Tuesday, December 24, 2013

You Shall Call His Name Jesus

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (v. 21).

Baby Names 

When a baby boy or girl is born, one of the big decisions for the parents is what to name the baby. What were the top Canadian baby names in 2013? The top names for boys were Liam, Jacob, and William, and the top names for girls were Emma, Olivia, and Sofia/Sophia. Babycenter.com has a list of unusual 2013 baby names. Some unusual boy baby names were Kashmere, Legend, and Cheese. Some unusual girl baby names were Oceana, Blip, and Fairy.

Joseph probably would have had enough sense not to name Mary’s son “Cheese,” but neither he nor Mary were permitted to name the baby boy. A name had already been chosen. The angel said to Joseph, “[Mary] will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (v. 21). Why was Joseph to give the baby the name “Jesus”?

There is a connection between the name of Jesus and the mission of Jesus. 

The Name and Mission of Jesus 

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (vv. 24-25; cf. Luke 2:21). 

1. “Jesus” was a popular name. 

“Jesus” was not a unique name. Many Jewish baby boys were given the same name. “Jesus” (Gk. Iesous) is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Joshua” (Hb. Yeshua). The name means “Yahweh (the Lord) saves.” 

2. “Jesus” was a prophetic name. 

Mary’s son was to be named “Jesus” because “he [would] save his people from their sins” (v. 21). In Luke’s Gospel, the angel announced to the shepherds, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). As an adult, Jesus declared, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28).

Jesus Was Born to Be a Savior 

Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, people misunderstood the kind of salvation he came to bring. He was not born to bring political salvation; he was born to save people “from their sins” (v. 21). This is our greatest need.

We can be saved from the consequences of our sins because of Christ’s death and resurrection. He was punished so that we could be forgiven. He died so that we could have eternal life.

There is a big difference between Santa and Jesus. If you’re nice, Santa will bring you presents. But if you’re naughty, he’ll leave a lump of coal in your stocking. Jesus, on the other hand, gives salvation to all who repent of their sin and put their faith in him, whether they’ve been nice or naughty.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Learning Contentment

Part 11 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians

[Sorry, there is no audio for this sermon.]

I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me (vv. 11b-13). 

Is Contentment Possible? 

The apostle Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians by thanking them for a gift (probably money) they had sent him. In his expression of thanks, Paul wants the Philippians to know that he would be content whether he received their gift or not.

[Read 4:10-23.] 

Have you started your Christmas shopping? According to BMO Financial Group, Christmas spending by Canadians is projected to climb for the third consecutive year. Canadians expect to spend (on gifts, trips, entertaining, etc.) an average of $1,810 this Christmas season—up from $1,610 (12 percent) in 2012 and $1,397 (30 percent) in 2011. Atlantic Canadians anticipate spending $759 on Christmas gifts. That’s higher than the Canadian average ($678).

But Canadians do have good intentions about their Christmas spending. According to Deloitte’s “2013 Holiday Retail Outlook,” 59.1 percent of Canadians plan to spend the same amount on Christmas as they did last year and 34.5 percent plan to spend less. Only 6.5 percent say they will spend more. However, what we plan to spend and what we actually spend are two different things.

So why do we often end up spending more than we planned. One reason is TV commercials. (By now I’m sure you’ve seen lots of Christmas TV commercials.) The purpose of TV commercials is to create discontentment within us. Businesses don’t want you to be content with what you have. (I didn’t realize I needed a Duck Dynasty Chia Pet until I saw them advertised on TV.)

Think of all the things we were once content without, but now we think are necessities.

  • We used to be content with a standard definition TV; now we need a high definition TV. 
  • We used to be content watching TV shows when they air; now we need a DVR. 
  • We used to be content with 20 TV channels; now we need 200 channels (but we still only watch 20). 
  • We used to be content with a regular coffee maker; now we need a Keurig Brewing System. 
  • We used to be content with a regular telephone; then we needed a cell phone; then we needed a Blackberry; then we needed an iPhone; now we need an iPhone 5S. 

When we think about all the things we don’t have, it’s easy to be discontent. But Paul writes, “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content” (v. 11). When Paul wrote this letter, he was a prisoner and execution was a possibility. His circumstances were bad, but he was content. Paul was someone who could be content whether his Christmas stocking was full or empty, whether he went home for Christmas or stayed in prison, whether he enjoyed a turkey dinner or ate prison food.

Circumstances change, but contentment is always possible for the Christian. 

How to Be Content 

Contentment is possible, but it doesn’t happen instantaneously. Twice Paul says that he had “learned” to be content (vv. 11, 12). He had learned it in both good and bad circumstances. (Good circumstances don’t guarantee contentment. Ecclesiastes 5:12 says, “Sweet is the sleep of a laborer, whether he eats little or much, but the full stomach of the rich will not let him sleep.”) He says, “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound” (v. 12). (Those who think that Christians should expect to be healthy and wealthy need to examine the lives of the NT’s two main characters: Jesus and Paul.)

In 4:10-23, there are six truths that can help you be content regardless of your circumstances.

1. In every circumstance, God is still in control. 

The Philippians had helped Paul financially in the past (vv. 15-16). Now they had “revived [their] concern for [Paul]” (v. 10; cf. v. 18). Why hadn’t they helped Paul for several years? We’re not given the reason. Paul simply says, “You had no opportunity” (v. 10). Instead of being bitter about the lack of help coming from the Philippians, he trusted that God, in his sovereignty, would provide for him in other ways.

