St Barnabas, 14th November 2010
We continue today with looking at Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Following on from last week when we talked of the challenges and risks in our lives, one of the verses that stayed in my mind, probably because I was thinking about the sermon this week, was 1:27 “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”. Whatever risks we take or challenges we take on we must conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. So as we move on into chapter 2 we are today thinking of how we can follow Christ’s example.
I love Philippians and I am going to read again the first 2 verses of chapter 2:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and purpose.”
Firstly Paul in his letter to the Church at Philippi is instructing them how they are to act one to another. He’s leading them to unity. And it’s unity for a purpose. 2:2 says “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose”. But it’s not easy is it in human terms to be like-minded and I am sure we all know that to be true.
Being like-minded: well in human terms, we certainly don’t all like the same things, our tastes are different both in food and colours, designs. I am sure if I asked you your favourite colour – what’s your favourite colour? They would all be different, what’s your favourite food? We all have different opinions in which political party to support, I won’t ask you yours! We all have different passion in sport – which football team to support, rugby, cricket athletics and our tastes in book and music differ tremendously. We all have individual tastes and opinions.
What happens when we look at being like-minded in our Christian lives? What about the likes and dislikes? We have recently been divided in opinion in the Church layout of the chairs. Some are adamant they like it the old way, some are adamant they like it the new way – which is it to be?
Some like the old hymns, some like the more modern ones. Some like the traditional services, some like the more informal ones.
How do we sort out these differences? It is when we come together: –
Being like minded – united in our thinking
Having the same love – united in heart
Being one in the spirit and purpose – united in action
And all of these things being united in Christ
There are three purposes for unity in the church:
1. To worship God – When we are united, it leads to God being glorified. 2:11 “and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father”.
2. To build each other up – When we follow the command to be interested in others, that leads us to help build them up. Therefore, this unity leads to building up the body of Christ.
3.To spread the Good News – And as Jesus said to his disciples, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”. (John 13:35)
So unity is important for accomplishing all three purposes of the Church.
It’s when we follow these instructions of Paul to the Philippian Church and we, the Church are united that we will accomplish our purpose.
How can people see Christ in us if we are not united and do not love one another as He loves us?
How can people from all different backgrounds, and ages be in unity?
Who likes to listen to an orchestra playing? How do those musicians produce such beautiful music? Well, they all have the same score (music), they follow the conductor, they all playing their instruments to the best of their ability.
Sounds great to people listening doesn’t it.
If we liken that orchestra to church life and living in unity as Christians. As Christians the score we all follow is the Bible.
The Conductor who leads and guides us is the Holy Spirit.
The instruments we play are the gifts that God has given each of us for others.
When this happens beautiful music is created that is enjoyed by the musicians themselves and those listening.
If the musicians didn’t read the score, didn’t have their eyes focused on the Conductor, and consequently didn’t play their instruments to the best of their ability but did their own thing – what a terrible noise they would make for those listening.
It is vital that we as Christians are united in our thinking, united in our hearts and united in action. This is so important for our fellowship and witness.
Following on from that in Verses 3 to 5 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
The society in which we live is a very self-oriented society. The big question that people ask when they have a decision whether to do something or not is, “What’s in it for me?” or “How will I benefit from this?”
However, the Church is not selfish. For the Christian, the question should not be, “How can this benefit me?” but “How can this benefit the Kingdom of God?” President JFK once said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” And if that’s true of something like an earthly political establishment, how much more true it should be of Christians and the Kingdom of God. We need to spend less time thinking of what God and what the Church can offer us, and spend more time asking God what we can do for him and His Church. When we are not in Church, others are missing out on the gifts that He has given us for others.
An elderly Christian lady, who was crippled with arthritis, used to hobble to the services of the church on crutches. It was a great ordeal and required of her a considerable amount of toil and pain. A friend of hers observed her regular and faithful attendance and asked, “How do you manage to be at every service?” Her answer was, “My heart gets there first, and my old legs just follow after.” What an example to follow.
Verses 6-8 “who being in the very nature of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross!”
Here we see the example of Jesus’ selflessness. He did not demand and cling to his rights as God. Remember when they came to arrest Jesus, he said to them, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way.” (Matthew 26:53,54) This is just one small example of the great rights that Jesus had as the Son of God. Yet, he selflessly gave his own rights up, because if he selfishly hung onto his own rights and what was best for him, God’s plan would not have been fulfilled. Jesus spent his whole life denying himself for the sake of us. For the benefit of others, he gave up everything that was rightfully his.
Jesus did not use his godly nature and power to promote himself in any way. Instead he ‘emptied’ himself. He put aside his heavenly glory to become a human being.
If there ever was someone who lived a life of humility, it was Jesus. The same could not be said for Adam in this report:-
And Adam said, “Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonesome here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me. “ And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will know I love you, even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish and childish and unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.” And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, “But Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and all the good names are taken and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.” And God said, “No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.” And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail. After a while, it came to pass that Adam’s guardian angel came to the Lord and said, “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but no one has taught him humility.” And the Lord said, “No problem! I will create for him a companion who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is. The companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he is not worthy of adoration.” And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility. And God was pleased. And Adam was greatly improved. And Cat did not care one way or the other.
Instead of pride, we are to be filled with humility. Instead of self-glory, we are to seek the glory of God.
Jesus went through the humiliation. He was obedient. And what happened to Jesus when he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross? 2:9, “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
It is the way of glory through the cross. The Bible calls all of us to crucify ourselves, to take up our cross daily. We are to die to our own needs and our selfish interest. We are to crucify our own selfish interests that we might live to Christ. The implication of all this is not only that Jesus Christ is exalted, but that when we are obedient to Christ and follow his example of humility we share in that glory. Those who truly put their faith in Christ and trust in Christ and live the Christian life will share a glory in heaven with Jesus Christ.
Jesus longs for us as Christians to be united in thinking, united in heart and united in action looking to the interest of others in humility and obedience. He has set us such an example. Remember to follow the score, the Bible, focus on the conductor, the Holy Spirit and use our God given gifts for building up the Body of Christ.
This Remembrance Sunday we are remembering those who have given their lives for their country and those who have been injured and sacrificed a normal life. They have done this for the sake of ourselves so that we can live a life of freedom.
Jesus sacrificed his own life for us so that we do not have to die in sin but live with Him eternally to the glory of God the Father.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. How is your attitude today with regard to unity in the Church, to humility and to obedience? What sacrifices do you make in order the build up the Kingdom of God in this place? How do people out there see us in our every day lives, do we follow Christ’s example in our lives so that His life shines out from us daily?