Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on June 14, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:14-20. Today is our second to last sermon in this series from the book of Philippians. Next week, I will be wrapping it up, and on the 28th I will be preaching about Church Membership with the hope that I will convince many of you to become committed members of Cornerstone Church. Not because we want to put your name on a list, but because the Bible encourages deep partnership within the local body.
Then starting in July, I will be beginning a two month series that I am entitling, a “Summer of Psalms,” where each Sunday I will be unpacking a Psalm. With that said, I would ask that all of you pray for me as I start to wade into those waters, for it is new territory for me to preach from the Psalms, and I want to above all handle the word rightly. But today and next week, let us choose to finish strong in the book of Philippians. Let us read our text, pray, and allow God’s Word to work on our hearts.
Let us begin by way of review. The book of Philippians is written by Paul to the Saints in Philippi. This relationship between Paul and this local Church began with the conversion of Lydia. This event is documented in Acts 16:14.
Catalyst to Giving
Why? Why was this local body of believers so radical in their giving? Why did they stand out amongst the dozens of Churches when it came to their sacrificial partnership in proclaiming the Gospel? I believe that over the last 6 months we have been answering just that question.
The catalyst to giving can be summed up with one word, the Gospel. The Church in Philippi had been radically and forever changed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God had begun a work in them. They had become partakers of Grace. They were filled with the fruit of righteousness. They accepted the battle cry that to live is Christ and to die is gain. They did nothing out of selfish ambition. They emptied themselves and took the form of servants, working out their salvation with fear and trembling knowing that it was God who worked in them to will and work for his good pleasure. And while doing so they held fast to the word of life, and poured themselves out like drink offerings. They were brothers, fellow workers and fellow soldiers of God. They counted everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus, specifically knowing the power of his resurrection. Because of the Gospel they no longer set their minds on earthly things, but recognized that their citizenship was in Heaven, and because of that they rejoiced in the Lord always, which flowed into a peace with God that surpassed understanding. Producing a life of contentment due to the power of Christ working in their weakness and making all things possible.
It was out of this gospel transformation that they gave. When no one else was giving, the Philippians gave. They were not concerned what others Churches did, they gave from a heart that was bursting with the Spirit of God.
And this is what happens when Christ takes up residence in your heart. You give. When you repent and turn towards Jesus, and place your faith in the sufficiency of his sacrifice, and you commit your like to him as your Master, Jesus comes and lives in you heart. This morning we talked about this is Hebrews 8.
John the Baptist says this in John 3:30 about Christ, “I must decrease and he must increase.” You see it again in the apostles John and James who left their boat and their father and followed Jesus. You see it in the apostle Matthew upon Jesus saying two simple words “follow him.” Without hesitation, he quit his job of collecting taxes and lining his pockets with the dust of this world and instead gave of himself to the point of martyrdom. You see it in the conversion of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:8 when Zacchaeus pays back fourfold of what he had taken from the poor. You see it in the women with the alabaster jar in Matthew 26, pouring it on the head of Jesus in sold out sacrificial worship while those around scoffed at the waste. You see it Joseph of Arimethea, a rich man who gave his grave to bury the Author of Life. The list could go on and on, for every time someone goes from death to life, the life they live is one of love. Love for God and love for others. In fact, one sign that you may not be saved is your lack of giving.
This was the reality for the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus, the Great Physician, was examining his heart and told him to give up everything and follow Him. The rich man walked away sad for he had great wealth and Jesus said that it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle then for a rich man to get into heaven. Folks, I have some bad news, if you own your home you are richer than 90% of the world's population. You are the rich young ruler. However, don't lose heart, for Jesus said perhaps the most Calvinistic and perhaps the most precious words every to be spoken. The disciples said, “Who then can be saved?”26But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
What is the power of God that makes rich men give up everything to follow Christ? It is the Gospel. The Gospel is the power of God for salvation, a salvation that produces radical, reckless, self-sacrificial giving. It was a Gospel that touched the hearts of the Philippians, and they couldn't help but give. It was their new spiritual DNA.
