This article will be a continuation of the previous article on being a genuine Christian. Paul continues his explanation in chapter 2 of his letter to the Philippian church. He uses the same format of the attitude setting the tone for actions and results. Even people who do not live by or teach Biblical principles understand the way that a person’s attitude impacts his actions determining if the results will be positive of negative (see modern psychology teachings). There have been all kinds of books on the power of positive thinking. The problem with positive thinking without the power of God working in your life is that you still end up messing things up because of your sin nature. When God is removed from the equation, the wisdom of this world leads to destruction (see the American educational system since 1963, when God was asked to step out of the building). Paul is wise because he teaches the power of positive thinking, having that positive thinking based on the teachings of the Word of God.
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, (Philippians 2)
I. A genuine Christian is team oriented in all that he does. There are no “lone rangers” in the Christian faith. When God saves us, He also gives each one of us at least one spiritual gift that has its place in the body of Christ (the Church). Each member is dependent upon the other. Each member must meet the needs of the others so that the body can function properly. In the analogy of the body, the feet cannot do what the eyes can do, yet the eyes are limited in the distance that they can see, therefore, they need the feet to take them closer to things that are beyond their range of vision. The feet would never make it to the right place if the eyes were not guiding the way. The two have different functions but they are interdependent. Many times, the American spirit of rugged individualism comes into direct contrast with the teachings of the Word of God. When we enter into the body of Christ, we must be team oriented. Usually, people who do not want to work in a team are the way that they are because of pride. They do not want to share the glory when the praise comes for a job well done. The attitude of a true Christian is one of humbleness, as Paul says in Romans, “nothing good dwells within my flesh” that is to say, I am nothing special. I know what I am capable of doing if I am not led by the Spirit and power of God, and as they say “it ain’t pretty”. When we work together as a team then we receive the benefits of verse one:
- consolation (comfort in the case of suffering, stimulation in the case of being gloomy/depression)
These are all things that relational beings like us, crave and actually need. God has delivered a way for this to happen, by being part of the body of Christ and working together as a team.
II. A direct result of being team oriented is seen through unity in the body of Christ. When talking to church members, one of the complaints that is often raised is the need for more “unity” in the church. Unity is an awesome thing yet there are certain steps that must be taken in order for there to be unity. First of all, every member needs to be team oriented. Secondly, Paul gives the other steps in verse 2.
2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. (Philippians 2)
In order for unity to exist, we must be of the same mind. The same mind literally means “agreement on the way that we think” or “agreement of worldview” in the modern vernacular. What is it that sets our “worldview” of things? It is none other than the Word of God. If we want unity then we all need to be in the Word of God, studying It to have our worldview formed correctly, based on God’s worldview. If we maintain the same worldview based on the Word of God then our love for one another will not break down because it is continually under maintenance. When we are unified in worldview and our love for each other is constantly under maintenance, then we are joined together in spirit (focus or way of life). This leads us to work together for the same common purpose (goal).
III. Paul moves right away to the personal application aspect, which every genuine Christian will apply. That is the beauty of the Bible, It sets the standard, shows you how to attain it, and then gives practical advice for real life situations.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves ; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2)
We are told what to avoid first, followed up by what we are to embrace.
- empty conceit
- merely seeking your own personal interests (it is not wrong to look out for your own interests, what is wrong is when you solely focus on your own personal interests)
- honoring others instead of yourself
- seeking the interests of others along with your own personal interests
IV. Paul uses the example of Jesus Christ to remind genuine Christians why they should seek to serve others humbly. Not only does the Word of God tell us what to do, how to do it, and give practical ways of doing it, It also gives us real live examples of others who have actually done it.
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2)
Jesus was team oriented when He walked upon this earth. He formed a team of disciples who changed the world. He taught them to have the same vision and purpose in life based on the Word of God. He showed them how to love one another. He also showed them how to serve others. He, the King of kings, did not come to this earth to be served. Instead, He came to be a humble servant to all. What a contrast to human nature. We do not deserve to be served yet we scramble for positions to have people under us, so that they can serve us. Jesus, who did deserve to be served, came to be humble and show the people how to serve instead of seeking to be served. He saw Himself as a bond-servant of God. He was humble and He was set on being obedient to God in all things. A genuine Christian will follow this example every day of his life. Do you seek to be served or do you seek to serve others?
V. The direct result of a genuine Christian humbling himself and becoming a servant of others is that God will exalt him at the right time.
9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2)
When we seek to try and exalt ourselves, we fall into the same trap that Satan did. Instead of being exalted, we end up flat on our backs. Many people have climbed the latter of success by stepping on the backs of others. They make it to the top and then are not satisfied with what they have achieved. Usually they end up falling and great is the fall. When we follow God’s path of humbleness and servant hood to exaltation, then we will always be content in every situation and we will be exalted, at the right time (God’s time).
VI. A genuine Christian who chooses to serve others is content with his place in life and all the things that God has given him because he knows that God will exalt him at the right time. There is a song that has a line that is spot on for this. It speaks of being content and says that “it is not about getting what you want but about wanting what you got”. Here is how Paul puts it.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2)
To grumble means to murmur or hold a secrete debate. You do not like the way someone has treated you or the way a leader does things, yet you fear confrontation and being proved wrong, so instead, outwardly, you put on a smile, yet inwardly you hold the secrete debate. This will lead to more and more discontent the longer the grumbling festers. Then, eventually, the disputing will arise and with a vengeance. Does this ever play out between you and God? He has not answered a prayer the way that you wanted so you are upset and hold secrete debates in your heart, yet at the same time keep up the mask of righteousness by acting as if all is okay between you and God.
Are the above mentioned characteristics part of your daily life? Do you seek to work together with your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ having the same worldview and goal in life or are you the lone ranger type? Are you a student of the Word of God so that you can have a correct worldview? Do you seek to serve others or to be served? Do you follow the example of Jesus Christ, being content in your circumstance because you know God has you where you are for His purpose? Does your lifestyle scream “this one is the real thing” when it comes to being a Christian? What changes do you need to make in your daily life? Your portrait is not set in stone. It is being changed daily to be more like Christ. Thank God that we are all a work in progress.