Bible Study

Content in Christ

Philippians 4:10-13

In childhood, most of us imagined what our lives would look like in the future. We would pretend to have our dream job, dream family, and dream home. We would come up with a myriad of ideas on what our lives would look like in the future which filled us with hope. But then reality begins to set in as we grow up. We realize that all the dreams we had as children are much harder or different than we thought they would be. We get married and realize that sharing your life with another human isn’t simple. We have children but they are “real” and they don’t match our preconceptions of what having children means. We find a career and realize why it’s called “work.” You commit to a church and you find out that everyone needs Jesus. When imagination meets reality our contentment is tested and the possibilities we dreamt about give way to the reality of a fallen world.

In the face of reality, will we look on our life as gracious blessings or will we see it as undeserved impoverishment?

Universal Chase for Contentment

Every person deeply desires contentment in their lives, but it is not the natural mindset. In a world full of God's’ gifts and bounding generosity we want the things that are just beyond our reach thinking that our contentment lies within what we do not have. Even when we achieve our goals we often enjoy it for a short time then begin to chase something else still hoping to find that place where we are satisfied. We distract ourselves by achieving goals such as education, career, marriage, children, or a better salary expecting each one to fulfill us. But, often times we find that we have made it to each step in life, yet we are still unable to be content. The reason we achieve and are still found wanting is because contentment can only be found in the person and works of Jesus Christ.

“The reason why we lay ahold of the things that are just outside of our reach, and before we know it they’re gone, is because you and I were made for something much more grand.”

Unusual Contours of Contentment

In Philippians, Paul describes how he is able to find contentment in any situation. Paul creates an unusual picture of what is required for one to be content regardless of whether they are in seasons of wealth or poverty.

  1. Contentment is free from prideful comparison and expectation of others

    Comparison is not necessarily a negative perception. Comparison can be used for our own growth when we learn from one another. When we see how others are living in ways that we wish we could do better we can learn from their example. This mindset is a humble comparison. However, comparison becomes an issue when we move from humble comparison to prideful comparison. Pride can hijack our perception when we begin to see others as threats to our own glory or as failures because they are unable to contribute more to our own glory. This pride breeds jealousy and selfish ambition which destroys the ability to be content with what we have.

  2. Contentment is not dependent on circumstances

    The reality is that if we are not content with where we are now, we never will be because all of our hopes and dreams are placed in something that ultimately cannot handle our expectations. Paul says that contentment is not a destination, rather it is a mode of travel. We do not finally arrive at a place where we are content, we must be navigators who move throughout the world with a heart of contentment.

  3. Contentment is a battle in the ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ of life

    The basic truth is that the more we have the more we want. We must guard our hearts against discontentment even when we have plenty. In times of great wealth, we will always want just a little bit more. If we do not learn how to be content in any circumstance, our greed will become insatiable.  

  4. Contentment is learned over time

    Contentment does not come through an epiphany. It is an attitude that is learned over time. We must grow in contentment throughout the seasons of our lives.

“If we consistently go about life looking at others, and using them as a mirror to either validate ourselves, to feel superior, or feel inferior, we will not live as content people.”

The Secret: Our Union with Christ

Our daily existence in trusting and loving Christ is what brings life to the believer. This was a radical notion for the culture at large of Paul’s time because a widely held philosophy was that contentment was found in self-sufficiency. Paul rejects the idea that contentment is an outpouring of independence by saying that he is capable of being content because he is dependent on Christ.

Paul is capable of being content, even inside of a prison, because he knows that everything he has been given is a gift. Paul knows that every breath he takes is receiving mercy from God’s goodness. We were created with desires in order to join with God in reshaping the world to make it new. When we are united in Christ we place our desires under his rule which brings us into the fold of contented people.

“In light of what scripture teaches about anthropology, about who humans are, and how we’re wired, and how we function, we don’t deserve anything. Therefore, everything we have is mercy. It’s grace.”

What it means to be united with Christ

  1. Everything we need and lack is found in Christ

  2. Christ is always with us, and will never forsake us

  3. We are in Christ, who is all sufficient

  4. The all sufficient Christ is in us

Contentment is yours, if you desire it, because you are in Christ, and he is in you.