The question for us today, is it ours? Is the DNA of Cornerstone consumption or Gospel giving? Are we the rich young ruler, or are we the Philippians Church? Do we spend our money on ourselves, or do we lay it at the feet of God? Do we work our 40 hours to line our pockets, or do we work as if working for the Lord? Are we spraying the perfume of our wealth upon our necks, or pouring it on the head of our Savior?
The Fruit that Increases to Your Credit
Now here is the interesting thing about Gospel giving. It is not really giving to lose, but it is actually giving to get. Look at verse 17.
The real question when it comes to giving for the fruit that increases to your credit, is do you believe it? Do you trust God enough to implement it in your life? Do you trust that will hold up His end of the bargain? Many people do not. They are not willing to take the risk, they instead want to maintain the control that they have in their life and build bigger bins. This however is foolish, for we are chasing dust instead of the eternal riches our our Maker. Perhaps Jesus said it the best.
Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on May 31, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 4:10-13. We are nearing the end of our 6 month journey through the book of Philippians. For those of you of have joined our Church since January 1st, or for those who have missed Sunday’s due to travel or sickness, I want to remind you that you can go to our website and find the sermon’s online. They exist in written form and some of them are also on video. The reason I mention this is because when you work through such as we are today we need to understand the context surrounding the text. Obviously, due to time we cannot cover the entire book each Sunday so if you are interested you can fill in some gaps by means of our resources online. With that said, let us read out text, pray and exegete our text.
Today we are focusing our attention on the disposition of contentment. In verse 11 we see the Apostle Paul say, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” So let us start with the question, what does it mean to be content?
If we look around the text we can get a picture of what Paul means by being content. We see in verse 11 that contentment is the absence of being in need. This being is, however, modified by verse 12 which tells us that this being does not mean that you are born with a silver spoon on your mouth, for it says this being may include a circumstance of lowness, a circumstance of hunger. Therefore you can be content and have absolutely nothing.
Likewise, being content does not mean the absence of circumstantial swings. Paul speaks of being low and then abounding. He speaks of hunger and plenty. He speaks of need and then abundance, through it all, he can say like we sang earlier, “It is well.” For Paul is content dispute the highs and lows of life.
And don't forget the current condition of Paul as he pens these words. He is without a job, no money, without a family, chained to a Roman guard 24 hours a day, and waiting to find out if he will be killed. It is in this circumstance that Paul has contentment. Therefore the contentment that Paul is speaking of is not conditional on one’s external situation, it is conditional on one’s internal state of mind.
For those who were here last week you will recall how we spent a fair amount of time discussing the effects the Fall had on the mind of man, and how at conversion the curse of the mind is reversed through Christ. A verse that summarizes what we discussed last week and transitions nicely in our discussion for today is Ephesians 4:20-24. Just briefly turn with me to this passage. It is the book right before Philippians.
Prisoner of Discontent
With that said I want to spend some time talking about the old you. The person you were before you learned of Christ, before your eyes were opened to your need for a Savior. The understanding of who you were pre-conversion will help us wrap our minds around this idea of contentment.
This old self is described in Ephesians 4:22 as “corrupt through deceitful desires.” Prior to the renewal of your mind, you were a slave to your passions and your desires. Your hard heart craved to be satisfied with the things of this world. Some of you sought satisfaction in experiences, for some it was money, for it is your business, for some it was American Dream, for some relationships.
Having said this, the pursuit of these pleasures never produced in you a satisfaction. Your corrupt heart cried out for more food, more alcohol, more money, more stuff, more success, more independence, more education, but none of these things fulfilled what they promised. With each addition to your life came more discontentment. Your heart still cried out for more. You were still unsatisfied, despite the world being your oyster. This is the reality of every person on this planet that does not have Christ. Everyone, apart from Christ is a prisoner of discontentment. I realize I use this parable a lot but it speaks so well to the plight of the unsaved.
