. Jesus knew that that was the prime thing. So He pulls Peter aside after that failed fishing trip and gives food and warmth. Then He asks, “Art thou attached to Me?” (John 21:17). Let us get that settled. That is what is going to carry the day in our souls – attachment to Christ. He would draw us in more and more in attachment to Him. And then things are done, not under duty, or, ‘I have to do this,’ but out of love for Christ. Absolutely! I want to be faithful to my Captain – He is leading in the battle. My job is to be here following His lead by the Spirit. So that issue needs to be settled – are we attached to Christ? Does He have that place? Anything, really, that is taking the place of Christ – let us deal with it. Look at your life, and I at mine. I just love news, and I would be on the Net all day just looking at news, sometimes. But wait – if it is not going to be helpful, if it is not going to be profitable, deal with it! Every once in a while I think we all need a clean-up in our lives; garbage comes in and piles up; just have a clear-out. You know, Jacob cleared things before he went up to Bethel (Gen 35:2,4).
So “be vigilant,” first of all, for ourselves, but then, for one another, “be vigilant.” That means ‘look.’ What is the danger here? Do you know what one real, sad danger is? It is the break-up in marriages. Again and again, it is coming into the Christian circle. Okay, it is one thing to be upset about it, but what can we do on the positive side? Do the young couples have our support? Are we committed to seeing their blessing, and that they prosper spiritually? Are we, as older couples, giving a good example for the younger couples, modelling what Christian marriage looks like?
Satan is assailing – we are to be vigilant for one another, too. And so Paul could see Peter was going off the rails, you know; he says, ‘No, not back to law, no, we are not going to go there’ (Gal 2:11‑16). Or the Galatians say, ‘We are saved by grace, but we are going to live by law.’ No – we are saved and we live on one principle, grace. This is so important! We do not have a sacred/secular split, we do not have two ways of living, we live our lives on one principle, right across the board. Religiously, those that are pastors, or missionaries, they are on the higher class than a carpenter or an accountant or whatever – no, it does not work that way. Whatever you are called to be – an accountant, carpenter – in that calling you can be here for God! And do not limit what the Spirit can do in that calling! One of the most effective persons for the spreading of the gospel in the Vancouver locality years ago was this one sister who just talked to people over the fence, and just brought a casserole to somebody who needed it, and just expressed kindness. A little maid did it with the Syrian general (2 Kings 5:1‑3) – it can start at a young age, and be so effective; she has the sense of her God and her Captain. And her Captain is sufficient – yes. You can bring what the world cannot offer, what really satisfies the soul, what really transforms the life – and in power. But we need to stand.
So it says, “Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith.” Now “the faith” is like the body of truth. And we need to know it – we need to have an outline of sound words (2 Tim 1:13), we need to know the doctrine. Doctrine is important. What did they do first? They persevered in the apostles’ “teaching and fellowship” (Acts 2:42). So, you may say doctrine divides. Well, rightly, doctrine unites. You know, it really is, ‘This is what we believe, it is life-giving.’ And we do not have the authority to change the terms of the faith, either, and to make it more palatable, and to adjust it, because we diminish the glory of God, and we introduce what is of man. Which is lethal!
So, it says, “Stand fast in the faith.” That means we spend time in His word, getting established – there are no shortcuts. What does it give you? Well, when it comes to combat, you are equipped. And it is amazing! It is amazing how the Scriptures will come to your mind, under the Spirit, and hit the mark. Many times you have no idea that it hit the mark, but it is effective. So Apollos was mighty in the word (Acts 18:24). That is great! That is something he could bring to bear effectively. Allowing it to work first in ourselves, to penetrate. Just allow it – do not try to deflect the word of God. When it speaks about a subject, do not try to deflect it, allow it to penetrate, allow it to challenge. We need the challenge of the word of God. We need to be challenged. We need to accept its bearing on us. You go to write a verse for somebody – in a card, you know. There is the nice bit and the testing bit; the temptation is to quote just the nice bits. The word is seasoned with salt; that is just part and parcel of the word. So we need the challenge of the word. It says, “Stand fast in the faith.”
