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Sermon for 29 October

The Secret of Being Content

Final session on Philippians. We’ve understood how it is emphatic encouragement on how to stand firm in joy and faith … Hugh speaking about joy being centred Christ, Craig speaking about humility, and Simon encouraging us to press on. Philippians is all about encouragement to stand firm.

There are various things we can do to stand firm (activethings) and there is one thing that we need to connect to / simply receive (passive thing).

While these things are important, it is this verse I want to focus on today:

Phil 4:12-13 I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

This implies that despite all our best efforts, all these ‘active’ things, something deeper and better and eternally fixed trumps it all: our being in Christ. What is that? Is this a passive thing? What does it mean to be ‘in Christ’? How does Christ do ‘joy’ inside us, in a way that nothing else can come close to? Why are we ‘transformed’ in Christ, and why is it phrased as ‘in’ Christ, rather than ‘under’ Christ, or ‘in the light of all he has done’?

Here we are coming into one of the hubs of Paul’s favourite topics… the transformed life in Christ. 

I was brought up with Sunday School, Bible stories, prayers but I think I always thought that being a good Christian was all about the ‘active’ things. The best way to live, having good choices, even standing strong in faith… it was all about effort though… until I went to boarding school, and a teacher shared the simple gospel with me. It was pure revelation! Nothing of my own effort gets me to heaven, just asking to Jesus to live in my heart.

So I did. I was 12. In many ways naïve and childlike, I took my little gospel tract and I went down into the woods near my boarding house, kneeled on the leafy floor, and read out the little prayer to God, giving my life to Him, all of me, forever.

Then I went up the hill. I should say skipped up that hill though, there was a feeling like bubbles in my chest and I had a new joy, bubbling, overflowing, excited, emboldening, as I announced to a dormitory of girls that I’d just given my heart to Jesus forever. Did you catch that? A new joy.

This was the beginning of me having the secret of being content. The connection with Jesus, INDEPENDENT of my own effort, brought overflowing joy.


· In Colossians Paul talks about Christ in you being the hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

· In John 17 Jesus talks about being ‘one’ with us, just as He is one with the Father

· Paul says whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit (1 Cor 6:17).

Is this what happened to me on that leafy floor of the forest in Berkshire? Some would say my beliefs were changed (cerebrally) in that moment, that I somehow ‘became one with the universe’ in a yoga / pantheistic sense, some might say I was purely emotionally aroused in that moment.

To me it certainly felt like becoming one with God in spirit, so deep and intermingling was the sense of utter transformation.


So the joy of Phillipians is not the active things, however good they are, but being in Christ, partnered internally and forever.

The concept of God partnering with human beings is a story that builds chronologically through the Old Testament, when God makes covenants with people. He is known as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who keeps his covenant of love for a thousand generations of those who love him (Deut 7:9).

Covenant is an agreement of forever faithfulness, an ancient custom throughout world, where a sacrifice is made and the two parties make vows, and the curses are read out if you fail to keep your vows. In the West we’ve heard of the concept of blood brothers. If you are in covenant with someone you cleave to them, you are part of them, you get their blessings and they get yours, you share life together. God covenanted with people.

God living inside us, in intimate fellowship, my experience of the bubbles in my heart, was a covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and Ezekial a few hundred years before Christ. This one was to be an ‘inside out’ covenant.

Jer 31:31 The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel… I will put my law in their minds and write in on their hearts.

Ezek 36:27 And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.

How? How can God put His Spirit in us, in our frail, sinful bodies? When we realise that Christ died for me, on my behalf, my sin is dealt with. When we identify with him being buried in our baptism, our old, sinful selves is dead and gone forever. When we realise that we will be raised with him after we die, like coming out of the waters of baptism, we identify with his victory over sin and death: it is our victory too. When we eat his flesh and drink his blood at Communion we identify with him at our core, our physical self binds with Him entirely, it is a sacrament but also a binding covenant: it is truly a blood covenant.

Jesus said of the wine of Communion, ‘This is the blood of my covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins Matt 26:28). Even before the Last Supper, right after the feeding of the five thousand, he alluded to how we would to become ‘one with him’, when He said that whoever ‘ate his flesh and drink his blood’ would remain in Him, and the Father’s life would spill through their life (Jn 6).

We can really say we are forever friends, blood brothers, with Jesus. We are bound together, we are one now. We share his blessings, we share his life, we share his joy.

We can say, with Paul, ‘I no longer live, but Christ lives in me’ (Gal 2:20) and that he longs to gain Christ and be found in him (Phil 3:9). There is a sense, like intertwining circles, we are eternally bound together: won by Him, loved by Him, saved by Him.


What does it feel like to have Christ within? Many here will know, some may not…

We are born again in our spirit, it is our spirit which becomes truly alive, rather than dead in its sins. Life starts to bubble up within us, fresh zeal, passion, motivations. You might suddenly feel full of energy for Kingdom business, full of a pure kind of compassion for others which goes deeper but comes without the guilt-trip, you might get a fervent desire to communicate the gospel where you never had this before, you might actually want to lay your hands on the sick and see them healed… the Life is often expressed through our own uniqueness but it is powerful, like the energy Paul talks about in Ephesians 2 working so powerfully within him, the same energy that raised Christ from the dead. These are ‘spiritual feelings’ or a sense of a changed spirit within.

We will start to find ourselves able to live more righteously too, as we focus on Jesus, and take our focus away from things that gratify the senses.


The secret of being content in Paul’s letter to the Phillipians is not the active things, although these are all a good idea. The secret of being content is the connection and intimate communion we have with Jesus, through identifying with the cross and resurrection as our own. When this happen he pours Life into our hearts, his constancy, his joy, his love. It is a sharing in the Life that flows from heaven’s throne, the resurrection Life, which gives Life to our mortal bodies:

Rom 8:11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.

I’d love to close with a prayer of commitment to Jesus, to identify with his cross and resurrection as our own, for the forgiveness of our sins, and an invitation for Him to come and pour His Life into our bodies, so we are in Him, and He is in us.



We were crucified with him

·Rom 6:6 we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin

·Gal 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God,

We died with Him;

·Col 3:1 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

We were buried with Him, and made alive in Him

Rom 6:4We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Col 2:12-13 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ

And we were raised with Him;

Eph 2:6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus


Posted: 31/10/2017 at 21:30
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