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The Unity in Community (Philippians 2:3-5)

January 8, 2017 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: The Essentials: One Body

Topic: Philippians Passage: Philippians 2:3–2:5

 

The Unity in Community
Philippians 2:3-5
(One Body: Love One Another)
January 8th, 2017

 

I. Up to This Point

Whatever else you may be thinking about right now, put it to the side and consider this question, “Am I a genuine Christian? Am I true follower of Jesus Christ?”

If you answered “yes” to that question, then one issue that should be of vital importance to you this morning is the issue of belonging. Central to your identity, to who you truly are, is the reality expressed in these verses. Listen...

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. (I Peter 2:9)

So you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints [the holy ones] and members of the household of God [20], being built on the foundation of the apostle and prophets, Jesus Christ being the cornerstone... (Ephesians 2:19, 20)

When you truly grasp what God has done in making us His people, then you will naturally stand in awe of Him and His work. But as we think about our new identity in light of God's grace, we can also talk very specifically about each of us as individuals. Paul wrote...

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, [5] so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Romans 12:4, 5)

So this “people”, this “household”, this community is marked by both diversity and unity. Though we are diverse and distinct as individual, and in terms of gifts and functions, we are nevertheless united. As Paul wrote, we're just like the parts of a human body. One Body!

And all these stunning spiritual realities should drive us to one central principle when it comes to living together as the body of Christ. In fact, Christ taught us this principle:

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. [35] By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34, 35)

This morning, God wants us to dig deeper, in light of who we are, into this idea of loving one another. What does it involve? What does it really look like? Let's look for answers together as we turn to Philippians 2:3-5.

 

II. The Passage: "Count Others More Significant" (2:3-5)

Now, in just a moment, we will read through our main verses, the same ones we began with this morning. But before we do, I want to make sure we understand that Paul's main theme in this section is in fact unity. How do I know that? Just look at the verses 1, 2 of this chapter:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

The election last year highlighted the deep divisions that exist in our country. The issues, the conversations, the disagreements made us all feel less like the United States, and more like the “Divided States” of America. Our unity, or lack of unity, was and is a genuine concern.

But are we concerned, even more so, about our unity as a church family? Disagreements, divisions, and indifference in our life as a nation can have very serious consequences. But given the nature of the church, and our mission in this world, aren't the consequences even more serious when God's people are not united?

If you care about this issue, if the unity of our faith community is a priority to you, if you desire to obey the new commandment of Jesus, then listen very, very carefully to these words. Paul writes in Philippians 2:3-5...

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...

What Paul has given us here are the necessary ingredients, the requirements for genuine unity. Let's look at the three ingredients he mentions here. And as we do, I want you to see how all of them paint a picture of what the new commandment looks like lived out. Are you ready to consider these, and be challenged by God? First of all, Paul tells us in v. 3 that...

 

1. Unity Requires New Eyes (v. 3)

Paul is telling us here that we can look at other people, at brothers and sisters, at fellow Christians in either one of two ways. We can either see them with the eyes of “conceit” or with the eyes of “humility”.

The eyes of “conceit” are self-focused and self-absorbed. The Greek word here is kenodoxia, literally “empty (vain) glory”. The eyes of conceit lead to “rivalry”. Why? Because when you are self-focused and self-absorbed, everyone else can quickly be seen as competition for your time, your attention, your energy, etc. Is this how you see the brothers and sisters in this church family? If they are not serving your interests in some way, are they rivals to be somehow overcome?

In contrast, the eyes of “humility” are self-denying and others-focused. When you have these eyes, these new eyes, you see others, as Paul writes here, you see others as “more significant than yoursel[f]”.

The word translated “significant” here is used by Paul two other times in this letter. In Philippians 3:8 he writes about the “surpassing worth (the significance, the excellence) of know Christ Jesus my Lord”; and in 4:7 he talks about “the peace of God, that surpasses (is higher than) all understanding”.

This is how we are to see others; to see out brothers and sisters. He or she surpasses me. His worth, her worth is incalculable. This is not about whether your like someone or not. This is about seeing rightly; seeing as God sees.

And what happens when I see all of you as more valuable than myself, with new eyes, with eyes of humility? Well, it drives me to the next ingredient. Paul writes in verse 4 that...

 

2. Unity Requires a New Heart (v. 4)

Look again at verse 4: Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Literally the word translated “interests” here is a word that in most cases in the NT is translated as “each of you” or “his own” or “her own”. In essence, Paul is talking about other people's 'stuff'. “I've got stuff to do...Just thinking about stuff...I can't deal with your stuff right now...lot of stuff on my plate.”

But Paul is talking about your brother or sister in Christ; he's talking about their 'stuff'. What is Paul saying? He is saying, “Unity requires a new heart because you need to CARE about their stuff, just as you care about your own.”

