chrisitan podcast

A New Way of Relating

Mark 2:13-3:6

How often have we fallen into religious trihardism? Religious trihardism is the notion that we can earn God’s favor by following a laundry list of religious practices and rituals. The Pharisees of Jesus’ day were notorious for their religious trihardism that created an environment of self-righteousness and legalism which drew lines between the religious elite and everyone else. Jesus came with a new message regarding our place with God which was a direct threat to the established order created by the Pharisees.

Missional Impact

 The Gospel of Mark shows Jesus’ desire to turn outcasts into insiders. Jesus meets a man named Levi who was a tax collector. Tax collectors at this time were highly disliked due to their union with Rome to gain money from their own people which was seen as a disgrace to fellow Jews. But, Jesus calls Levi to be a disciple turning him into an insider and his reaction shows how missional impact is possible when our lives are changed by Jesus.


Gospeled Life + Relational Proximity x Gospel Clarity =Missional Impact

  1. Gospeled Life-A life transformed and changed by Jesus. As we come to Jesus we learn truths about our lives that we did not understand before and become transformed by Christ

  2. Relational Proximity-As we live our changed lives among our family, friends, co-workers, and communities around us we are living in relational proximity

  3. Gospel Clarity-When we use our words to express the change that we have experienced we will have a missional impact

  4. Missional Impact- Our transformational story will create more disciples of Jesus 

Levi answers Jesus’ call to discipleship and his life is immediately changed. Levi goes out into his communities and tells everyone about the transformation he just received. Levi tells other outcasts about the change that Jesus provides so that more outsiders are welcomed as insiders creating more disciples of Christ. 

“If we will live lives that are transformed by Jesus. If we will remain in relational proximity of those who do not know Jesus and will be clear about why our lives are changed we will see God use that to reach more people.”


Acknowledge our Need

The Pharisees come across a meal being shared between unclean people and Jesus who, as a Rabbi, is in danger of becoming ceremonially unclean if he makes contact with other unclean people. When the Pharisees comment on Jesus’ actions his response is that he has come to heal the sick not the healthy. One of the major hurdles we have when it comes to being transformed by Jesus is recognizing our need for his grace. We must come to terms with the fact that all of us need the redeeming power of Christ in order to become a transformed people welcomed into the fold. Jesus doesn’t come for the self-righteous because they don’t have a need. But, Jesus came for those who recognize their separation from God due to their sins and to amend the gap created by sinfulness so that all have access to God.  


“The gospel continues to save us as we continue to acknowledge our need for grace.”


Human Need over Ceremonial Law

Jesus claims that the Kingdom of God is completely new. The old religious structure that has been set up will not hold the Kingdom of God. The way to God that Jesus is creating is not through religious practices but through joyful faith and association with Jesus. We do not get to eternity through going to church, conducting a Bible Study, or the giving of your resources. The only way we are brought back to God is through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. 


The Pharisees get to a point where they are simply waiting for Jesus to make a mistake so that they can call attention to his failings. While worshiping in the synagogue, Jesus calls over a man with a withered hand. Rather than waiting for the Pharisees to accuse him, Jesus asked the Pharisees whether or not it is lawful to do good or harm on the sabbath. The Pharisees are stunned  because they have emphasized lawful requirement to the point that the lines for meeting human need over ceremonial law have become completely blurred. Religious trihardism created people that did not honor a holy God, but obstinate people who thought they could behave their way into the good graces of God. Jesus heals the man with a withered hand because he has created an entirely new way of relating to God.


“Jesus sets forth a basic principle: human need should take precedence over ceremonial and religious laws.” 


