Contentment

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.15.17

Love for the Gospel Shapes How We Live

 

1 Corinthians 9

Last week, we saw principles that guide how we exercise our rights and freedoms. The Apostle Paul continues this theme at length!  But now he uses his own example to show that serving the Gospel shapes his priorities and lifestyle

Paul Starts By Reminding Them of His Position v1

He was an Apostle: the highest office in the church

A requirement of being an Apostle is to be a witness of the risen Christ. Paul says, “I saw him!”

He was not just an Apostle he was their Apostle vs1-2

In Acts 18, Paul founded the church in Corinth; and he spent 1½ years teaching them

He Understood His Rights in Christ v1 “Am I not free?”

Many in the church struggled to understand their freedoms; but not Paul, he knew them well

 

Yet, He Wants Them to Know the Rights He Gave Up

There are three areas in which Paul gave up his rights

1.  The right to eat food sacrificed to idols as mentioned in chapter 8 and possibly here in v4

2.  The right to have a wife v5 – Paul embraced singleness as he describes in chapter 7

3.  The right to be paid for laboring to serve churches v6

Paul keeps his focus on this last right

He gives four proofs that he has the right to be paid for serving the church

1.  Being paid for your service is a principle that is obvious to the world v7

2.  The Old Testament law affirmed this principle v8

3.  This was the practice for those who work in all temples v13; whether Jewish or pagan

4.  It was commanded by Jesus v14 (Luke 10:7 ‘a laborer deserves his wages’)

He goes into detail about his rights in order to dramatize his refusal of them

 

Why Would the Apostle Paul Give Up Obvious ‘Rights’?

The gospel is a greater purpose than clinging to our rights

He repeats this idea three times: v12, v15 and v18

In vs 12-18 he refers to ‘the gospel’ seven times

Each time, he exalts the value of the gospel to dictate how he lives

Can you say the gospel motivates your priorities?

What is the gospel and why is it worth sacrificing rights and privileges?

Gospel means good news: it involves incomparable events, and it provides unequalled hope

The gospel so thrilled Paul, he made himself a servant to it v19

He was not just willing to live this way, he was eager to do so

The gospel had captured Paul’s heart and he wanted it for everyone else!

This made Paul flexible in how he dealt with people vs 20-22

What point is Paul making?  ‘Servants’ adapt to those they serve

He is not telling us to compromise beliefs, but to compromise our preferences

Love leads us to become comfortable with the people around us

Serving Christ and his gospel shaped how Paul lived vs 24-27

All that Paul claimed to believe about God actually led how he lived

He lived with self-control v25

This is not a negative concept, being out of control is

Just as exercise shapes our physical body, godly discipline shapes our soul  Bible reading, prayer, community

He had direction v26

He was not “aimlessly” reacting to every new situation

We are Christians, we follow a Person; and he is consistent, faithful, and wise

His heart was filled with the joy of serving Christ!

Look at his language: v18 reward, v23 share blessing, v24 the prize

Paul lived to please God and that brought joy to his heart

Have you lost perspective about where goodness is found?

How will you respond to Christ and his gospel?

Do you need this gospel?  Christ is here to save – don’t push him away

For those who have the gospel – is your heart dry? Is your life aimless?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.01.17

“Every Life Situation is to Serve Christ”

 

1 Corinthians 7:17-35

Our attention is often be focused on the situations we want life to be in, rather than trusting and serving God where he has us. Paul addresses this in the context of three conditions which were common to life in first century Corinth

1. Circumcision vs uncircumcision vs18-20

Circumcision was basically a distinction between Jews and Gentiles

To the Jews, circumcision was important; it identified them as God’s people

The cultural differences between Jews and Gentiles was a major tension in the early church

Paul points to obedience before God as the issue that matters most

Our identity is not to be of our culture, it is to be of Christ

Racism is anti-gospel

All people are brothers and sisters in Christ, or they are those who need Christ

2. Slavery vs 21-24

In Paul’s day, a third of the population were slaves; the church was a mix slave and free

