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Evasive content

July 16, 2007

The second word in the title is CONtent, the noun, as in the substance of something. The content that is evasive is the essence of what is meant by conTENT, the adjective.

Pastor Kelly visited our church and our sister church this past Lord’s day, and his content was anything but evasive. It was penetrating, convicting, and encouraging.  He threaded two messages about repentance and obedience through the parable of the two sons at Matthew 21:28-32. The first son, the hypocrite, says “Yea, Lord,” and does nothing he says he will do. The second son says, “I will not,” but later repents and obeys his father and goes to work in his father’s vineyard. This of course is the believer, the one who will not, but who is given by God to repent and obey the Gospel, and to go to work in the Lord’s vineyard.

It should make us very uneasy to contemplate whether we are indeed about our father’s work in the vineyard, just because we think we said we would. I am at times very uneasy as to whether I’m looking at vines around me, or trappings I have made for myself.

The content of the third message was a hard saying that dovetailed with the first two. Pastor Kelly’s text was Philippians 4:11-12, and the content was contentment. Contentment is not something we can attain for ourselves by bringing about the good life. What if all the trappings are taken away? Paul asserts he has learned to be satisfied in himself, how to be abased and how to abound, and how to suffer privation. He hasn’t learned to enjoy privation, but he has learned to be content with God’s providence. Paul is content, even though he does not know how God will use all of the trials he has endured, for his own good and the good of the the entire Church.

I am afflicted with the sin of discontent constantly. I rail against God’s providence and lobby continually for my own convenience, aesthetic preferences, restoration of lost abilities, and changes of venue. But this is where the third message dovetails with the first two. I catch myself being discontent, I try to do better. Really, I do, I try so very hard. All the time. I try because this is what I can do. But no, the message was not to try to do better; it was that nowhere are we commanded to try to do better. All we are commanded to do is to trust Christ. This means do not try to lean on him. Wait for him to bend you to himself.  It means that I cannot pursue contentment. I have to wait to be conformed to its source.

My alter ego is a bunny. Bunnies are such simple creatures; they don’t take in much. But my bunny ego takes on everything from dealing with the perils of life in a violent, hideous city to feeling ocular migraines for me. The thing is, I got some really good news from a friend last night who actually has real bunnies, so she should know. Bunnies can be trained.

  1. scribbles2day permalink
    July 16, 2007 12:18 pm

    “…the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.”

    God is glorified in showering his grace on miserable, unthankful sons. For them to be content is to be like poor Jonah and his gourd. A sad sight indeed.

    It’s also a bit funny I think. We have riches unspeakable and yet with all of our complaining we only get a gourd.

  2. July 16, 2007 12:47 pm

    I’m glad that bunnies can be trained. Bunnies probably like vineyards too.

    Paul in Phillipians spends a lot of time telling us the difference between doing it on our own and being conformed by God’s providential hand. In chapter 3 he tells us how he could have boasted of his background and abilities, but it was all dung. And in the same breath, he tells us to press toward the mark.

    Work in the vineyard is hard work, but the yoke is easy when we submit to his rule and have the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. . . .” that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.”

    Remarkable how the Matthew 21 and the Phillipians 4 messages tie together.

  3. July 16, 2007 1:00 pm

    Yeah, I thought it was remarkable set.

    Paul does say in Philippians 3:12 that he pursues the prize; but later says, “I do not count to have got possession myself…”

    This will always be a mystery, and the key is that we are not in charge of solving it. What a relief for bunny.

  4. July 16, 2007 1:05 pm

    And then there was Popeye’s “life verse”, which really applies to all of us:

    1Co 15:10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. “

  5. July 16, 2007 1:14 pm

    I never aspired to have the same life verse as Popeye, but he made a good choice.

  6. July 16, 2007 1:21 pm

    I wonder if Paul was referring to the ‘fight of faith’?

    I also thought of Lazarus, full of sores at the rich man’s gate and how content he is. (of course that’s a parable but I like to think of Lazarus as the worst of the worst of us.)

  7. July 16, 2007 1:53 pm

    Parables are always used to illustrate the worst of the worst of us. Hence the Pharisees’ testy habit of picking up stones. They thought they were the very model of righteousness. How dare the Lord say otherwise?

    Pastor Kelly also said men naturally hate authority unless it’s in their hands.

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