Strengthen Your Heart With God’s Word

I found myself in a very familiar place this AM in Philippians 3:12-15

“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. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you”  (Philippians 3:12–15 ESV)

  • We continue to press on – literally ‘pursue’ this
  • This is our work to take hold of what God has worked in Jesus
  • We strain forward – literally ‘stretch forward’ like a runner for the finish
  • The goal is God himself – finding all our satisfaction, purpose, identity, worship in Him
  • This is maturity – we need to be speaking to our own selves that this is truth, resist the enemy and to this.  Confirm this word in our lives (Deut 27:26; James 1:22-25)

As I prayed thru this verse, and iChatted with my wife (Hey, I’m a multi-tasker…)- she encouraged my soul, as the good, Godly woman that she is with Zechariah 2:5 where God promises Israel that he himself will be their wall of protection – as the Piper post she forwarded me said –

And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.

God gives us strength and endurance, but he also gives us HIMSELF in Jesus.  This is the end of it all – the true worship of our Creator with our entire lives.  May we all have strength and maturity to pursue that today, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!

Don’t stall the work of the Gospel

Philippians 1:3-11 is a great prayer of Paul to the church at Philippi, where he prays that the love would be abounding more and more…specifically with knowledge and all discernment.  Why?  So that they can approve what is excellent.  Why? So that on the day of Christ they may be pure.  Why? Because everything ultimately is to bring glory to God who created all things, sustains all things, and works in all things for his glory and our growth.

The book of James, in Chapter 1:14-15 describes the process that sin works.  It starts with a thought of ours…our own desires which bubble up from the sin within us tempt us, lure us away, we act on them and then if you follow the whole course thru it ultimately brings separation from God and death.  Sin starts with a thought, I think of them as poisonous thoughts, pregnant with sin.  It may be temptation to do a specific sin (adultery, lie, etc) or it may be an “internal” sin like remaining bitter, or thinking lustful thoughts.  This is where Philippians comes in (you thought I forgot didn’t you…). When we have these poisonous thoughts we need to discern them as such in knowledge and discernment and dismiss them, taking them captive and making them obedient to Christ.  If not, they will give birth to sin.  All sin causes damage.  For believers, it grieves God, creates a separation of fellowship with him, and stalls the work of the gospel in our lives.

The gospel needs to be growing and bearing fruit, when we lack knowledge of God’s word and discernment of the Holy Spirit, sinful thoughts can give birth to actual sin and the poison spreads, and the work of the gospel is stalled.

In those times, preach the gospel to yourself.  Remember what God has done in Jesus for you.  Repent (turn) from the sin and turn towards God through Jesus in faith and walk in the grace that he supplies in the gospel…and get back on the road, live a life that is worthy of the gospel (Phil 1:27)being confident that he who began a work in you will bring it to completion. (Phil 1:6)

Biblical Contentment

This was from 10.14.11 at the Vernon Care Group – working thru Philippians 4:10-13…

                I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  (Philippians 4:10-13 ESV)

“Care” groups:

  • We’re drawn together primarily by location, Green Pond common bond
  • When we meet together we:
    • Fellowship
    • Worship
    • God’s word
    • Open hearts for prayer
    • Encourage each other
    • But we also “Gospel” each other:
      • we bring the truth of the gospel to bear on another’s life so that we may grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus[1]
      • This means talking about the S word – SIN.  And learning how to bring the truth of the Gospel in God’s word to bear on our lives – letting it fall on us and letting the Holy Spirit change us, change our heart.  We need to be spurring each other on in our sanctification journeys – urging us to become more and more like Jesus and less like sin in our actual lives.

Tonight is one of those “Respectable” Sins – as author Jerry Bridges calls it.  It’s not murder, it’s not pornography, or stealing, or drunkenness. It’s an attitude of the heart which sometimes spills out of our mouths  – as the word says – out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

So this passage is about contentment . Specifically learning contentment and living our lives in the power of the Gospel of Jesus.

First let me offer a definition of contentment:  sufficient satisfaction within the heart through the fellowship with and power of Jesus Christ apart from external circumstances and people.[2]

What is the key here?  What do we see?

  • Satisfaction is where? in the heart
  • Who gives it?  Jesus Christ
  • Where is it not?  external circumstances and people.

I would offer one helpful addition that segues into our text – how is it received?  It is learned.

DA Carson writes – ‘the secret o contentment is not normally learned in posh circumstances or in deprived circumstances, but in exposure to both.’[3]

We see this from the Apostle Paul – OK, this guy has been through it all, beatings, stonings, multiple imprisonments, he is about 2 yrs away from having his head permanently separated from his neck.  This guy is the one saying he is content, that is perspective this is coming from.

I wanted to look at the Perspective of contentment in the scriptures[5]

  • A content person is able to accept their condition (Phil 4:11-13)
  • A content person is able to accept their contents (Heb 13:5)
  • A content person is able to endure their circumstances(2 Cor 12:10)
    • “Endure circumstances because we know the God of circumstances”
    • “Enjoy the good. Endure the bad.  Live for neither, live for Christ”
    • This is one of Gods attributes – Sovereignty – it means he works all things to the counsel of his will, his plan.  (Eph 1). He is over all things and in him all things hold together (Col 1:17)
  • A content person is pursuing Christ likeness (1 Tim 6:6-8)
  • A content person is not a complainer (Phil 4:11-13; 2:14)
  • A content person has an attitude of consideration (Phil 2:3)
  • A content person is depending on Christ (Heb 13:5; Phil 4:13)

Jerry Bridges writes “whatever situation tempts us to be discontent, and however sever it may be, we need to recognize that discontentment is sin. When we fail to recognize these responses to our circumstances as sin, we are responding no differently from unbelievers who never factor God into their situations. ..whatever your circumstances, and however difficult they may be, the truth is that they are ordained by God for you as part of His overall plan for your life.  God does nothing, or allows nothing, without a purpose. And his purposes however mysterious and inscrutable they may be to use, are always for his glory and our good.”[4]

Ed Hart from ABC puts an exclamation point on that by saying “his glory and my good are never in conflict.”

Rom 8:28 cannot be read and understood apart from Romans 8:29 – he works everything for good, but what is the good?  To be conformed to the image of his son.  Not our image of what we think things should look like – the image of Christ – which by the way is for our best good.

NIV study Bible note sums up these verses well “Union with Christ is the secret to being content and the source of Paul’s abiding strength.”

I can do all things thru him who gives me strength.  Strength to do what?  Live for myself? When we are in stressful situations and trials and we are reaching out to God – let’s search our hearts – where is the sin…it’s gotta be in there somewhere.   On the contrary –  In the context of this letter – to let your lives be worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27).  Look at all the other instructions in this letter.  Very often when we pray we fall into saying the same thing over and over again – “Be with” or “Help” – Yes and Amen – but what also is helpful is how David prayed – “Search me, O God and know my heart. Try me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps 139:23-24).  There is always sin to be dealt with.  And we deal with sin by the cross of Jesus Christ – this too comes back to the gospel.  When we get sin dealt with where it belongs and re-orient our minds, our inner selves towards pleasing God instead of us – we see the power of God in Jesus in our lives.  But knowing this is the hard part – that’s why Paul prayed in 3:10 – that he wants to know Him and the power of his resurrection.

Paul sums it up very well in this prayer in Ephesians 1:17-21

“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the father of Glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places.”


Ouch Questions:

  • What do I want that I cannot control getting?
  • What am I getting that I don’t want and can’t control it?
  • How am I responding? Is it sinful?
  • What do I need to accept that God has allowed?
  • How do I need to obey God in this situation?
  • What has God promised in his Word that I can rest on in accordance to this situation?
  • How can I adjust my desires to match my situation?
  • What verses in this passage or elsewhere has the HS grabbed you this week?
    • How do you need to change as a result?


[2] Nicholas Ellen, NANC 2011, Learning to be Content session

[3] Carson, 118

[4] Jerry Bridges, Respectable Sins, pg73-74

[5] Nicholas Ellen, NANC 2011, Unlocking Heart Issues, April 9, 2011

Timothy and Ephaphroditus – Living Examples of Phil 2

This section of Philippians was taught at our Vernon Care Group on 5/20/11 —

In Phil 2:19-30  Paul introduces us to two brothers and fellow soldiers in the work of the Gospel – Timothy and Epaphroditus.