This slavery looked different than what we think of in American history

However, slaves held the lowest social status and had no legal rights

Paul encourages slaves that our status is in Christ

v21 Paul doesn’t dissuade them from seeking freedom

But freedom and responsibility are ultimately in Jesus our ‘Lord’ v22

3. Marriage and singleness vs 25-35

Paul is responding to a question from them

He encourages them to consider remaining single

We saw last week in Ephesians 5, that Paul is not diminishing marriage

He is pointing out there are factors worth considering

vs 29-31 gospel timing is limited – we should live recognizing the world is passing

vs 32-35 marriage rightly requires a lot of attention; singleness is a worthy option

Marriage is meant to be fulfilling, but Christ is our fulfillment

Singles shouldn’t feel obligated to marry, or be pushed toward marriage

Our culture exalts dating, especially among teens; instead exalt their service to Christ

 

How do we bring Paul’s thoughts into our culture?

1. God has given you your life v17a

Your gender, geography, generation, ethnicity, family, body & abilities are from God

These are all intentionally ‘assigned’ by God to be our reality

Because of sin, each of these realities bring baggage with them: cultural habits . . family dysfunction . . financial struggle . . discrimination . . disabilities

These are part of our reality, but they are not our identity

Believer, your identity is in Christ!  The fullness of gospel promise

We are to live in our reality – according to our identity

Our agenda is the gospel; and where you are needs it

2. Your life is for God v17b

vs 17-22 Paul describes us as being “called” 8 times

We have a variety of roles:  parent, spouse, employee, volunteer etc.

Our status in all of them is “called by God”

The significance is that we fill every role for God

In your marriage and on your job, look to God’s approval, not yours

This means God’s Word shapes how you conduct every role

3. Contentment is based on God, not circumstances vs 20, 24, 26

To “remain in our condition” is not an absolute prohibition

The principle is that we should ‘remain content’

We get caught up striving for our dream house, our soul mate, the perfect job and perfect kids

  • We become insatiable
  • We are easily dissatisfied

But we have the perfect Savior, salvation, and eternity

  • So be joyful where you are
  • Be fruitful where you are

4. How do I know what to do with my life?

God’s answer is clear, He wants you to be a Great Commandment person!

The answers we want about our job, relationships, and location, are temporary and secondary

The circumstances of life will always be lacking without Great Commandment living

And with Great Commandment living, the circumstances will always be fruitful

CONNECTING GOD’S GRACES

Boy Playing in Rain

 

God gave me an unexpected grace.

While I was praying a few weeks ago, God began to unfold in my mind the best way to approach the sermon text for that Sunday. 

I had been struggling with how to best organize and present the truths contained in the passage. Some weeks this is especially difficult. I may have a few clear thoughts in my mind, but I don’t know how to bring them together in a cohesive message. Ideas bounce around in my brain and seem to willfully resist coming together.

When I realized God was graciously bringing the message together for me, I was obviously thankful to Him. I began to praise God for his goodness of stepping into my struggle and filling me with his thoughts. 

A few minutes later, it suddenly struck me, this thankfulness was not enough. I also had the responsibility of connecting this grace from God, to the other struggles of my life. This particular grace did not arrive in isolation, it was part of a ceaseless flow of mercy and goodness from my Heavenly Father.

The lesson here is not to compartmentalize God’s graces to us. Rather we should use a grace manifested in one area to encourage us where we are not seeing grace in another area.

God does not stop and start with his graces. They do not stall out. The opposite is true, they are part of the “living waters” which Jesus declared flow like a river through our lives!

If we are to honor God as he deserves, then we must accurately see that he is continuously and overwhelming gracious to us. God does not haphazardly drop random graces into our lives. In Christ, all of our moments take place within a flow of grace, which runs from the cross into eternity.

