Life Theology

Biggest Out of Context Pet Peeve #2: Philippians 4:13

You’ve heard or seen it a thousands times. Usually in nine hundred and ninety seven of those thousand, it somehow relates to winning the tee ball MVP or Pop Warner championship trophy. Brace yourself.

I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Football players put the reference (Phil 4:13) on their eye black or arm bands.  Players quote it in the locker room after the game.  Fans paint it on poster board for ESPN cameras to see.

Can I be honest about something here? There are two things God cannot do: he cannot sin and he cannot make James Pruch a professional athlete. It cannot be done. It would not be good for TV ratings, nor would it be beneficial to my self-esteem.  No matter how hard I try and no matter how much I trust God for “strength,” I will never dunk over Lebron or go deep on Cliff Lee or outrun Brian Urlacher. Never. Ever.

During one sermon, Matt Chandler told his congregation why he chose to teach through Philippians for a short series he was asked to record on DVD.  He said, “One reason I chose Philippians was simply to preach that 4:13 has nothing to do with sports.”

Amen, Matt. Amen.

(If you want to find out what Philippians 4:13 is all about, I’ll save you my commentary and let you read it for yourself, in full context, here. It will only take you about 3 minutes. And if you come away thinking Jesus is gonna help your kid be all-whatever next year, read it again.)

Life Theology

“Authority in the Home” (a Sermon About Marriage)

Here’s a fantastic sermon by Matt Chandler about the way husband and wives should love each other in the home.  Great for men and women alike.  Chandler, in his signature way, encourages, challenges, and exhorts us to biblically live out this glorious and mysterious thing called marriage.

It’s one of the best I’ve heard.  So whether you are 15 or 55, it’s worth a listen.


MSNBC Writes About Matt Chandler’s Battle With Cancer

A powerful, mind-blowing piece.  I’m thanking God for Matt Chandler, trembling at God’s sovereignty, and confessing my tendency to escape suffering at all costs.


Jesus Dies on the Cross

Part 5 of a 7 part series. View series intro and index.

When Jesus hung on the cross, he had enough breath to speak even though his skin was ripped from his bones and his face was so disfigured that we wouldn’t have been able to tell who he was. He had enough breath to speak despite the weight of his body hanging by two railroad spikes nailed into the most sensitive nerve centers in his body.

At the very end of his crucifixion, around 3 pm, he cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” That means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Some have said that this means that God turned his back and couldn’t look at Jesus because of the sin he bore. The Bible, however, doesn’t say that’s why Jesus cried out these prophetic words.

We all know that Psalm 22 begins, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” In those days, when a teacher quoted the first line of a particular passage of Scripture, his intention was to reference the whole section. We know this must be the case because verses 16-18 say, “They have pierce my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”  This is exactly what happened to Jesus.

But that’s only three verses of the psalm. Toward the end of the chapter, David writes, “All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you. For kingship belongs to the LORD, and he rules over the nations” (vv. 27-28).  Although God did in fact “turn his back” as Jesus drank the full cup of God’s wrath on the cross, that is not the main point.  God turning his back on his Son led to something greater.  Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church, says, “Could it be that Jesus on the cross [when quoting Psalm 22:1] is saying, ‘Here we go. Here we go’?”  In saying, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus is pointing to the whole Psalm, which ultimately points to God’s universal redemptive plan to save a people–a family–for himself. The point then is that this world-wide revolution of bringing all kinds of people to worship God is about to begin. It is only because Jesus took the wrath of God and died in our place as our substitute Savior that the nations–we Gentiles–will be welcome at God’s table.

Just a chapter later in Matthew 28:18-19, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.”  The promise to Abraham from Genesis 12 has arrived and the gospel is primed to be spread to all the families of the earth.


I Want to Be Holier Than I Really Am

Yesterday, I listened to a Matt Chandler sermon and to start it off he said, “If I can be honest, when I became a Christian at 18, I thought at age 34 I’d be holier than I am now.”   Too bad the audio was corrupt and I only heard 14 minutes of the sermon!  Nevertheless, when Chandler said that, I couldn’t help but cry out to God in my heart (I was at the gym, so no verbal processing) that I want to be holier than I am.

Later in the day, I was reading Religious Affections. Johnathon Edwards has a way to make the Christian heart examine itself more thoroughly and seriously than most things I’ve read, outside the Bible.  In section 6 he talks about true “evangelical humiliation,” that is, true humility.  He writes:

Humility, or true lowliness of mind, disposes persons to think others better than themselves: Phil 2:3, “In lowliness of mind, let each esteem other better than themselves.”  Hence they are apt to think the lowest room belongs to them, and their inward disposition naturally leads them to obey that precept of our Savior, Luke 14:10…It is not natural to them to think it belongs them to teach, but to be taught; they are much more eager to hear, and to receive instruction from others, than to dictate to others: James 1:19, “Be ye swift to hear, slow to speak.”  And when they do speak, it is not natural to them to speak with a bold, masterly air; but humility disposes them rather to speak, trembling.  Hosea 13:1, “When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel; but when he offended in Baal, he died.”  They are not apt to assume authority, and to take upon them to be chief managers and masters; but rather to be subject to other: James 3:1-2, “Be not many masters.”  1 Peter 5:5, “All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.”  Ephesians 5:21, “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

I find in myself a desire to do those things well, by the Spirit.  Yet, so often — too often — I come up miserably short.  I’m not humble, usually ever.  And I see that my biggest battle is to make myself my god.  That’s when I really need to cast myself upon the grace of God in the gospel and kill sin by the Spirit (Rom. 8:12-13; Col. 3:5).  Instead, I can tend to kill sin with the spirit moralism and simply replace my “one black devil to let in seven white ones that were worse than the first,” as Edwards says.

Christ needs to be my righteousness.  I need to believe that, and have faith that God loves me because of his Son, and he sees me as he sees Christ.  When this happens, I’m compelled and delighted to obey, and holiness becomes a joy, not a legalistic triumph.