contentment

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

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 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!

ENOUGH?

Resource-Graphic_Never-Enough

 

Why does a man with a beautiful wife, pursue other women?

Why does the person with 2 billion dollars, want 3 billion?

Why does a king who rules over a vast empire still desire more land?

Why does a coach or athlete never have enough championships?

Why do the wealthy who live in beautiful mansions need still more homes in new places?

Why does the woman with closets stuffed with more fashion than she could ever wear, keep shopping for more?

Why does the celebrity who receives praise, awards and adulation, never get enough of it?

Why are we never fully satisfied?

Imagine an eternity filled with beauty, endless joys and wonderful experiences. Further imagine that this eternity had no pain, no worries, no troubles, no enemies and no sorrows. We would still end up dissatisfied and unhappy – if there was no Christ.

For we have been created by him, to know him and dwell in communion with him. We can only find true, full and lasting contentment when we are with Christ.

Hell, among other sorrows, will contain the endless gnawing pain of never being satisfied.

And so Heaven itself would become an eternal burden of emptiness without Christ being the center of it. All its glories would eventually become jaded and wearisome

The joy and glory of the Heavenly realm is the presence of Christ with us.

The presence we have now

The relationship we can grow in now

The Christ who loves us now

The Christ we can rest in now

If heaven would be empty without our Jesus, how absurd, foolish and wasteful it is to ignore him as we walk through this bruising world.

 

LONELINESS

Loneliness has many causes

It may be that our circumstances have isolated us

Perhaps we don’t fit in with other people’s expectations

Or people we cared about – have left our life

Loneliness can also be the result of attitudes and actions that have driven people away

I don’t know your situation, but I do know we often get stuck in our loneliness, becoming unsure how to get out.

I have two suggestions for you regardless of why you lonely

First, change your focus from trying to find acceptance from others, to how God can use you to touch others.

This means relationships are no longer under the expectations of what people will be for you. Instead expectations are on how God will work in and through you.

You cannot control how people treat you, but you can be confident that God wants to use you to touch people with His love and for His gospel. This should excite us, because there are no purposes more wonderful than those that God has in using us.

Right now, there are people around you who are hurting.

It may not show on the outside, but it does not take much digging for their pain to come to the surface.

Become attentive to people.

Look for ways to serve them.

People will usually be receptive to those who genuinely seek to serve them; partly because it’s relatively rare, and partly because people are looking out for themselves.

The simple question of asking people how you can pray for them can open many opportunities to show you care.

This concern can have a powerful impact.

You will find your life filling with involvements that are God focused, and encouraging. It is incredibly satisfying when you can step back and see that God is using your in various relationships

If you are not sure who to start with, look for people the world pushes off to the side

Look for those who are being mistreated. Pay attention to people from their perspective rather than you own. There is work in all of this, but people want to be near those who care for them.

Second, make God the relationship that truly satisfies you.

It pleases God when we enjoy the good things He has created for our enjoyment – but our contentment should be in Him alone.

God deeply loves us . . He has saved us . . and He is committed to graciously finishing His work in us. These realities should all bring contentment.

When we compare what God has waiting for us, with what we think is missing from our present life, there really is no comparison.

Can you say you are content in Christ even if nothing else changes in your life?

This is something we must work at and “learn” (Philippians 4:11). But once learned, it is a precious reality, because nothing can then take contentment from us.

Make your relationship with God, the one that fills your heart, satisfies your soul, and fulfills what you have been thinking relationships should be.

Although we can feel lonely, it is impossible as a child of God to be outside of love or to be alone

6.19.12

MORE

We are surrounded with prosperity

. . . And we always want more!

Compare your possessions and experiences with that of your parents and grandparents. The difference in just one generation is mind boggling! The “American dream” tells us we should expect to always do better. And technology enables us to be constantly entertained

There is much we can have and do have; and more is always being held out to us. The job of the thousands of ads we constantly hear and see is to make us discontent with what we have, so we want more of what they are selling. In his book Worldliness, CJ Mahaney uses this true story to illustrate the seduction of having more:

An American company had trouble keeping employees working in their Panama factory. The laborers lived in an agrarian, barter economy, but the company paid in cash. Since the average employee had more cash after a week’s work than he had ever seen, he would periodically quit, satisfied with what he had made. So the company gave all their employees a Sears catalog. No one quit then, because they all wanted the previously undreamed-of things they saw in that book

 

A leader of the persecuted church in Romania made this sobering observation:

“In my experience, 95 percent of the believers who face the test of persecution pass it, while 95 percent who face the test of prosperity fail it.”