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide


Guarded in Christ

Philippians 4:2-9

Throughout the Philippian epistle, Paul is reminding the church that they are living in the reality that Jesus Christ is transforming all things in order to make them new. Paul encourages us to keep our eyes focused on the reality that we are citizens of Heaven, however, the one thing that will take our eyes off that reality is the conflict of how we live out the reality of Christ’s reign. Rather than being united under the saving grace of Christ we are often divided over how to live out Jesus’ reign. Paul says that Satan loves to use that diversion of our focus to steal our hope, and to completely zap us of all our passion for the gospel. We become filled with seething anger at one another causing anxiety for all involved rather than a church united under one hope.

In the midst of this dilemma, how do we guard against fighting over the how’s of following Jesus?

Why “the how” takes over “the what”

Throughout history the church has had problems with strong leaders who begin to quibble and fight over how they should lead their congregation in following Christ. When this happens it is often the congregation that suffers the consequences of such debates. It would be understandable if these issues occurred in churches that did not have a strong theology, but the problem is we can often find this kind of bickering in churches that are strong theologically and have high biblical convictions. These argumentative obstacles occur when convictions of seeking God’s way shifts into seeking our own way.  We can become obsessed with our method of worship, our way of doing ministry, our way of preaching, our methods of following Christ become the only method to follow Christ. It is within this atmosphere that we can begin to look down on other groups with a sense of spiritual superiority. If other churches do not follow Christ our way then we can immediately separate ourselves from them. The method we use, or how, we worship becomes far more important than who we worship.   

In a healthy church, strong convictions breed healthy disciples. In discipleship we begin to mimic the person that we are following which means we become more like Christ. But, if we become obsessed with our methodology rather than the one we worship, strong convictions act as a poison in the church which slowly spreads from the leadership to the congregation. Paul knows that Philippi has strong convictions for the gospel, but somewhere along the way two leaders are becoming obsessed with their own way which is threatening to tear the church apart. We must be sure that we are not becoming calloused to what Jesus has done, in favor of burning with a passion for the opinions of what we should be doing.  

“When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.”

It is important to recognize that it is not wrong to be passionate about how we follow Jesus. However, it becomes a problem when our love for Jesus becomes overshadowed by our way of following him. It is also crucial to realize that this is not something only leaders of the church should be watching out for. We are all called to be ambassadors for Christ which means it is a heart issue that we must all watch out for because we are all called to lead and serve the church forward with the gifts that God has given us. Methodology is vastly important because it should unite us as we live our lives as disciples of Christ, but it becomes an issue when it becomes the focus.   

“If we leave Jesus behind, what is the point of being the church?”

Paul’s Habits to keep us focused on “the what”

If we want to be a people who know Christ, then we must be a people with habits that saturate our hearts in what Christ has accomplished on our behalf.

Habit 1: Thanksgiving before the Father

The first habit that Paul encourages us to practice is to rejoice in every aspect of our lives. This can be incredibly difficult for us to grasp because our lives are complex. There is a plethora of events which we could say do not evoke a spirit of rejoicing. Yet, Paul encourages us to rejoice in all things because of what Christ has done. Regardless of what happens in our lives, either positive or negative, we can rest assured that we are reconciled to our loving Heavenly Father thanks to what Jesus has done for us. We can draw near to God and He draws near to us. If we make it a habit of pushing away from God, then our lives will be full of anxiety, fear, and worry. Then we will expect other people to fill the void only God can fill which leads to fighting over the best method of overcoming our obstacles.

Habit 2: Hospitality towards others

Paul says that we must literally practice the “what” of Jesus’ kingdom because every day we are going through the motions of what the world says is true, just, pure, and noble. We must strengthen our muscles of discipleship towards Christ and what it looks like to be part of his kingdom by forming habits that mimic those truths. Paul is saying that in order to be a people who properly sees what Jesus has done, we need practices that captures the picture of the truth of Jesus. Hospitality is a habit that keeps our focus in check.

