Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: Whomever, or whatever, we choose as our god will either prop us up, or need to be propped up.

1 SAMUEL 5:1-5


“When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD. So, they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the LORD, and the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him. This is why the priests of Dagon and all who enter the house of Dagon do not tread on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod to this day.” [1]

Joel Gregory holds the George W. Truett Chair in Preaching and Evangelism at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary at Baylor University. Rejected for years by many evangelical churches and embraced primarily among black Christians, in my estimate, Doctor Gregory qualifies as one of the great preachers of this generation. His messages are powerful, grasping as he does the essential idea presented by a passage. One sermon he preached in 2014 bore the title that I have appropriated for this message.

I have shamelessly appropriated the title and the concept that Dr. Gregory developed when he first delivered this message; I have adapted the ideas he first articulated, though they reflect my own style. I deem this action to be both appropriate and fitting. I honour this good man for his insight, and I long for the people of God to be equipped for effective service. Spurgeon said of his own preaching that he grazed his cattle in many pastures but churned his own butter. I am always seizing upon great ideas from preachers who are greater than myself, who have great insight into the Word of God, and I then employ their concepts in my own voice.

The question that is being asked is whether your god props you up, or whether you need to prop up your god. The God we Christians serve is greater than anything we could imagine. Speaking for all who know the Living God, the Psalmist says,

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?”

[PSALM 27:1]

In the Psalm that follows, David writes of the LORD,

“The LORD is my strength and my shield;

in Him my heart trusts, and I am helped.”

[PSALM 28:7]

Throughout the Psalms, we see God extolled as the strength of the Psalmist and as the upholder of life. It is evident that God supports His people and needs nothing from them.

However, many professing followers of the Risen Son of God invest constant effort in propping up their god; they must do this because they are not supported by the Living God. Assertions to the contrary, many of the professed people of God are worshipping something other than the Risen Saviour. If they think of Christ at all, they think in terms of religious exercise designed to gain them merit or they think in terms of some sort of deliverance from the consequences of their own fallen choices. They are not worshipping the Living Saviour.

BAD NEIGHBOURS! “Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek. The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the people came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, ‘Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies.’ So, the people sent to Shiloh and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned on the cherubim. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

“As soon as the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded. And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said, ‘What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?’ And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid, for they said, ‘A god has come into the camp.’ And they said, ‘Woe to us! For nothing like this has happened before. Woe to us! Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods? These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness. Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight.’

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