Monthly Archives: July 2012

John 15:1-11 – The Vine – Part 1

In our text today there are at least two things going on.

·  There is Jesus as “the vine” or “true vine” (vss. 1 & 5) and all that flows from this with regards to the believer.
·  And then there is Jesus as “the vine” and all that flows from this with regards to Israel.
·  We will deal with the vine’s relationship to the believer this week and Israel next week.
It must be said at the onset that this discussion deals squarely with our position in Christ.
·  A position we are called to live in so that we might best glorify God.
o   This is what is best for us.
o   that your joy may be full” Jesus tells us – vs. 11
o   “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him” – John Piper.
o   God’s glory = Our joy
·  Our position in Christ consists of both abiding in Christ and bearing fruit.
The Joy of Abiding in Christ:
·  Abide in me, and I in you” – vs. 4
·  unless you abide in me” – vs. 4
·  Whoever abides in me” – vs. 5
·  does not abide in me” – vs. 6
·  If you abide in me” – vs. 7
·  my words abide in you” – vs. 7
·  abide in my love” – vs. 9
·  abide in my love” – vs. 10
Jesus clearly sees abiding as crucial and non-negotiable.
·  Jesus uses the imperative; He is commanding us to abide.
What does He mean when he commands us to abide?
·  In our context, it is to “remain or continue” in “an inward, enduring personal communion” with Jesus – BDAG.
·  I can think of nothing more joyous for the Christian than to have “enduring personal communion” with Jesus Christ.
What are the means by which we abide in Christ?
·  They are (1) the energizing of the Holy Spiritand (2) immersing ourselves in God’s word.
·  In other words, this takes us back to living a life of self-denial by the power of the Spirit and our work of “right thinking”.
(1) John speaks of the Spirit’s role in our abiding as follows:
·  1 John 4:13 (ESV) — 13 By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.
·  We saw last week that what we know about Christ, and what we believe are because we have Christ’s apologist, the Spirit, testifying to us about Christ.
We simply cannot know and believe the Gospel and the things of Christ on our own.
·  We need help.
·  It requires a heart transformed from stone to flesh (Ezekiel 36) by the Spirit of God.
·  So to abide in Christ is to be indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
·  As John just said:
o   indwelling of the Spirit = abiding in Christ.
(2) John speaks of the word of God’s role in our abiding as follows:
·  2 John 9 (ESV) — 9Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
·  John 8:31 (ESV) — 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,
·  1 John 3:24 (ESV) — 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.
·  1 John 2:24 (ESV) — 24 Let what you heard from the beginning abide in you. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, then you too will abide in the Son and in the Father.
Abiding in Christ requires that we know and obey the word of God.
·  We cannot possibly abide in Christ if we do not know what He asks of us.
·  And what he asks of us is found in His word.
·  This highlights once again the necessity of “right thinking”.
·  Jesus goes so far as to link obedience to His word with remaining in His love.
o   John 15:10 (ESV) — 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
o   We dealt with this connection in detail in John 14:15.
How do you abide in God’s word as if your communion with Christ depended on it?
The Joy of Bearing Fruit:
·  does not bear fruit” – vs. 2
·  does bear fruit” – vs. 2
·  may bear more fruit” – vs. 2
·  cannot bear fruit by itself” – vs. 4
·  he it is that bears much fruit” – vs. 5
Bearing fruit is the result of abiding.
·  If you are positioned (i.e., abiding) in Christ, who Himself is positioned in the Father, you will bear fruit.
·  Bearing fruit carries with it the idea of “to be productive” “in the spiritual realm” – BDAG.
·  And as with abiding, bearing fruit brings glory to God and brings us a joy that is full.
Scripture speaks of this fruit in a number of ways:
·  Philippians 1:11 (ESV) — 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
·  James 3:18 (ESV) — 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
·  Matthew 21:43 (ESV) — 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
·  Matthew 3:8 (ESV) — 8 Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Kostenberger says bearing fruit conveys the idea of “true Christian discipleship” – Kostenberger.
·  Bearing fruit is “‘showing oneself to be’ Jesus’ disciple” – Andreas Kostenberger.
·  Or showing “evidences of growth” as believers – Kostenberger.
o   This explains Scriptures references to righteousness and repentance in relation to fruit.
·  D.A. Carson says, “This fruit is nothing less than the outcome of persevering dependence on the vine, driven by faith, embracing all of the believer’s life…” – D.A. Carson.
How do we show ourselves to be Jesus’ disciple?
·  What are the evidences of growth?
·  How has our “dependence on the vine” changed our lives?
·  In other words, what is the fruit?
It seems, given what has been said in John 14 and in our text today, that what we are talking about here is progress in sanctification.
·  So, bearing fruit is becoming more Christ-like.
·  It is progressing in a lived in self-denial and action based on “right thinking”.
·  This includes obedience, love of neighbor, witnessing, worship, etc.
·  And as verse 7 alludes back to, it is seeking after and praying for Jesus’ “whatevers”.
·  Jesus tells us in verse 7 that our “prayers will be answered, [because our] prayers will be dominated by the desire for the service of the kingdom of God” – Beasley-Murray.
o   Not self-serving desires but kingdom-serving desires
What are your kingdom-serving desires?
Special Attention:
I want to give special attention to verses 2 and 6.
·  John 15:2 (ESV) — 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he [the Father] takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.
·  John 15:6 (ESV) — 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
Jesus tells us in verse 1 that the Father is the “vinedresser”.
·  And as the “vinedresser”, the Father is involved in the vine, branches and fruit in at least two ways.
·  (1) “he takes away” branches that don’t bear fruit (vs. 2)
o   And verse 6 explains what happens to the branches that are taken away from the vine.
·  (2) “he prunes” branches that do bear fruit that they might bear more (vs. 2)
Who are those that are taken away and are gathered and burned?
Who they aren’t:
·  Our text today is not suggesting, in any way, that we can lose our salvation!
·  The abiding refers to what will occur in the lives of those who are saved.
o   As we have said, this is largely about sanctification.
·  In fact, Jesus told the remaining disciples in verse three, “Already you are clean…”.
o   John 13:10 (ESV) — 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”
And we can’t forget the words of Jesus in John 6.
·  John 6:37–40 (ESV) — 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
Who they are:
·  This means that the ones that are taken away and are gathered and burned are the pretenders.
·  And clearly, the one in view here is Judas – “but not every one of you” are clean.
·  But one can’t help but hear Jesus’ words from Matthew as well.
·  Matthew 7:22–23 (ESV) — 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
·  The “vinedresser” will remove the “workers of lawlessness”.
So we have seen the necessity of our abiding in the vine that so we may have joy, produce fruit and glorify God.
·  Our position in Christ is to be one of utter dependence on Christ.
·  apart from me you can do nothing” – vs. 5
Right Thinking Summary:
·  “In short, Christians must remember that the fruit that issues out of their obedient faith-union with Christ lies at the heart of how Jesus brings glory to his Father. Those who are contemplating the claims of the gospel, like John’s readers, must reckon with the fact that failure to honor the Son is failure to honor God. Fruitlessness not only threatens fire, but robs God of the glory rightly his” – D.A. Carson
·  We must commit to knowing and doing the things of God in the power of the Spirit.

John 14:16-20 & 25-31 – The Coming of the Holy Spirit

In our text today, Jesus finishes up the encouragement he began at the beginning of the chapter.

·  Interestingly, Jesus began John 14 with, “let not your hearts be troubled”.
·  And He finishes up with “let not your hearts be troubled” in verse 27.
·  In effect, He feeds the disciples a “comfort sandwich”.
·  The reason He does so is because of His coming departure via the cross.
Thus far the “comfort sandwich” has been made up of the following:
·  He is going to prepare a place for them (John 14:2)
·  He will take them to be with Him (John 14:3)
·  If you know Him you know the Father (John 14:7)
·  If you have seen Him you have seen the Father (John 14:9)
·  They will do greater works than Jesus (John 14:12)
·  Jesus will do “whatever” they ask (John 14:14)
And throughout His attempts to comfort, Jesus also made clear the relationship between a love for Him and a submission to His commandments.
·  This relationship itself is a form of comfort for the disciples.
·  Why?
·  Having a desire to deny what they want and seek what Jesus’ wants is evidence that they love Him.
·  After all, they have already given up the last three years of their lives on His account.
·  This action is indicative of their love for them, maybe not a mature love, but love nonetheless.
·  And importantly, after Jesus’ departure, there is work to be done and they are the ones to do it.
Jesus’ also tells them that this comfort will be activated, “because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
·  In other words, the “comfort sandwich” will be theirs when He is glorified.
·  What does it mean for Jesus to be glorified?
·  When He is crucified – resurrected – exalted to the right hand of the Father.
Now, today’s text gives us the foundation upon which everything He has promised will be secured.
·  The giving of the Holy Spirit.
·  Something alluded to throughout John’s Gospel.
·  John 7:39 (ESV) — 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
D.A. Carson gives us a the following segue into today’s text:
·  His true followers will love him; they will obey him; and he on his part will secure for them, from the Father who denies nothing to his Son, another Counsellor – D.A. Carson.
John 14:16–20 & 25-27 (ESV) — 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will knowthat I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you…25 “These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all thingsand bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
There are a lot of ways we can get into this text.
·  For example, Jesus is once again teaching that there are only two “whoevers”, like He did in John 3.
·  You are either the “whoever” that “knows” the Spirit or you don’t – there is no neutral ground.
·  Jesus also contrasts the peace He gives versus the peace the world offers.
o   Philippians 4:7 (ESV) — 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
·  And remarkably, we also have in this text the contrast between the Spirit of the old covenant that “dwells with you” and the Spirit of the new covenant that “will be in you”.
But, what I want to look at are the two roles Jesus’ says the Holy Spirit will play when sent to the disciples.
·  Holy Spirit as Helper
·  Holy Spirit as Truth
Holy Spirit as Helper:
·  The Greek word Jesus’ uses to 1st describe the Holy Spirit (vss. 16 & 26) is “parakletos”.
·  It’s has legal overtones and describes “one who is called to someone’s aid” – BDAG.
·  And specifically in our text, Jesus is saying the Holy Spirit will be sent to appear on Jesus’ behalf as “mediator, intercessor, helper” – BDAG.
We have just spent 7 weeks on the subject of sanctification.
·  One thing we should be certain of is that both for the disciples and for us, the Holy Spirit is what energizes our will and desires.
·  The Holy Spirit “comes along side” us that we might grow in the likeness of Christ.
·  The Holy Spirit helps us in sanctification.
·  The Holy Spirit intercedes for us in prayer when we don’t know what to pray.
And obviously there is so much more to be said about the role of the Holy Spirit in our Christian walk.
·  But we will stick to the text at this point and highlight one specific way the Spirit “helps” the disciples.
“…he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
·  Jesus formally establishes the chain of custody in the transmission of God’s word.
·  The Father gives words to the Son; the Son gives words to the Spirit; the Spirit gives them to the disciples.
·  This is one crucial reason why the transmission of God’s word through Scripture is reliable.
BTW – Carson is careful to point out that the Spirit’s role in this regard was NOT to bring new revelation.
·  “The Spirit’s ministry in this respect was not to bring qualitatively new revelation, but to complete, to fill out, the revelation brought by Jesus himself” – D.A. Carson.
