Same Page Summer 2023

Most meals are just O.K. Not great. Not memorable. Just O.K. And that’s O.K. Because, most importantly, meals are about survival. Food sustains us through the labors of the day.

It should be the same with Bible reading. We don’t live by bread alone, but by the Word of God. Bible reading is food for the Christian. It’s spiritual sustenance. And, in the same way that every physical meal isn’t memorable, neither should we expect every Bible reading to be memorable.

Too often, modern Christians have succumbed to pure emotionalism. We want every time we read the Bible to fill us with emotions of rapturous joy and utter delight. And, when we don’t get those feelings we think something’s wrong with us, or worse, something’s wrong with the Bible.

But nothing is wrong with the Bible. It’s food. And whether it makes you feel good, eating it will sustain you. So eat it. You’ve never said, “Unless I get a 5 course meal prepared by a chef, I’m not eating dinner.” Treat the Bible the same way. Eat the meal that God has placed in front of you with gratitude for the sustenance it will provide.

On June 1st, we’ll begin the #SamePageSummer Bible Reading Challenge. I’m encouraging you to read through the New Testament with me. Download the plan here. Join the Facebook Group here.

Also… I originally heard this illustration from either Doug Wilson or Rachel Jankovic. Can’t remember which.

The Rare Jewel of Contentment


10 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. 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.


When someone sends us a giant check, we typically begin our thank-you letter with thanks, but Paul begins with 3 chapters of exhortation and correction, but this is normal.

The Philippians had been in dire straits (2 Corinthians 8) but at last, have completed the support they had long desired to give. (v. 10) Having abandoned the privileges of his Pharisaism, Paul has weathered storms, beatings, imprisonment, and even been stoned to death. He’s gone through every single grade of the school of contentment. (v. 11) He’s learned how to abound and how to be abased. He’s learned how to be hungry and full. He’s learned the secret everyone is trying to find out: how to be content; to be buoyant in life’s up and down seas. (v. 12)

A great definition: a steady, quiet, and submissive heart that delights in God’s fatherly disposal of every circumstance. (Jeremiah Burroughs)

Of course, as you all expect, the key ingredient is Christ who strengthens us. This is not a “you can do it” verse. (v. 13)


Consider how much research people do to find contentment and balance. In the 50’s it was dianetics and engrams. Today it’s self-care and enneagram. I’m not here to weigh in on the latest mental and emotional health fads. I’m just pointing to the fact of them.

V. 12 – “In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret”’

What is a secret? It’s something everyone wants to know, and Paul is saying, “Everyone is looking for contentment.”

How many of us have had a meal or sunset or a book that we didn’t want to end? Why? Because as we were eating the meal, or watching the sunset, or enjoying Christmas morning our hearts were at rest, we were fully present, in the moment. We weren’t worrying about yesterday or tomorrow. We all desire that kind of contentment, but it eludes us. It’s a secret.

But in contentment I still feel
The need of some imperishable bliss. (Wallace Stevens, Sunday Morning)

What’s he saying? What’s Paul saying? Reaching for contentment in a meal or a sunset, or the arms of a lover… you know that it’s like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.


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.

Here’s what’s so shocking about this verse: “I’ve learned how to be content when I have plenty.” Why would you need to learn contentment when you abound? Because abundance reveals our misplaced content just as much as need.

We tend to think that contentment must be learned if you have needs, but it’s not a virtue for the rich or those with functional families, and we couldn’t be more wrong. Paul is saying you have to learn contentment in times of abundance just as much or more than in times of need.

Discontent comes primarily to two kinds of people: those whose dreams as smashed, and those whose dreams come true. Why would your dreams coming true make you discontented?

Listen to this from Cynthia Heimel, a NYC writer in 1990:

I pity celebrities, no I really do – Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, and Barbara Streisand, were once perfectly pleasant human beings. But now their wrath is awful. I think when God wants to play a really rotten practical joke on you he grants you your deepest wish and then laughs merrily when you realize you want to kill yourself. You see Sly, Bruce, and Barbara wanted fame. They worked, they pushed and the morning after each of them became famous they wanted to take an overdose. Because that giant thing they were striving for, that fame thing that was going to make everything OK, that was going to make their lives bearable, that was going to provide them with personal fulfillment and happiness had happened and they were still them. The disillusionment turned them howling and insufferable.

Now listen to me: plenty and abundance reveal our discontentment as much as sorrow and poverty because earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy our needs, but only to arouse our desires. They arouse our desire for a greater satisfaction which they themselves cannot supply.

A good meal, a beautiful sunset, Christmas morning, are only good images of what we really desire, but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols and break our hearts.

Both plenty and poverty expose our discontent. Most of us are in the mushy middle between those two. Most of us never get to the place where our dreams are really dashed. And most of us never realize them to the full. And as a result, most of us remain in the illusion that contentment can be had by the arrangement of circumstances.

Blame the Things – If I had a better woman/man, a more expensive vacation… and you become driven, anxious, and unable to commit to anything.

Blame Yourself – There’s something wrong with me. If I could iron out a few psychological wrinkles, I could be happy. The problem goes far deeper.

Blame the Universe – I will trust nothing. I will give myself no one. Lewis, do this… and you’ll do more than keep your heart from breaking— you’ll make it unbreakable. Hard and cold as stone. And you will find out, the moment you die, that infinite happiness was possible.

Blame your relationship with God – I have the capacity for deep communion with the source of all earthly joys and instead, I’ve sought joy only in the stuff of earth.

In the end, our discontent flows from our search for contentment in pleasures that cannot possibly deliver what only God can.


13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

This is not a bumper-sticker encouragement to try harder. Even the best human pleasures are cruddy little samples of the infinite joys that are in Christ. In Christ, poverty won’t make me despair. In Christ, abundance won’t make me a slave.

You’ve had a good meal? Jesus Christ is the bread of life. You’ve seen a beautiful sunset? Jesus Christ is the beatific vision that will bring out the beauty in which we were first made. You’ve had a good Christmas morning? He is the great Giver and Gift. He is the fountainhead of the stream of all joys, and we are invited to drink.

When you love Christ above all you can enjoy all the little meals down here and you can go hungry because you’re invited to a wedding supper that will not end.