Then it says, “Quit yourselves like men” – conduct yourselves as men, as those under the authority of God. We were talking about the Philistines covering the valley; they looked so intimidating – but that is just when we need to stand in God’s power. When men say, ‘Do you really believe that God would send people to hell?’ stand, and say, ‘I absolutely believe that hell is a necessity of God’s love!’ Do not give ground. Do not retreat. Men try to get you to buckle, to collapse, to compromise, to go back on the faith. And Paul is exhorting the Corinthians here, who had collapsed, but his confidence is in the work of God in their souls. You might say, ‘I have had habitual failure.’ God is able for that too. ‘I have collapsed in the past.’ Maybe that is a good thing: maybe when you go forward now, you will go forward in more dependence on God. Our God is sufficient, the Spirit is sufficient, the power is there, and He is sufficient for what we have to face. The all-sufficiency of Christ – CHM has a great article on this. The all-sufficiency of Christ is to be like an anchor.
Much of what Satan uses is old ideas repackaged. Have we studied Christian history? One of the things I found really interesting was that one of the fighting judges of Israel wins a battle because he knows his history (Judges 11:12‑29,32‑33). He completely undermines the enemies’ battle rationale, he rallies the people, because he knows his history. That is helpful! Church history is helpful – oh, yes! Oh, it puts the present day and its glory into the shade when you see how God’s people really stood! So, having an understanding of the history, of Christian history, is very valuable, especially in combat. Many times you see that this is not a new battle – you see how it has been met in the past, under what circumstances, what aspect of truth was at stake, and this gives you a position to take up.
Satan is always working at the personal side, too, our eccentricities: you are distracted by odd mannerisms, or odd behaviour, and miss what God was saying through your brother.
So it says, “Be vigilant; stand fast in the faith; quit yourselves like men; be strong.” We cannot be strong in our own might. But did you know, as relying on the Spirit, even a little child in a situation, relying on Christ, is stronger than ungodly teachers. We can all be strong. And we need to be strong as a wife or a husband, be strong as an employee, or wherever we find ourselves.
Then I just finished up in Ephesians 6, because it just keeps saying “stand,” “stand,” “stand” all the way through. It is speaking about the armour. Verse 10 says, “For the rest, brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the might of His strength.” That is it – His strength.
In Ephesians 6 you have a whole military image there, a completely equipped soldier. And how it all fits together! I will not go into all these different things – it is very profitable – but I will mention one. There are the fiery darts of the wicked one. And the answer, as we were recently reminded, is to lift up the shield of faith. So Satan whizzes one at Eve, basically saying, ‘God does not have your best interests in mind’ (Gen 3:5). She succumbs to that dart. The disciples were in the boat – ‘Lord, do You not care about us?’ (Mark 4:38). You see, the darts are penetrating, the shield has fallen. Job’s wife said, “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). But with Job the shield of faith came up. Our enemy hurls many fiery darts, but if you let them, they will undermine your confidence in God and damage your soul – Satanic suggestions. This is a serious problem. We need to lift that shield – confidence in God; confidence in His word, no matter what the situation is looking like; confidence in His work. Trust in Him, and – I know it is broken, but – we have to have trust and confidence in one another. Our fellow believers have our best in mind, and that forms part of our defence – we are in this together.
We can step up and enter into the combat. And, if you want freedom of action, you are going to have to carve out some territory. That is what Israel had to do when they entered in the land – they had to carve out their own territory. Well, a good area, first, is that our hearts are divine territory. Then our households – everything in our household is used. Our work environment – let us carve out some territory there; make it under Christ’s authority. In Chicago some Christian business owners decided, ‘I own a business, so I am going to put that under the authority of Christ. The government can never give workers jobs, but I can as a business owner give young folks jobs and work.’ Anyway, they went into inner-city Chicago, and over a period of three or four years they took 300 young men from the hard-core unemployed – men that had not seen their fathers work, and had not seen their grandfathers work. They took extraordinary steps to train them, then had the joy of seeing them stand on their own feet in the workplace. And most of the men, also, by being in these workplaces, came to the Lord, as they saw Christianity practically working out in a work environment. Workplace territory is intensely practical! Our businesses can be used for God’s glory. Our households can be used for God’s glory. Also our time – so many things!
