Sermon: A Sovereign God and a Fallen Heart (Philippians 4:2-9)

A Sovereign God and a Fallen Heart

Philip. 4:2-9 (ESV)

I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.  [3] 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.

[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.

There is a very popular preacher today that is successful in the eyes of many.  This pastor of an immense church, the largest in the country, and who reaches a still larger congregation through television, preaches exclusively upbeat messages telling people how to be happy, how to be successful, how to have positive relationships, and so on. “How-to” is the theme of his preaching. It is, in fact, barely Christian preaching. There is very little about God, about sin, about judgment, about the cross, about death and the resurrection, even very little about the law of God. These are sermons on psychological method or technique.—Robert Reymond

The Apostle Paul preaches How-to sermons as well.  However, his How-to sermons are very different.  The Apostle lays out biblical truth.  This foundation is set in place as he very boldly handles issues of sin and judgment and of the work of Christ.  Only after a very thorough theological foundation is set in place does he give practical steps to accomplish the truth he has taught.

This is where the hard work enters the equation.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s hard work at times to understand the Bible’s teaching on different things but it is very hard work to begin consistently living out biblical truth.  I remember C.S. Lewis’ comment, “No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good.” [Mere Christianity, 124]

This portion of Scripture before us today deals with a very elusive subject, the human heart.  Many times in Scripture the heart doesn’t refer to the organ that pumps blood throughout our bodies, but it uses the word heart to signify the soul which is the eternal part of us.  The heart is the essence of who we are.  It’s the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors.

Since the fall, the heart of man that once was at peace with God is now at war with God.  Since the fall man has had and continues to have a wicked heart.

Jeremiah 17:9 (ESV)

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

****Here is our dilemma: how do we get our desperately wicked hearts to bow down, adore, and worship Him who is all together lovely?  How do we convince our hearts that only in Christ will we find fullness of joy and peace?

This text is about worshipping Almighty God with our inner being…our heart.

Step one is regeneration.  The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ must come and take up residence in our being, our heart, our soul.  Only then does a change begin to occur.

There’s something else that we must understand about the human heart before God, the human heart is the fountain of life.  In other words everything about us originates from our heart.

Matthew 12:34 (ESV)

You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45 (ESV)

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

God is in the process of remaking our hearts to produce the good fruit He desires.

So, our job is to begin producing the good fruit from our good hearts that God is remaking.  There still is rottenness there and we’ve yielded rotten fruit for so long that producing good fruit is definitely going against the flow.  But we must begin.

Paul gives us a plan of attack in these verses.  We attack our old nature and begin to live out of our new nature by doing some radical things.  These radical things only are possible because the Lord is doing radical work on the inside.  The Apostle Paul gives us some examples of fruit that a changing heart produces.  This doesn’t happen automatically but it will begin happen eventually for every true Christian.

1. I Am to Be Rejoicing (4:4)

[4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.

The original language has in mind a continual habitual practice of rejoicing.  This would be radical behavior.  When a fallen human who is a habitual complainer and a habitual self-worshipper begins rejoicing in and worshipping Christ habitually something is changing.  God is in the mix.  He has introduced the Holy Spirit into the human heart and it is being remade.

Paul is calling all Christians everywhere, including you and me, to habitually rejoice.  This isn’t just for the upbeat and bubbly personalities.  It isn’t just when things are going our way or when the stock market hits 11,000.  This rejoicing is all the time.  We live out the fruit that is being produced within by the Holy Spirit.  When we practice rejoicing in the Lord we’re putting to death the old self and living radically in the new self.

We’re also told very clearly that this rejoicing isn’t in anything but Christ.  He never changes.  He is always out for our good.  He is always there.  He is producing circumstances for our growth.  Because Jesus never changes, He’s the same yesterday, today and forever then we can always rejoice in Him.

Knowledge, true biblical knowledge of God is the key to our rejoicing in Him all the time.  When we learn of God’s sovereignty we are enabled to rejoice.  He has orchestrated all events in our lives for our good and His glory so we should and must be training ourselves to rejoice.

As believers, we can always rejoice in God’s salvation…

1 Samuel 2:1 (ESV)

And Hannah prayed and said,

“My heart exults in the Lord;

my strength is exalted in the Lord.

