PHILIPPIANS 2:1-7 PRINCETON CHRISTIAN CHURCH 02 MAY 2021
There is a lot of talk these days as we watch the news about Unity. The newscasters tell us we are a divided nation. This group of people is fighting against the other group. Will that unity ever be accomplished? What is it that might prevent a nation to become totally united? Well, it is just that many people believe and expect that they should have their own preferences and no other, in their minds, will be considered.
That, then, is the worldly view of Unity. But, this morning I want us to look at ourselves and see who we are as we gather to worship our Lord.
Our desire, or our aim, is to live as Christian people should live, and as Christ would live.
Paul, writing in his letters to Christians in the various cities, continually urges them to be One Body, with One Mind. As a body we are engaged in a battle. The battle is against the world. Christians cannot fight an individual battle. We have to be united. We have to create a oneness among ourselves. The truth is – there is strength in union.
Several years ago, at an Exposition a magnet was displayed. That magnet was capable of lifting 1800 pounds. The magnet consisted of 100 thin plates. A single thin plate could never lift anywhere near 1800 pounds. But together 100 thin plates made it possible. It was the unity of the plates which accomplished the task. Where there is unity, there is strength. Where there is separation or dissention, there is weakness.
If the Body of Christ is to have this kind of strength, it must become One, Unified, working toward one goal. There are two keys to finding this oneness, or unity within the Body, and being able to keep it there.
These keys are Love and Humility. Listen as Paul talks about these keys in Philippians 2:1-7.
I. First, let’s look at Humility as it is expressed in the mind of Jesus Christ.
Jesus, as He faced His own death, prayed to God on behalf of His disciples and for all of us who would follow. In John 17:21, He specifically prayed that we, His church, would be one. A solid unit, without a break, so that the world would see that He had been sent by God. We can see this as a chain. If there is a break in a chain, the chain becomes weakened, not effective in its purpose.
This is the way in which the church would become perfect. Each individual follower of Christ is extremely stronger in the company of other followers. Jesus knew even then that we would need each other in such a way that it would be impossible to get along without the other’s help.
Secondly, let’s look at Humility as it is expressed in the lives of Christians.
Paul says in this passage, verse 4, that we should look on the things of others rather than our own things. Now, he is referring to looking after other peoples’ needs. He is saying: care about others first – then about ourselves.
Stay away from the ego trip. Each member of the Body must be vitally concerned about his or her brothers and sisters in Christ. When members of the Body are concerned only about themselves there is no way for church growth and maturity. To be absorbed in oneself is to have the heart’s door closed to the needs of others.
Christian people need to reach out to touch the lives of others. Paul says that we should not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Now, he does not mean, of course, that we should have a low opinion of ourselves, but that we should consider first the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Each of us has a special gift or talent which we are expected to use to exercise the humility we should possess as a Christian. It is through these gifts that we are able to minister to one another, as Paul speaks about in Romans 12:6-8.
In reaching out to touch others’ lives, we need to be willing to go as far as Jesus Christ would go. He stopped His important work many times to help one in need or simply to take a small child in His arms to love. When we express our humility, we unify the Body of Christ, because we have shared Christ with one another.
If we are to defeat strive and vainglory in His church, we have to defend it together. One of the most effective weapons we have In that fight is humility. And, the perfect humility, of course, is that of Christ when He emptied Himself and was obedient to death. That kind of humility involved more than just a denial of self. It also involved the second of our keys to unity in the Church.
II. Love, as it expressed in the mind of Christ is a vital key to Unity in the Church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ lived a life of love. He says in John 15 that we should continue in His love. The same love that made Him and His Father one. He says that He kept His Father’s commandments. The command which He gives us is this, found in John 15:12 – “This is My commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.”
Now, it is easy for us to say, that we love one another. And, if we didn’t, we probably wouldn’t be able to come together and worship Him together. We really do love one another. But, have you ever thought about the kind of love or the extent of that love that Jesus is talking about?