And we need to enter into the conflict for the glory of Christ: not for our glory, but that of our great Captain. And He is looking for an ‘Ittai’ type of response from each one of us – ‘Where You go, I will go’ (2 Sam 15:21).
Years ago, in the times of the Lollard preachers, a daughter of a duke heard one preaching which contained the challenge, ‘Are you willing to follow Jesus?’ Are you willing to follow Jesus if it leads through that narrow door called death? Then, from this one preaching and somehow obtaining a Gospel of John, she followed, in spite of having no other human support right through till she was martyred in London. She faithfully followed her Captain.
While it is not likely, we may be called to give up our lives. There was a sister in Germany, 15 years ago, who gave up her life for the Lord. Her unbelieving husband was jealous of her love for Christ. She assured him of her love for him too, but this was not enough, so one night he took the lives of her and their two sons! Well, that is very real.
In the combat it is well to be aware of our opposition – very formidable opposition. As Paul says, “Our struggle is not against blood and flesh, but against principalities, against authorities, against the universal lords of this darkness, against spiritual power of wickedness in the heavenlies. For this reason” – this is the context; this is the seriousness of the present state. But – I say this for myself – we need to stand, we need to take a stand. And you probably know what you need to stand for next. The Holy Spirit of God may be probing you about a certain matter that you need to make a stand on. And Satan is, at that very point, trying to get you not to stand. Standing has consequences. When Paul stood, he was thrown in prison. But the Lord came to the prison, and there was something mightier than the Roman power. When Peter was thrown in prison, all the prison doors opened (Acts 12:10). So, yes, there are going to be consequences. But the response from God is greater than the consequences. Paul was standing, but he is totally getting beaten up. So those things actually go together – the conflict, and reproach, and God’s fresh provision of grace, it all goes together.
“Girt about your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness.” And he goes on, “Praying at all seasons, with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching unto this very thing with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.” Good phrase, a needed phrase – “all the saints.” Is that the scope of our affections? It should be. Yes – there are troubles amongst God’s people, but there are those who are standing. Let us strengthen them. Maybe somebody is given a huge fine for standing for what is right – pray for them, write them a letter of support, give a cheque. Or if somebody is taking arrows for what is right – stand beside them. So, remember: “All the saints.”
And then Paul puts himself in this incredibly dependent position, as relying on them that he might have boldness to utter the mystery of the glad tidings. The great apostle Paul – he needs the prayers of the saints? Absolutely! So now do you see how we are of one body, we are all under the Captain, we all need each other? If the great apostle does, surely we do.
And, “In order that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the glad tidings, for which I am an ambassador bound with a chain.” Well, Paul’s ministry is still in reproach, still mocked at – ‘Oh, that is a cultural part of what Paul said, it has no effect today.’ And one of my sons’ bosses said, ‘I believe parts of the Bible.’ That is also a problem! Maybe we like parts and dislike other parts of the Bible.
By nature, I do not like the part about fasting. It says here, “I am an ambassador bound with a chain.” His ministry is in reproach. Well, let us just accept it. Just accept that Paul’s ideas are in reproach and keep moving forward in them. Do not be ashamed of the shame that is attached to Paul’s ministry. So, “That I may be bold in it as I ought to speak.” So, if you can stand, then you can speak.
It is truly a wonderful thing to have a sense of our great Captain calling us today, into the conflict; He would have us stand here. He would take possession of us. But there is our responsibility. There is your response, my response. May we all be helped to stand for our great Captain, for His name’s sake!
18 October 2014