Hospitality is simply welcoming others as Christ has welcomed us. It creates a grace filled space where a friend or stranger can enter and experience the welcoming spirit of Christ. It is a way to express love for others in the way that Jesus loved us even when we were sinners. It challenges our assumptions of other people and pushes away our biases towards others by reminding us of the welcoming grace that we have received in Jesus. As we sacrificially welcome others into our lives our hearts begin to open to the understanding that we all are welcomed into the adopted family of God which keeps us focused on the what so that the how’s can take care of themselves.

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcription-Lent Guide


Awaiting Christ

Philippians 3:17-4:1

The concept of nations and super powers are not simply a 21st century reality. There have been many nations throughout history who have conquered lands and people for the sake of greater power. Rome was one of the most successful conquerors in history. Rome was able to keep its power due to the colonization of Roman citizens in a conquered area. Rome would plant colonies so that Roman education, arts, and law would permeate throughout the conquered lands. During this time in Philipi, loyal Romans would burn incense at the temple to declare that Caesar was their lord. It is during this time that Paul declares to the Roman power that there is another king, besides Caesar, who was crucified. Paul affirms that those who follow Christ as Lord find their citizenship in Heaven; thus, eagerly waiting for Christ’s return when he will redeem all things to himself.

“There is a greater kingdom in which we have been invited into. There is a truer reality. Your true citizenship is in Heaven not the governments in this world.”


The gospel calls us to declare our allegiance to Christ rather than the façade kingdoms of today.

When we are looking for false kingdoms or Caesars of today, we must ask two questions:

1. What seems to hold power over us apart from Christ?

2. What is our allegiance to that power?

The Caesars of this world could be anything from a sinful mindset to sinful acts of the heart or an allegiance to a government. If there is anything in our lives that takes the place of Christ it is a false authority.

A Desperate Blindness: Enemies of Christ

Paul warns the church to watch out for those who are enemies of the cross. There are those who are not yet awakened to the reality of the lordship of Christ and his kingdom. There is a desperate blindness among those who are only capable of seeing the world that is right before them rather than Christ’s redeemed kingdom which has been brought through the cross.

Paul warns us to watch out for four markers of those who are not living in the reality of Christ’s kingdom:

1. Their end goal is destruction

The end goal for Christians is the resurrection, but destruction is the end for those who are enemies of Christ.

2. Their god is their belly

This marks those who are overcome by the authority of their bodily appetites including food, drink, and sex.

3. They glory in their shame

It is natural for those who do something wrong to hide their shame from others. But those who are enemies of the cross will gloat about their indiscriminate behavior.

4. Their minds are set on earthly things

In Colossians, Paul describes “earthly things” as: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, idolatry, anger, wrath, slander, and obscene talk. The minds of Christ’s enemies are set on earthly things and are consumed by these vices rather than seeing the true reality of the redeemed kingdom given to us by Christ.

Paul contrasts the two realities of those who succumb to the destruction of the false kingdoms of this world with the hopeful reality that our true citizenship is in Heaven where we eagerly await our savior.

A Hopeful Reality

Paul points to a deeper reality in the midst of the church’s persecution under Roman rule. Paul reaffirms that there are two aspects which lead us away from destruction and pushes us towards the hope we see in Christ.

1. We are citizens of Heaven

2. We are waiting for our Savior from Heaven

It is important to recognize that when Paul talks about Heaven, he is not simply talking about a future destination that we go to when we die. Heaven is the dwelling place where God’s presence uniquely dwells, thus all is as it should be. Scripture tells us that Heaven is a real place that believers go to when they die, but it also declares that Christ will bring Heaven to earth. This is good news for us because that means that what we do on earth matters. As we join Christ in his work some of that endeavor will be redeemed into eternity.

“We are called to join God in His work to make all things new.”

Our ability to stand firm in the saving reality of Christ rather than being consumed by the false kingdoms of this world is directly correlated with our understanding of Heaven. We must be reminded that we are citizens of Heaven and we are waiting for our savior from Heaven which should affect how will live in the here and now. Without this understanding of our current reality we begin to live within the earthly operation which Paul warned against.