2. In every circumstance, Christ can give you strength. 

The word “content” (v. 11) was used by Stoic philosopher’s of Paul’s time to mean “self-sufficient.” But unlike the Stoic, Paul does not find the resources for contentment in himself. Instead, the strength the face all circumstances is found in Christ. Paul wasn’t someone who claimed to be strong (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-10), but he writes, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (v. 13). This is the “secret” (v. 12) to learning contentment.

3. In every circumstance, we are to think of others. 

Even in bad circumstances, we are to have the attitude of Christ (2:5-8). We are to “look not only to [our own] interests, but also to the interests of others” (2:4). Paul is more concerned about how the gift will benefit the Philippians than how it will benefit himself: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit” (v. 17). Being self-focused during times of trouble will only increase our unhappiness.

4. In every circumstance, God will give you want you need.

Paul gives the Philippians a promise: “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (v. 19). Is Paul referring to material needs, spiritual needs, or both? Probably both. But we may need to reassess our “needs.” (In verse 12, Paul says he has been in “need.” Perhaps sometimes we need to be in need.) In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes, “There is great gain in godliness with contentment, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content” (1 Tim. 6:6-8). Discontentment with what we have (“the love of money”) can lead us away from God (1 Tim. 6:9-10).

5. In every circumstance, it’s possible to glorify God. 

Paul includes a doxology in verse 20: “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” This is a reminder that our purpose is to glorify God, and he can be glorified in both good and bad circumstances. 

6. In every circumstance, you can be grateful. 

The letter ends with a benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (v. 23). When we go through difficulty, it’s helpful to think of the blessings in our lives. The greatest blessing is salvation by God’s grace through faith in Christ. Though circumstances change, God's love remains, and our hope in Christ remains.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Part 10 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians

You can listen to this sermon here.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (vv. 6-7).

An Anxiety Epidemic 

The church at Philippi was not free of problems. When Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians, they were experiencing two: persecution and disunity. Many of them were probably worrying about the future of their church. So Paul tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6).

[Read 4:1-9.] 

It’s been said that anxiety is the “disease of the twenty-first century.” We live in a sin-cursed world in which bad things happen. Many people are filled with worry afraid of what might happen to them and their loved ones in the future. Probably some of you struggle with anxiety.

Life makes us anxious, but God gives us peace. 

Our Anxiousness

Paul tells the Philippians, “Do not be anxious about anything” (v. 6a). In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus says three times, “Do not be anxious” (vv. 25, 31, 34).

[Read Matt. 6:25-34.] 

There is a difference between concern and anxiety. Timothy was “genuinely concerned for [the Philippians’] welfare” (2:20; cf. 1 Cor. 12:25). The Greek word for “concerned” (merimnao) is the same as the Greek word for “anxious” in 4:6.

1. Anxiousness doesn’t work. 

Jesus asked, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matt. 6:27). Being anxious actually does more harm than good. It can subtract hours from our life spans.

Jesus also said, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (v. 34). In other words, each day has enough trouble on its own. Worrying is bringing the possible troubles of tomorrow into today. (Most times those troubles we think might happen never happen.)

2. Anxiousness should not to be tolerated. 

Sometimes Christians say, “I’m just a worrier. Worry runs in my family.” It’s true that many people are predisposed to anxiety. But that shouldn’t be used as an excuse for anxiety. (Many people are predisposed to lust. That doesn’t make it acceptable for them to have lustful thoughts.)

It’s often asked whether or not anxiety is a sin. “Do not be anxious about anything” is a command. To disobey it is a sin. However, we need to be sympathetic with those who struggle with anxiety. Christians who worry desperately want to rid their themselves of anxiety.

3. Anxiousness creates more problems. 

When we are anxious, we are not joyful. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (v. 4). We rejoice in the Lord, not in our circumstances. Paul was rejoicing even though he was a prisoner (1:12-18). “In the Lord” is a key phrase in Philippians (1:14; 2:19, 24; 3:1; 4:1, 2, 4, 10).

When we are anxious, we are less likely to be kind to others. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone” (v. 5). (Friday was “Black Friday.” People who are worried about getting a certain item on sale are not gentle with others. Some people have started calling Walmart “Brawlmart.”)

God's Peace 

Paul continues, “But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6b-7). “The peace of God” is an inner sense of contentment given by God. It is the opposite of anxiety.

1. God’s peace comes to those who pray. 

When we pray, we show our dependence on God. We are to pray “with thanksgiving” (v. 6). When we have anxious thoughts, we should think of all the blessing for which we are thankful.

The apostle Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). To stop worrying requires humility. We must admit to God that we can’t handle life on our own. 

[Read Luke 10:38-42.] 

Jesus said to Martha, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41). Instead of being “distracted” (v. 40) by our anxious thoughts, we need to take time to be like Mary who “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (v. 39).

2. God’s peace exceeds human understanding.

Some people might think Paul’s counsel is a bit na├»ve. “Just pray and you’ll have peace instead of anxiety?” Obviously it’s not that easy or no Christian would be anxious. But if we sincerely engage in thankful prayer, casting our cares upon a loving God, we are promised that God will give us his peace. That’s something that can’t be fully described. It must be experienced.

3. God’s peace protects our hearts and minds. 

In verse 9, Paul writes, “The God of peace will be with you.” We are promised not only the peace of God but also the God of peace himself.