·  If the Holy Spirit wasn’t bringing new revelation, why would one ever believe that Joseph Smith or Charles Taze Russell would do so?
Moving on…John has even alluded to the success the Spirit has had in bringing to rememberance:
·  John 2:19–22 (ESV) — 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.
·  John 12:16 (ESV) — 16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they rememberedthat these things had been written about him and had been done to him.
Now on to the second thing Jesus says about the Spirit in our text.
Holy Spirit as Truth:
·  In verse 17, Jesus refers to the Spirit as the “Spirit of truth”.
·  A Spirit that the world cannot receive because “it neither sees him nor knows him”.
·  In other words, there is a difference between “knowing” the Spirit and knowing about the Spirit.
·  Why is this distinction important?
·  This distinction is significant because it reveals that the Spirit is not simply a theological and spiritual truth, but a personof truth “to be experienced” – D.A. Carson.
·  In other words, for the believer, the Spirit will be active in our lives in a personal way.
·  And one specific way the Spirit will relate to us, Jesus tells us, is by testifying to the truth of Christ.
o   BTW – paralleling how Christ testified to the Father and vice versa.
What truth does the Holy Spirit personally communicate to those who know Him?
·  John 15:26 (ESV) — 26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.
·  The Holy Spirit is the personal apologist for the truth and person of Jesus Christ.
This is why Jesus can say in verse 20, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you”.
·  Jesus is saying that when the Spirit comes, He will reveal the truth of all Jesus has been teaching about Himself.
In other words, the presence of the Spirit means that Christ:
·  Resurrected
·  Ascended to heaven
·  Exalted to the right hand of the Father
·  Spirit Comes = Jesus’ Glorified
Did the Spirit come?
·  Acts 2:1–4 (ESV) — 1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Pentecost confirmed for the disciples that Jesus was the real deal – the Jewish Messiah.
·  And even though Jesus was gone, He had sent the Spirit of Truth.
·  The Spirit of Truth would testify to them and the world about the truth of Jesus.
·  All that they had given up and all that they were about to sacrifice was legitimized at Pentecost.
BTW – Importantly, as Jesus promised, they were not left alone; He did not forsake them.
·  A concept that had been in view since the days of Moses.
·  Joshua 1:5 (ESV) — 5 No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.
·  Hebrews 13:5 (ESV) — 5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.
Significantly, the disciples were the only people in history that knew the truth of Jesus both through walking with Him for three years in person and through the testimony of the Holy Spirit.
·  This is a startling statement if you think about it.
·  It is startling because of its implications for us.
We need to think deeply about this for a moment.
·  Both your love for Jesus and everything true you grasp about Jesus comes from what?
·  Is it Jesus’ testimony of Himself that has brought you to a belief in Christ?
·  Or, is the Holy Spirit’s witness about Jesus the reason for your love and intimate knowledge of Jesus?
This means that so much of what we attribute to the work of Christ should really be attributed to the Holy Spirit.
·  We constantly sell the Holy Spirit short, when He in fact is for us the very presence of God in our lives.
·  The Holy Spirit has regenerated our hearts.
·  The Holy Spirit has elucidated the profound truths of Scripture to our minds.
·  We know Christ because the Holy Spirit has made Him known to us – “he will bear witness about me”.
·  We seek to obey Christ because the Holy Spirit energizes our desires and inclines our hearts toward Christ (Ezek. 36:27, Phil. 2:13).
We often complain as Christians that we don’t really see the Spirit working in us or that we don’t know the Spirit.
·  When the fact of the matter is, the love and knowledge you have for Christ is because the Spirit is personally involved in your life.
·  Whatever you know and trust about the things of God can be sourced to the personal work of the Holy Spirit in your life at this very moment.
·  If you are a believer, you are immersed in the Holy Spirit.
·  For us to say we feel like we don’t know the Spirit would be like the disciples saying they didn’t know Jesus.
·  It is ridiculous.
Following the completion of this discourses “comfort sandwich” in verse 27, Jesus has some minor chastising to do.
John 14:28–31 (ESV) — 28You heard me say to you [John 8:21], ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. 29And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
Jesus began with and spent a considerable amount of time encouraging the disciples.
·  But in verse 28 He finally calls them out on their love deficit.
Jesus’ words convey to us that He had shared His interpretation of the facts, but the disciples balked at embracing them.
·  They were still holding out hope in their version of reality.
·  They were guilty of “wrong thinking”.
·  “Yet, as Jesus reminds them, and as Paul would have agreed (Phil. 1:23), being with God is better by far, both for Jesus and for his followers, who subsequent to his exaltation will be able to draw on the assistance of both the exalted Jesus and the indwelling Spirit” – Kostenberger.
In fact, the best thing that could happen for the disciples is Jesus’ glorification.
·  “…the transformation of the disciples’ understanding can be said to turn on the glorification of Jesus (12:16)”, the “coming of the Paraclete (16:12–15)”, and “on Jesus’ resurrection (2:22)” – D.A. Carson.
·  Christianity does not begin without the unfolding of these events.
o   Without the final obedient act of Christ in submitting to His crucifixion.
Right Thinking for Us:
·  Stop devaluing the role and presence of the Holy Spirit in your life.
o   Your interpretation of the facts is simply wrong.
·  You are who you are in Christ because of the Holy Spirit’s “coming alongside” you on Christ’s behalf.
·  This is the truth of the matter, whether you feel it or not.
·  Accept it, trust it and believe it.

Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial – Part 5

Today, we come to the last lesson in our series on living a life of self-denial.
·  And arguably, it is the most important.
Galatians 3:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? 3Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? 4 Did you suffer so many things in vain—if indeed it was in vain? 5 Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith
What are we doing?