We need to care about what is happening with our brothers and sisters, about their lives, and not just when there's some kind of crisis.

New eyes should lead to a new heart. If you find a struggling tree growing in your backyard, and determine that it is a very, very rare fruit tree, one that is extremely valuable, you will undoubtedly water it, and trim it, and look after it. Once you see its value, you will invest yourself in that tree.

Shouldn't the same be true when we have new eyes to see one another? We are not called to live another person's life, or to neglect our own 'stuff'. We are called to not let our 'stuff' keep us from caring about our brother or sister's stuff. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

But listen to how Paul finishes this passage. In verse 5, he goes on to encourage them that...

 

3. Unity Requires a New Mind (v. 5)

Listen one more time to the whole passage: Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. [4] Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. [5] Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus...

To have these new eyes and to have this new heart is not enough. God wants this new perspective and this new affection to be our regular mindset. Remember what Paul told the Romans... Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind... (12:2) And in I Corinthians 2:16, Paul tells believers that “ we have the mind of Christ”.

And that's exactly what he is saying here in Philippians 2:5. The new mind we are called to walk by is the mind that is “[ours] in Christ Jesus”. Actually, almost every other English translation translates this verse like this... “Have this [mindset] in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”.

And that choice of wording is confirmed by what we read in the verses that follow. Listen to how Paul describes these eyes, this heart, and this mind on display in Jesus...

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours [or which was also] 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. 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.

What compels us to see others with new eyes, to care for others with a new heart, to live sacrificially for others with this mindset? The fact that we are forgiven, that we are healed, that we live because Jesus had these eyes, this heart, this mindset for us. It took Him all the way to the cross...for you; for your sin.

 

III. So Much to Work With

So think about it: Jesus Christ told His followers [that's you; that's me]: love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

And working from that foundational community rule, Paul has explained for us here what that love looks like in practice, with the end result being unity. It's no surprise of course that Paul's instructions perfectly mirror what Jesus taught us: “But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, [44] and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. [45] For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45) Didn't Jesus teach us to wash each others feet?

And as we've seen, Paul is also calling the Philippians to the same kind of action here? These are instructions. These are commands. “Do”, “count”, “look to”, “have”.

And because we are commanded by the word of God to love and to serve and to bless one another, there is a very good chance that we will feel inadequate, incapable of carrying these things out; of seeing one another and treating one another in this way? Maybe that's precisely where you're stuck this morning. Maybe you've tried in the past to care for others, to care for their 'stuff', but felt worn out were burned by someone else.

Well, if you feel inadequate, incapable in light of God's commands through Paul, then good. That's exactly where you should be. That's where all of us should be.

We need to know that, in and of ourselves, we do not have what it takes. Our tendency is to see with old eyes, to feel with that old heart, and to live each day according to our old mind.
But remember how Paul began this chapter. Look again at verses 1 and 2. Now as you listen to these words, remember, Paul use of the word “if” here involves what is assumed to be true. So he writes...

So if there is any encouragement in Christ [which of course there is], any comfort from love [which of course there is], any participation in the Spirit [which of course there is], any affection and sympathy [which of course there is], [2] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

And because of God's grace, don't we also have those things? His encouragement? His comfort? His love? His Spirit? Haven't we experienced affection and sympathy from our brothers and sisters, in some form or fashion? If we have, then we have all we need. In fact, we have so much to work with in terms of these commands.

You see, what Paul is saying here is that if we are not celebrating and drawing encouragement from and walking by and thankful for our gospel blessings, we will be struggling in our own strength, in both our relationship with God, and our relationships with our church family.

But when we are living in light of the gospel, in all the riches, the spiritual blessings we enjoy because of Jesus, we will be well supplied to love others; to grow in unity as we see each other with new eyes, serve one another with a new heart, and live for one according to a new mind.

Is that what you want for this church?

The decision really is up to you, up to us, about what this church will be like. Will it be united like a healthy family? Will it be loving, like a healthy family? Will we each feel accepted and supported and blessed by one another? The choice is yours. And in two ways: will you step out in obedience to these commands, AND, will you allow others to step INTO your life in obedience to these commands?

What will it look like to fulfill these words? To count others as more significant, to look to the interests of others, with humility? Well, I think we already see it in many ways. And there can be many expressions of these lifestyle. But one simple way you can do is be humble enough to ask a brother or sister how you can pray for them...and then...pray for them.

Genuine prayer for another is an act of humility, love, and faith. It is looking to the interests of others. Think for a minute about what you would share if a brother or sister asked you this morning, “How can I pray for you?” Can you imagine how our church family would grow if we were regularly asking this and regularly praying?

Speaking of prayer, let's pray and ask God to help claim anew the new eyes, heart, and mind, the mind of Jesus, so that we would stand united in His love.