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Philippians is the Book of the Month

April 23, 2008

(excerpt from sermon on Philippians 3:12ff).

If you have walked around downtown, you may have seen those hi-rise construction workers who baffle onlookers below by briskly walking along these steel girders 60 stories above street level. How do they do that? Well, I’m sure that one important rule is “Don’t look down.” And you don’t really need to. If you put the girder on street level, it’s no problem, it’s pretty wide. You don’t need to carefully consider the placement of your feet on every step. If you do look at your feet, you are more likely to get vertigo and fall. In order to walk in a straight line on the girder, it is necessary to look forward, look straight ahead, look at where you are going, and then your feet will naturally follow a straight line, just as they would at street level.

Similarly, in order to walk the narrow path of the Christian life, you need to look forward. That’s what Paul tells us now in this final third of Philippians chapter three.

First third, 1-6, warned against legalism.
Second third, 7-11, showed that true righteousness comes not from the law, but from faith in Christ.

Now in this final third he must respond to a natural objection that he faced again and again in his ministry. If salvation is by faith, won’t this result in laziness? Won’t people just blow off the pursuit of holiness and say I’m saved by faith, I don’t need to care about that? And in response Paul teaches that true faith is an active faith. True faith is a persevering faith. True faith presses on and stretches forward toward the goal.

Keep on the narrow path and avoid falling off into one of two fatal heresies.

legalism vs. license. Walk in liberty.
confidence in the flesh vs. indulging the flesh. Walk by the Spirit.
holiness by law vs. grace as leniency. Grace is power for holiness.

But walking in the liberty of the Spirit is not a balance between legalism and license. If you try to balance grace and holiness you’ll end up saying things like “I believe in grace but gee whiz, we’ve got to slap some rules down here somewhere or this thing’s gonna get out of hand.” Or you might say, “I believe in pursuing holiness, but I don’t want to get carried away with it and be a fanatic.” Trying to live this way, trying to balance grace and holiness is like trying to walk the girder while looking at your feet. You’re gonna get confused and fall off. The only way to keep your feet on the narrow path, the only way to keep grace and holiness inseparably wedded together in fullness is not to be always thinking about balance but to be consumed with a passion for knowing Christ, which Paul told us last week is the essence of the Christian life. If the hi-rise worker looks straight ahead his feet will stay on the beam. And if keep our eyes fixed on seeing more of Christ, we will have a holiness produced not by legalism, but flowing from a heart that embraces Jesus in faith.

Audio sermons on Philippians are here.

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