Text: James 4:7-10

Introduction: One of my favorite movie genres is with ancient or medieval kingdom narratives. Kingdom symbolism in historical period drama, fiction, and some mystical movie series and narrative permeates the portrayal of an omnipotent King, a prince or princess, to receive royal status and the subject, his people, to follow his royal command. Likewise, how to read the Bible is through this kingdom lens, from Adam in the Garden of Eden to Abraham’s call to have a nation, mosaic commandments like a king giving his covenant and benefits of those who will be in covenant with him to the promise of eternal King in the lineage of David and fulfilled in the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, Christ.

            A primary virtue that is very important to be a faithful follower of the King is SUBMISSION.

Background: Warning against worldliness and reminding Christians to submit to God fully.  The author of this book is James. He was the half-brother of Jesus. Still, he did not use his bloodline to overpower or demand authority from others. In chapter 1, verse 1, he introduced himself as a “servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Main Idea:

  1. Submission as Surrender – What is submission? It is a surrender (e.g., war, wrestling match, or UFC MMA fight). Surrender is to yield your power to the most powerful. Sun Tzu said in his iconic war strategy, “Only enter battles you know you can win. Avoid battles you cannot win.” To surrender is to recognize that God is powerful and you are not.
    1. Those who yielded ought to pledge their allegiance to their new ruler, the new King. The former ruler in our lives was the devil; the present king sitting on the throne of our hearts is King Jesus. My question is, “Who rules over you?” Is it Jesus, yourself or the devil?
  2. Saying No to the Devil – Submission to God begins with resisting the devil, its temptations, and all the impurities of our hearts. Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
    1. John Owen’s famous words, “Be killing sin or [sin] will be killing you.” How do we kill sin? (Eph. 6:17, “…Sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”)
    2. Satan will flee just as he had fled from Christ before when he was rejected three times during the temptation in the desert in Matthew 4 (Luke 4:13).
  3. Seeking God’s Proximity – God draws us near to him. It is a mutual proximity. God is near us, but we need to respond to his invitation to be near him. He does not force anyone to draw closer to him or to love him. God in Christ expects each of us to be closer to him.
    1. I find it interesting how James urges us to draw ourselves after resisting the devil. It only implies that when we are far away from God’s presence, the next thing we realize is that the devil is now our best friend. How is your time with God? Or did you just enjoy your bonding with the devil last Friday?
  4. Shaping and Sifting – Cleansing is a purification ritual in Ancient Jewish times. Romans 9:20-21 supports the thought that God shapes our lives. However, Christians have calloused hearts that they do not care about their sins, pride, lies, and other subtle sins. They just laugh about it. That’s why James is telling us that the proper reaction in the impending judgment of God in Christ is to mourn, weep, and be broken—this is a sign of repentance. More than shaping, God is sifting us. He strains our impurities until we are filtered to our most righteous hearts. To be a Christian is to be tested, sifted, and sanctified.
  5. Soaring High through Submission – there are more things to reach when you are bowing down and kneeling to pray than raising your forehead with pride and self-reliance. Humility is the Way to Success. We are more Christlike when we are humble.


Conclusion: Give Up and Let Go! The world tells us not to give up on ourselves. That is indeed true, but if it is just about yourself, then you are living in a self-reliant, delusional, and self-made reality. We need to give up everything to God, and let go of pride, unforgiveness, anger, envy, fleshly desires, smoking, drinking, and unholiness.

Illustration: The only person who can go to the room of the president at 3 am is his child. Likewise, the persons who can approach the king are his children.


Pastor John Paul Arceno

UCBC New Jersey
November 19, 2023



Text: Philippians 1:12-24

Selflessness, Self-Denial, and the Supremacy of Christ (Full Sermon Manuscript)



Endowment Effect or Psychological ownership is a theory that observes the sense of a person’s valuing his or her own possession. This theory has been traced since the time of the Ancient Philosopher Aristotle; he said, “For most things are differently valued by those who have them and by those who wish to get them: what belongs to us, and what we give away, always seems very precious to us.”