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


A Deeper Healing

Mark 2:1-12

Jesus drives us deeper than our perceived need

The gospel of Mark tells a well known story of a paralytic man who wanted to see Jesus; but because the crowd surrounding Jesus was so compact the only way to get to him was for his friends to lower him down through the roof of the building that Jesus was in. In a time where the inability to be independent was a massive burden, the paralytic man was hoping to be healed by the only being who could do such a miraculous work. However, we notice that Jesus does not heal the physical ailments of the man immediately, but his first words are “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This is because the man needs a deeper healing than just his physical maladies. It is a completely understandable desire for this man to want to be able to move his body as it should and it is not a bad desire. But Jesus sees that it doesn’t go deep enough because it doesn’t heal the heart. Jesus will not give us our strongest desire until he is our strongest desire. If our strongest desire is anything beyond Jesus, we will be devastated when it fails.

“Whatever your need is it is meant to drive you to Jesus who will take you deeper.” 


Jesus meets us in our need with His aggressive grace

As our need drives us to Jesus, he meets us in the midst of our struggle with his aggressive grace. It is rather strange that Jesus offers forgiveness to the paralytic man even though it seems he came to Jesus for other reasons besides repentance. However, Jesus saw the paralytic man’s faith through his eager desire to get to Jesus even within his powerlessness. This man’s actions mimic our own lives in that we come powerless towards Christ and cast ourselves on his mercy. It is not an attempt to buy God’s favor because grace is not earned. Faith is not earning Christ’s grace, but is trusting in his ability to deeply heal us holistically. When Jesus sees the glimpse of faith in the paralytic man and the actions of his friends, he responds with disproportionate grace. We may not always know how to put words to the weight of our afflictions, but as we ache towards Christ he meets us with his aggressive grace.

“If [Jesus] were not aggressive with his grace, none of us would have a saving faith because faith is not a virtue it is a gift.” 

Jesus overcomes our need with the ultimate healing

In this passage we see Jesus answering a question about his identity. When Jesus declares the paralytic man’s sins are forgiven the scribes are confused because sin can only be forgiven by the one who is sinned against. God is the only one who can forgive sins because all sin is an offense to Him. The scribes become perplexed at Jesus of Nazareth who claims to have the power to forgive this man’s sins which would only be possible if he were God. The scribes cannot verify that man’s sins are forgiven, but to show that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins he commands the paralyzed man to get up, pick up his mat, and to walk home. Jesus verifies his ability to forgive sins by expressing his authority in something that seems impossible. 

The truth is that sin and brokenness are inextricably linked together. We have all sinned and have been sinned against which always brings brokenness to our lives. The good news of the gospel is all of that is healed in Jesus Christ. The deep need we have for our sins to be forgiven, our brokenness healed and the deepest desires of our hearts to be fulfilled is all healed because Jesus is healing all. 

“Sin needs forgiving and brokenness needs healing and Jesus does both. 

This is the deeper healing.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


The Call to Follow

Mark 1:14-20

All of us are prone to think about ourselves first and foremost even in the midst of the good news that others have. This results in living in a Kingdom of self. Mark begins his gospel by warning us against the pitfalls of the false Kingdom of self and announces the triumphant kingdom that Jesus brings to us.

Kingdom Contrast

Mark places the kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God side by side in order to contrast their major differences. Mark wants us to see that the kingdom of this world is a broken Kingdom of self. When we live in the Kingdom of self we tend to treat everyone and everything around us as being geared towards serving us.

Mark wants to point us to a truer and better kingdom. A kingdom of life where the true king is enthroned. God’s people have been longing for a king to set them free from the bonds of the world. Jesus arrives and says that the opportune time has come for the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the active exercise of God’s righteous power and authority with the rightful king enthroned. Jesus says that there is a new king in power that will usher in the healing of the world and a new way of life.

Even though a new king has been announced we still struggle to keep Jesus on the throne of our lives rather than ourselves. The reason we think about ourselves first is because we are born into a reality of sin. The problem is that there are few things that make us more functionally miserable than being self absorbed. It constantly makes us think of ourselves above everyone else which is a horrible experience. Very few people are capable of treating us or seeing us the way in which we want to be seen or treated. All of this is the outcome of living within the confines of a worldly kingdom.

“The Kingdom of self is heavily defended territory...Most sin, far from being a mere lapse of morals or a weak will, is an energetically and expensively erected defense against God.”