 

Image by © Ed Bock/CORBIS

FAIRNESS vs GOSPEL OPPORTUNITY IN PARENTING

bigstock-fair-versus-unfair-69403969

by Debbie Huber

Have you ever had a situation where you felt your child was treated unfairly?  Has it happened in your church?  How did you, as a parent, respond?

Maybe your child was not chosen for a solo or asked to be a student leader in the youth group.  Maybe your child was not invited to a sleepover or to a birthday party.  Maybe it seemed like someone in authority was unfair to your child (a coach, a Sunday School teacher or youth group leader, etc.).  These things can hurt and cause disappointment.  As parents, it is hard to see our children sad and disappointed.

How should we, as Christian parents respond?

Unfortunately many times a response is seen in the church that mirrors how the world would react.  It is natural for feel sad for your child’s hurt feelings and to comfort them. But hurt feelings can easily turn into selfishness as children dwell on the “Why me?”. 

Frequently selfishness is validated by the parent letting the child know that their disappointment is justified because it was not fair.  Rather than focusing on the godly response, “fairness” becomes the primary focus.  And often the parent will attempt to fix things by making sure that the appropriate person in authority hears about your child’s hurt feelings and the unfairness of the situation. 

So how can we turn this situation into a gospel opportunity?  

When we deal with situations from the perspective of fairness, the gospel message is lost.  Emphasizing the fairness of the situation is really feeding into our natural tendency toward selfishness. That our child’s rights are more important than grace, mercy and love for others. 

This is the opportunity to turn the situation into helping our child see his great need for the gospel as we lovingly speak to them gospel truths in their disappointment.

God in His great mercy knows the tendencies of our hearts to seek out our rights.   

Remind them of the most unfair thing of all: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  Romans 5:8.  The perfect, sinless Jesus became sin in our place so we can stand before God with the sinless righteousness of Christ.  This isn’t fair but it is a precious gift that God gives us through Christ. 

Help them to see that they cannot fix this disappointment and selfishness on their own and that is why Jesus had to come and why we need Him. 

Lead them to the God who calls us His children to seek forgiveness and help for our selfish hearts. 

Encourage them to love and show grace to those who have hurt them as Jesus graciously died for us when we didn’t deserve it. 

Show them that thankfulness for Christ’s forgiveness of our sins is the opposite of worrying about fairness. 

 

THERE IS SOMETHING SPECIAL ABOUT HUGS

hug_7

I remember as a child when I felt sick, there was something restorative about my mom’s hugs.

When my children were little, having them run up and throw their arms around me was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

They don’t run up to me anymore, but I still love hugs from my girls; while Jordan and I settle for grunts and a punch in the arm or a pat on the back.

When I travel to Belarus or Guatemala, I joyfully receive bear hugs from my dear friends.

Then there are the wondrous hugs from my wife that make it seem as though all is right with the world. Sometimes when I am feeling worn around the edges, I ache for a hug from Debbie

There truly is something special about hugs

This is because God made us to love them. Love, security, peacefulness, reassurance, affection, friendship, contentment – and any other good association we have with hugs are all qualities that come from the heart and character of God.

These feelings exist because God has expressed them to us.

God is the one who invites us to call Him “Abba Father” which is an intimate expression of saying Dad. He is the most wondrous of Fathers and He loves to hold us. Psalm 139 describes how in remote places, even there “your right hand shall hold me”.

Maybe you feel it is too presumptuous to think of God holding you in a strong and safe hug – but is not God an even more loving parent than ourselves?

If we love to give hugs, this is because God loves to hold those He loves. 

Do you need a good hug, don’t be hesitant to receive the embrace of your heavenly Father who loves you more than tongues can tell or thoughts imagine.

Learn to rest in the strong and secure arms that do not let us go.

WHY DO WE WHINE SO MUCH?

We complain easily and we complain a lot.

As Christians we complain despite the reality that our life has the proverbial “embarrassment of riches”. The fullest description of our wealth of blessings may be what we find in Ephesians 1:3-14:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. 