You can love and enjoy the good moments of your marriage, and you can endure the painful moments because you’re engaged to the bridegroom whose love will never go cold.

God’s Remedies for Anxious Hearts – Philippians 4:4-9


Our text for today comes from Philippians 4:4-9 and can be found on page 982 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.


The most amazing thing happens when your NYC cabbie gets rear-ended. Absolutely nothing. Down here when you rear-end someone it wrecks your day, if not your week, but for NYC cabbies, it’s normal. They expect to get rear-ended. A lot of Christians are walking around downcast because of misplaced expectations.


Concluding the letter, Paul scatter-shots exhortations across a broad field of maladies, and the verses before us take aim at anxiety and peace. There isn’t one silver bullet, but rather several spiritual disciplines we must practice in order to practically experience the peace of God.

First, rejoice, then do it again. (v. 4) Next, serve others. (v. 5) Relieve your anxiety through multifaceted prayer. (v. 6) When we do these things we are told that the peace of God becomes like a battalion of soldiers surrounding us. (v. 7) But Paul isn’t finished with his list of disciplines. We must also fill our thoughts with truth, honor, justice, and excellence (v. 8) as we put all these into practice the God of peace will be with us. (v. 9)

The peace we need. The practices of peace. The promise of peace.


Why do we need peace? Anxiety is not the normal burden of love and concern. This word means to be torn to pieces by fear. Our bills, our children, or lack of children, our spouse, or loneliness because we don’t have a spouse, our health, our regrets, our future. Sometimes our own anxiety. I’m a Christian. It’s not supposed to be like this.

One of the social media mantras of the day is, “Guard your peace” or “Protect your peace.” And, while it is true that you need to “cut some people out of your life,” these phrases are often just code words for “I don’t listen to anyone who tells me hard truth.” When we come to the Scriptures we are not told to guard our peace, but rather that God’s peace guards us.

7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And what is that peace? The Scriptures teach that before you trust in Christ you really have one big enemy. Yes, Satan is our enemy and so is sin and death. But our true enemy is God. Our refusal to love him and our desire to throw off his authority makes us his enemy. But the good news is that God is a great enemy to have because God loves to forgive his enemies. And when he forgives you, your great enemy becomes your Father, your Lord, and your friend.

This is the great heart-rest, the great anxiety reliever that we all need.

However, the very moment you make peace with God, all of the other enemies you have hate you more than before. Satan, your own sin, and this world which hates God, want nothing less than your destruction.

Therefore, the peace of God is a peace that makes enemies.


One of the reasons our culture has an epidemic of anxiety is that we have forgotten what a human being is. We are not simply a mind full of thoughts, nor are we a simple body made up of electric signals and hormones. We are both body and soul. We have physical needs, emotional needs, and deep spiritual needs. In the passage before us, we see several practices or disciplines that weave together the physical, emotional, interrelational and spiritual.

Thinking – Don’t empty your mind. Fill it.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Thanking – Multifaceted prayer (Praise, Thanksgiving, Rejoicing, Confessing)

in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.


We trust that God is the sovereign author of all our stories, and for some of us he has sovereignly chosen to write dark chapters. The good news of the gospel is that the Sovereign God wrote himself into the darkest chapter of all. And here’s why this is important: first, because in Jesus, you have a God who knows what it’s like to feel anxiety.

Albert Camus, who was an atheist novelist, wrote this:

The night on Golgotha is so important in the history of man only because, in its shadows, the divinity ostensibly abandoned its traditional privilege, and lived through to the end, despair included, the agony of death.

And, more importantly, Jesus doesn’t just sympathize with you—he substituted himself for you. At the cross, the peace of the Father was utterly removed from the Son, and in its place was divine wrath and judgment. Do you know what this means? It means that the peace of God did not guard Jesus—it abandoned him, though he deserved it so that the peace of God can surround and protect you forever even though you don’t.

You say, “What does the cross have to do with your fear and anxiety?” Everything.

When you lose your peace you say, “Maybe I’m being punished.” No, look at the cross. When you can’t control your anxiety you say, “Maybe God has forgotten me.” No! Your sin was nailed to the cross, and God cannot forget you.

When Church Members Fight – Philippians 4:2-3


I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3, ESV)


How does Paul, who is in Rome under house arrest, know about this unhappy division? Either the Philippians asked for aid in a letter, or Paul had quizzed Epaphroditus.

Who were these women? It’s likely they were in the company of the first Philippian convert: Lydia (Acts 16:11-14)

11 So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

They weren’t just servants of the church, they stood, like soldiers, shoulder to shoulder with the Apostle Paul. (v. 2)

What was the nature of the division? We do not know for certain, but the text may give some clues. Because these women were courageous enough to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Apostle, it’s likely that their division was as strong as they were. (v. 3) Was it doctrinal, ethical, personal? Was there jealousy? We are not told.

What is Paul’s entreaty to them? First, notice that he refuses to play favorites. He doesn’t not say, “I entreat you both.” Rather, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche.” It means to beg on one’s knees; to plead, and he applies it to them equally.

What is he pleading? : “Agree in the Lord.” They must think about one another as Christ thinks. They are to treat one another as Christ has treated them: service, humility. They are not to stand on their dignity. (v. 2)

Notice, as well that he calls for aid from among the membership. This letter would have been read in the gathering on the Lord’s Day. He’s naming them and asking for public help because they, not Christ had become the focus of the church. (v. 3) Why does he invite a third party (true yokeman)? Perhaps they were refusing meet and solve it themselves. And who is the True Companion (v. 3)? Epaphroditus, Lydia, Luke?

When he invites this companion to help, it’s the same word construction that is used in Luke 5:7

And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them.

This spat was so heavy that it may break the church. There must be one goal: preserve true Christian unity. All hands on deck. No one can sit this out. Pray, listen, demonstrate patience.

Why? Three reasons.
• First, Paul had just exhorted the church to stand firm. (4:1)
• Secondly, these women had been faithful laborers in the gospel. (Elaborate, women teach women, Titus 2, mission work)
• Third, their names are written in the book of life. (v. 3)


The Christian church is not problem free. As the church faces opposition from the outside, she must also guard against division internally.

complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit (Phil. 2:2)

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? (James 4:1)

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (John 17:1)

Sadly, the church is really good at shooting it’s own wounded.