-Eugene Peterson

Kingdom Entrance

Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is at hand. In other words this new kingdom is within reach. We are not there yet, but we can see glimpses of its arrival in our lives.

How do we enter into this kingdom that is within reach, yet is not fully recognized?

1) Repent

Repent means more than simply changing one's mind. It means to rethink everything and look at the world through God’s rule. Repenting includes the act of turning away from wasting our time, money, and talents on the Kingdom of self where we try to surpass other people in the rat race of materialism.

2) Believe the Gospel

Believing in the gospel requires trusting the announcement of joyful news. When we trust the good news we turn from our agendas and enter into the kingdom that Jesus brings. We are all leaning on something that we think matters most in this life. If we lean on anything other than Jesus it is another form of enthroning ourselves. Believing is acting on what we know to be true.

“Repent: give up your agenda and trust me for mine.”

Kingdom Life

The call that Jesus gives us to respond through repentance and trust is an ongoing act rather than a one time event. It is the way that we continue in the life of the Kingdom of God. It is something that should be happening in our daily lives. Following Jesus means that knowing him becomes our supreme passion. Jesus is saying that we must die to the Kingdom of self and enter into the Kingdom of God. Jesus calls us to follow him so fully that all other attachments pale in comparison to our pursuit of him.

“Our call is to bring glimpses and tastes of God’s brand new world that is coming here and now...what people need to experience is an outpost of the Kingdom of God in the midst of a world that operates in the Kingdom of self”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Identity

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6

We all know that we are going to die one day but we  tend to push our entire lives towards making a mark on the world that will prove we had significance. We hope to impact the world around us so that when we pass on our lives will live on in people’s memory. It is because of this goal that the idea of being forgotten once we die stings our pride. The sting of being forgotten comes from a misplaced identity. Our identity is where we locate our significance. Identity is what matters the most about us. If our identity is rightly located being forgotten loses its sting. But often our identities are misplaced.

Four areas we misplace our identities:

  1. Our performance-I am what I do

  2. Possessions-I am what I have

  3. Pleasure-I am what I want

  4. Popularity-I am what others think of me

Living Blind

When we do not live every aspect of our lives before Christ we are living blind. Paul says that even when we eat and drink we should be doing so with the glory of God in mind. This means that there is nothing in our lives that is too mundane or basic to be under the umbrella of God’s glory. We are living blind if we do not recognize that everything, including the most foundational aspects of our lives, was made to give glory to God. The issue of living blind emerges when we are consumed with our own story rather than the story of Jesus. We place our identity in our performance, possessions, pleasure, and popularity rather than focusing on how our lives can be joined with creation in giving glory to God. We labor for significance in the wrong places all the while feeling as though we are losing the battle which we are if we do not place our identity in Christ.

We must take an honest account of our lives to determine whether we are living for Christ or for ourselves.

Self-Glory Diagnostic:

  1. We parade in public what should be private

  2. We are too self-referencing

  3. We talk when we should be quiet

  4. We care too much about what people think of us

“Our identity apart from Christ is always misplaced.”

Seeing the Light

The only way that we can come into the light from living blind is through the words of renewal that God has spoken into existence post fall. We are being recreated through Christ into new creations. In order for us to find out who we are we must start with whose we are. The core of our identity is not what we do but who we belong to. This means that everything we do should flow out of an understanding that our identity belongs in Christ. The place of our self is service to one another for the sake of Christ.

“The light coming in the midst of darkness of living for self and shining a light on the glory of Jesus Christ wakes us up to whose we are.”

Becoming who we are

What does it mean to be created for the glory of God?

Glory simply means God’s character and attributes going public for all to see. As we grow in the goodness, grace, and work of God by making him the primary aim of our lives we are being transformed into the image of God so that the world can see God’s character and attributes on display. Greed transforms into generosity, arrogance transforms into humility, and covetousness transforms into satisfaction. What  was lost in the fall is being restored in those who worship the creator and walk in his light. Our identity is not our self-promotion which is where we naturally lean, but as new creations in Christ we are being restored to be reflections of God which is what we were originally created to be in the first place.

