This is message number four in our series called Resetting your Mindset. We are walking step by step through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. You might be thinking, why did Paul write this letter and what was his relationship to these people? We know that Paul and his group of apostolic church planters went around the areas of Turkey, Greece and Italy sharing the gospel message and helping people to grow in their relationship with the Lord.
Paul knew because of his vast experience that it took a lot of repetition in order for people’s mindsets to change. So his letters acted as a reminder of what he had taught the people while he was with them in addition to addressing questions or problems that they had. So you will notice that as we start in chapter two this morning, Paul repeats what he has been saying in chapter one. He continues to call these believers to unity – unity in their minds and unity in their hearts.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. (Philippians 2:1-2)
Do you see that Paul really, really wants these guys to live, as we learned last week, in a manner worthy of the gospel? He is pressing them to stand firm together in one of mind is around the advancement of the gospel and in one spirit in response to the opposition that comes from it. Paul says his joy will be complete in this unity. As one commissioned in the ministry of the gospel he finds his joy as his children in the faith continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. This reminds me of the apostle John’s words to his children in the faith, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)
The basis of this appeal is from their mutual encounter with and experiential relationship with God. That is the encouragement they have in Jesus, the comfort of God’s love and their common sharing in the Spirit. But it goes beyond their common relationship in the Lord and extends to the relationship they have with each other – one of tenderness and compassion.
Because of Jesus, these people experience relationship on a whole new level. First of all, they all knew God in a way that they had never known before. The rituals had been pushed aside so that the relationship was the main thing. This was new to them, and it truly is a brand new thing when someone today who has only known about God through rituals has their eyes opened to see God as personally relating to them. And not only that, this personal relationship with the Lord opened up for them greater relationships of care and compassion with each other.
In this appeal we see that these first century Christians were very much like us. They had to grow in their understanding of what it meant to follow Christ. A Christian was not simply a person who believed statements of truth but one whose mind had been and was continuing to be changed, transformed, reset. Sometimes we make the mistake of focusing only on the relationship with have with the Lord and with other believers. Yet, Paul doesn’t stop there. He tells them if you have benefitted from knowing God by faith in Jesus, then be united in the priority of the gospel. This is what he has been repeating affirming in these Philippian Christians.
One of the biggest resets that God does in those whom He redeems is to make the gospel the priority of their lives. If we have heard the gospel and placed our trust in Christ, then we believe that it is the power of God for salvation. If we believe that the gospel alone is the door to life with God, then how can it not make it a priority in our minds and hearts?
Otherwise we are perhaps the most selfish people on earth. To have the most valuable and precious thing in all of creation, to be given the command by the Lord to give it away and to keep it for ourselves? Knowing that those who don’t receive Christ all already under the judgment of God and cannot, have no possibility of knowing this amazing awesome being who created us and loves us? How could we be so callous? How could we be so unfeeling? It does not make sense to receive this great gift of salvation and the Holy Spirit living inside us, to know His grace and to participate in the fellowship of other believers, and then have no desire to see others receive that same gift.
Something is not yet complete in us, as individuals yes, but especially as a church family, if we do not stand together on the holy ground of the advancing ministry of the gospel. The apostle Paul craved that for these Philippian believers. He knew that living a life that is worthy of the gospel is far greater than any other kind of life. He speaks to us today and calls us to do a reset. He calls us to do it together and to have a unity of mind and of love for the gospel.
But there are forces which work against our unity around the gospel. There will always be forces at work against the gospel, but we can be proactive and prepared to meet them head on. Let’s see how Paul says we should respond.
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Selfish ambition and conceit are powerful forces. Left to their own devices they will wreak havoc against the advancement of the gospel. They have the same root but a little different focus. Selfish ambition doesn’t consider the needs or feelings of others in its attempt to get what it desires. People are treated as objects to get around instead of humans of infinite value. On the other hand, conceit doesn’t focus on what it desires but on what it already has. People are not valued the same as self because they don’t make it into its self-centered vision. Others have a value but it is insignificant compared to self.
The mindset of humility in great contrast prefers others over its own desires and its own self. It treats other people as the VIPs considering who they are and what they need as more important than the needs they themselves have. This is not to say that self has less value. The way that we treat others does not have to depend on what value we assign to ourselves or to them. If we are to rightly assess our value compared to others, that is how God sees us, we would understand that we are equal in value to every other person no matter who they are. We simply prefer them by considering them before ourselves.
Let me give you an example. When the church potluck takes place, someone has to go first in line and someone has to go last. The people in front are not more important in the sight of God. The people in the back are not less important in the sight of God. It is merely an opportunity to prefer others. Also, sometimes humility means going first. We all have to take a turn at the front of the line. We all have to take a turn at the back. So Paul tells us that the mindset of humility will neutralize selfish ambition and conceit.