·  Paul is telling us that the role of faith doesn’t stop with salvation.
·  We aren’t left on our own to be sanctified in our own power.
·  Faith saves us and faith also sanctifies us!
This also relates directly to how we fail.
·  We aren’t left on our own when we fail either.
As we saw last week, failing incorrectly is to make our failure all about us.
·  We decide that we will somehow pay the debt our sin has incurred.
·  So we punish ourselves with more sin.
·  We neglect our faith and the grace of God.
·  We neglect Christ’s atonement and His “once for all sacrifice”.
·  We mistakenly find our identity in our sin.
But Paul makes clear that we are not “perfected by the flesh”.
·  It is our continued trust in the power of the Gospel that will perfect us.
How does this apply to failing correctly?
·  God, through the Gospel, has given us the power to fail correctly.
·  To make our failure about Jesus instead of us.
To do this, we must learn to daily activate our faith in the Grace of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
·  We must “receive the Spirit”, that is to say the energizing of the Spirit, by faith.
·  Paul makes clear that the Spirit is supplied in faith and not by works.
Our Mistake:
The mistake we make is thinking that faith is a popup blocker running automatically in the background of our lives.
·  We exercised it at the point of salvation, and now it is on autopilot.
·  If we think of faith this way we will almost always fail incorrectly.
·  “Faith is not something that acts automatically, faith is not something that acts magically. This, I think, is the blunder of which we have all, at some time or another, been guilty. We seem to think that faith is something that acts automatically. Many people, it seems to me, conceive of faith as if it were something similar to those thermostats…you set your thermostat at a given level…and it acts automatically” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
What is faith in this context then?
·  “Faith is an activity, it is something that has to be exercised. It does not come into operation itself, you and I have to put it into operation” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
·  In our context, faith is to trust in and deliberately act on “right thinking” and all that it tells us about ourselves, our identity in Christ, God and His Gospel.
o   As we alluded to earlier, this is mainly about receiving God’s grace.
o   “Right thinking” makes us better receivers of grace.
The author of Hebrews understood this:
·  Hebrews 10:22 (NIV) — 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.
o   We are simply drawing near to partake of the benefits of God’s action on our behalf.
o   The full assurance, the sprinkling, the cleansing, the washing are God’s gift.
o   We receive them.
The Right Choice – Making Our Failure about Jesus:
How do we activate our faith when we fail?
·  How do we draw near to God and His Gospel and receive?
We have to go back to “ground zero” – our guilty knowledge and shame.
·  At the moment we are –
o   gripped by guilt and shame
o   and come to grips with the fact that we have incurred a debt that must be paid
·  We must choose in faith to actively trust in Christ and His Gospel – to believe what we know.
o   Punishing ourselves is simply pride, habit, laziness or ignorance.
There is a sense in which this active trust can understood as a movement through:
·  Guilt to Grace to Gratitude.
·  This movement is part of God’s “dramatic narrative” for our lives – Michael Horton.
Guilt – a “Right Thinking” Response:
We have seen that the wrong response to guilt and shame leaves us stuck on a treadmill of sin and failure.
·  Not surprisingly, the world thinks it can provide us with a solution to this problem.
·  The world’s response is to discount guilt and shame as some sort of old-fashioned, moral hangover.
·  Guilt and shame are something to be overcome with self-esteem.
·  God has other ideas.
In God’s plan, “if you have never realized your guiltiness before God you will never have joy in Christ. It is impossible” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
·  So guilt and shame are a fundamental way God works in us to energize our desires; to incline our hearts towards Him.
·  They are very good things!
·  In fact, Michael Horton puts it in even starker terms.
·  God’s law coupled with our failure to keep it is meant to “traumatize us with God’s holiness”.
Please pay attention to the coming point.
·  It is the most important step in failing correctly.
·  If we don’t deal with our guilt correctly, we have trouble receiving God’s grace.
·  The treadmill will be engaged.
Here is the point – Our guilt and shame are meant to point us outward to God and not inward to ourselves!
·  They are not meant to be a gateway to punish ourselves.
·  They are not meant to be overcome with self-esteem.
·  Failing is not to be about our sin, but about God’s holiness.
·  Our guilt before God “…will lead us to despair of ourselves, but only so that we may finally look outside ourselves and look to Christ” – Michael Horton.
·  In complete opposition to the world’s view of guilt, “The very thing that God’s law comes to do – namely, to strip us of our pretensions of having it all together – can only be considered a violent aggression against the core value of self-esteem” – Michael Horton.
Isaiah’s example of being traumatized by God’s holiness:
·  Isaiah 6:5–7 (ESV) — 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lordof hosts!6 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. 7 And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”
Why is being traumatized by God’s holiness so important?
·  “If God’s voice of law does not de-center us, throw us off balance, and judge our best efforts as having fallen short of God’s glory, we will never flee to Christ as our Mediator…” – Michael Horton.
·  Galatians 3:24 (NASB95) — 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.
Once we have got this part right, the next step in the progression comes necessarily and naturally.
Grace – a “Right Thinking” Response:
So what is it to “look to Christ”, “flee to Christ”, or for the “tutor to lead us to Christ”?
·  When we as believers have rightly understood the role guilt plays in the God’s dramatic narrative of guilt-grace-gratitude, “we find ourselves dumbfounded by God’s gracein Jesus Christ” – Michael Horton.
·  A right response to our guilt will take us directly to Christ and His Gospel and Grace.
·  John 1:17 (ESV) — 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
It is only in Christ and His Gospel and Grace that we can receive everything that we can neverdo for ourselves:
·  Forgiveness
·  Justification
·  Payment of Debt
·  Righteousness
·  Cleansing and Washing
·  The list could go on!
