The Joy of Unity – Part 3 - Philippians 2
Joy: No Matter What!
Last week we looked at how we can have joy even in the midst of difficult circumstances. We talked about when we are doing the things that God has called us to do we are tapped in to a source of joy that no situation can take away.
We also discovered that they greatest misery that you go through can become your most effective ministry.
We also discussed how important our attitude and point of view is when we are going through trying times.
When you compare Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi to some of the other letters he wrote to the other churches you get the feeling that the church at Philippi had it all together. They had it going on!
And compared to most of the other churches they did, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any problems. The clues in Philippians show that Paul was concerned about a couple issues at the Philippian church that threatened the church’s unity.
1. False teachers coming in from without. (Phil. 3:1-3)
2. Disagreeing members from within. (Phil. 4:1-3)
It is this second issue that Paul attacks first. Paul knew that one of the greatest joy stealers that Christians can face is disunity with other believers. So Paul begins to go after this problem first.
Humility Is The Foundation For Unity
Lets look at Philippians 2:1-4, “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. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
In the first verse here Paul begins by reminding the Philippians believers the things they have in common in Christ.
1. We all belong to the same spiritual family.
2. We are all loved by Christ.
3. The same Holy Spirit is with each of us.
4. The characteristics of Christians should be tenderness and compassion.
Then Paul states that as Christians if we share these things in common the results should be:
1. Agreement within the body
2. Love for one another
3. A common heart and passion for ministering together.
Can anyone say Ouch!
Does that look the church as a whole today?
I think that the biggest part of the problem is found in the last verse where Paul writes, ‘Each of you should not only look to you own interests, but also to the interest of others.’
Our world today has been so effective in getting even the Christians to buy into this attitude of, “It’s me first”, “It’s my way or the highway”, or “take all you can and give nothin back!” These shouldn’t be the attitudes of the Christian! We should be living above that!
I do want to clear up a misconception here about the idea of unity. Unity is when a group of people are all using their gifts and talents toward accomplishing a common goal.
Unity celebrates and takes advantage of the different gifts, talents and personalities of the group.
I think that many people today confuse uniformity with unity. Uniformity says that we all have to think the same way, we all have to talk the same way, we all have to look the same way. God has no desire to have His people look like a bunch of storm-troopers from Star Wars. We are all individuals! And God expects us to use our individuality for His purpose and glory.
I want us to take a moment to look at the power of unity.
Genesis 11:1-6 (NIV), “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As men moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, "Come, let's make bricks and bake them thoroughly." They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves and not be scattered over the face of the whole earth." But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the men were building. The LORD said, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.”
Did you catch what the Lord said! If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them! I believe that this principle holds true. God scattered them and gave them different languages because the thing they were trying to do was outside of His will for them. But what if we as Reunion, but what if we as the church in American begin to have this same singleness of purpose to do those things that God has ordained! If we are seeking His glory and purpose and have singleness of focus on that, will anything be impossible?
In Psalm 133:1 David writes, “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!”
Getting back to Philippians 2:1-4, did you notice what Paul said the result would be if they had this single-minded purpose towards God and were more concerned with others than themselves?
Joy! Paul said that it would make his joy complete!
Lets move along to next section in Philippians
Christ: Our Great Example of Humility
Philippians 2:5-11, “Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
What are some of your thoughts on these verses? There is a lot in here.
Paul is reminding the Philippians that the ultimate example of humility is Jesus. That if we really want to see what it is like to live and walk in humility then we need to follow Jesus’ example. I’m not just saying that we need to pay attention to what Paul is saying Jesus did here in these verses, but if we want to learn how to be humble as a person we read the Gospels in light of what Paul is saying here about Jesus.
If any one that ever lived had the right to be worshipped and to be set up as the King of All Kings while they were here, it was Jesus. It was His Divine right and privilege, but He chose to set it aside.
Mark 10:45 (NKJ) says, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
By virtue of who He was He could have demanded to be served, but because He humbled Himself, He chose to serve and to give Himself as a sacrifice. Humility is the setting aside of yourself and when we read the Gospels and look at Jesus, we can see how this is lived out.
Now there are some deep theological waters we could get into here if we wanted to. That is the theological idea of Kenosis. It is trying to answer the question of what exactly did Jesus give up or more correctly put, set aside when He became a man. There are no less than about 20 different positions here. The most important thing to know here is that Jesus, according to Hebrews 4:14, lived a life that faced the same challenges and temptations as we do, yet He did so without committing sin. I believe that Jesus relied on the power and help from the Holy Spirit just as we have access to today. I don’t believe that Jesus took advantage of any of His Divine attributes while He was on earth to make His human existence any easier.
Getting back on track here though; the most important thing to remember about these verses is that if we want to have unity in the church and accomplish God’s will in our lives then we need to set aside our wills and desires and submit them to God’s, and then we can have unity, purpose and ultimately joy.
A Call To Unity
Philippians 2:12-18 (NCV), “My dear friends, you have always obeyed God when I was with you. It is even more important that you obey now while I am away from you. Keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling, because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining or arguing. Then you will be innocent and without any wrong. You will be God's children without fault. But you are living with crooked and mean people all around you, among whom you shine like stars in the dark world. You offer the teaching that gives life. So when Christ comes again, I can be happy because my work was not wasted. I ran the race and won. Your faith makes you offer your lives as a sacrifice in serving God. If I have to offer my own blood with your sacrifice, I will be happy and full of joy with all of you. You also should be happy and full of joy with me.”
Paul begins by asking his friends at the Philippian church to be obedient to his teaching on humbling themselves.
When Paul is talking about working to complete their salvation, He is not saying that they need to do anything in order to earn their salvation, (see Ephesians 2:8-9), he is saying that it will take a lot of effort and submission for us to become spiritually mature and Christ like. By effort, I mean we have to learn how to live and walk in God’s grace so that we can become more like Him.
Paul then tells his friends that they ought to live out and reflect the teaching of Jesus in their lives and by doing so they will be lights in a dark world. He states that if they do this then his work with them would not be in vain and he will be filled with joy, even if he faced immediate execution. This could have happened at any time.
But, notice Paul’s attitude and focus here, he wants the Philippians to grow to be spiritually mature and if they do, this would bring him joy.
Examples Of Humility
Philippians 2:19-28 (NLT), “If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon. Then when he comes back, he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has helped me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon. Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, a faithful worker, and a courageous soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. Now I am sending him home again, for he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he surely was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him-- and also on me, so that I would not have such unbearable sorrow. So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and that will lighten all my cares.”
Here Paul is talking about sending Timothy and Epaphroditus back to the church at Philippi. On the surface there doesn’t seem to be a lot to talk about, but we should take notice of how Paul describes Timothy and Epaphroditus.
Timothy genuinely cares about their welfare.
Timothy has served and helped Paul in his ministry.
Epaphroditus is a true brother and faithful worker.
What worried the Philippian church worried Epaphroditus.
In closing I wonder if these same kinds of statement could be said of us. If we desire to dwell in unity and joy, these are the traits that will make that possible.