  • Still within Paul’s section on encouraging humble service, despite Paul being in jail
  • He introduces 2 associates here, partners in the gospel

Timothy – 2:19-23

  • Timothy
    • Remember, Timothy is with him in Rome – see 1:1
    • He was also known to the Phillipian church as he was on Paul’s missionary journey – see Acts 16:1, 12
    • Timothy is established and 2:22 – you know Timothy’s proven worth, he has served with me in the gospel
    • he hopes to send him in the future, v23 indicates that he is going to send him hopefully with good news about Paul’s trial
    • v24 says that Paul is hopeful he will get out of jail soon
    • So what characteristics does our text say of Timothy:
      • no one like him
      • he will be genuinely concerned for your welfare
      • looks out for other’s interests
      • proven worth
      • faithfully served with Paul
      • We see in Timothy a living example of 2:2-4
      • “…complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
        (Philippians 2:2-4 ESV)

Epaphroditus- 2:24-30

  • Epaphroditus
    • Most commentators think Epaphroditus was the one running supplies to Paul in Rome,  this is perhaps where he nearly died.
    • Most commentators think that Epaphroditus hand delivered this letter to the church
    • This is the first time we see him in scripture
    • What does our text tell us about him:
      • brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier
      • messenger
      • minister to Paul’s need
      • he has been longing for you
        • Like 1:8
        • he was ill, near death
        • nearly died for the work of Christ
          • like 2:8
  •  So, why does Paul include all this?
  • Four examples of Jesus’ mindset[1]
    • Jesus (2:5-9) – thought of obedience to the Father and his will above his own. (Luke 22:42)
    • Paul (2:17-18) – even though he may very well die for the work of the gospel, he is thinking of the Philippian church and encouraging them in Christ
    • Timothy (2:19-24) – known as thinking of others above himself
    • Epaphroditus (2:25-30) – is obedient, nearly to the point of death, for the sake of the gospel of Jesus
  • Piper calls this mind of Christ the “Two-Four Factor”  – after Phil 2:4 —    “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
    (Philippians 2:4 ESV)
  • Do we have the “Two-Four factor”?

Biblical Perspectives on Life

Last night we had our small group meeting – we have been going through Philippians, we spent a lot of time on Phil 1:9 – “it is my paryer that you love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment.”

Paul prays for the church to have a particular kind of love – one that abounds more and more with knowledge.  He wants his people to get it.  To understand life from a Biblical perspective.

I was drawn to Paul David Tripp and his comments on this passage as it relates to a Biblically informed perspective on life in his great book “Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.”

The gospel gives us three essential perspectives on the human struggle. Without an awareness of these perspectives, life will make now sense or it will be understood unbiblically, and therefore incorrectly. The gospel gives us a true sense of self, of God, and of process.

  1. Sense of Self – do we look at life thru a proper, biblical perspective of who we are in Christ? How God the Father sees us as righteous, holy, blameless and loved dearly in Christ Jesus? Are we aware of our sin nature that wages war against our souls?  Are we are of our need to live out the gospel daily? To preach the gospel to ourselves and repent and daily realize where our sin is – on the blood-soaked cross and forgiven and intentionally not remembered by God?
  2. Sense of God – do we have a Biblical understanding of who God is?  Do we seek to know his attributes more?  Are we growing in our understanding of who he is?  Heck, have we read the whole Bible and sought to understand God more and his story of redemption and how he works? Check out stuff by Pink, Tozer, or Packer…
  3. Sense of Process – do we understand that if we have the faith that Jesus was the Messiah, the chosen sacrifice for our sins and that his life and sacrifice were credited to us in order to reconcile us to God – that we are justified before God and now we are being sanctified before God.  That “normal life” is one which struggles exist and the very “relationships with which I struggle and the difficult situations from which I would like to escape are the instruments he is using to produce the heart change that will result in a life that is fruitful to his glory?”