“We tell stories that begin and end with us and that’s what makes this so incredibly difficult. That’s also what makes it so incredibly glorious. God is at work in the midst of the body restoring his image in us through one another.”

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Renewal

Romans 3:21-26

Once we are in Christ we begin a continuous process of renewal. Gospel renewal means that the work of God continues after we are saved. God is not done with us. It is apparent that humans were created to worship something. We will either worship ourselves, creation, our desires or God. When we give ourselves to Christ we are telling the world that we are seeking to worship God alone. Thus the process begins in which God will renew the desires we once had for the flesh into desires that bring about His glory into the world. We are being renewed day by day into the image of our creator.

But what is the meaning of Gospel Renewal?

We have been saved from the penalty of sin

We were made to reflect God’s glory, but time and again we choose to disregard love for God and replace it with lesser loves. We look to our jobs to fulfill our identity or we look for the achievements of our lives to give us significance. We constantly look for places other than the worship of God to find satisfaction. It is because we are inclined to reject God’s love and substitute it for worldly desires that Paul points out in Romans that there is not one who is righteous. We have turned to find glory in creation or ourselves rather than accepting the glory of God. This is a crucial point because without an understanding of the bitterness of our sin we cannot be ready to accept the sweetness of Jesus Christ.

God does not want to give us some quick fix for our tendencies towards hatred over love, lust over fidelity, abuse over tenderness, but He wants to completely renew our inclinations to mimic His glory, goodness, and beauty by experiencing the fullness of His presence which is only made possible by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. God does not just simply sweep our sin under the rug, but he actively deals with it so that we may become renewed creations through the grace that is given to us by the blood of Jesus. We do not need to work to overcome our shame or guilt because God has placed the wrath we deserve on Jesus so that we may be given a renewed life.

“The best thing that could ever be created is the world

God created for us to live in.”

We are being saved from the power of sin

Salvation by grace alone creates an opportunity for cheap grace. Cheap grace occurs when we use the renewed life that God has given us in order to excuse our sinful acts. Paul declares that those who are baptized in Christ have been buried with Christ in death so that we may walk in the newness of life. Once we have accepted the renewed life given to us by God we can no longer actively seek to continue in our sinful nature. If we have been baptized in Christ we have been held under the waters of judgement and we have been raised to newness of life. We now have the glory and spirit of God living within us which means our lives are fundamentally different. We must consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. Renewal in the gospel is not just about one moment of forgiveness, but it means that we walk within this renewed life daily.

God’s means for renewal and freedom from the power of sin:

1) Identity in Christ

God looks upon us with delight and he is pleased with us because of our identity in Jesus Christ. God does not pour shame upon our mistakes but washes his judgement over Jesus so that we are resurrected alongside him in newness of life.

2) We have power in the Spirit of God

We have been given a renewed desire within the holy character of God through his Spirit. It cultivates a desire of holiness, obedience, and guides us as we seek life in Him. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome our fleshly desires so that we can serve God in wholeness.

“Gospel renewal does not come from feeling more guilty or demanding more of ourselves. Gospel renewal comes by God’s means”

We will be saved from the presence of sin

One day God will make all things new bringing back the glory that existed before the fall. We are pilgrimaging towards the day that death and sin will no longer exist. The promise that we will be saved from the very presence of sin guarantees complete renewal of all of creation. We have confidence that all things will come together for the good of those who are in Jesus since the outcome of the new Jerusalem is assured through God’s promise that he will make it a reality himself. This promise gives us a hope that allows us to endure the trials, tribulations, and temptations that come our way because we know the truth that God will end the tension that we face. God promises that one day we will be free from the presence of our fleshly desires and will live in a redeemed glorified state where we will no longer have to fight the tension of living for him.