The Bible warns us against the seduction prosperity in Deuteronomy 8:11-14, 17

Take care lest you forget the Lord your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; . . Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’

Prosperity and success lead to self sufficiency and pride that diminish God in our mind and hearts. We lose our sense of complete dependence upon God and our sense of urgency in pursuing Him. We ‘forget’ what He has done; we forget that all we are and have is from Him

The answer?

Well it is not necessarily to get rid of everything, although most of us might benefit from a little simplification of life and stuff. Rather the answer to make sure all we have is for God.

How generous are you with God?

Is giving and generosity part of your lifestyle?

How tightly do you cling to what you have?

Do you feel that God has the right to take what He has allowed you to have?

Do we enjoy what we have for the glory of God or for the satisfaction of our self?

I know these can be hard questions to even know how to answer, but they are questions worth considering.

Another protection from “more” is to recognize how rich we are in Christ. A careful reading of Ephesians 1 helps us to remain content with God. We gain a greater joy for the possessions of grace that are most important

Perhaps the most helpful protection of all is to want God more than anything else. If we are desperate for more of God, we will not allow lesser things to distance us from him.

Is God want we want more of?

 

R

4 THINGS THAT DON’T HAPPEN

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WHERE DOES GOOD COME FROM?

Where does GOOD come from?

The Bible tells us,

“God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:31  

In the creation story, we are repeatedly told that what God created was “good”.

This repetition of language is meant to make an emphatic point about where good comes from, AND where bad came from.

Nothing bad appeared or took place in this world – until God’s rule was rejected

The creation story informs us that God determines what is “good”.

Otherwise, how do we define good?  

Good becomes an empty concept without God, because it is ever changing (bad becomes good, good is called bad).

Without God’s authoritative declaration of what is good, that identification is left to be determined by whoever is the most powerful, or whatever voice happens to be the most influential – at that moment.

God not only made all things good, and knows what is good; he remains the source of all that is good

“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” James 1:16-17

The warning about not being “deceived” about where good comes should interest us. What are the dangers in this deception?  

1.  If we don’t think good things primarily come from God, we will see God as a secondary source of benefit. God is helpful, but he is not who we look to for the frontline needs of daily life.

2.  If we don’t see God as being the source of good, we will think we are that source. This leads to seeing ourselves as the owners of good things, rather than being God’s stewards of them.

3.  If we think good comes from sources in the world, we will live in envy of them. Our sense of urgency with biblical obedience will be diminished, because that is not where the good we want is found.

These deceptions lead to less thankfulness and more resentment; less zeal and more “chasing after the wind”.

On the other hand when we understand all good things are from God:

1.  We are drawn to the character of this good God; and we want to know him better.

2.  We recognize that God alone knows how good things remain good, which leads to glad obedience. 

The final result is that we will see more of God and his goodness in our life, which leads to more joy and contentment with our life.

Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8 

OOH, I WANT THAT!

Shiny, fun, better, more exotic

Each day we are given reasons to desire what we don’t yet have

Old, worn, flawed, insufficient, ordinary

And just as often, we are tempted to find discontentment with what we do have

People don’t have to love God to recognize that wanting is a beast whose hunger is never fully satisfied. But as those who do love God, we are to recognize that discontentment is a sign that our heart is not completely filled up with joy in Christ and his kingdom.

If Christ is ours, we should be content.

For Christ is “God with us”. This one with us is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace”. He is described as the “radiance of the glory of God”. And it is declared that he will forever be “King of kings and Lord of Lords”.

And in Christ, God has “lavished” upon us the “riches of his grace”.