Paul puts it like this:
·  Romans 3:23–24 (ESV) — 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
·  Ephesians 2:4–8 (ESV) — 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his gracein kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
This is why, as we saw earlier, Paul did not even judge himself (1 Cor. 4:3-4).
·  “When he says that he does not let the Corinthians judge him nor will he judge himself, he is saying that he knows about his sins but he does not connect them to himself and his identity. His sins and his identity are not connected. He refuses to play that game. He does not see a sin and let it destroy his sense of identity” – Timothy Keller.
·  Our identity is in our position with Christ – “raised us up with him” – it is not in ourselves; especially our sin.
·  Christ is interceding for us; we have nothing to add.
·  Whether we “feel it” or not, we are a new person with a new identity.
And the more we are traumatized the more we are dumbfounded!
·  The converse is also true – the less…
·  This is why self-denial and “right thinking” are so important.
·  The more we wrongly think highly of our self, the less likely we will be traumatized by God’s holiness.
·  Having our own and inflated view of ourselves is deadly to having satisfaction in God.
·  We must be traumatized; we must be dumbfounded!
Some important observations about being “dumbfounded by grace”:
·  “Spiritual depression or unhappiness in the Christian life is very often due to our failure to realize the greatness of the gospel” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
·  “Only after we have understood and experienced this astonishing gospel do we find the proper motivation for our discipleship in the world” – Michael Horton.
·  “Calling us to accomplish great things for God is part of the hype that constantly burns out millions of professing Christians. Telling us about the great things God has accomplished – and, more than that, actually delivering his achievement to sinners – is the real mission of church – Michael Horton.
·  “What we want is not law, but power, and what the gospel gives us, and stands alone in giving us, is not merely the knowledge of the will of God, and the clear revelation of what we ought to be, but the power to become it” – James Boice.
Caution about Grace:
·  “We consume the most grace by leading a holy life, in which we must be constantly upheld by grace, not by continuing to sin and being repeatedly forgiven. The interpretation of grace as having only to do with guilt is utterly false to biblical teaching and renders spiritual life in Christ unintelligible” – Dallas Willard.
We are now at the final step in the dramatic movement that enables us to fail correctly.
·  And it follows naturally from being receivers of God’s grace.
Gratitude – a “Right Thinking” Response:
·  Worship is the unavoidable response to having received God’s free gift of grace.
·   “Not to have that reaction is a fairly sure sign that we haven’t yet really understood who he is or what he’s done” – N.T. Wright.
·  If worship is absent, we either haven’t truly apprehended the holiness of God or the extent of His grace.
If our gratitude or worship is muted, the simple fact is we haven’t been traumatized and dumbfounded enough.
·  This takes us back to self-denial and “right thinking” and the necessity of knowing God’s interpretation of the facts about us and our relationship with Him.
·  To blow this off is to mistakenly try and be “perfected by the flesh”.
When the believer has been astonished by God’s “mighty deeds” we will worship Him.
·  Luke 5:9 & 11b (ESV) — 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 11b …they left everything and followed him.
·  Psalm 150:1–6 (ESV) — 1 Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! 2 Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Worship demonstrates that we are not looking to ourselves – or trying to punish (or even praise) ourselves – but have looked outward to God.
·  Matthew 28:8–9 (ESV) — 8 So they [the women] departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples [what the angel had said]. 9 And behold, Jesus met them [the women] and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.
o   Their mourning over Jesus’ death and concern for the future of the kingdom had no room to breathe in the presence of Christ and their worship of Him.
To be astonished by God’s mighty deeds is the awesome conclusion to the dramatic movement of guilt-grace-gratitude.
·  It is awesome because, along with being traumatized by God’s holiness and dumbfounded by God’s grace, it has the power to remake us.
·  It puts us in a position to be better receivers of God’s grace.
·  How?
1) “You become like what you worship” – N.T. Wright.
·  “When you gaze in awe, admiration, and wonder at something or someone, you begin to take on something of the character of the object of your worship” – N.T. Wright.
·  You cannot worship God without knowing who He is and what He has done – “right thinking”.
o   Without knowing something of His attributes and character.
·  And as we surrender to worship in our gratitude for these things, “Far from masters, we are mastered; instead of seizing the truth, we are seized by it” – Michael Horton.
2) Since we were made in God’s image, “worship makes you more truly human” – Wright.
·  In other words, in worship we acknowledge reality as God proclaims it.
·  And that reality, as we saw earlier, is that our identity is in Him and defined by Him – not us, not others, and not by our failures.
·  Because of this, worship “challenges our intellectual pride and curbs our thirst for speculation” – Michael Horton.
o   God has already spoken, we just listen and receive; it’s not about “me”.
o   This makes worship an assault to our pride!
o   Less pride + more God = more human
·  So when we are astonished by God’s mighty deeds, we are knocked off balance.
·  We “no longer ask and answer questions but worship the God who eludes comprehension” – Michael Horton.
o   A very humbling thing.
o   To surrender in worship to what we don’t fully understand.
Wise words on worship:
·  “The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you. And this needs to be happening all the time” – Timothy Keller (Sin as Slavery).
The level of your gratitude, of your astonishment at God’s mighty deeds, is an indication of your spiritual health.
·  It is a reflection of your “right thinking”.
·  It is a reflection of your self-denial.
·  You simply cannot think highly of yourself and surrender to God in worship.
Some final words from Paul:
·  1 Timothy 1:12–14 (ESV) — 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 14and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
·  “When Paul looks at the past and sees his sin he does not stay in a corner and say: `I am not fit to be a Christian, I have done such terrible things’. Not at all. What it does to him, its effect upon him, is to make him praise GodHe glories in grace and says: `And the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus’” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
So to fail correctly is to make your failure about God!
