In our study this week we are made aware that self-centeredness was a problem that existed in the congregation in Philippi (see also Phil 4.2,3). The Holy Spirit mentions words like strife and vainglory to describe the attitudes that existed within this local church (Phil 2.3). The word strife speaks of selfish ambition and vainglory speaks of serving Jesus with the wrong motive of self-exaltation. How important it is for us to understand that strife and vainglory are enemies of unity in The Spirit (Eph 4.1-3). The devil may be a liar, but even he knows that there is a particular blessing that God pours out upon brethren who dwell together in unity (Psalm 133; 1 Cor 12.12-27).
According to Paul, the key to unity is really two-fold. One, it is remembering the reality of the work of God in our lives (Phil 2.1). And two, it is remembering the example of self-emptying humility of our Lord Jesus Christ (Phil 2.5-10).
- In John 17.16-23, The Lord Jesus prayed they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
We are no longer citizens of this fallen world system that is built on me, myself and I (cp. Phil 1.22,27).
All who come to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ are one body. There is only one body of Christ on Planet Earth today.
He prayed that we would mature in our relationship with Him and the Father, in order that the world may believe that The Father sent Him (vs. 21, 27).
So, the recognition of who we are in Christ is the basis of our unity and is an integral part of winning the lost to The Lord Jesus Christ. According to Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4, the recognition of who we are in Christ is the motivation for service and the basis of genuine care and compassion for one another in the body of Christ.
So the gospel of Jesus Christ is a message that glorifies The Father, exalts Jesus Christ, and gives birth to a Spirit driven body of believers who are passionate about reaching the lost and ministering to one another for the glory of God. Can I get an Amen?
As I bring forth this message, the only congregation that I am thinking about is ours.
Now, after we read these 11 verses from Philippians 2 and The Holy Spirit allows to take a look into the hearts of this congregation, (how many of you know that The Holy Spirit is looking at what is going on in your hearts this morning?). Do you see what is going on here at Phillipi beloved? This is anything but a display of Jesus in John 17. There is anything but unity and oneness.
This congregation has a real problem with motives, attitudes and unity. At the end of chapter one (no chapter divisions in Scripture) Paul tells these precious saints that they are to stand fast with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. Instead of standing fast and striving together for the faith of the gospel, they were striving and competing with one another (cp. Phil 4.1-3).
I believe that we can safely conclude that this congregation had completely lost sight of 2 major things.
- Their primary purpose here on earth, which is to reach the lost and make disciples of Jesus Christ.
- Who the real enemy is.
Instead of coming together for prayer and working together to reach the lost and minister to one another in the love of God, they are competing with one another and driven by pride and selfishness.
One of the greatest dangers to real evangelism and gospel based unity within any local congregation is selfish ambition, vain-glory and the old “every man or woman for themselves!” mentality.
How destructive it is when the self centered mentality of the fallen world system creeps into the “bloodstream” of the body of Christ. If there is an anti-gospel message it is one that is man centered and that only focuses on myself and getting my needs met, as opposed to a message that is Christ centered and looks for ways to bless others for the glory of God.
How sad it is when the redeemed of The Lord have a “what’s in it for me” mentality instead of a “what would Jesus do and what did He teach” mentality.
Since you and I are prone to being driven by vainglory, selfish ambition and pride, may The Spirit of God give us ears to hear this much needed exhortation.
- 2.1 If there be therefore any consolation (encouragement) in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels (affections) and mercies,
What Paul is saying here is this. Haven’t you been encouraged by Jesus Christ? Haven’t you experienced His comfort? Haven’t you tasted the sweet fellowship of The Spirit of God? Hasn’t God bestowed His affection and mercy towards you?
Of course the answer to all of these questions is yes. Since all of that is true, pass it on to one another.
- 2.2 Fulfil (complete) ye my joy that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Paul reveals a great pastor’s heart. One of the most wonderful joys in ministry is when the flock flows together in the love of God and power of The Holy Spirit.
What a wonderful thing to pray beloved. Father, cause all of us to be likeminded, filled with the love of Christ, of one accord and one mind.