Christian unity is not warm feelings, it’s recognizing and aligning my life with a reality.

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.

What’s the reality that I recognize and align with? I am one with all Christians in Christ. Christ has won our unity. It’s not something we produce. It’s something we enter into as we come to Christ.

In the Creed, we confess that there is one holy universal church. Christ has one bride. He is not in heaven saying, “I wonder who will get here.”

The community of the Triune God, serving as the concrete manifestation of God’s eschatological kingdom in the world. – P. L. Metzger

Our congregation is a local and visible manifestation of the one true church eternal, glorious, sinless, divisionless.

You are free to have your own favorite color. You are free to wind the spaghetti noodles around your fork or to cut them up like a heathen. But you are not free to see fellow Christians in any way other than how the Lord Christ sees them. You are not free to treat another Christian as if they are not your brother or sister in Christ.


We don’t create it. But we are called to maintain it.

  • Treat division seriously (“I urge you”)
  • Embrace the Christ Pattern (Who took on the form of a servant, who didn’t insist on his rights)Humiliation before Exaltation
    • Cross before the Crown
    • Death, then Resurrection
    • All of this pattern for all of your life.
  • Focus on Essentials (In Christ, not minor differences either doctrinal or ethical)
    • “How big of an issue is this?”
    • How much can you overlook?
  • Recruit Help
    • Encourage others to come to terms.
    • Exhort others to admit their own blindness.
    • Discourage gossip and slander.


Standing Firm in a Falling World – Philippians 3:17-4:1


Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:17-4:1 and can be found on page 982 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

17 Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.
4 Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved.


The Lord Jesus Christ is calling our church (and every church) to faithfully stand firm in both our doctrine as well as our devotion; our minds and our actions. Faithfulness to Christ in the midst of a hostile culture is not a modern oddity, but a perennial need.

Paul doesn’t have big head. He rightly understands that Christianity isn’t just doctrinal, it’s behavioral. All of Christ for all of life, and you need role-models. (v. 17) Not all who claim Christ truly belong to Christ and many will abandon their professed faith when it comes with real consequences. (v. 18) They want immediate reward; immediate gratification and will receive ultimate and eternal destruction. (v. 19)

Christians are resident aliens. We hold dual citizenship, but this world, in its fallen state, is not our homeland. We always feel like strangers. (Ps. 137) Surprisingly, we aren’t waiting to be jerked off this planet, but for the arrival of the one who will redeem it. (v. 20) When he comes, his irresistible power will bring everything into submission and transformation—us included. (v. 21)

Knowing Christ’s return is as certain as his resurrection, stand firm. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. (v. 4:1)

You do this by following faithful models, practicing the ministry of tears and personal discipline, and you eagerly expect the return of Christ.


“Become fellow-imitators” We’re all trying to copy our big brother Jesus who has already run the race set before us. (Heb. 12:2) If you are asking, “What’s my ministry,” you first one is to follow Christ, because you are someone’s example.

Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1)

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Tim. 4:12)

I learned lots of knowledge from seminary, but I learned how to be a Christian from my parents and our church. Faith from Antha Raines, Generosity from Frank and Louise Blythe, Commitment from Bob Kidwell.


18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.

The cross of Christ has enemies. Paul had enemies. And he wept for them. We ought to both have enemies and we ought to weep for them. We ought not take any joy or satisfaction in the destruction of another human soul.

As I live, declares the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live

We are to want the utter destruction of porn, but not of those who use it. We are to pray for the end of transgender ideology (it reeks of sulfur), but the repentance, forgiveness, redemption, and restoration of those who have been drawn into the lie.

Love without truth isn’t love, it’s sentimentalism that lets people kill themselves. Truth without becomes sadistic condemnation. We are to take no pleasure, no joy, no glee when we hear about the damage sin is doing to another human.

We, following the path of Christ and Paul, are to weep for and pray for our enemies. Friend, if you are caught in any sin, if you will turn from it and trust in Christ—there is full pardon and mercy to cleanse you. Come to Jesus.


“their god is their belly, their glory their shame, they set their minds on earthly things”

Reading Paul’s description of the enemies of the cross, we see the photonegative of what a Christian ought to be. We are warned of the danger of loving the earthly creation more than the eternal Creator.

I want to debunk a common misunderstanding: We are called to submit our bodies and our desires to Christ. Christianity does not pit the body against the soul: that’s Gnosticism. Jesus’s body was raised, and we are promised a new creation. So, the body with its desires isn’t something to shed, it will be redeemed and transformed—and that transformation begins now through the indwelling of the Spirit who helps you discipline yourself.

We don’t become holy by refusing to eat, but by refusing to worship food. We don’t become beautiful by refusing to bath or put on scent, but by refusing to make our beauty the measure of our worth.


Our governing authority is in heaven. The executive power of the universe lives and reigns with the Father and the Spirit. His name is Jesus Christ. This means that our church, and every true church, is a colonial outpost, an embassy on behalf of that authority. We belong to a community of foreigners who pledge allegiance to our home country. Do you feel like an alien and a stranger? It’s because this nation isn’t your true home.

A baby feels hunger: well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim: well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire: well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of my earthly pleasures satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. Probably earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, but only to arouse it, to suggest the real thing. If that is so, I must take care, on the one hand, never to despise, or be unthankful for, these earthly blessings, and on the other, never to mistake them for the something else of which they are only a kind of copy, or echo, or mirage. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true country, which I shall not find till after death; I must never let it get snowed under or turned aside; I must make it the main object of life to press on to that other country and to help others to do the same.’ – Lewis

Jesus Christ is Lord, not Caesar. Jesus Christ is Savior, not the USA. Christians are not scofflaws. These statements are not so much a call to rebellion, as they are a reminder of where our hope lies. Our aim is to please Christ, not ourselves; to honor Christ, not the governor.

Contemplation on the authority and coming kingdom of Christ sustain us for our walk in this messed up world. Our hope is not in fixing this nation. Our hope is the establishment of Christ’s kingdom at the end of the age.

