Sermon for Sunday, July 23rd, 2023 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)
Old Testament reading:
[Psa 119:25-32 ESV] 25 [Daleth] My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! 26 When I told of my ways, you answered me; teach me your statutes! 27 Make me understand the way of your precepts, and I will meditate on your wondrous works. 28 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! 29 Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! 30 I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I set your rules before me. 31 I cling to your testimonies, O LORD; let me not be put to shame! 32 I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart!
New Testament reading:
[2Th 2:16-17 ESV] 16 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
[2Th 3:1-5 ESV] 1 Finally, brothers, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may speed ahead and be honored, as happened among you, 2 and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
[Mar 16:14-20 ESV] 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]]
A business with a long and proud history might put on their logo or on their sign the letters EST along with the year of their founding. ESTABLISHED 1898. It is a sign of stability and trust. You can trust our product because we’ve been making it for a hundred years. We are not some upstart fly-by-night business, but we are ESTABLISHED. We are rooted, we are grounded, and we shall go forward from that basis. A business is rightly proud to be established on a solid basis and have a solid track record.
Well, as Christians we have the most solid foundation of all, Jesus Christ. And so St. Paul says we are ESTABLISHED in Christ.
As Paul continues writing to the Thessalonians he offers a prayer, and encourages the recipients of the letter that his prayer will be answered. Both this prayer and this answer to prayer regard “being established in Christ.”
First, Paul prays, “Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father … comfort your hearts and ESTABLISH them in every good work and word.
Then, he declares, “the Lord is faithful. He will ESTABLISH you and guard you against the evil one.”
So there is a prayer and a declaration.
Now this word, “establish” (sterizo) can (and is) also translated as “Strengthen.” It is to make stable, place firmly, to set fast. So there is the prayer and the declaration of the truth that He, the Lord Himself, establishes or strengthens His people, providing stability for us; placing us firmly in Christ.
As we look today at this truth that we are “established in Christ” we have these three points:
1. God is the source of all our strength.[REPEAT]
2. We are strengthened through prayer. [REPEAT]
3. We are strengthened by the word of God. [REPEAT]
I. God is the Source of all our strength.
There is nothing that brings greater stability than Christ. He is the Rock of our salvation, the Foundation, the Cornerstone.
– The Rock of our salvation
[Psa 18:46 ESV] 46 The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation–
– The Foundation
[1Co 3:11 ESV] 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
– Our Cornerstone
[1Pe 2:6-7 ESV] 6 For it stands in Scripture: “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious, and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” 7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
So who establishes us and strengthens us? None other that the Lord Jesus Christ and God the Father.
So we have the promise that He will establish you. He will set you on the right course.
It is like on a day without wind, on a silent pond, if you push a paper boat to float to the other side, you must established it on the right course or it will be far off from the destination when it arrives on the other side.
So it is that God establishes us. He establishes our course.
You might ask, When were we established? What year should we put on our personal logo?
You might say we were “established before all time” as God had planned our salvation in Christ before the world began.
Or you might say “Established 4004 B.C.” That was Archbishop Usher’s best guess of when the world started according tot he Biblical Chronology.
Or, maybe you’d say “Established 4 B.C.” — the approximate year of Christ’s birth, or “Established 33 A.D.”—the approximate year of Christ’s death.
Or maybe you’d say “Established 1995”—the year you came to faith in Christ.
But whatever the date, the greatest importance is that you are established IN Christ. He is the rock, the foundation, the cornerstone. We are built on Him.
And not only are we “established” on the right course like the paper boat over the pond, but we are KEPT on the right course. God STRENGTHENS us. His is not a one-time help, but an ever-present refuge and strength.
How are we strengthened?
We are strengthen through prayer and by the word of God.
II. We are strengthened through prayer.
Indeed we are not strong on our own, but need the Lord. We need his Word and we need prayer. Prayer is for every believer. Even the Apostle Paul needed prayer. What religious leader, what “guru”, says not “I am in charge and will pray for you” but rather, “please pray for me.” What humility there is in Paul.
Paul says “Finally, brothers, pray for US.”
It goes both ways. He prays for them, and they pray for him.
It is a great encouragement to know that others are praying for you. And it is great blessing to pray for others. We see in this the connected nature of the church, of the people of God. This gives us another reason why it is so important to be connected to a church, so that you can say, like Paul, “Brothers, pray for me.”
Paul says “Brothers, pray for us.” He is with Silas and Timothy as the letter is being written. And it seems that either Silas or Timothy was physically writing the letter as Paul spoke his words to them. Only in the end of the letter does Paul sign a greeting “in his own hand.” So we see the disciples working together for the Lord, and encouraging prayer for one another in the church to strengthen believers.
III. We are strengthened by the Word of God.
Christians are also strengthened by the Word of God. Yes indeed, God through the Holy Spirit strengthens us, but God also uses his word.
The Psalmist prays: [Psa 119:28 ESV] 28 … strengthen me according to your word!
And Paul says of God in Romans 16:25 that “he is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ.”
This is why Paul prays for the Word to “speed ahead and be honored.” Because the Word of the Lord strengthens. Paul desires that the Word of the God may have free course, and not be bound (2 Timothy 2:9) so that it may bless many with the joy of the knowledge of God and salvation in Christ.
The Word of God strengthens us.
This is to comfort us as Christians. We struggle to do good works. But God will strengthen us to direct our hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ that we may be established in Him for every good work and word. Though evil fights against us, we have faith in Jesus Christ which overcomes evil.
We know what “good works” are. We understand that phrase generally. But note also it says “every good work and WORD.”
Every GOOD WORD. We certainly want to speak well. Be well-spoken. We want to avoid cursing, swearing, gossip, even awkwardness in our speech. But every GOOD WORD must certainly include that preaching of the Gospel which Paul is called to, and which every Christian must know so that they can always be prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in them.
We pray for God to establish us in every GOOD WORD.
The young converts at Thessalonica needed to be established in the Good Word of God’s word, and not be drawn aside by fanatical teaching. They need to be established in Christ and His Gospel, the very word of the God.
1. Pray for one another.
Pray for God’s grace, and TRUST in God’s grace. The Lord is faithful.
Pray for the Lord to work in us, not only outside of us to our circumstances. We pray for blessings, but the greatest blessings we can receive are internal ones, more of the fruit of the spirit.
2. Know that you are established in Christ.
[2Pe 1:12 ESV] 12 Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities (virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love), though you know them and are established in the truth that you have.
This is for your comfort, to know that you are established in Christ.
Though the outside circumstances might not change, you are comforted because of the Lord who works inside you.
3. Continue in Christ
What we know to be true must seep into daily living.
The Lord has established his church. We are then to go forth doing the work of God. You’ve been established in Christ, now continue in Christ.
[Psa 90:17 ESV] 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!
Finally, we see in this passage, with its two parts (prayer and declaration) that God hears prayer and answers prayer.
So we pray “Lord establish our hearts.”
And we hear “He will establish you.” Praise the Lord. He will establish you.