- Romans 15.6 That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
- 1 Peter 3.8 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous:
What happens when the body is of one accord and one mind? According to Psalm 133, that is where God commands His blessing. According to Acts 1 and 2, what happened when the body gathered together in the upper room of prayer? The Spirit of God was poured out.
When a person or a congregation is flowing in the unity of The Spirit, the overflow of that kind of fellowship with The Lord are spiritual blessings and a bonding of relationships in Christ.
3 enemies of unity. Strife, vainglory and pride. These 3 fleshly lusts are anti-gospel, anti-Christ attitudes. There is nothing good that results from strife, vainglory and pride.
- 2.3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory (rivalry, selfish ambition or conceit); but in lowliness of mind (humility) let each esteem (count) other better (more important) than themselves.
- Romans 13.13 Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
- Galatians 5.20 tells us that strife is a work of the flesh.
Strife is selfish ambition and vainglory is empty pride. The purpose of any local congregation or ministry is to advance the cause of Christ, not to advance us. Again, what The Holy Spirit confronts us with is the subject of motives of the heart.
Ministry in the local church and in the body of Christ at large should never be a matter of competition, but one of seeking to compliment one another for the glory of God.
Esteem others better than myself. A cross-based humility is the antidote for proud or haughty attitudes within the body of Christ. A proper understanding of who we really are in the shadow of the cross will always produce Christ like humility instead of Lucifer like pride and self-exaltation.
Beloved, the aim of the Christian life and ministry within the local church ought not to be self-display or self-exaltation, but self-denial and Christ exalting.
I can tell you right now that our natural, carnal mind is not wired to deny self and exalt Christ. It is not wired to esteem others better than us. Apart from the cross and the submitting to the power of The Holy Spirit within us, we will compete, we will compare, and we will scratch and claw to further our own opinions, our own agenda and purposes. And we will eliminate any “competition” that gets in our way.
- 2.4 Look not every man on his own things (interests), but every man also on the things (interests) of others.
The Greek word for look here carries the idea of fixing the attention upon with a desire for and interest in. Beloved, you and I know that the vast majority of our Christian life is spent outside of the church building. Thus, a very important element of living for Christ and growing in Christ is experienced “outside of these walls” as we reach out to meet one another’s needs, as we are made aware of them.
- 1 Corinthians 10.24 Let no man seek his own, but every man another’s wealth.
- 1 Corinthians 13.5 tells us that one of the characteristics of God’s love working in our lives and church family is that it seeketh not her own
Let me ask you this question. Did any of you pray this morning or on the way to church that God would give you eyes to see and ears to hear any needs that my brothers and sisters may have?
William Barclay with great insight writes this: If a man is forever concerned first and foremost with his own interests, he is bound to collide with others. If for him life is a competition whose prizes he must win, he will always think of other human beings as enemies or at least as opponents who must be pushed out of the way. Concentration on self inevitably means elimination of others; and the object of life becomes not to help others up but to push them down.
- 2.5 Let this mind (attitude) be in you (among yourselves), which was also in Christ Jesus:
- 2.6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery (did not consider) to be equal with God (Jesus did not use His deity for His own advantage):
This is one of the most difficult passages in the Bible, prompting various (Gk) kenosis (lit “emptying”) theories attempting to describe what Jesus gave up in coming to earth.
Although the text clearly reveals the deity and humanity of The Lord Jesus Christ, it’s specific purpose is meant to illustrate he example of Christian humility.
The Greek word for form here refers to that which is intrinsic and essential to the being of God.
So when Paul states that Jesus existed in the form of God (1:6), he is referring to His preexistence before He was born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is not a created being, but rather is the second person of the triune God.
- 2.7 But made himself of no reputation (He emptied Himself), and took upon him the form of a servant (Gr. slave), and was made in the likeness of men:
When Jesus came as a Man, He was still divine. Then of what did He empty Himself? He emptied Himself of His divine powers. He did not cease to be God, but He did lay aside His glory and the independent use of His attributes as God. His life as the God-Man on earth was completely subjected to the Father.