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Conversion

Matthew 28:16-20

Conversion has become a major taboo in our culture today. Converting people is something that we do not often hear in civilized conversation because of the negative connotations that are often affiliated with it. In order to understand the importance of conversion we need to come to an understanding of what conversion means. The most basic definition of conversion is the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another. It is a complete transformation. Conversion means that you become something that you weren’t before. Rather than conversion being a manipulative tool or a way to control the behaviors that we find unsavory, conversion is the transformation from death in our sin to being alive in Jesus Christ.

Why would we want anyone to be Converted?

A major theme in the gospel of Matthew is that God has been at work to redeem the world throughout history. A common question that exists in the midst of humanity’s shortcomings is how will God remove the broken intentions and desires that exist in our world? How will God reconcile his creation to himself? The answer is that one will come who will bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth who is Jesus Christ. Every human being has been seeking satisfaction in earthly appetites which always leaves them grasping at straws. Every human longing, want, and desire was ultimately desiring Jesus Christ and now he has come. We want to convert people because every longing that they have can be fulfilled in Jesus whether they know it or not. Everything else in this world will pass away except the promises of Jesus who vehemently states that he will be with us forever.

“Why would we want anyone to experience this new birth, eyes opened to see Jesus? It’s because it is everything they have ever desired, whether they realize it or not.”

Three Distorted Approaches to Making Disciples

When we approach people with the proposition of conversion we must remember that we are not the ones who are transforming them because God is the only one who has that power. In one of the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples he warned them that there would be many who would claim to know Christ but would end up leading people astray. We must be aware of how we are representing Christ so that we do not unintentionally lead others away from truth.

1. The Parrot Approach

The Parrot approach focuses on converting the mind. Proper conversion is not about getting other people to think like us or mimic our jargon. The pitfall in this approach is that we often begin to think that people are born again if they just say the right religious phrases or have the correct theological answers. One could be saying all the right things or repeating what we have told them, but could still be dead inside. Following Christ is about more than mere information, it is about complete transformation. The outcome of the Parrot Approach is not disciples of Christ, but disciples of us.

2. The Puppet Approach

The Puppet approach focuses on colonizing the will of others. Jesus explains that disciples will come from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Jesus will renew humanity right in the culture that they are in. This emphasizes the fact that people do not have to look exactly like us to be followers of Christ. Too often we make conversion about acting exactly like us. In this approach, people live bound in the strings of our expectations rather than living in the freedom of their own transformed worship to Christ.

3. The Party Approach

The Party approach focuses on emotional highs for conversion. Jesus promises to be with us to the end of the age which is eternal rather than a moment or a season. Regardless of how we feel in a moment of our lives, God’s word still rings true. We often think that conversion is about experiencing a series of emotionally charged moments so that others will finally want to give their lives to Christ. Jesus wants to transform the inside not leave us endlessly searching for another high.

“We are commissioned to go after more than just right thinking, right actions, or right feelings. Jesus wants the whole person.”


The Key to True Conversion

The key to conversion is to understand that we are commissioned and God converts. It is not in our own power that conversion happens because in those circumstances we end up manipulating minds, wills, and emotions. When we allow God to convert others it leads to true transformation of the whole person. Conversion must be rooted in the power of Jesus Christ not rooted in our own power, personality, or persuasion. If we allow God to get their heart the rest will follow.

Then what is our task in the conversion process?

1. Proclaim the gospel

The best way to learn how to share the gospel is to allow God to do a work through the gospel in our own lives. People need to see that there is one who is true and on high in our lives rather than hearing people who preach from a pedestal. We need to share how Jesus has given us the newness of life which is offered to all.

2. Pray

Everyone around us is seeking to know the Lord. Sometimes we take the weight of conversion on our backs by believing we must persuade people into conversion, but it is only in God’s power. Once they are converted it is our job to bring them into the fold and teach them how to live a Christ centered life. So, ask God to change the hearts of the people around you. Ask God to give you the opportunity to share how Jesus has changed your life forever.

“What the heart most wants, the mind finds reasonable, the will finds doable, and the emotions find desirable.”

