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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


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