·  In our guilt, we are to see our need for Him, receive His free gift of grace, and then worship.
·  It is in this “dramatic movement” of guilt-grace-gratitude that we can truly begin to grow in Christ and find our identity in Him.
·  It is from this position in Him that we can properly love Him in self-denial.
“We find the Christian life so difficult because we seek for God’s blessing while we live in our own will” – Andrew Murray.
·  Death to self and alive in Christ – there is no other way!

Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial in the Christian Walk – Part 4

Where we have been:
A few weeks ago we learned that to love God is to:
·  “Hate and despise all that does not serve God nor come from Him, to break with all other ties, to cut away all that hinders, to snap all bonds except that which binds to God alone”.
·  It is “total commitment and total trust” to His Lordship and purpose – TDNT.
We learned that to have any shot at loving God this way our hearts needed changing.
·  The will and desires of our heart need realigning.
We learned that this can only happen with a life lived in self-denial.
·  Self-denial is to “lose” our life and “hate” our life in comparison to our love for God.
·  It is the killing off of our passions and desires.
·  And replacing them with God’s will and desires as found in His commandments – His Word.
o   thus the importance of commandment keeping
·  And it is foundational to the Christian walk; to loving God properly; to having God’s best for us.
We learned that both God and us have a role to play in this sanctification process.
·  God is working in us; energizing our hearts to desire and act according to His will.
·  Our work is to put on the new self – mainly by renewing our minds in the knowledge of God.
·  We called this “right thinking” – knowing God’s interpretation of the facts.
·  “Right Thinking” shows us what God’s motives, will and desires are – the very things we need to know to displace our motives, will and desires.
Dallas Willard put our work like this:
·  It is necessary, “to assert boldly and often that becoming Christ-like never occurs without intense and well-informed action on our part. In our fallen world this life is prepossessed by evil, so that we do not have to think to do what is wrong, but must think and plan and practice–and receive grace–if we are to succeed in doing what is right – Dallas Willard, “The Human Body and Spiritual Growth”.
·  In other words, “wrong thinking” comes naturally and “right thinking” has to be a deliberate choice.
·  And importantly, our “right thinking” leads us to be better receivers of grace!
Finally, last week we learned the danger of the “tyranny of circumstances” to a life lived in self-denial.
·  And how “right thinking” and God’s working in us can overcome the “tyranny of circumstances”.
·  And fundamental to this overcoming was realizing that our “Christian faith has less to do with [acting on] what you feel than [acting on] what you know” – Michael Horton.
Today we come to the issue of failure and sin.
·  For the Christian life of self-denial to have success, we must learn how to fail correctly.
·  But first we have to see what it is to fail incorrectly.
The Christian life is to be one of progressing and growing in Christ-likeness.
·  not my will but thy will be done
·  However, it is simply a cold, hard fact that the Christian life involves failure.
·  We saw this last week with David and Peter.
And failure for the Christian is especially acute because of our relationship with God.
·  Failure is sin; to be outside of the will of God; to reject His best for us; to love self more than Him.
·  It involves the pain of both:
o   Guilty knowledge before God – “fallen short of the glory of God
o   Guilty feelings before God – shame
The O.T. captures our guilty knowledge especially well.
·  Genesis 4:10 (ESV) — 10And the Lord said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.
·  Psalm 51:14a (ESV) — 14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation.
·  Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) — 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
Ground Zero:
This guilty knowledge and the shame it brings are ground zero for learning to fail correctly.
·  At the moment these come upon us we are ripe for disaster.
·  This is because acting on “right thinking” becomes very difficult.
At these moments it is so easy to:
·  Fall deeper into sin.
·  Choose what we feel like instead of what God would want.
·  Be dissatisfied with our Christian walk.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
·  We need to learn to fail correctly.
And failing correctly is about making the right choice:
1.       We can make our failure about us – the wrong choice.
2.       We can make our failure about Jesus – the right choice.
And the choice centers around what we do with the debt our sin and guilt has incurred.
·  A “debt that must somehow be paid” – J. Budziszewski.
·  The problem is that, “the miserable Christian, is wrong in his ideas as to how this rightness with God is to be obtained” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
The Wrong Choice – Making Our Failure about Us:
·  It seems to me that there are at least three things involved.
·  And they all stem from “wrong thinking” about how to pay the debt we incurred.
1) We wrongly assume that we can do something to make payment on this debt; to put things aright  – Budziszewski.
·  This is called false atonement.
The prophet Micah rhetorically speaks of false atonement this way:
·  Micah 6:6–7 (ESV) — 6“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? 7Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
 Except, instead of offering “calves”, “rivers of oil”, “thousands of rams” or “my firstborn” for our transgressions, we offer to punish ourselves with our own guilt and shame.
·  “Sometimes we think that if we punish ourselves with guilt long enough, after a while, it will be okay to face God” – Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry.
·  And since the guilt and shame we use to punish ourselves is found in sin, we must either continue in the offending sin, or seek out other sin.
·  And this leads us directly to the second thing.
2) Because false atonement doesn’t actually atone, it leads to a cycle of failure.
·  We get stuck on a “treadmill—the futility of the calves, the rams, and the rivers of oil, of the ‘fruit of my body for the sin of my soul’” – J. Budziszewski.
The O.T. graphically depicts this principal for us:
·  Hosea 4:2 (ESV) — 2there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed.
·  Hosea 5:2 (ESV) — 2 And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them.
3) Finally, as a result, we become alienated from Jesus and the Gospel.
·  We feel as if we become what Lamentations calls “fugitives and wanderers” from the power of our faith.
·  Lamentations 4:14–15 (ESV) — 14They wandered, blind, through the streets; they were so defiled with blood that no one was able to touch their garments. 15“Away! Unclean!” people cried at them. “Away! Away! Do not touch!” So they became fugitives and wanderers; people said among the nations, “They shall stay with us no longer.”