-Timothy Keller


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript

The Wonder of Resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

In the difficult seasons of our lives it can be easy to succumb to the coldness and hostility of a broken world. We can become focused on the anxiety we feel to the point that we miss out on the immense beauty that is constantly around us if we were to simply take a moment to look. It may even come to the point that we believe that death, disappointment, and frustration will win out in the end. But on Easter we are reminded of the fact that death does not have the final say. The resurrection reminds us to pause and look at the truth around us rather than the despair we may feel. The truth is that God is at work in bringing life from death.

A Counterintuitive Word

Easter is a reminder that all of our preconceived notions about death are challenged. On the first Easter when the apostles arrived at Jesus’ empty tomb they still believed that death had the final word and so they were perplexed about Jesus’ missing body. They were greeted by two heavenly messengers who asked “why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Any notion that Jesus’ body was stolen or that he falsified his death are taken off the table with this one question. All previous beliefs about death’s power over resurrection power are turned on their heads in light of the risen Lord. The problem is that rather than seeing Jesus in his resurrected glory, the disciples are only given a word of resurrection. This is something we can relate to today because we may not have the obvious view of resurrection power but we have been given a word proclaiming its existence.

“The resurrection isn’t forcefully obvious,

but resurrection and resurrection life is clearly visible.”

A Contrary Belief

We live in the tension of Jesus’ resurrection and our current experience which is that death is final. Just like the disciples, when these contradictory truths collide it is not surprising that we often respond with unbelief. It is important to note that unbelief is not synonymous with a belief in nothing, but simply means that we believe in something else more fervently. When people struggle to believe in the resurrection of Christ it is because they believe in the reality of death and all its affects more robustly.

When we are faced with the death of a loved one, we are often desperate to reassure the one who is departing that their life mattered. Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing our gratitude towards those who have had a tremendous impact on our lives or reminding them of how much they mean to us, however in these moments we often believe something about death that is not entirely true. We can often push to remind the individual that their life mattered because we erroneously believe that death is about to win, thus snatching the meaning from their lives. A world without resurrection life can lead us into believing that life is a slow surrender to death.

What if death is real, but not final?

What if Jesus is not just past, but present?  

What if Jesus were to meet us here?

Beauty of a Concrete Hope

If resurrection life is true how do we step into it?

The Easter message calls us from our old understanding of death to a new belief in resurrection life. The reality is that death is foreign to us because it was something that was not meant for us, but entered the world with sin. We are all sinned against-some of us in heinous ways- which can cause us to believe in death more than the resurrection life. But the hard truth is that we have also sinned by contributing to the violation of peace and beauty of resurrection life. Humility is the best thing for God’s people because it is there that we trust Christ who takes our sin upon himself. Resurrection life begins when we die to ourselves. The resurrection life tells us that we can finally rest because we do not bring resurrection upon ourselves, but Christ brings it to us.

“We cannot live before we die to ourselves.

When we die to ourselves we become alive in Christ.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript

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.

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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?

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Fulfillment in Christ Alone

WHAT WE WERE CREATED FOR

Humans are fundamentally searching creatures. We are constantly seeking validation and fulfillment outside of ourselves to satisfy a longing deep within each one of us. Even children are searching for connection through experiences of tasting sweets or watching movies that they have seen a multitude of times. As we grow, we continue to seek out what gives us purpose, value, and inner joy. If left to their own devices, humans naturally begin to stuff their lives full of things that break, get lost, or get old and rusty in the hopes that something will satisfy the longing of their hearts. The heart is so complex, deep, and intricate that its desire to be known cannot be satisfied through imperfect desires or people.  Unless we find our place in Christ all other longings will leave us wanting more.

“Because you made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless

 til they find thy rest in thee.”

 -Augustine

Jesus points us towards what we were truly created for when he says: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then, in his joy, he goes and sells all that he has and buys the field” (Matthew 13:44). We must realize that the good things that leave us momentarily satisfied are simply glimpses of the reality which our hearts truly long for. The reality that only exists in the Kingdom of God. When we find the reality of the kingdom, and kingship that we are searching for, we will sell all we have in order to gain it. However, we must be wary that we do not settle for achievements of the flesh which fails to accomplish true confidence.