Are you suffering? Are you sick and tired of the way this world is going? Christ will transform everything by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (3:21)


Pressing On – Philippians 3:12-16


Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:12-16 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained.


Years ago, my family took a tubing trip down the New River. When you tube down a river you don’t do anything. The power of the river does all the work. The opposite of tubing down a river is rowing on a calm lake. All of the rowing team gather up their energy, their timing, and their physical power and force water behind their boat.

In this passage, Paul says that a Christian is someone who is being grabbed and moved by the power of Christ—and when that happens, they themselves begin to move with power towards Christ. They actually become like the power that empowers them.

The Christian life rests upon the great certainties of the cross & resurrection, it begins and continues because Christ powerfully takes hold of us, and it results in great personal commitment, effort, and determination.


Let’s begin by remembering the context. Paul, awaiting trial under house arrest in Rome, received financial assistance from the Philippian church whose messenger, Epaphroditus, nearly died while delivering the gift. This letter is both a thank-you and travelogue as well as an exhortation to persevere through difficulty and disunity.

Paul has catalogued his former life in which he put his confidence in his good works (3:1-6), his current life in which his only confidence is Christ (3:7-9), and his desire to be so unified with Christ that he experiences both Christ’s sufferings as well as his resurrection (3:10-11)

Paul reminds us that he is not already perfect. He is still involved in the scrapes and snarls of this life. But he’s pressing on because Christ has already apprehended him. Because Christ ran him down, he’s now running down Christ. (v. 12) In this race Paul will have missteps, but the key to victory isn’t in the mistakes that he cannot now change. Rather, he sticks out his neck like a runner towards the finish line. (v. 13)
What lies ahead: a heavenly goal. The prize is the fullness of eternal life and joy in the age to come—and that only comes through perfect unity with Christ. (v. 14) Those who are mature pursue this same goal while realizing that they aren’t yet mature. (v. 15) And, until you learn what you don’t know, hold onto what you do know. (v. 16)

What does Christian growth & maturity look like? 1. Humble Self-Assessment. 2. Aggressive Spiritual Focus 3.


v. 12 –  Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect

A Christian knows he or she has not arrived. If you ever meet someone who says they have conquered sin, just ask their spouse how they did it. If the Apostle Paul says that he has not attained perfection, what makes you think that you have? We are always coming to Jesus with the empty hands of faith.


Throughout this letter Paul has called Christians to “stand firm,” “work,” “run,” and “labor.” Grace gives us a backbone. Twice in the passage Paul says he presses on (v. 12 & 14). It’s the same word he used when he said, “I persecuted the church.” (3:6) How does the same word get translated “persecuted” and “press on”? Just as Paul had gathered up and beat the church down, he now gathers himself up and beats himself onward toward the goal. He persecutes and aggravates his sin.

Aggressive spiritual focus requires intense concentration: “One thing I do, forgetting…” Of course, Paul isn’t forgetting past mercies or past lessons. He refuses to dwell on the past in a way that hampers present effort. Love keeps no records of wrongs (1 Cor. 13:5) Don’t keep dredging up your old sins God has long forgiven (Micah 7:19)


14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

The heavenly minded do the most earthly good. If you only knew the eternal weight of glory that awaited you there, you wouldn’t try to compare the snarls of life down here. (2 Cor. 4) Christians will hear the commendation our soul craves (“Well done…” Luke 19:17), recognition that will never lose its luster (“Unfading crown of glory…” 1 Pet. 5:4), a cleansing that can’t be stained (Rev. 7:14) and a love that will last (Rev. 22:3-4)


When Paul refers to the “upward call” in v. 14, this isn’t an invitation, it’s a determination. When God calls to you in a saving way, you are summoned and compelled by his Spirit to come.


This call is a SWEET call. God so calls—as He allures. He does not force—but draw. The freedom of the will is not taken away—but the stubbornness of it is conquered.

This call is a HOLY call. “Who has called us with a holy calling” (2 Tim. 1:9). This call of God calls men out of their sins—by it they are consecrated, and set apart for God.

This call is an IRRESISTIBLE call. When God calls a man by His grace, he cannot but come. You may resist the minister’s call—but you cannot the Spirit’s call.

This call is an UNCHANGEABLE call. “God’s gracious gifts and calling are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29). That is, as a learned writer says, those gifts which flow from election. When God calls a man, He does not repent of it.

This is the blessedness of a saint—his condition admits of no alteration. God’s call is founded upon His decree—and His decree is immutable. Acts of grace cannot be reversed. God blots out His people’s sins—but not their names. Let the world ring changes every hour, a believer’s condition is unchangeable and unalterable.

Experiencing the Resurrection – Philippians 3:8-12


Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:10-11 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 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.


Most Easter sermons focus on the objective historical facts of Christ’s resurrection (medical, empty tomb, eyewitnesses), and well they do. If Christ was not raised bodily, if the material world is all there is, do you know what that means? All the great thinkers knew what it meant as well:

It is possible to provide security against other ills, but as far as death is concerned, we all live in a city without walls.

– Epicurus

What is the verdict of the vastest mind?
Silence: the book of fate is closed to us.
Man is a stranger to his own research;
He knows not whence he comes, nor whither goes.
Tormented atoms in a bed of mud,
Devoured by death, a mockery of fate.

– Voltaire

Paul knew what it meant as well. Eat and drink for tomorrow we die. (1 Cor. 15:16, 32) We have a stake in this, for there is no salvation if Christ is in the tomb.

In the passage before us Paul isn’t proving the objectivity of the resurrection. Instead, he tells us that the resurrection of Christ is also a subjective experiential reality that can come into your life—not as a romantic, idealized abstraction but as a practical reality. In order to understand this we need to look at:

First, the nature of the resurrection. What is it? Then, the effects of the resurrection. What does it look like when the resurrection is the operative power in our life. Finally, the promise of our resurrection. How can we be assured that we’ll be raised?


Paul assumed the Philippians understood what the Scriptures taught concerning the resurrection. The resurrection is not a consolation prize for having not received the life you wanted. It’s not the mere resuscitation of your body. We don’t have time to survey all the important passages, but let me give you three.

