SERMON TITLE: Content with Christ
TEXT: Exodus 20:17 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
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As always it’s a joy to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And there’s one thing I want you to know — and this is true if you’re worshiping with us for the first time or are joining us at our North Main Campus — I want you to know that God loves you and that I love you too.
How’s everyone feeling today? A bit tired — needing an extra cup of coffee? Loving that lost hour of sleep? Kind of providentially ironic that today’s sermon is on contentment — cause I’m sure we’re all content with less sleep this morning. If you have your Bible — please turn with me to Exodus chapter twenty. We’ll be looking at verse seventeen as we finish our series on the Ten Commandments. We’re in Exodus chapter 20 — verse seventeen — which states…
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s. - Exodus 20:17 ESV
As I mentioned — we’re finishing up our series on the Ten Commandments today. God’s Top Ten list of what a life looks like that’s been set free to live completely for him. Now — the previous nine commandments have all dealt with behaviors that are pretty easy to judge as to whether or not we’ve done them. That is — until we got to the heart of each of the commandments, right? And then we found out that we’re all a bunch of lying murderers, who’ve committed adultery, all while dishonoring our parents — and that’s just the start of it.
And — after the first few weeks — some of you caught on and realized you were going to walk out of here realizing that you had broken the commandment for the week even though — as you were walking in — you had no idea how you had broken the commandment. And that’s what I’m here for: to show you — and myself — how big of a failure we all are. That’s not really why I’m here — but we do have to see ourselves correctly so we leave here encouraged as we see how big and beautiful and gracious of a Savior Jesus is. A sermon that leaves you feeling good about yourself — may be OK — but a sermon that leaves you feeling humbled and yet thankful for Christ — well that’s what preaching is all about.
Now today’s commandment is a bit different from all of the others. How so? Well it focuses on the attitude of our heart. Unlike the other commandments, our commandment for today is one that’s not so easily measured by external behaviors — like adultery or murder or lying — this final commandment is more of an internal battle.
But just like the other commandments — we’re going to look at our tenth and final commandment by asking and answering a few questions. What does this commandment teach us? Why do we break this commandment? And how can we be set free from our disobedience of this commandment?
Those are our questions: What does this commandment teach us? Why do we break it? And how can we find freedom from our disobedience of this tenth commandment?
So — first — what does this commandment teach us? Look with me in our verse — verse seventeen of Exodus chapter twenty — where we read, “You shall not (do what? The tenth commandment says you shall not…) covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” - Exodus 20:17 ESV
So what does this commandment teach us? This commandment teaches us that God’s people are not to covet things that belong to others. God’s people are not to covet things that belong to others.
Now — our commandment hinges on the word “covet” — so we need to know what it means to covet. The Hebrew word — translated in our commandment as covet — means “to covet, lust, desire, and to delight in.” Now — something I find interesting — is that coveting itself is not what’s forbidden in this commandment. If that was the case — the commandment would’ve been a lot shorter — like some of the commandments leading up to it — it would’ve been “do not covet” or something short and sweet like that. But — instead — our commandment includes specific things we’re not to covet. And — each of these things — we’re told — are things we’re not to desire. Why? Because they already belong to someone else.
“Anything” is an all-inclusive word, right? If it’s your neighbors — if it’s owned by someone else — don’t covet it. Don’t desire it. Don’t dream about having it as your own. That’s what this commandment teaches us.
Now — you may not know this — but I’m a coveter — I’m guilty of breaking this commandment. And — for many years — I coveted those leaf sucking machines that many of you own. You know, those machines where raking and picking up all of the leaves in your yard is a thing of the past. It’s a genius invention. It’s time saving. It decreases back pain. Honestly — it’s a great reason to love living in the twenty-first century.
But I went through a phase where I really wanted to have one of those lovely leaf sucking machines. And I was envious — jealous — of those of you who own one. I so wanted one because I was tired of the Hanson family having to rake our leaves like we were living in the year 1999 or something. I was tired of us having to pick up all of our raked leaves by hand and put them in paper bags to take to the green waste dump. And — I’ll be honest with you all — it was hard not to think, “Boy, I’d love to have one of those leaf sucking machines.”