THE WRONG KIND OF CONFIDENCE

  1. Putting our trust in religious behavior rather than the work of Christ

  2. Attaining salvation through our own desires or giftings

  3. Becoming watch dogs of heresy rather than shepherds of truth

Paul urges the church in Philippi to be cautious about putting their confidence in anything other than the saving grace of Christ. It is too easy to place one’s confidence in deeds, works, titles, or relationships. But Paul emphatically denies the notion that any of these can offer fulfillment for oneself or favor with God. We have no confidence in the work of the flesh. It’s not through circumcision and law keeping that brings about salvation, but it is the circumcision of the heart through Jesus Christ who came to fulfill the law. The mark of a new believer is not physical circumcision, but the spirit of God, at work in us.

THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS

It is important to note that it is not ambition or the celebration of hard work that is wrong. However, we must never lose sight of that fact that compared to Christ all is rubbish. Nothing can come close to the importance of one’s identity solidly planted in the restorative nature of God himself. Paul is not saying that all human achievement is worthless, but he is saying that compared to Christ, and without Christ, it is worthless.

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

 Philippians 3:8 

HOW DO WE LIVE OUR LIVES IN THE RIGHT KIND OF LOSS?

  1. Recognizing that everything that comes our way is an opportunity to gain more of Christ

    Everything that comes our way in life is our opportunity to move towards Christ. In everything that is pleasant, we give thanks to Jesus. In everything that is difficult, we lean on him for strength. We constantly live in the tension between thanks and dependency on Christ. This is counting all things as loss.

  2. Hold things gently

    As we interact with the things of this world, we will consistently demonstrate that the achievements of the flesh are not our ultimate treasure. Everything we achieve in this life will be given its value based on the value we have in Christ. This means that we will hold everything loosely because compared to Christ it is not something worth holding on too tightly. Those who hold the spoils of this life loosely will find that generosity is a natural outpouring. When we refuse to hold tightly to the temporal nature of things that rust and corrupt, we become generous.

  3. Trust that we will not lose our joy

    Experiencing loss in this world is an unfortunate side effect of the fall that we all must face. We will experience it. But, even in the loss of all things we will not grumble because our joy is Christ. This is the kind of loss that leads to life and what we were created for.

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others who do not have hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

THE BEST KIND OF KNOWING

In order for us to move past the wrong kind of confidence and push forward into the right kind of loss we must have a personal knowledge of Christ. This is not simply a knowledge of the historicity of Jesus; rather, this is the kind of knowing that makes us say that Jesus is our lord and our savior. The kind of knowing that becomes a fountainhead from which the rest of the aspects flow.

KNOWING CHRIST

  1. Biblically

    Christians are Bible people; thus we know the grand story of redemption and the reality of Christ through scripture. It is not simply a book that we read but it is the very essence of our lives. We are tethered to scripture because it is how we come to know who we are in Christ.

  2. Theologically

    We come to know Christ through the theological truths of the Christian faith which include: salvation, the trinity, humanity, and even scripture. It covers the basic theological truths because without these truths we cannot truly know Christ.

  3. Personally

    If all we have is knowing Jesus theologically and doctrinally, we reduce knowing Christ to the legalistic snare of avoiding error. Personally knowing Christ is more than orthodoxy and articulating the correct theology or doctrine. Knowing Christ personally means we commune with him as we learn from him. The love we have for him begins to grow and mature as we think of him and talk with him. We find that in Christ we are home. The longings that exist deep inside of us find rest and fulfillment in Christ alone.

“We can’t have confidence in the flesh and gain right standing before God. We have right standing before God, because he has found us.”

DOES CHRIST LOOK SO GOOD TO US THAT EVERYTHING ELSE, BY COMPARISON, SEEMS EXPENDABLE?

Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript-Lent Guide