The resurrection of Christ is the swallowing up of evil, separation, and death. (Isa. 25:7-8)

7 And he will swallow up on this mountain
the covering that is cast over all peoples,
the veil that is spread over all nations.
8 He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,

The resurrection of Christ is the pattern for our own resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 23, & 49)

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ…. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.

The resurrection is the renewal of all things, and it begins now. (Matt. 19:28; Titus 3:5)

The ancient Greeks, the Philippians before they were converted, believed that history was a bug cycle that repeated itself. So, history would decline until things got really bad and then there would be a great conflagration in which the world was purged and would start over. And they had a technical term for it: palingenesia. But in Matthew 19:28 Jesus said something remarkable:

28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

When Jesus speaks of the “new world” the word is literally, “In the palingenesia…” or, “In the regeneration of all things…” and it’s not cyclical, it’s a final and eternal reality. After death is swallowed up, after all evil is burned off, the entire cosmos will be eternally renewed.

Now, hold on to that thought because this word palingenesia is only used twice in the New Testament: in Christ’s teaching on the final cosmic renewal and in Titus 3:5 when Paul says:

[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit

Do you see what this is saying? The power of God that raised Christ from the dead, the same power that will renew the cosmos eternally, is the same power that comes into your life today when you are born again and saved from your sins. In other words, the resurrection that will one day raise your body out of the grave comes to you now to raise your soul spiritually.

When Paul says to the Philippians, “I want to know the power of the resurrection,” he’s saying, “Because Christ died for sin and was bodily raised, one day death, separation, and evil will be swallowed up, my body which dies will be raised, the cosmos will be renewed, and you can begin experiencing that power now.”


What you believe about the future has dramatic implications for how you are living today. For instance, imagine you hire two women to work at your company for a one-year term. You agree to pay the first $25,000 and the second you agree to pay $15,000,000. In the ensuing year, who is going to handle adversity better? Who is more likely to look elsewhere for a better deal?

In v. 10 Paul says, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection” In the Bible “to know” goes beyond mental awareness and understanding into intimate unity. “Adam knew his wife,” isn’t a euphemistic way of saying they had sex.

Beyond knowing Christ, Paul says he wants to share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The word share is the same word Paul used earlier to speak of the financial partnership he had with the Philippian church. (Phil. 1:5) In other words, Paul says, the personal experience of the resurrection of Christ isn’t just a mental state, or internal peace. It produces radical life change. It’s a future reality that has already begun to work in the present. It controls how you live.

Two examples:

• If it’s true that at the return of Christ, God is going to raise his saints and they will never die or get sick again, then the fear of death shouldn’t drive you into despair.

• If it’s true that, at the return of Christ, God is going to bring perfectly applied justice to evil, then you have no reason to seethe in anger when evildoers seem to prosper.

We didn’t read the verses but in v. 4-6 Paul tells us about his life before Christ. He had an agenda for God. But when he met the resurrected Christ—his agenda was turned on its head and instead of having an agenda for God, God became his agenda. Before meeting Christ, he saw God as useful. But when he met Christ, he saw him as beautiful. How about you?

How can the resurrection power of Christ become more than a fact of history to you? How can you personally and practically experience that power?

Throughout this chapter, Paul has been driving toward Christ:

v. 7 “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”
v. 8 “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus.”
v. 9 “for his sake I have suffered the loss of all things that I may gain Christ.”
v. 9 “I want to be found in him.”
v. 10 “I want to know him.”
v. 11 “I want to obtain the resurrection.”

Why this relentless pursuit? Is he trying to earn his way towards resurrection? No.

12 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.

The old KJV:

that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended

When Jesus Christ went to the cross, he didn’t pay for potential sins. He didn’t die for the possibility that sinners could be saved. Friends, he went to the cross with a list of names. When he was dying, he was claiming your sin. When he was suffering, he was obtaining you; he was making you his own possession.

We are in Christ because of his changeless, loving will that it should be so.



Free Justification – Philippians 3:8-9


Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:8-9 and can be found on page 981 of the Bibles in the pew racks. These are the words of God:

8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith


If you are new to Christianity, it’s completely normal to feel like everyone is speaking in code words that have technical meanings. My goal in this series of sermons is to explain one of those code phrases—but I am doing so not to satisfy theological curiosity, but because this phrase is imminently practical for everyone in the room. The phrase I’m speaking of is “justification by faith,” or you may hear a Christian say they are justified. What does it mean to be justified? What does Paul mean when he says he has a righteousness that depends on faith?

Justification by faith is at the very heart of the gospel message—and it’s imminently practical for everyone in the room. But before we get practical, lets summarize the passage that’s in front of us


If you look up at verse 2 you see that Paul is in the middle of warning the Philippian Christians of false-teachers. (v. 2) Judaizers taught that one must first become a law-abiding Jew before one could be a Christian, but true Christianity puts no confidence in our own moral record. (v. 3) And Paul knows this because no one had a better moral record than himself. (v. 4-6)

When Paul met the risen Christ, his confidence in his own moral record in melted like snow on the equator. He could not produce the kind of moral record God required, but thankfully, God offered him a perfect record and all that was required of Paul was trust. (v. 8-9)

And that’s the center of the Christian gospel—man owes a debt to God but cannot pay it. God can pay the debt, but he is not required to pay it—man is. Therefore, the Son of God, without losing his deity, became a man and did what we could not do: he achieved a morally perfect record. In his death, he took upon himself the divine punishment of sinners.

So, how are you made right with God? Only by true faith in Jesus Christ. God, without any merit of ours, out of mere grace, gives to us the perfect moral record of Christ, and treats us as if we had never committed any sin and as if we had accomplished all the obedience which Christ fulfilled for us—all we must do is accept this with a believing heart. That’s what it means to be justified.

So, let’s take a moment, and bring all of this doctrine down to earth by answering three questions. Why do we need it? What is it? How do we get it?


Throughout this passage Paul is saying: you need righteousness. Whether you realize it or not, you need it. And I know that this word righteousness may be unclear to some of you. It’s not a word we often use, and when we do it’s typically negative. So, let me explain righteousness from a different angle. Years ago, I heard a preacher say that righteousness is a record of performance which opens doors.