But because of the delicate heart that we have, this thought of owning something, making ourselves the center of everything for selfish gains, and entitlement has been a product of a marred view of self-identity, value, and purpose. We just want to put ourselves first. Just as how pop culture portrays and promotes self-love. I mean there is nothing wrong about loving yourself and valuing your life but as a Christian, I think—and biblically speaking, God calls us to go beyond this state.


Looking back, our passage today in the book of Philippians is a letter of encouragement. Hearing that, it seems that there is nothing special with it. Well… Not unless we see it from the perspective of where he wrote this letter. He wrote this letter in prison. Yes, he was in the moment of his imprisonment when he wrote this letter of encouragement. To add, he actually said “joy” or “rejoice” almost twenty times (16 times to be exact); reminding them about their joy in Christ and to rejoice despite the circumstances and hardships of life.

Main Idea:

Selflessness: To Advance the Gospel of Christ

Despite the status of Paul being imprisoned, he made sure that it is not about himself, or his situation that will be seen but rather how God—in providence—is in control of everything.

Again, even amid that gloomy atmosphere, compared with today’s prisons, prisons during the time of Paul are messier, more miserable, and chaotic. But look at how Paul perceived this kind of situation in his life. In verses 12-14, Paul did not think about himself nor his state but rather the glorious news that the Gospel of Christ is being advanced even inside his prison. The guards were hearing about Christ. This was not the only case that Paul acted in this manner.

Self-denial: To Live and Die for Christ

As Christians, we do celebrate their lives because we know they are already in heaven and experiencing the ultimate joy that we all wait for. Like Paul, being beaten, imprisoned, and mocked—he has longed to “die” and be with Christ because it will be a greater favor for him. Richard Sibbes noted this attitude as breathtaking; he said, “[Paul] knows that Christ is wiser than he; therefore he resigns himself to his disposal, resolving if he lives, he lives to the Lord, and if he dies, he dies to the Lord (Rom 14:8); that so, whether he live or die, he may be the Lord’s.” (read 19-22)

Why did I say that my second point is self-denial? Look at verses 23-24, “I am hard-pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”

Paul desired to be with Christ soon because it will be a greater favor but he gave up his will and submitted to the plans of God. Submit your will to God. Listen and pray, be prudent, participate in it.

Supremacy of Christ

With all these characters portrayed by Paul, where did he learn these things? The answer is Jesus Christ. Paul started and ended in this passage making the glory of Christ the core reason (11, 26). Why Jesus? Did Christ demonstrate selflessness and self-denial?

1. Christ emptied himself (kenosis) – Philippians 2:1-11
2. Christ was willing to give up his life for his friend. – 1 John 3:16; John 10:17-18
3. Christ submitted to the will of the Father rather than His will. – Luke 22:42-45
4. Christ suffered for the sake of our salvation.

a. The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53
b. Scourged – Matt. 27:26
c. Beaten – Luke 22:63-64
d. Spit upon – Matt. 27:30
e. Beard Plucked from His Face – Isaiah 50:6
f. Mocked – Matt. 27:26-29
g. Stripped Naked – Matt. 27:35
h. Nailed to the Cross – Matt. 27:38; John 20:25


Learning today, the attitude of Paul both the selflessness and self-denial were all motivated and driven by the supremacy of Christ in his life. If only we really let Christ sit on the thrones of our hearts; if only we can put Christ and others first in our deeds; if only we think less of ourselves and think more about the interests of others, only then, we can truly experience true eternal joy in our hearts.

There is joy in submission; there is joy in putting others first; there is so much joy in having Christ and letting Him govern your life. Let us pray


Ptr. John Paul Arceno
UCBC New Jersey
August 29, 2021


*This section is an excerpt only; download the full manuscript here.