Matt Dennings

Sharing our riches in Christ

Philippians 4:14-23

What is Stewardship?

At the end of his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul reiterates his appreciation for their partnership in his ministry. The Philippians have constantly been partners with Paul in his ministry of the gospel and they have shared in his troubles. As we steward the time, talents, and treasures that God has given us to the ministry of the gospel we become partners of the gospel. We have all been given various talents that we can use for furthering the gospel in the world around us. It is by being good stewards of what we have that we actually participate in what God is doing through the church.  Good stewardship is what aligns our hearts and desires with the eternal kingdom of God. It is how we are trained to value, prioritize, and love the things within God’s work of redemption.

“Stewardship is how we learn to invest our very lives in what matters.”

Paul gives the church insight on the crucial principles of good stewardship. As we incorporate these principles into our own lives we can become partners in the work of God’s goodness.

Principles of Stewardship

  1. Practicing generosity rather than presuming generosity

    We must understand that everything that we are given is a gift of mercy from God. Good stewardship requires a generosity with no strings attached. We do not give our time or talents to God and others with an expectation that we will receive back what we have given.

  2. Focused on partnering with people rather than the purchasing of products

    The Kingdom of God is about people not products. Therefore, good stewardship isn’t focusing on the service or product that is given. We are partners with God and other people as we seek out His redeeming work. We must be more focused on the people we serve rather than a commodity.

  3. Long Term rather than Short term commitment

    The Kingdom of God is about people not products. Therefore, good stewardship isn’t focusing on the service or product that is given. We are partners with God and other people as we seek out His redeeming work. We must be more focused on the people we serve rather than a commodity.

The Motivation of Stewardship

  1. Overflowing fruitfulness rather than obligatory gifts

    Giving our finances, time, and talents must come from an overflowing fruitfulness within us. Just as God has given us the gift of salvation without obligation we must be willing to give what we have without expecting anything in return. We live in world with a “I scratch your back you scratch mine” mentality. However, Paul expresses that good stewardship gives without thought of reimbursement.

  2. Pleasing God rather than placating God

    God has made each and every one of us a unique individual. God has given all of us unique and beautiful talents. Within these giftings God has given us the desire to offer up all that we have to Him. As we give all of our resources we fan the flame that preaches the gospel in our lives. When we spend our lives offering the beautiful and unique offerings that only we, with our giftings, can present to the God of the universe, our lives emphasize the beautiful grace that we’ve been given in Jesus.

“And so, stewardship isn’t motivated by an overwhelming sense of guilt, but an overflow of grace. So, why steward? Because, it is an expression of the gospel, that God has fully paid the price of our redemption, and therefore we give not to placate God, but to please God.”

The Riches of Stewardship

If we’re honest, it can be incredibly difficult to give our resources. We can be consumed with the fear that giving up our riches means losing everything we have. But, Paul emphasizes that it is through the stewardship of our resources that we actually discover true riches. Stewardship actually frees us from constantly aiming for riches that will not last and points us in the direction of what is truly eternal: people entering into fellowship with Jesus Christ.

Jesus came to redeem eternal souls. True riches that last forever comes when we invest in the eternal lives of other people. When we see the fruit of eternal souls being reconciled with their loving Father through the saving grace of Jesus Christ we forget to worry about hoarding what we have. As good stewards, we see the intense beauty of redeemed people and push everything that we have towards partnering with God in redeeming a fallen world. All material possessions become insignificant in light of bringing eternal souls to the glory of Jesus Christ.

“True riches, tangibly, is most found when we see others see Jesus. When we see others grow and know Christ.”


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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