So, if you are wanting a job, you bring out your resume—it’s a performance record showing that you have the requisite skills for the job. And, if your resume is sufficient, you get hired on.

Or, if you’re applying to college you send your high school transcripts and your SAT scores. What is that? You give them a record of your performance and say, “Based on my record, accept me.”

Now, when it comes to being accepted by God, welcomed by God, you don’t bring out your resume, or your transcripts, you bring out your moral record. In verse 3 Paul says, “we put no confidence in the flesh.” In verse 4 he says that no one has more reason for confidence than him. The word for confidence means to trust in or depend upon like soldier who, while fighting in a battle, trusted that his shield would stop the arrows and spears of the enemy, or a blind person depends upon a guide to get them to their destination.

In other words, says Paul, “Most people, when they begin to sense a need for God or a fear of punishment from God, they depend upon their moral record to protect guide them to God, or to protect them from judgment.”

You may think, “I’m not a religious person. I’m not looking for God.” Maybe not, but you are still looking for justification—which is the same Biblical word as righteousness.

Arthur Miller –

For many years I looked at life like a case at law, a series of proofs. When you’re young you probe how brave you are, or smart, then, what a good lover, then, a good father, finally, how wise, or powerfully… [I’ve always presumed]… That I was moving on an upward path toward some elevation, where I would be justified

Joanna Gaines –

I used to want to do everything, be everything. I typically have a pretty clear vision in my mind of how I want things done. I just felt easier to do things myself rather than try to explain what I was looking for and then have to fix it all when it invariably would end up falling short.

This may make me sound like a textbook control freak and I probably was. I thought that high level of perfectionism was serving me well all those years.

Lately though, I have felt different. It could just be because I have more on my plate than I am physically capable of accomplishing. But whatever the reason, I no longer feel the need to do it all. I couldn’t see it until recently, but this wasn’t just about the work being done “right.”

There was something more sinister hiding in my best laid plans. I realize now that I found me self-worth neatly packaged together with all that I did. In fact, the two really couldn’t be separated. I wouldn’t have admitted this back then, but I think I was scared of what I would be left with if I stopped doing. I was terrified of what I might hear if I paused long enough to listen.

Arthur Miller, Joanna Gaines, and the Apostle Paul – what are you putting confidence in? You need righteousness. You’re looking for it whether you think you are or not.


In v. 9, Paul says he was trying to build his own righteousness resume; trying to earn his justification. But when he met the risen Christ he realized that God had been building his own moral record. Not just a good moral record, a perfect one. He learned that the righteousness we all need isn’t achieved, it’s received. It’s not one we make, it’s one that Christ made, and it comes to us, it’s imputed to us.

Imagine that a soldier who had won the Congressional Medal of Honor took the medal off their neck and placed it on yours so that everywhere you went, you were treated as if you had won the medal of honor. Doors would open for you. Everyone would show deference and honor to you. People would bow and you would be greeted with welcome.

That’s what it means to receive the righteousness of Christ. (2 Cor. 5:21) It means that God now treats you as if you had done every righteous thing Jesus Christ had done.

Righteousness is not pardon. Pardon says, “You may go.” Righteousness says, “You may come.” It means that you aren’t sneaking in the back door of heaven. The doors are flung wide and trumpets blast and you are welcomed as if you were as sinless as Jesus Christ himself is.


You receive the performance record of Christ through repentance and faith. Two more Christian code words, right? They’re actually very simple words. What is repentance? Verse 7 “whatever gain I had, I count as loss.” These are accounting terms. In other words, repentance is an inversion of your ledgers. Everything he thought was in the profit column he now sees as a loss.

What is faith? Paul says in verse 9 that we need the “righteousness that comes through faith.” Faith is mere rational ascent. It’s not simply agreeing with truth claims. In v. 3 Paul says we don’t put confidence in our own record, instead we “glory in Christ Jesus.” This isn’t the common word for glory (doxa), but rather, a word that means “brag,” or “boast.” What do you boast in? What are you proud of? Paul once boasted in his own good deeds. Now he only boasts of Christ.


Now, let me be clear, neither repentance (counting as loss) nor faith (boasting in Christ) are works which earn God’s favor. (Rom. 5:8; Rom. 4:5) God justifies the ungodly. You do nothing to earn it. Some people think this doctrine will lead people to disobedience. “If this is true, if it’s completely free then I’d have no incentive to live a godly life.”

If when you lose all fear of punishment you also lose your incentive for living a good life then the only incentive you had to be good was fear. And here’s what is ironic: the fear is a selfish fear. And a good person is not selfish. When you live a good life so that God will love you and bless you it is by definition, not good. You’re not helping the poor, you’re helping yourself. You’re not serving God, you’re serving yourself.

This is why there is nothing in the world like free justification. The world is not divided between those who obey God and those who don’t. You can live an obedient life—that’s utterly selfish in motivation. But the Christian gospel says the word is divided between those who are boasting in themselves and those who are boasting only in Christ.

This is why so many people cycle in and out of church. They grow up in the church as children. They leave as college students. They cycle back in as young parents. What’s going on? Many times here’s what’s happening: they are trying to practice Christianity. They know they’ve done wrong. They confess and ask forgiveness, and they try harder.

But this passage says that Christ is the end of all your striving. If you are still trying to earn your place here, you have not understood the gospel. Martin Lloyd Jones used to ask people, “Are you a Christian?” And if they said, “I’m trying to be,” he knew they weren’t, because you don’t become a Christian by trying.

What are you looking to? In what are you boasting? To be a Christian means to glory only in Christ.


“The Gospel & Ethnic Animosity” – Philippians 3:1-7

“The Gospel & Ethnic Animosity” – Philippians 3:1-7

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Our text for today comes from Philippians 3:1-7. These are the words of God:

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.
2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4 though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.


If you look down further in the chapter, Paul says, “For his sake I count everything as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.” Now, those words are at the heart of the gospel. Not trusting in our own record to make us right with God but receiving the righteous record of Christ by faith.

I have to tell you that original I planned to preach verses 1-11 in a single sermon, but as I studied the passage, I realized that these verses, as rich as they are in theology—they are equally rich in practical application. So, we’re taking three Sundays to go through these same verses, but we’ll look at them from various perspectives. Next week we’ll define what we mean by justification by faith. On Easter we’ll consider how the gospel leads us through suffering into resurrection. But today, our focus will be on verse 1-8: how the gospel of grace through faith changes our understanding of race.

