Dear SanLo Community, an update for 4/22/18,
Thank you to Chris Wu for preaching today's message, "There's Unity in Humility" from Philippians 2:1-18. There are so many nuggets of wonderful, beautiful truth in today's passage. We'll try to see the high points – how it connects together in a few key ways. Recap: We saw in chapter 1 that Paul's prayer for the believers at Philippi was for them to grow more and more in love and knowledge and discernment, that they may be able to approve what is excellent, and be pure and blameless, filled with Christ's righteousness. Even though he's in prison, Paul sees it as good because the gospel is being proclaimed. Whether he lives or dies is good either way, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain."
Now, this next section of Philippians, Paul commands, "Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have" (1:27-30). In other words, let your walk be worthy, by standing firm and striving as one for the faith of the gospel. And, expect suffering. Be united in the gospel. Stand firm. Simple enough. But how? How does this work? So our passage begins.
"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. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." That is our answer. Unity in humility. Unity that comes from humility. Unity that is present in humility. That's the kind of humility that is built on two key things: thinking and loving. In fact, the big three words I want us to come back to over and over again as we look at humility in this passage is: think, love, and unite. We’re going to define terms (think, love, unite) from our text straightaway, and after covering all three, then we’re going to talk about a tough command that follows, and what this all might look like today and now.
1) Think. Or rather, Think like Christ.
- Be of the same mind (v. 2a). And that mind is available in and before you in Christ. v. 6: 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.
- Something to be grasped = something to be exploited or something to be deployed for his own advantage. He already has equality with God. It’s not as if he’s sort of sitting around and saying, “Now how can I profit from this?
It can be commonly underemphasized, but Paul has a strong desire in this letter to encourage the Philippians to right thinking. Paul prayed for their growth in love, knowledge, and discernment. Love and knowledge. Right thinking is no throwaway term here. Paul says “be of the same mind.” v. 3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Humility absolutely has to do with how we think about ourselves and how we think about others. Selfish ambition and conceit are the natural modes of thinking of our flesh. The mindset of humility needs to be in us - but it does not come from us. That mindset has to come from Christ. And what was that mindset? v. 6: 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. Can you imagine being God, and not considering your rights and privileges of deity as something to be grasped? He was ready, intensely and innately in his very being and essence, to look to the interests of others. This is right thinking, Christ's thinking. And this right thinking is inseparably tied up with love
2) Love like Christ.
a. Have the same love (v. 2b). Of which the best example is Christ's pouring out, divesting of his divine prerogatives. v. 7: 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.
b. Rather, “He made himself nothing and took the mode of existence of a servant.” That is, the eternal Son did not think of his status of God as something that gave him the opportunity to get and get. Instead, his very status as God meant he had nothing to prove and nothing to go after in terms of what was higher. He had the mode of existence of God and, precisely because he is one with God… this God, this loving God, this self-giving God… because of this, he made himself nothing and gave and gave and gave.
So, Paul says, “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love…” And we just established that right thinking is Christ’s thinking. So of course, right loving is Christ’s loving. Jesus never ceased to be all God. But he 1) did not consider his God-ness as something he had to hold on to, something that needed validation by some exercise of power, but 2) he emptied himself, embodying the essence of a servant by coming into the world as a relative nobody (and certainly relative to deity). He didn’t grasp. He emptied. He didn’t hold on. He poured out. He “gave and gave and gave,” all the way to the point of death, even the cruelest, most humiliating method of death available. We owed a debt we could not pay. He paid a debt he did not owe. This is the result of Christ’s humility. Together we have the mindset of Christ, loving like him, and being marked by how we serve one another and empty ourselves to see the love of the gospel flow into others.
3) Be United in/under Christ.
- Be in full accord and of one mind (v. 2c). The natural result of humility is unity - particularly under Christ as king. vv. 10-11: 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.
When we are thinking and loving like Christ, unity happens. Unity doesn’t happen through a program or a strategy. Rather, love and unity go together. You don't have to force unity on those who love one another. We like to be on the same team, we like to get along. Unity is the result of love. We have a common goal, a common perspective, and a focus on each other that makes no room for the kind of fighting that comes from self-interest. We may disagree, even passionately. But we are unmistakably united, having lost all our arrogance in view of the cross. What does Paul say after sharing the grand example of think, love, unite in Christ. So now, Obey by Working (go do it!). Is this hard? Yes and No vv. 12-13. “Work out your salvation precisely because it is God working in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” God is at work in you, even at the level of your will; God is at work in you, even at the level of your actions. Your very working demonstrates that it is God working in you, both to will and to do of his good pleasure. The gospel says, you already are saved! It says, you are being saved. It says, you will be saved. Now, live in line with that reality! Like a saved one! And more good news, the very nature of being saved by God means you don't live like a saved one based on your ability - rather, it is God Himself who now lives within you to will and to work. So by all means, work! Think! Love! Unite!