You’ll think this is crazy, but I started justifying all of the reasons why I needed a leaf sucking machine. I started playing the scenario out in my mind as to how I might convince my wife, Emily, as to how dire our circumstances were because “we were like the last people on the planet to still rake leaves by hand.” I had a whole speech put together to justify all of the ways that our life would be better with a leaf sucking machine. I know you never do anything like that, right? Of course not. It’s just me.
When we lived in West Virginia, one of my church elders bought himself the crossbow he had been desiring for some time. He knew his wife wasn’t going to be thrilled about it — but he spent months justifying the purchase to himself. And — ladies — you’re gonna love this. The tipping point for him — meaning — the final justification he needed to buy the crossbow for himself — without his wife’s permission — was this: He bought it as his anniversary gift to himself. Now — to be clear — this was his marriage anniversary gift to himself. He didn’t tell his wife — he just bought it as a gift for himself — and that went over about as well as you’d expect. I think I remember something about days going by where she didn’t speak to him — and not just because of the crossbow — but because after he revealed to her his gift to himself — which she was not happy about — he then tried to snuggle his way into a bonus anniversary gift for himself that evening! Coveting causes us to make all kinds of dumb decisions.
OK — enough about him — back to me. If you’re wondering — I still don’t have a leaf sucking machine. But we did upgrade our lawnmower and it now sucks up the leaves — so I’m living the dream!
There’s a story in the Old Testament about a man named Achan. Now he’s not as well known as some other folks in the Bible — so let me help you get to know him. Achan’s parents were part of the people who were led by Moses out of the land of Egypt. His mom and dad were probably present when Moses read the Ten Commandments to the Israelites — which makes Achan part of the generation that entered into the Promised Land after the forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
Now the first city the people came to — in the Promised Land — was Jericho. You’ve probably heard of it because of the battle that happened there. Well — after the walls came tumbling down — the Israelites — God’s people — were told to leave all of the plunder — including all of the silver and gold — as an offering to the Lord. The plunder was to be God’s and his alone. Why? Because he had miraculously conquered the city of Jericho. All the people did was walk around the city — God fought the battle for them.
Well Achan gave into temptation and took some of the plunder — and he didn’t tell anyone. You see, he coveted the treasure that belonged to God — he desired it — so he took some of it — even though it belonged to God. And here’s what’s crazy: the nation of Israel paid the price for Achan’s sin. Wait what? One man’s sin affected others? Yes. That’s a danger of sin we often forget about when being tempted. Our sin doesn’t just affect us — it affects others too. And — more often than not — in devastating ways.
For the Israelites, the consequence of Achan’s sin was experienced at the next city they went to conquer. For the people living in this city defeated the Israelites — and this was completely unexpected. I mean — they’d just defeated Jericho by walking around it — they didn’t have to fight or do anything — all they had to do was trust God. So they come to the next city thinking, “If God was with us in Jericho surely he’s with us now.” But they have no idea of Achan’s sin. They’re thinking everyone’s been faithful — so the victory will be theirs. But — instead — they’re defeated.
Now — after their defeat — God tells Joshua why they were defeated. And — specifically — God tells Joshua that the people had sinned by stealing from him. So get this — breaking one commandment — don’t covet — led to breaking another commandment — don’t steal.
And — eventually it’s discovered that Achan was the culprit. And “Achan replied, “It is true! I have sinned against the LORD, the God of Israel. 21 Among the plunder I saw a beautiful robe from Babylon, 200 silver coins, and a bar of gold weighing more than a pound. (And look at what he said. He said…) I wanted them so much that I took them. They are hidden in the ground beneath my tent, with the silver buried deeper than the rest.” - Joshua 7:20-21 NLT
Achan had a coveting problem — he desired the plunder that belonged to God. I have a coveting problem. You have a coveting problem. I may not admit it, you may be embarrassed by it, but the fact of the matter is that all of us have — at one time or another — desired something that belonged to someone else. We wanted what they had — and God says — in our commandment — that his people are not to covet things that belong to others.