It is Christian love which has God and His Son as its primary object. It expresses itself first of all in complete obedience to His commandments. The opposite, of course, is self-will and self-pleasing.
Christian love, whether exercised toward fellow Christians, or toward people in general, is not an impulse from our feelings. It does not always run with the natural inclinations. Love, as Christ sees it, seeks the welfare of all, and works no ill to anyone. Love seeks the opportunity to do good to everyone, and especially toward those that are of the household of faith, as Paul writes in Galatians 6:10.
So, love, which unites the Body of Christ, is expressed by His example in John 15:13 – “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
This is the very way He showed His love for us – by laying down His life for each one of us. This is the kind of love which will hold the Body of Christ together as one unbreakable, unbending unit.
This is also a love that the world simply cannot understand. The world questions: How could one person that it upon himself to die for everyone else? Paul says these people count the Gospel as foolishness. They simply cannot figure it out. Then, they look at the church and they see people willing to give of their abundance in order that others may be supplied all their needs.
The world is confused. Aren’t we supposed to take care of #1 first? After all, if you don’t take care of yourself first, nobody else will. But that is the unique value in the Body of Christ, when it is vitally alive in Him. The thought is for others first, then to self.
The love that works to sustain this body has its character in the things which are not present. When the church of Jesus Christ is alive and actively looking toward Him as the goal, the love shared lacks anger toward one another. There is no bitterness or unjust criticism. This is possible only because there is no competition. Christians are not in positions to compete against their brothers and sisters in Christ. We are, instead, in position to share responsibilities and growth in Jesus Christ.
So, we come then to how the unifying love is to be expressed in the life of the Church.
Let’s look back at what Jesus said in John 15:12. “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.”
He says this is a commandment. It is not a suggestion that we could do if we feel like it, or if we want to. He says, without any question: As the saying goes, DO IT!! There is no option given; no alternative action.
When we go to buy a new car, we have a number of choices to make. Which available options do we desire? It is the same with many situations in our lives. We have options. But, here, in Jesus’ commandment there are no options, no alternate choices. Jesus says if we want to be His friend, we will obey this, and all of His commands.
So, by obeying the command to love one another, as He has loved us, we show the unity, or oneness which is so important in His Church.
Each of us has something which is very much a part of us. That is our ego. The Big I. But where the unity of the Church is concerned, we must put that I or ego aside.
Because we are working together as a Body of Christ for one purpose, we are all to have our minds on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are all working toward a common goal. The love that Jesus has shared with us makes us one when we can put aside the one (yourself) who most often gets in the way.
In addition, we must be willing to ask for forgiveness and to accept forgiveness.
In Luke 17:3-4, Jesus says if a brother sins against us, and if he repents of that sin, we are to forgive him of that sin, even if he commits it seven times in one day. Now, it may become very tiring to actually have to do this. We might feel like saying to the brother, “If you are so sorry for your sin, why do you keep doing it?” But, Jesus makes it our duty to be willing to forgive him. Why is this important? Because, when we accept this responsibility to forgive, we grow stronger in the bond of love. And, that bond makes us One in Christ.
Considering all this, Paul says we are not to become terrified or alarmed by our opponents. When the church, as Christ’s Body, in one unity, stands together, it can be sure of its solid position. When we come face to face with the enemy, whoever he may be, a position of assurance on our part will often frighten off the enemy.
So, to be a healthy body, the church needs every Christian – every member of that Body. Not for more or better structure, or more or better organization. It needs more body unity, and more ministry to and for the Body. That is what Jesus prayed for in John 17. (By the way, “member” here is not intended to mean your name is written in the church membership book.)
There will be true church unity when Christians humble themselves, when they work as one unit for the interest of others, when they love with a love that doesn’t care first about what happens to themselves, and when they begin to minister their gifts I harmony.
Where do you individually stand today? Is the Body of Christ stronger because you share in a love that knows no limit? Is it continuing as one Body because you care for, and see to the needs of others? Are you sharing in the ministry of the Gospel?