·  Our Christian walk becomes too often a walk of dissatisfaction.
But it gets worse, because when we make failure about us, there are unintended consequences.
Unintended Consequences of Failing Incorrectly:
1) Our efforts at false atonement neglect the power of Christ’s atonement.
·  Our guilt and the punishment and payment it requires has already been covered and paid by Christ.
·  To think we have any contribution to make is to discount the reality of the Gospel.
·  There is nothing we can do to make payment against our debt.
2) Our continued efforts at false atonement neglect the “once for all” atonement of Christ.
·  Hebrews 7:27 (ESV) — 27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for allwhen he offered up himself.
3) Our continued efforts at false atonement mistakenly connect our sins to our identity (Timothy Keller).
·  1 Corinthians 4:3–4 (ESV) — 3But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. 4 For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.
·  We are not who we think we are; we are not who we feel we are; we are not who others say we are.
·  We are who Christ says we are.
·  To make our sins about us is to completely misunderstand our identity in Christ.
So when we fail incorrectly we make wrong choices using wrong thinking.
·  In God’s grace, we have both guilty knowledge and usually guilty feelings.
·  As Christians, we even rightly understand that a debt has been incurred.
·  However, we too often make our sin and failure all about us.
o   Selfishly thinking we can do something to pay down the debt.
·  We think that to become worthy before God we need to punish ourselves.
·  We punish ourselves with more guilt, which of course comes from more sin.
·  We become alienated, “fugitives and wanderers”, from the Gospel and the freedom it can provide.
·  We neglect Christ’s “once for all” atonement.
·  We become dissatisfied in our Christian walk.
o   Something that nags at us continuously.
·  And this whole process of failure demonstrates that we find our identity in our sin and ourselves.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
·  We need to learn to fail correctly.
·  We need to reacquaint ourselves with the power of the Gospel.
·  We will get to that next week.

Death to Self – The Importance of Self-Denial in the Christian Walk – Part 3

In the last couple of weeks we have discussed:
1.       How our hearts have been transformed to live a life of self-denial.
2.       How God energizes us through the Holy Spirit to live a life of self-denial.
3.       And our role of “Right Thinking” in living a life of self-denial.
Today we will see how to apply “right thinking”.
·  Specifically, we will see how “right thinking” can help us overcome the “tyranny of circumstances”.
Important reminder:
“Right Thinking” refers to our work at displacing our personal motives, will and desires with God’s motives, will and desires as found in His Word.
“Right Thinking” cannot be separated from:
1.       The work of God energizing our actions and desires.
2.       The call of God on our lives to live a life of self-denial.
3.       The application of all of this in a life that can properly love God and neighbor due to a life lived in self-denial.
So when we refer to “right thinking” we are referring to all of the above.
The factor that tends to thwart our work in sanctification more than any other “may well be described as the tyranny of circumstances” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
What is the Tyranny of Circumstances?
·  When our desires are jeopardized or railroaded by the daily circumstances of life.
·  Not only that, they impose upon us hardship instead of satisfaction.
So what is the problem?
·  All too often, when our efforts at loving God properly through a life of self-denial run head on into the tyranny of circumstances, we fail.
The failure can take the form of:
·  Robbing us of our Peace
·  Robbing us of our Joy
·  Robbing us of our Contentment
·  Robbing us of our Rest and Sleep
And the failure can be even more sinister:
·  With our peace, joy and contentment gone, we simply choose to sin.
·  We will address this more next week.
·  But, suffice it to say that failure breeds failure.
Jones says the tyranny of circumstances is one of the Christian’s biggest challenges:
·  It is easy to say you’re a Christian.
·  It is easy to say you’re a Christian who knows the Bible, believes it and lives by faith.
·  But it is not quite as easy to say your “faith [is] triumphant and victoriousand maintaining you in a state of joy, when everything seems to have gone against you and well nigh driven you to despair” – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
We are not alone – Examples from Scripture:
·  There are a number of examples from Scripture of the tyranny of circumstances.
·  I want to look at just a couple of them.
Example 1:
Mark 14:66–71 (ESV) — 66And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, 67 and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. 69And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” 71 But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.
What was the tyranny of circumstance Peter faced?
·  His Messiah had just been betrayed by Judas, arrested and hauled off to an illicit trial.
·  Many of the other disciples had already scattered.
·  What I am I to do?
·  This was not how it was supposed to be.
What was his (initial) response?
·  Clearly, Peter was responding to the circumstance with a great deal of anxiety.
·  His first answer to the servant girl was to play dumb and lie – “I don’t understand you”.
·  And when pressed again, and no doubt feeding off of the anxiety of the moment, he took it a step further.
·  I do not know this man of whom you speak
·  I wonder if Peter slept peacefully that night?
Example 2:
2 Samuel 11:1–4 (ESV) — 1 In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel. And they ravaged the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. 2 It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking on the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. 3 And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” 4 So David sent messengers and took her, and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she had been purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house.
What is the tyranny of circumstance David faced?
·  The circumstance was not being where he should have been.
·  As a result, while most men were off fighting, he was at home.
o   The woman’s husband included.
·  Apparently bored out of his mind, he spent his time lounging on his couch and walking on the roof.
·  And this led to seeing a beautiful, presumably naked, woman taking a purification bath.
What was his response?
·  He saw this woman PLUS the circumstances as an opportunity to gratify his sexual desires.
·  So he used His servants to arrange a tryst.
Let’s compare Peter’s and David’s tyranny of circumstances.
·  How are they different?
o   David’s circumstance was self-inflicted.
o   Peter’s was happenstance.