We no longer need to fear whether the purposes of God will come to fruition. We no longer need to wonder if there will be justice for suffering or relief from pain. We do not have to wonder if there is salvation for the lost. Christ’s kingdom declares that sin and death do not have the final say. Christ is the one who rules in righteousness and he is bringing his kingdom to earth where all will be redeemed to him. It is in this reality that we can hold on to hope.

“We have been redeemed by the finished work of Jesus Christ;

the one who rules in righteousness.”

Are we allowing the Caesars of this world to have the final say over our lives? Or are we living under the citizenship of our righteous ruler who makes all things new?

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide


The Importance of Confession

As Paul approaches the end of his letter to the church in Philipi, he implores his readers to remember that they are a work in progress. As human beings we can become tied up in the human tension which consists of a desire for perfection while being fully aware that we are not close to this goal. Paul reminds us that even though he is an apostle he has not attained this perfection. It is important for us to understand the tension of who we long to be and who we really are in order to avoid a life of hypocrisy.

Human Tension

Humans live in the tension of having a genuine desire to live for God, but struggle in the process. We want to live lives that mimic love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Yet, even though we may sincerely desire these things, we find that it is incredibly difficult to do so consistently. We somehow fall short of living the lives we wish we could. As we grow in our awareness of our flesh and sinfulness our dependency on the cross enlarges.

Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy... He who is alone with his sins is utterly alone.”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Within this tension the gospel gives us hope to press on. Paul declares that there is no height nor depth that the cross cannot go, in order to bridge the gap between us and God’s holiness. By God’s grace Christ makes us his own; we belong to him. The question is: how do we live in the knowledge that we belong to Christ despite the human tension that we find ourselves in?

We sense that we should want to know God and live accordingly.

And yet, while I feel I want it, I fail to obtain it.

The Mistaken Ways of Resolving the Tension

Rather than resolving the tension of our sin and the process of God’s transformative grace we try to move forward quickly. We can easily become dishonest with the fact that our transformation is ongoing and pretend to be further along in the process than we are. The ideal of perfection becomes tantalizing to the point that we would rather pretend to be perfect than be honest about our shortcomings.  

  1. Pretending

    We tend to hide our sin from God or others by pretending that everything we do is acceptable. We can create habits of avoiding those who would keep us accountable for our actions which naturally turns into a form of isolation. We begin pretending to be someone we are not in order to hide our shortcomings. Hopelessness erupts in our lives when we believe that life in Christ is only available to the spiritual elite.

  2. Performing

    In order to cover our failures, we bury our sin in busyness to impress God and/or other people. We put on our best moral performance to meet everyone’s expectations of us in hopes that the tension we desperately hope to avoid will disappear. The outcome of such a performance is hypocrisy rather than peace. We become trapped in the cycle of seeing the sham of our performance which leads to the sense of belonging to our sin, rather than Christ, which returns us to our habit of performing.

If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

-Mark Twain

Pretending and performing only furthers the dichotomy between the people we pretend to be and our true selves. It binds us into a false assumption that we belong to our sins rather than exist under the banner of God’s grace through the cross of Christ.

Confession: The Gospel Key to Resolving the Tension

Paul discourages us from using the old system of law or titles in order to pretend that we are living in perfection. Instead, Paul encourages us to use any means necessary in order to grow in the reality of grace even if that means revealing our shortcomings. As we mature, we will grow in our understanding of how holy God is which, in turn, reveals the depths of our sin while simultaneously revealing how good God’s grace is in light of the cross. Being a mature Christian is not about perfection, but the realization that there is always room to grow.

The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

-Timothy Keller

The key for pressing forward to Christ is the discipline of confession.

The two types of confession

  1. We must come to terms with the fact that we are unable to free or protect ourselves from our shortcomings.

  2. Recognize that Christ has made us his own

    Confession is simply admitting these two truths before God which provides us with the hope to move forward. Confession is the act of examining our lives so that we can bring our shortcomings before God and humbly receive the truth that the only way to freedom is moving towards Christ. We also confess our knowledge that Christ has made us his own despite our failures which means we do not have to pretend that we are spiritually pure. We confess that we have sinned and that we belong to Jesus Christ.  

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Philippians 3:11

Do we live as though we belong to Christ or do we live as though we belong to our failures and shortcomings?

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide