April 27, 2015
This Week’s Study
This coming Sunday, our text will be from Hebrews 12:28-13:6. Spend time reading and meditating on this text this week, and use the tools within The Compass to help guide your study. May the Lord richly bless you as you spend time in His Word and prayerfully consider what the Spirit is teaching you.
This Week’s R2R Distinctive | What Is This?
Possessions (Luke 16:11–12): I seek to maintain an eternal perspective on money and possessions, realizing God has give me all that I have, and that he expects me to manage it wisely for His glory.
With this week’s study, we begin the final chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The writer wraps up this sermonic letter with a series of charges to his readers. We will study this chapter under the banner of “Till Then, What Now?” We will see the challenge before to run the race as trophies of grace while we reflect on the completed work of Jesus Christ.
This week’s text covers several challenges beginning with Ha concluding statement, “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:28-29). Starting in Hebrews 13, the writer expands upon this challenge in order to help his readers understand what it means to offer God “acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.” This includes:
- loving the brothers
- showing hospitality to strangers
- remembering the incarcerated
- honoring the marriage bed
- learning to be content
- trusting completely in the Lord
- imitating the faith of your spiritual leaders
We are going to start this week with some thoughts from J.I. Packer focusing on the topic of contentment. Contentment is a discipline that must be learned and developed. Yet, it is an essential quality we are called to exhibit within our lives. May you be challenged as I am to learn this important spiritual discipline.–Chris Eller
Called To Contentment
by J. I. Packer
Put positively, “you shall not covet … anything that is your neighbor’s” is a call to contentment with one’s lot. The contentment which the tenth commandment prescribes is the supreme safeguard against temptations to break commandments five to nine. The discontented man, whose inner itch makes him self-absorbed, sees other people as tools to use in order to feed his greed, but the contented man is free as others are not to concentrate on treating his neighbor right. “There is great gain in godliness with contentment,” wrote Paul (1 Timothy 6:6).
Scripture presents contentment as a spiritual secret. It is one dimension of happiness, which is itself the fruit of a relationship. Toplady focuses this superbly in a poem beginning “Happiness, thou lovely name, Where’s thy seat, O tell me, where?” He writes:
Object of my first desire,
Jesus, crucified for me!
All to happiness aspire,
Only to be found in thee.
Thee to please and thee to know
Constitute our bliss below,
Thee to see and thee to love
Constitute our bliss above.
Whilst I feel thy love to me,
Every object teems with joy;
Here, O may I walk with thee,
Then into thy presence die!
Let me but thyself possess,
Total sum of happiness!
Real bliss I then shall prove,
Heaven below, and heaven above.
Knowing the love of Christ is the one and only source from which true contentment ever flows.
Jesus diagnosed, however, one mortal enemy to contentment: worry (see Matthew 6:25–34). But, he said, for a child of God (and every Christian is that) worry, which is in any case useless, since it can improve nothing (verse 27), is quite unnecessary. Why? Because “your heavenly Father knows” your needs (verse 32) and can be relied on to supply them as you “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (verse 33). Not to see this, and to lose one’s contentment in consequence, shows “little faith” (verse 30). The God whose fatherhood is perfect can be trusted absolutely to care for us on a day-to-day basis. So to realize that while planning is a duty and worry is a sin, because God is in charge, and to face all circumstances with an attitude of “praise God, anyway” is a second secret of the contented life.
Nor is this all. Look at Paul, a contented man if ever there was one. From prison he wrote, “Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content … I have learned the secret of facing … abundance and want. I can do all things (i.e., all that I am called to do) in him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11–13). The open secret to which Paul alludes here is fully spelled out in Hebrews 13:5ff.—“Put greed out of your lives and be content with whatever you have; God himself has said: I will not fail you or desert you, and so we can say with confidence: With the Lord to help me, I fear nothing: what can man do to me?” (JB). To realize the promised presence of one’s loving Lord, who both orders one’s circumstances and gives strength to cope with them, is the final secret of content.
We are all, of course, creatures of desire; God made us so, and philosophies like Stoicism and religions like Buddhism which aim at the extinction of desire are really inhuman in their thrust. But desire that is sinfully disordered needs redirecting, so that we stop coveting others’ goods and long instead for their good, and God’s glory with and through it. When Thomas Chalmers spoke of “the expulsive power of a new affection,” he was thinking of the way in which knowledge of my Savior’s love diverts me from the barren ways of covetous self-service, to put God first, others second, and self-gratification last in my concerns. How much do we know in experience of this divine transforming power? It is here that the final antidote to covetousness is found.