The reason we can have Christ and still not be content in him, is because we still need as Paul writes, to have –  

“the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph 1:18-19)

However, even for Paul who understood a great deal more than we do about theological truths, contentment was a reality he said he had to “learn”. This means that even for spiritual giants, owning contentment is a gradual process with peaks and valleys.

So how do we make progress in learning to be content?

Change the ratio of what you talk about with God!

What I mean is that we should spend more of our prayer time telling God how wonderful He is (in specific ways), than telling God how bad our problems are. Thank God more profusely about the riches of the gospel than complaining to God about our lousy life.

One of the obstacles to our having greater contentment is the content of our talk – both to ourselves and to God.

Yes, your life right now might be lousy, and I have no doubt that you have Alpine Mountain size problems. But, the gospel in us surmounts them all, outlasts them all, and will deliver us out of them all – forever and ever, Amen!

Next time we say, “I want that!”, wouldn’t it be a good thing if we could be talking about contentment?

SERMON LEFTOVERS 9.09.13

“Pursuing True Gain”

1 Timothy 6:1-10

Brief remarks on vs 1-2

v1 encourages humility and faithfulness

We cannot represent Jesus without them

Without these qualities, we are misrepresenting Christ

Representing Christ is what we are to do in every role we have

Paul returns again to relationships within the church

Our bond in Christ is to be the bottom line in our relationships with each other

Disagreements don’t change this principle; it is an eternal reality

The biblical principle we are to apply at these times is to “bear with one another”

Bad teaching is addressed for the third time (vs 3-5)

1 Timothy has been speaking into the life of the church on a variety of issues

The overriding theme of this book is found in 4:16

“Keep a close watch on yourself and the teaching”

We must be vigilant for the truth (protect it)

We must be vigilant with the truth (live it out)

Bad theology not a theoretical problem

This is progressively one of the most common themes in the New Testament

Bad theology is not always extreme and obvious; otherwise we could easily avoid it  

Bad teachers don’t wear warning labels; in fact they claim to be wise

A danger of bad teaching is that it’s often attractive to our human nature

It typically appeals to our self-centeredness

These teachers approach God from human logic, so it can sound good to us

Bad theology is not a minor issue

Theology means the study of God; so it involves our understanding of Him

vs 4-5 give a picture of people who don’t see God clearly  

Proud – focusing on their own opinion and agenda instead of God’s

Ignorant – thinking they are informed, yet on a foolish course

Enjoy controversy – and are more interested in arguing with people than caring for them

Bring dissension – their motivation is not gospel-centered

Slander – instead of love their forever family, they put them down

Suspicion – they quickly assume wrong motives in others

If we don’t watch our heart and teaching, these are qualities that creep into our lives

This gives urgency in how we communicate truth

This gives urgency in how we receive truth

Good teaching is described as “sound words” in v3

The value of “sound teaching” is that it leads to godliness (v3)

If you don’t live by biblical truth, the results are catastrophic (Matthew 7:24-27)

No other wisdom will stand; it all leads us over the cliff

There is great “gain” in godliness (vs 6-10)

We may agree godliness is good, but we may not be as convinced that it is gain

If we were, we would more aggressively avoid sin and fight against being lukewarm

If we were, we would measure life by our growth in godliness

If we were, we would pursue God in every way we can

One aspect of poor theology is to misunderstand the gain of godliness

v5 People look for a self-centered gain by “godliness”

Godliness is not for “gaining” stuff  

Godliness is not for “gaining” ease 

The gain of godliness is twofold

1.  The gain of godliness is in the contentment it brings (v6)

The ultimate reason why people desire money is to gain contentment

Contentment through money is not a mirage, but it is a façade

The danger of ‘loving money’ is that it takes God’s role in our heart

Randy Alcorn wrote: “Giving is the antidote to materialism

Giving brings God back into the center of our thinking on our possessions

Godliness delivers contentment, because God delivers life

Godliness is to see the realities of God clearly and then live by them 

The accuracy of godliness leads to our contentment

2.  The gain of godliness is that it leads us to Christ

What better gain could there be, than to be brought near to God

If we don’t believe this, our thinking is warped and ruinous

What do you think is gain?  

What are you pursuing?