So if God says no coveting — yet we all covet — we’ve got to get to our second question which is…why do we break this commandment? Why do we covet things that belong to other people even though we’re commanded not to? Well the reason why we break this commandment is because we focus our attention and affections on the wrong things. Again — this is the thing under the thing under what we can see with our eyes when it comes to coveting: we focus our attention and affections on the wrong things.
For instance, Jesus said, “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures (where? Instead of storing up treasures here on earth Jesus says to store up our treasures in…) heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal.” - Matthew 6:19-20 NLT
Jesus is saying that the things we can attain here on earth are things that will not last. You may have heard the phrase, “There are no U-Hauls in funeral processions.” You can’t take your stuff with you to the grave. But look at what the difference maker is between the person who stores up treasure here on earth — that will not last — and the person who stores up treasure in heaven — that will last for eternity. Jesus continues in verse twenty-one by saying…
“21 Wherever your treasure is, there the (what is? Wherever your treasure is, there the…) desires of your heart will also be.” - Matthew 6:21 NLT
What revealing words about the state of the human soul — your soul — my soul. Focus your attention on the things of earth — your neighbor’s car or house, wife or YouTube followers — and your affections — meaning the desires of your heart, the things that delight you, what you find joy in, where you find your identity and purpose — will follow. And you’ll start living for temporary trinkets instead of heavenly treasures. But — when you focus your attention on heavenly things — you’ll be amazed at how the desires of your heart shift in such a way that these earthly trinkets have less and less grip on you. Even temporary trinkets like leaf sucking machines.
Why? Well — as Paul said, “Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.” - Colossians 3:1-2 NLT
Look at that — Jesus and Paul agree. Focus your attention on heaven — not on earth. And — as you do — the chorus of the hymn Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus will take on an all new reality for you. Do you remember the words?
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in his wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of his glory and grace.” Look to Jesus — and the things of earth will lose their grip on you. And there’s hope and power found in looking to Jesus. As the first verse of the hymn states, “O soul, are you weary and troubled? No light in the darkness you see? There’s light for a look at the Savior, And life more abundant and free!”
But Helen Lemmel — who wrote this hymn — trusted in this truth of God’s Word: that there’s freedom — abundant freedom — for all who put their faith in Christ. For when you look to the only one who saves — he sets you free to live for him alone. Free to live a life of hope, and love, and joy. A life where the desires of your heart are focused on heavenly things because your focus is on Christ.
Helen knew this even though life had dealt her many blows. Her husband left her when she became blind (https://www.last.fm/music/Helen+Lemmel/+wiki). Did you hear that? The woman who wrote the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” experienced the darkness of blindness and the abandonment of her husband. Yet she knew to keep her spiritual eyes focused on Christ. For when we take our eyes off Jesus — when we shift our focus from heavenly to earthly things — our lives get all out of focus. What’s up is down — what’s down is up. Hope is lost as we exchange freedom for enslavement and put the chains of sin back around our wrists and ankles. And life becomes physically, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually miserable. All because we’ve focused our attention and affections on earthly things instead of on Christ.
So — here’s where we are. We’ve seen that this commandment tells us to not covet — yet we break this commandment because we focus our attention and affections on the wrong things. Instead of heavenly things — Christ — we focus on earthly things — and living for earthly things is a fool's errand.
So how can we be set free from our disobedience of this commandment? How do we find freedom from coveting things that belong to other people? How do we get off this treadmill of chasing after things that won’t matter in fifty years? How do we find freedom from storing up treasures here on earth that will become someone else’s trash once we’re gone?
How we stop breaking this commandment is a bit counterintuitive — because — the way we stop breaking it is not by coveting less — but by coveting the right thing more. Or — I should say — coveting the right Person more.
Remember — to covet — means to desire, to lust for, to delight in. So the problem isn’t with our desires — but with what we’re desiring. Remember — this commandment doesn’t say “no coveting” — it just tells us the type of coveting that’s wrong. Which means that the way we stop coveting the things of others is by coveting Christ more. Instead of desiring things that belong to others — we should desire Jesus more. For when Jesus is the desire of your heart — when he’s the delight of your affections — when he’s what you covet most — words like these begin to make sense.
“Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. (That’s a bit counter to our consumeristic culture. So why are we to do this — how can we do this? Here’s why and how.) For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” - Hebrews 13:5 NLT
So desire — yes! Find delight — absolutely. But desire and delight in Jesus — who’s promised to never fail or abandon you. After all — Jesus did say, “I will be with you to the end of the age.”(Matthew 28:20) What an amazing treasure we’ve been offered. What a stunning reason we have — in this one verse alone — to overwhelm our souls with delight. Jesus will never fail you. He will never abandon you. No matter what this world may bring — with Jesus as your delight — you can’t go wrong — you do have hope.
And an astonishing thing happens to the person who covets Jesus more — not less. An astounding thing happens to the person who puts an all out effort — empowered by God’s Spirit — of desiring and delighting in Jesus more and more. The things that matter most to Jesus will become the things that matter most to you. What Jesus delights in will delight you — what Jesus loves most will be what you love most — including the people Jesus loves — and he loves all people. And the forgiveness you’ve received from him — becomes the forgiveness you joyfully give to others. The patience Jesus has shown you — is the patience you’ll show others. And so on — to the point where your reputation becomes like that of Timothy.
Listen to what Paul said of Timothy. “I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. 21 All the others care only for (who? Everyone else cares only for…) themselves and not for what matters to (who? They don’t care about what matters to…) Jesus Christ.” - Philippians 2:20-21 NLT
What an indictment of the others. What an all too true statement of people in our country — everyone’s looking out for what’s best for them. What an unfortunate description of many people in our churches. But not Timothy. Others may only care about themselves — but Timothy — well — this young man loves his Lord. Timothy’s set his affections on Jesus. He doesn’t look to the earth for his delight — no way! His attention is on heaven and the One who’s seated on the throne of heaven. Timothy cares about what Jesus cares about.
You see, coveting what belongs to others ends when you’re content with what you have in Christ — that’s the bottom line for us. Coveting what belongs to others ends when you’re content with what you’ve been given in Christ.
Dear Christian — what you have is Christ. What more could you ever want? What more could you ever desire? Where else could you ever expect to find the delight of your heart? Jesus has given himself to you. He laid down his life for you. He’s said to you, “I’m where joy is found. Delight in me! Desire me! Covet me!”
If you want to obey this tenth and final commandment — you need to covet Jesus more. Delight in him more. Desire him more. Find joy in him more. Find hope, and life, and excitement, and passion, and your reason to get out of bed, and to breath, and to work, and to love by looking to Jesus.
In this series we’ve seen that — if you believe in Jesus Christ — you’ve been set free to live for him. And the remedy for the temptation the Israelites faced — when they longed to go back to the days when they were slaves in Egypt — which is sick, I know — but the remedy for the temptation to long for the days when we were enslaved to sin — the remedy for our disobedience to all of God’s commandments is this: Be content with what you have — for what you have is Jesus Christ. The solution for our disobedience of all of God’s commandments is this: Be content with what you have — for what you’ve been given is Jesus Christ — God himself.
For when a person believes in Jesus — when they sincerely set their affections, their desires, their delight, their hope, their eternity, and their joy in him — contentment is the result. For what more can you possibly desire when what you’ve been given is God? And this gift — God giving himself to you — is undeserved favor. This is grace. This is a treasure given to you — not based on any commandment that you’ve kept — but based on the sheer goodness and never-ending love that God has for you.
And — if you’re not content with what you have — maybe it’s because you don’t have Jesus yet. But know that he’s offering himself to you right now. Will you receive the gift he’s offering to you? The gift that will fulfill every desire you have. The gift of joy in him. The gift of himself. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the reminder that your gift to us is Jesus. For there’s no greater treasure to be found than him.
Spirit of God, supernaturally empower us with contentment in what we have — because what we have is Christ.
And — Jesus — if there’s anyone listening to me who’s not content with what they have — because they’ve not experienced your undeserved favor — I humbly ask you to open their eyes and turn them to you and the treasure being offered to them — the treasure which is you. And lead them to discover the freedom that’s found by believing in you. In your name we pray. Amen.
May you go being content with Christ — may you go having him as your treasure, delight, and joy. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.
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