The implications of the “doctrine of kenosis” are huge for you and me, because this means that everything Jesus did—the miracles He ministered, the prayers He prayed, the teachings He gave—were not done in His own power. Jesus healed and prayed and taught through the power of the Holy Spirit as He followed the Father’s directives.
Remember that Jesus said, as The Father sent Me, so send I you.
Even though Jesus was God incarnate, while here on earth, He did not demand or cling to His “rights” as God, but laid that aside and in its place took the form of a slave.
It is interesting to me that the 2 times in Scripture where Jesus is specifically mentioned as leaving us an example to follow are found in John 13, and that pertains to being a servant or slave and in 1 Peter 2, which pertains to suffering in doing the will of God.
- Matthew 20.26-28 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
- John 13.14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example that ye should do as I have done to you.
As glorious and precious as the doctrine of the atonement of Christ is, we fall short of the entire message of the cross if we “limit” it exclusively to the time of His brutal beating and sacrifice. The Holy Spirit through Paul uses the kenosis or emptying of Jesus Christ as an example of humility that is to be adopted as a lifestyle by all followers of Jesus Christ.
Let me repeat that Paul is not using our text to combat some heresy or theological error. He is writing about a most practical subject–how Christians can get along with one another. It applies to how we relate to one another in the church, but also in our homes. You see beloved, at the heart of every one of our relational problems no matter how we cut the pie is self. To live in harmony, we must learn to die to self and humbly live for others for Jesus’ sake.
Any personal cost we have to bear in serving Christ is nothing by way of comparison to what Jesus did for us, even if it means laying down our lives. As Isaac Watts put it, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all” (“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”).
- 2.8 And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Jesus’ humility came through becoming obedient. Servants or slaves obey; Jesus obeyed God, even to the point of dying on a cross.
It would have been amazing enough for the eternal God to come to this earth as a mighty king. It was even more amazing that He came as a humble servant. But it’s almost beyond comprehension that He would even go lower and die. And, even more staggering, His death was not a noble death, but a horrible, ignoble death of a common criminal. For the Jew, whoever was hanged on a tree was accursed of God (Deut. 21:23). Pastor Steven Cole
- 2.9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name:
- 2.10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
- 2.11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
On a doctrinal note, Isa 45.23 refers to the final submission of all nations to God; that Paul applies the text to Jesus (especially with an Old Testament divine title, “Lord,” in v. 11) is telling.
Christ’s experience proves that exaltation always follows humiliation. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,” promises 1 Peter 5:6. The person who exalts himself will be humbled (Luke 14:11). Remember what happened to Pharaoh, King Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Haman, and Herod?
Paul is saying here that to proclaim Him as Lord and deny Him in practice in contrary to the message of the cross and authentic Christianity.
In closing, it has been said that the one thing that prevents a person from walking in humility is pride and self-righteousness.
C.S Lewis wrote pride has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…. Pride always means enmity–it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but also enmity to God. In God you come up against something that is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that–and, therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison–you do not know God at all. As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you (Mere Christianity [Macmillan], pp. 110-111).
Pride will never completely go away this side of heaven beloved. A Spanish bullfighter made a tragic mistake. He thrust his sword a final time into the bull, which then collapsed. Thinking that the bull was dead, the bullfighter turned to the crowd to acknowledge the applause. But the bull was not dead. It rose and lunged at the back of the unsuspecting matador, piercing his heart with its horn. Pride is like that. Just when we think we’ve conquered it and we turn to accept the congratulations of the crowd, pride stabs us in the back. It won’t be dead before we are.
Have you received Christ Jesus The Lord t as Savior and Master of your life?
Hopefully, we have learned in these scriptures is that being a Christian is far more than “accepting Christ” in order to receive forgiveness of sin and be assured that I will go to heaven when I die (which is all true).
Being a Christian means that I have made the decision to follow Jesus Christ as Lord of my life. As Pastor Ben reminded us last week, being a Christian means that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Call upon His Name today….embrace the full meaning of the cross and begin to experience what Jesus called life, and that more abundantly (John 10.10).