The Unveiling of the Secret
I believe a great picture of this state of discontentment is seen in the life of the Samaritan women at the well described in John 4. This Samaritan women was drawing water out of Jacob’s well in the middle of the day, an indication that she was an outcast from her own town. The reason for this most likely is that in her life she had five different husbands and she was now shacking up with someone she was not a married to, and Jesus confronted her about it her sin. And he said to her these words in John 4:13,
Oh how many married couples need to hear this message! Do not be deceived, the grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. Leaving your spouse to find satisfaction in the arms of someone else will not produce in your contentment, it will only produce brokenness. Stop looking for satisfaction in the well of your sin, and look up and see Christ! This is the beginning of the secret of contentment, only in him will your heart be satisfied.
And this is the secret in which Paul speaks of in verse 12 of our text. It is the secret of facing our present reality, not through the futility of our minds, or the ignorance of our hard hearts, but through Christ. Paul says in verse 13, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This may be one of the top five wrongly quoted verses in the Bible. People love to post this verse In relation to climbing Mount Everest, or winning some pointless sports event, or losing weight. This is not the point of this text, the point of this text is being content no matter what your circumstances are.
And the fundamental starting point is Jesus Christ. If you do not have Christ in your life, you will never be content. So square one of contentment is Christ. You must repent and place your faith in the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as your Savior and your Lord. If you do not, then you have zero hope for your weary soul, and you will forever be a slave to discontentment, wandering this broken world before you plunge into Hell for all eternity.
The Lessons of Contentment
For those who have placed your faith in Christ, God has started a good work in you and has begun the process of the renewing of your mind, however, we must admit that you still struggle with discontentment from time to time. We still find our minds drifting towards the things of this world. We still complain, covet, and crave for something different. This discontentment is the sin that still clings to you, that Christ want's to free you from.
To you I say, first, take heart, for Paul was not without his moments of discontentment. Look at verse 12, “I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Behind this statement of learning is a process. I think it is wrong to understand this teaching of Paul to be one time event. God doesn't regularly work this way. The Seminary of God is usually through the trials of this life. This secret of contentment was taught to Paul over a period of time, and we can see this in 2 Corinthians 12.
Lesson one, God is not absent from our circumstances. When Paul cried out to God, it was as if God was saying, “Paul, I know your circumstances. I ordained them.” The sovereignty of God over all things, circumstances, and conditions is so crucial for your life. When you recognize that what you have in that moment is not random, but planned out by an all knowing God is foundational to your contentedness. The next time you feel discontent and want something more, look around and realize that your circumstances are ordained by your father. He knows what you need and as verse 19 in our text today says, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Lesson two, in the moment of difficulty all that we do have is a gift from God. Yes, Paul had a thorn in his life, and yes it was annoying, and yes there was pain, but Paul was forgetting all that God had provided. Paul, in that moment, had forgotten about the grace of God. His life, his breath, his heartbeat, food, water, clothes, a roof over his head, and most importantly salvation through Jesus Christ, all of this was God's grace. How selfish is it for us to receive all that we have and then complain about it. We are acting ljust like Israel after the were freed from the slavery of Egypt. Constantly complaining and discontent. They were acting like divas, like spoiled brats, and we act the same way when we are unsatisfied with the Grace that God has given us.
Lesson three, through our circumstances, God is doing something for His Glory. Too often we walk through this world totally ignorant of God's purposes. Paul's thorn was a powerful, and crucial instrument for God's purpose. It kept Paul humble, and it magnified the Glory of God. Too often, when things aren't going right for us, we throw ourselves a pity-party. What a waste! God has given you your trial and tribulation so that God's power can be displayed through your life. You should not be discontent, you should rejoice in your difficulties, because it is in these difficulties, you can display the power of Christ in you. In fact, this is the point of the monotony of your life. For many of you, God has placed you in the midst of a bad job so that you can display your contentment in Christ despite the humdrum of life.
Lesson four, pray. The only reason Paul knew any of these things is because he cried out to God, and God answered him. Paul started praying with a discontent heart, asking God to remove the thorn. God did not answer Paul's prayer the way Paul wanted, but instead gave him eyes to see the rose attached to the thorn. We likewise need eyes to see all that God has done and all that God is doing through the ups and downs of our lives, and be able to sing “It is well” without being hypocrites.