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”

A believer who habitually complains – is somewhat like Bill Gates moaning about his finances, or Michael Phelps whining that he doesn’t have enough Olympic medals.

In addition to what Ephesians describes,

We have God’s unfailing Word that we can read and follow in all situations

We have the Holy Spirit – all that God is – living in us

We have Christ who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords interceding on our behalf

We have the open invitation to cast every burden upon our Lord Jesus

We have the Church which God raised up to bless and support us

We have the wondrous promise that every situation will work together for our eternal good

So how are we using this treasury of ‘riches’ from God?

Yes, our mouths should be open and we should have a lot to say. But let it be praise rather than complaint, thanksgiving rather than grumbling. These are the appropriate responses for all who are in Christ! As the Psalmist declares,

“Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised”

 

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.12.16

‘Joyful Bewilderment’

John 16:16-22

God, I don’t understand!  Lord, what are you doing? What does this mean?

You have probably had these thoughts, and in Jesus’ Farewell Address, we find his disciples asking those questions

 

Jesus’ disciples are bewildered

They are bewildered about statements we easily understand

It’s easy for us to understand now, because we know what happened

The disciples understood the words Jesus used, but not the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ of his leaving and return

It would not be until Jesus works were complete, that their understanding would be full

According to v19, Jesus knew exactly how they were struggling

Yet, he doesn’t give them a specific answer about what he meant by “a little while”

Instead, Jesus gives them a big picture answer about how it all ends

       Jesus knows his actions will eventually answer their questions

       Knowing the big picture will serve them in all life’s confusing and painful moments 

We want the immediate details about our circumstances and we complain to God when we don’t have them

 God does far better than give us the immediate details; he fills his Word with big picture clarity

 

Let’s look at Jesus’ ‘big picture’ answer (vs 20-22)

We will face what is painful and doesn’t seem to make sense – it’s unavoidable

(1)  We will find ourselves bewildered at times by life events

          Our world rejects the rule and truth of God, so we are surrounded by senselessness

          To think we won’t struggle is unbiblical; but so is struggle without hope (compare vs 20 and 22)

(2)  We will find ourselves struggling at times over God’s Word

          Much of God’s word runs against the common human perspectives of self

          Living with a biblical perspective only makes sense in light of the big picture of eternity

Jesus saw the disciple’s struggle to make sense of life

He cares about our struggle, but like small children, we simply cannot grasp it all now 

He has clear and excellent answers, and we will see them ‘in a little while’

        Until then, God has given us sufficient answers for now in the gospel and its promises

        Until then, God is giving us abundant grace now for the active presence of the Holy Spirit

All our sorrows will be transformed to joy

Jesus gives hope in his leaving by assuring them of his returning

       The return of his resurrection – when sin and death are defeated

       The return of his second coming – when our faith and his kingdom are made perfect

All our questions will be answered when we see Jesus

       Because the answers are all fulfilled by Jesus

       If we truly know Jesus, that should hold us for now!

Jesus uses child birth as an illustration of our big picture realty (v21)

       The real pain we have in life now, is producing an overwhelmingly greater joy forever

       This should encourage us in how we walk through what is now painful

Jesus gives 3 big picture reasons why we can take joy now (v22)

1.  We will see Jesus

The impact of this is multifaceted

       The glory and wonder of his presence will be pure joy

       His coming brings the perfections of life in his kingdom

       When we see him we shall be like him (1 John 3:2)

2.  Our hearts will rejoice

This is because every gospel fulfillment will completely satisfy us

       In Jesus’ kingdom we will all be Great Commandment people

       We will enjoy the fullest possible fellowship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit

3.  No one will take our joy

No one who opposes Christ and our life in him, will be left standing

Christ’s kingdom will be perfect, eternal and undisturbed

 

Believer, joy is how all things end for you – including every pain, struggle and question

SOMEONE IS IN CONTROL . . AND IT’S NOT YOU

We generally think, “In control = good”, and “out of control = very bad”!