Let’s begin by summarizing the text:


Teaching often involves repetition, and Paul isn’t bothered to keep teaching the same lesson over and over to the churches. (v. 1) One lesson the Apostles taught over and again was the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. (Rom. 4:11)

“Look out for those who mutilate the flesh,” isn’t a warning about indigenous tribes who carve up bodies; rather it’s a warning against Judaizers who pervert the gospel by conflating the Covenant of Abraham with the Covenant of Grace. They’ve become as Gentile dogs. Rather than “the circumcision,” they’ve become, “the mutilators.” (v.2)

The true “circumcision” isn’t the cutting of an external organ, it’s the removal of the old dead heart of sin. (Deuteronomy 10; Jer. 4:1-4; Rom. 2:28-29) Christians, therefore, put no confidence in the works of the flesh for their justification. (v. 3)

It’s here that Paul begins to dismantle one of the oldest false-salvations in history: that of ethnic and cultural superiority; trusting in one’s ethnic and cultural heritage as a means of justifying oneself. And if it were possible for race and culture to be a savior, no one would be safer, says Paul, than himself. (v. 4)

Here is Paul’s ethnic, cultural, and religious resume: circumcised on the 8th day (Lev. 12:3); this set him apart from pagans. The claim of belonging to Israel meant he was a naturally born member of God’s covenant people, not a second-class convert. Beyond this, he was from a prominent, kingly tribe, and was a Hebrew of Hebrews—not a pureblood Jew practicing Greek culture. As an adult he joined a strict religious order—the Pharisees. (v.5) And what about cultural and racial fanaticism? Paul persecuted the church (Acts 8). What about religious radicalism? Blameless. (v. 7)

But when he met Jesus Christ, the Son of God who was nailed to a bloody cross for Paul’s pardon and forgiveness, he realized that his pride in his ethnic and religious fanaticism was the very thing that was destroying him—and even now in the 21st century, (2,000 years later) racial fanaticism is still devouring us.


One of the reasons the gospel was given was to conquer racial enmity and animosity. All humanity descends from one pair of humans: Adam & Eve which means that no matter how diverse in their physical appearance, economic prospects, or cultural heritage the descendants of that original pair are, we are all brothers and sisters. There is one human race.

And yet, from Genesis 4 onward we see brother turn against brother, clan against clan, tribe against tribe, kingdom against kingdom, and nation against nation. It should, therefore, be no surprise that one of the reasons for the gospel is to put an end to the most bitter ethnic vainglory and racial animosity in history, that of Jew & Gentile:

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:11)

Do you see what these two passages are saying? If you believe the truth of the gospel—the good news—then racial animosity has been crucified in Christ. Walls of hostility have been struck and broken down by the cross of the bleeding Savior. If you believe that every human being is so wicked that God had to kill his own son to redeem them—then no one can glory in their cultural or ethnic heritage. Therefore, to pridefully elevate a racial or cultural identity above any other, as if any race has more or less intrinsic worth is wicked and foolish boasting.

The white slave holders of the 17th century cannot glory in their whiteness as if that is what saves them. The woke left of the 21st century cannot glory in their anti-whiteness as if that saves them. There is only one true justification and it’s the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ.


So, what are we to think about the various cultures of the world? Every human culture and racial history contain goodness and evil, right and wrong, achievements and regrets. Whatever good we find in every culture we call God’s common grace. (Matt. 5:45) Whatever evil we find in every single culture is a result of human depravity. (Gen. 3)

And, whenever you see someone come to the living God in the Bible, they don’t lose their ethnic or cultural history or identity. The Gentiles who Paul reached weren’t required to jettison their cultures. They were called to embrace Christ above their culture.

When you submit yourself to Christ, you are submitting all of yourself—your will, your desires, your family, and even your cultural heritage—but you aren’t submitting those things so they can be destroyed. You are submitting them so they can be cleansed and purified and resurrected. Christianity is the one religion in the world, that when you embrace it you don’t lose your cultural identity—you only lose your cultural idolatries.

Paul’s ethnic and cultural heritage was not revolting, but his viewing of that heritage as a sign of his superiority. What sickened Paul was not his race or his religion, it was his leaning upon it and trusting in it as his source of commendation.


So, what does Jesus have to say to those who are guilty of glorying in their racial identity, or looking to their cultural heritage as if it could save them. First, he says, confess this great evil. Humble yourself in the sight of the Lord and call out to him for mercy and pardon. Whatever gain you had from your understanding of race—count it as loss for the sake of Christ.

And when you do that—you will hear the words that the world can never speak to you:

It is finished. (Jn. 19:30) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…For God has done what the law could not do. He’s done what the slave holders could not do. He’s done what the white fragility crowd cannot do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, (Rom. 8:13) The old has passed away. Behold all things are made new. (2 Cor. 5:17)

Why can’t our world utter those words? Because the grace of God is free grace, and the world cannot have free grace. Guilt can be monetized, but grace cannot. In rejecting the Christ who died for sinners, the world can’t allow sin and guilt and grievances to die and stay dead. So, you are either embracing the death of your sin in Christ and making Biblical restitution for your sins, or you are continually dying for your ethnic sins. There is no other way. This gospel covers every sin that is truly repented of. This grace is free to all who confess and believe. Jesus Christ died and rose for the sins of black and white men alike. He died for the lazy, the bitter, the drunks, and whores. He died for white collar embezzlers and those who cheat on their taxes.

So come to Christ. Bring your sins to him. Lay them down at his feet so that they can die, and you can be raised to walk in righteousness.



“The Emptied Christ” – Philippians 2:1-8

“The Emptied Christ” – Philippians 2:1-8

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Both Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis have deeply shaped how I think about this passage. 


Our text for today comes from Philippians 2:1-8. If you are using one of the Bibles in the pew rack the text can be found on page 980. These are the words of God:

27 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Paul opens with a string of appeals. “Is this Christianity stuff good for anything?” Then let it drive you into a humility that leads to true relational peace and unity. Now, this entire passage is about the one topic that is more difficult than maybe any other to preach: pride and humility.