·  How are they the same?
o   But in each circumstance they were both faced with a moment of choice.
o   And in each case the wrong choice was made.
Why was the wrong choice made?
·  At the moment of choice there was no self-denial.
·  They loved themselves more than God.
·  They choose to look out for their desires instead of God’s.
·  In other words, there was NO RIGHT THINKING.
·  2 Samuel 12:9 (ESV) — 9a Why have you despised the word of the Lord, to do what is evil in his sight?
So in each of our examples we catch a glimpse of right thinking gone awry.
·  The tyranny of circumstances had exerted its power.
·  2 Samuel 12:13a (ESV) — 13a David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.
·  Mark 14:72 (ESV) — 72 And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
But is this how it is supposed to be for the Christian?
·  Are circumstances supposed to have such power over us?
·  The answer is a resounding, “NO”.
Look at Paul and Silas beaten and in prison:
·  Acts 16:19, 22–23, 25 (ESV) — 19 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. 22The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,
Look at Peter after Pentecost on trial at the Sanhedrin:
·  Acts 4:19–20 (ESV) — 19 But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, 20 for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”
Look at Jesus hours before His crucifixion:
·  Luke 22:42 (ESV) — 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
In fact, Paul explicitly teaches that we can be victorious over the tyranny of circumstances.
·  Philippians 4:11–13 (ESV) — 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
·  2 Corinthians 9:8 (ESV) — 8 And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.
Content” here literally means a freedom “independent from external circumstances” – ESL.
·  And “sufficiency” is from the same root word.
·  So the contentmentof which Paul speaks provides sufficient freedom or enough freedom that we are “not mastered or controlled” by circumstances – Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
So if victory over the tyranny of circumstances is to be found in contentment, how are we to find contentment?
·  The answer lies in, you guessed it, the “right thinking” we just defined.
·  Paul even says in our text above that he has “learnedin whatever situation” (Phil. 4:11) to be content.
“Man’s mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild” – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh (not a Christian).
·  To reject “right thinking” is to allow the tyranny of circumstances to run wild.
·  “Right Thinking” on the knowledge of the Lord is to “intelligently cultivate” – to learn.
·  Contentment is a fruit that God cultivates from our “right thinking”.
Why can God’s energizing and our “right thinking” bring contentment?
·  Because “right thinking” on the knowledge of the Lord teaches us something profound.
What is this profound thing we learn?
·  What we learn is that the right motivation for action comes from “right thinking”.
·  It does not come from our desires or feelings.
·  Prior to “right thinking” we simply assumed that because it seemed so natural to act on our desires that sanctification would work the same way.
·  In other words, if God wanted us to do it we would also desire it.
But “right thinking” turns this on its head.
·  This is why acting on “right thinking” seems so unnatural to us.
·  And why Timothy calls the sanctification process something for which we “toil and strive” (1 Tim. 4:10).
·  We no longer act because we desire it.
o   In fact, we often desire the complete opposite.
·  We act because God desires it.
As we mature and progress in our sanctification, our desires will gradually begin to come in line with “right thinking”.
·  Yet, it most certainly doesn’t start out this way.
·  This is simply the way God intended it to be.
Dallas Willard puts it like this:
·  “The new vision becomes an attachment and takes on an ever greater reality as we progress; and that, in turn, pushes the old attachments toward the exitsof our lives – which we then are not sad to see go” – Dallas Willard.
o   Doing what we “feel like” doing is an “old attachment”.
So where does the contentment come from?
·  Living as just described brings complete satisfaction in God.
·  And this satisfaction is immune to the tyranny of circumstances.
·  This is contentment.
A Choice to Make – Live Passively or Actively:
·  So now that we know about the tyranny of circumstances we have a choice to make.
·  Michael Horton puts the choice like this – are you going to be “transformed by words” or be “consumers of experiences”?
·  I see it like this: we can choose to live passively or choose to live actively.
Choice 1 – Live Passively – Tyranny of Circumstances Reign:
·  Living passively is to respond to circumstances as they dictate.
·  It is to be “consumers of experience”.
·  It is to live under the illusion that our desires, not “right thinking”, are to be our impetus for action.
·  It is to simply acquiesce to the tyranny of circumstances and do what they tell us to do.
·  It is to allow thinking to “run wild” instead of “intelligently cultivate”.
·  It is to have no contentment.
·  It is to see a beautiful woman from your balcony and sleep with her.
·  It is to deny your relationship with Jesus to save your own hide.
Choice 2 – Live Actively – Right Thinking Reigns:
·  Living actively is to respond to circumstances as dictated by right thinking energized by God.
·  It is to be “transformed by words”; God’s words.
·  It is to live knowing that “right thinking”, not our desires, is to be our impetus for action.
·  It is to “intelligently cultivate” thinking and not let it “run wild”.
·  It is to be content no matter the circumstances.
·  It is, “Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done”.
·  It is, “we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard”.
Living actively is to talk to yourself from the wisdom of God’s Word found in “right thinking”.
·  It is then to act on this wisdom.
·  Once we fully grasp that “right thinking” is to lead us into action, and not our desires, we can find contentment.
·  We can find freedom from the tyranny of circumstances.
·  We can then look forward to and long for one of the greatest blessings we could ever hope to have – when our desires are replaced by God’s and thus begin to come into agreement with our “right thinking”.
·  This is truly putting on the new self.

It is my prayer that we all choose to Live Actively.

·  We must not forget that we have to decide to live this way at every moment of every day.
·  It is a toiling and a striving.
·  Sometimes we will succeed.
·  Sometimes we will fail.
And this leads me to our next section.
·  Failing itself can be devastating to our progress in self-denial.
·  We must learn how to fail correctly!
·  We will contend with this next week.