Who really likes to feel that people and circumstances are out of our control.

Yet, life not only is out of our control, it is rather important for us to recognize this fact.

When we think we “are in control” or if we live trying to “be in control”, that is actually a bad place to be.

One of those bad things is that we mix up the role that belongs to us with the role that belongs to God. We are terrible at trying to be God (despite the fact that we work at it rather frequently).

My friend, Ricky Alcantar from Cross of Grace Church in El Paso, Texas wrote this article on facing the reality of it being good to know life is out of our control, “Fear Not, The Universe Is Wildly Out of Your Control”.

This is a healthy and restful lesson to learn.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 5.02.16

“Contentment is in Christ”

 

Philippians 4:10-13

Although grateful for financial support from the Philippian Church, Paul wants them to know he remains content regardless of help sent to him

 

1.  Paul is not bringing up a new subject as much as a new application

Throughout this letter Paul has exalted the surpassing value of life in Christ (1:21, 2:3, 2:14, 2:17, 3:8, 4:2, 4:4-6)

The common principle in these passages is that what we have in Christ is always a greater reality than our circumstances and struggles

2.  Paul applies our having Christ to our having contentment

Paul seems to be saying he didn’t need their financial help (v11a).

He does not mean he didn’t have good use for it

He wants to share a profound truth – that he is content regardless of need

We may have shortages in the things we would like and can use, but our soul should be filled to satisfaction by Jesus

Paul says this satisfaction can sustain us in “any and every circumstance” (v12)

Being content while still having legitimate needs doesn’t mean we are indifferent or unaffected

It means what we have in Christ is always of far greater value

To say it another way Christ and his gospel are always enough

Paul indicates contentment even applies when we have plenty.

Why does he need to say that?

Prosperity is a dangerous condition, because it easily becomes addictive

It breeds entitlement (I should have this) and discontent (I want something better)

Contentment in plenty means we are thankful, satisfied and recognize God’s right to what we have

3.  Contentment this pervasive, needs to be learned (vs 11-12)

How do we learn contentment in “any and every circumstance”?

Paul knows how to be content from what he knows about Christ!

Throughout this letter Christ is the reason for Paul’s perspectives (1:6, 2:10, 3:10, 3:12, 3:14, 3:20-21, 4:5-6)

These passages magnify: Who Christ is . . What he has done . . What he is doing . . What he has waiting for us

All this can be summed up by 3:8

“I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ”

4.  Let’s dig into “contentment in Christ” more deeply

Christ saves us to make us complete so we can spend eternity with him

            We will become like Jesus in his perfect humanity (1 John 3:2)

            And even now, we are gradually being transformed to be more like him (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Both passages describe seeing Christ as part of this process

This is not simply physical sight, it is a work of the Holy Spirit who enables our heart to see Christ

The more clearly our heart sees Christ “as he is”, the more like him we become  

This ‘seeing’ will not be perfect until we shed our sinful nature, then when our heart fully sees him, everything in us will want to be like him

Do you want to be content (satisfied) in Christ?

Then look at Christ more!

Read his word, talk to him, talk with others about him, praise him, and meditate on him

5.  We can do this through Christ! (v13)

We can “do all things” that he asks of us

This is not a blank check for us to use how we want

“This and every declaration in the Bible can only be understood by making them God-centered. Meaning all things are meant to serve him” (Matt Chandler)

 “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” is God’s commitment to fully enable us to live for him – including our being content!

THIS IS POWERFUL!

5 year old Levi has Down’s Syndrome. And that is the easiest of his physical difficulties. His adversities include four open heart surgeries (and counting).

This testimony by his dad, a student at Bethlehem Seminary, is powerful, perspective correcting, and encouraging!

“Drinking Deeply of the Tenderness of Christ” from Bethlehem College & Seminary on Vimeo.