Defer to Others
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Not only are people to be valued properly, their interests are also to be considered as important. The relative weight of others interests compared to self-interest is equal. This is different than the humble treatment of others where we prefer them. Things of our own interest are not to be forgotten. Simply the interests of others are to be brought into the pattern of our thinking and our living. We are to treat others as more important than ourselves, but we are to treat their interests as equal or as significant as our own.
Certainly we can’t ignore the things of our own lives while we think about and respond to others needs. This agrees with the balance of scriptural teaching. For example, we are instructed to take care of our own families. If we neglect our families (even for good reasons like helping others) then this is not good. Paul himself declares, “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8)
So we see that as the Lord has placed us in families through the marriage relationship which we are expected to support and take care of. The Lord also places His people in spiritual families which are to care for each other, to support and to share life together. If we are to follow Paul’s instructions here and to look out for the interests of others, the logical question becomes, “How many ‘others’ are we supposed to look out for?” We could spend our lives wearing ourselves out if we’re not careful.
This is where the church family is an important part of our life together in Christ. Our family and extended family has the first priority. Our church family then takes the next priority. As the Lord has called us together as a church family we are responsible to look to the interests of our church family members. That doesn’t mean that we are responsible to do everything for everybody. It does mean that the interests of our spiritual family members need to be on our radar. Then as the Holy Spirit prompts us to respond to a need that pops up on our radar, we then can love and serve our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Here’s another example. Our church had a need this week. The need was for servants to serve at our two funeral services. In the service and in the meals members of your church family stepped up to serve. We didn’t need everybody in the family to serve, and we ended up with just the number of people who were necessary. You who helped in whatever way you helped were looking out for the interests of others. Those of you who didn’t help weren’t needed at this time, but because you look out for the interests of others in your church family, you will respond at other times when there is a need. Our mindset as Christ-followers is to defer to the interests of others.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
To prefer others and defer to them places our attention outside of ourselves. Now Paul turns our attention around to ourselves by using Christ’s example. The Lord Jesus had to let go of certain internal expectations in order to be obedient to His Father. Some of those are plainly evident. He had to take on a human body which then kept Him from the traits which He had also possessed – all power, all knowledge, everywhere present. Beyond these God-traits He also let go of His right as God – being recognized as the Lord of all and ultimately of holding on to life itself of which He Himself was the author or the creator.
No human will ever be asked to humble themselves to the point which Christ Jesus humbled himself. However, Jesus is our example. In order to follow the instructions of His Father, He went to His death. Likewise, those who follow Him are asked to humble themselves and be obedient. Sometimes this leads to the point of death. Yet, many times it leads to the kind of opposition and persecution which Paul had already been talking about with the Philippians. Paul is saying here that if Jesus humbled himself to that extreme, we also must humble ourselves, letting go of expectations that we have for our own lives if God has different ones in mind for us.
My daughter Bethany graduated from high school last year. At one point along her journey through high school she became tired of people asking her what she was going to do with her life because she really wasn’t sure. No one means any harm by asking that question. We’re all just curious about the decisions our students have made and excited about their future.
But as a result I began to think about that question more deeply. We should really be asking a different question, something like, “What direction is the Lord leading you in?” I think we spend way too much time thinking about our own expectations for our lives instead of seeking the Lord for what His expectations are for our lives. Whatever He wants for us I know is better than anything we can come up with. Even if the direction that the Lord maps out for us looks difficult, nothing will give us more satisfaction than being obedient to His calling and to His will for us.
As parents who raise our children to follow the Lord that can be tough sometimes. As in, “Dad I’m going to Mexico by myself for three weeks this summer on a mission trip.” But it is always the best thing. If we are going to be obedient to the Lord we have to empty ourselves of our expectations and allow the Lord to give us His expectations. If we will do that, then the Lord will bring us into unity of mind and heart in the gospel.
Paul completes his teaching about the Lord’s humility by describing what the result of Jesus’s obedience to the Father accomplished.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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. (Philippians 2:9-11)
The reward for Jesus’ obedience was to obtain salvation for all who believe. It was to highlight the glory of God through His obedience as shown in Christ’s death and affirmed in His resurrection. This glory of God can be seen in ever unfolding ways as the Lord opens our eyes. Yet when the day of His appearing arrives and every knee bows in honor and awe of Jesus and His glory, we will see with absolute clarity the majesty of His greatness.
I believe that as we prefer others, defer to others and empty ourselves, the ministry of the gospel will have the greatest opportunity to advance in and through our lives. If our mindset is reset according these principles that Paul lays out for us, we will see God’s glory in awesome ways. Nothing that we can desire in our whole lives compares to the glory of God. To be a part of His work in sharing the gospel message and helping people to grow in their relationship with Jesus is worth more than all the money on the planet. Money will only last so long, but the gospel lasts forever.
Paul’s prayer was for these believers and for us too to have one mind and one heart for the gospel of Jesus. I pray that the Lord’s will be done in our church family concerning His message of life.