Humility: Why do we need it? What is it? How do we get it?


In v. 3 Paul says we’re naturally inclined towards selfish ambition or conceit. And, the Bible says this is the one vice no one can avoid. We hate it when we see it in others, but none of us imagine that we ourselves are guilty of it. People will admit to having a bad temper or that they abuse alcohol—but no one says, “I’m prideful.”

Lewis said that all the other vices such as anger, greed, and drunkenness—they’re all fleabites in comparison to pride – and we’re all guilty of it.

But, what is it? There’s an expression Paul uses in v 3 and the old KJV gets pretty close with “vainglory,” for the word is “κενοδοξία.” “κενο” – to be empty. “δοξα” – glory. We’re all “glory-empty.”

The Bible says that we were not made for ourselves, nor were we made primarily for other humans. You were made for him; to know him and enjoy his glory. Only the infinite, blazing glory and beauty of God can fill the glory vacuum of your soul. And, if you turn away from him, you have an infinite glory vacuum—an infinite validation and approval vacuum, that can never be filled with praise or accolades from finite humans. If you turn away from God, you’ll be cosmically insecure, touchy, and irritable.

So, here we are: all starved for validation and approval. All insecure and starved for respect. And this is why we fight. We’re not sure of our own significance, and whenever we feel that someone is threatening our glory, or our validation, we go on the offensive, because it’s better to have someone angry at us than to be ignored.

Jonathan Edwards (Charity & its Fruits) essentially said that our glory-emptiness manifests itself in 4 ways:

Willfulness – Always right. Often wrong, but never in doubt. Doesn’t listen. Will not receive and act upon wise counsel. It’s a mark of inner emptiness.

Scornfulness – Putting people below you. Courtesy and gentleness is not a sign of being nice, but of being full.

Drivenness – It’s one thing to work hard. It’s another to work habitually.

Unhealthy self-consciousness – To be self-absorbed either by your own perceived greatness, or worthlessness.

Husbands, why do you get angry when your wife disagrees with your judgement. Wives, why do you secretly disdain and scorn your husband when he overlooks you? Why is there so much bullying in young people? Why do we fight? Not because we’re assured of our self-worth, but because we are not.

“Pride is the first sin that ever entered the universe and the last sin to be rooted out.” It’s the sin that made the devil the devil.

Why do we need humility? Because we’re all glory-empty, looking to finite creatures for validation that only God can give us.


The essence of pride is considering yourself. And some people consider themselves through congratulation, others by condemnation, but they share one thing in common: the focus is on themselves.

Notice how Paul goes after pride: Paul doesn’t say to the self-congratulator, “You should be more self-condemning.” To the self-condemner, he does not say, “Start respecting yourself.” Instead, he says to both, “Consider others” The photonegative of being “glory-empty,” in v. 3 is considering others. Humility is not thinking less of yourself—it’s thinking of yourself less.

You aren’t all-wise—so you have to consider the wisdom and opinions of others. You need 2-3 close friends in the church to whom you go for counsel—and they need the freedom to challenge you, and you need to submit to godly counsel.

You who are driven – take a break to enjoy time with family. Consider their need for companionship with you. Don’t delay marriage and children for the sake of being driven in your career.

Who are you serving? Your spouse? Parents? A neighbor? Ask them what their needs are and then fulfill them in the same way you would if they were your needs.

But this call to consider others more important than ourselves introduces a new problem. We all know what it takes to consider others. It takes work. It isn’t easy. We can do it for a little while, but we begin to run dry. We sacrifice until we realize that our needs aren’t being met in return. So, how can we ever consider others when our needs aren’t being met? What hope do we have, when we’re empty, of filling others up? How can we meet the needs of others if our own needs are not met?

When you’re preparing for takeoff, the attendant explains that when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling you are to put your own mask on before trying to help anyone else. And the reason is when the cabin loses pressure there’s a void of oxygen. And only if your lungs are full of oxygen can you help others. The same is true here.

The only way you can selflessly serve others without doing it to fill your own approval vacuum is if you are already full.


The only way you’ll be full enough to serve others selflessly, with no thought of how it may come back to you is through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If you are going to war with pride, the incarnation is the ultimate weapon. Why?

Jesus Christ is the ultimate threat to your vainglory because when you meet the real Jesus you realize that you’ve met someone who in every way is immeasurably superior to yourself. Look at where he is—in heaven, exalted, worshipped by innumerable angels. V. 5 – he’s in very nature, God. This means his true and permanent glory outshines your ephemeral vainglory as the Sun outshines a hand crank flashlight.

And what threatens our vainglory so much is the fact that he’s not threatened. In fact, in the incarnation—he gives up everything we’ve ever wanted—and he does it without a second thought. He’s equal to the father—and he lets it all go. He’s adored by angels, yet he chooses to be scorned and mocked. He says, “Not what I will.” I won’t insist on my own way.

All of us are empty, and we’re killing one another to get glory. Jesus Christ was infinitely full of glory and he emptied himself, even allowing himself to be killed. Why? For you.

We all want validation and recognition and we’d rather someone be angry at us than be ignored. And yet, on the cross, the one who was infinitely glorious was emptied and forgotten. Do you see what happened? At the cross, Jesus Christ went through our worst nightmare. We turned away from God and deserve his turning away from us. Instead, Jesus Christ was cast out so that we could hear the voice of the Father saying, “You are my child. In you, I am well pleased.”

At the end of the Lord of the Rings, Sauron has been defeated, all of the great warriors and kings of the earth have gathered on the field of victory… and in walk these two tiny Hobbits. Here are these two little people standing before the banners and trumpeters of Aragorn.

“And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, he led them to the throne, and [set them upon it]

To our great surprise and utter confusion, the true king of glory has bowed the knee, gone to the cross, and in doing so, has set us upon the throne.

It’s not enough to know this—you have to use it on yourself. You have to daily take it into yourself and let it fill the emptiness until you are full. You can’t validate yourself. No other mere human can validate you. Only the infinite glory of Jesus Christ, seen most clearly in his incarnation and death can fill you so that you overflow in service to others.