My mouth derides my enemies,

because I rejoice in your salvation.

Psalm 9:14 (ESV)

that I may recount all your praises,

that in the gates of the daughter of Zion

I may rejoice in your salvation.

Psalm 13:5 (ESV)

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;

my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.

Our rejoicing is in the Lord, who never changes.  He is bigger than our circumstances which are always changing.  We rejoice in the work of God, especially His work of salvation.

2. I Am to Be Content (4:5)

[5] Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand;

This verse could be translated Let you gentle humility be known to everyone.  It really has in mind contentment.  Just like rejoicing consistently goes against the grain of fallen humanity, so being content in all circumstances also flies in the face of our society.  Being content is the fruit of our new nature while self-love is the fruit of our old nature.  The Holy Spirit is working to remake our heart from which everything flows, so Paul tells us to allow contentment to flow from our new hearts.

Philip. 4:11 (ESV)

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

We can be content as Paul was, again because God is sovereign over all things.  We have everything God wants us to have for our good and His glory.  Rejoice and be content.

3. I Should Not Be Anxious (4:6)

The Lord is at hand;  [6] do not be anxious about anything,

The one greatest weapon against anxiety is the knowledge that God is sovereign and that the sovereign of the universe is not out of range but at hand.  The Lord is near.  The Lord is with you.

Anxiety is produced when we have momentary lapses of atheism.  What I mean is anxiety sets in when our faith in Christ has been temporarily abandoned because of some event.  We rely on our power rather than resting in Christ’s sovereignty.

Some folks have fear of bridges.  It is true the bridge could fail.  It is true that you could be plunged into the river.  From a human perspective the odds of that happening are very slim.  The odds of that happening while your car is on it are even more astronomically slim.  From the perspective of Christ’s sovereignty and goodness, we don’t trust the bridge but we trust Christ.  Our faith must be placed in Him not in the bridge.  He is near.

When events occur in your life that could tempt you to worry and have fear remember when you worry you’re really practicing unbelief, you’re really practicing atheism.  When you face a trial don’t forget what you know about God.  Face it with that knowledge in the foremost of your mind.

How closely is faith tied to anxiety?

Matthew 6:25-34 (ESV)

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  [26] Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  [27] And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  [28] And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,  [29] yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  [30] But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?  [31] Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  [32] For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  [33] But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

[34] “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

4.  I Am to Be Thankful (4:6-7)

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.

Rather than being anxious in time of trial, pray and be thankful.  Rather than depending on your own strength and ingenuity to overcome pray and trust Christ.

Again, if we understand that God is sovereign, and if we understand that He is to be trusted with our lives and the lives of our family then we can pray and we can be thankful.  Gratitude is the heart telling God that we’re fine with letting Him run the show and we’re fine with whatever He decides because we trust Him to give us all we need.

God has made many promises to His children and we must believe and operate in them.

Do you believe God is powerful enough, wise enough and good enough to care for you and your family?  What about the times when events take place that are different from what you think should happen?  Are you prepared to admit that your ideal life is not as good as the life God has for you?  In other words, a life with the occasional trial will result in a greater eternal life than a life where everything goes exactly smooth all the time.  Can you show gratitude to God through every event because you trust Him and what He has promised you as a believer?

Our gratitude will also act as a guard standing watch over our hearts.  Thank the Lord in all circumstances and pray relying on Him.  Allow His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

5.  I Am to Live Out Godly Virtues (4:8-9)

[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.

I am not simply to agree with Godly virtues, but I must be living them out.  This text shows us that proper behavior begins with proper thinking.

We learn, receive, and hear God’s Word.  Once we have a grasp on the basics we must begin practicing them.

Agreeing with truth is not the same as practicing truth.  We must take the final step to living out truth. Why?

When we live out what God desires for us we are bringing Him maximum glory because our lives are modeling what we claim to believe.  Obedience is the proof that we actually believe the things we claim to believe.

Someone who sits under Bible teaching and then goes away and lives like a fallen sinner is showing that he really doesn’t believe God’s Word.

practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

God will be with you in your practicing.

Are you rejoicing, content and thankful?  Do you have the peace of God guarding your heart?  Or does strife and anxiety describe you current setting?

I pray we would look to Christ to meet every need we have and resist the temptation to look to ourselves to find the answers.

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