Philippians chapter 22, let's look at the first four verses together. "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his interests but also for the interests of others."
Let's pray. Lord, we pray that you would bless not only the reading of your word but the instructive principles that we find therein. Lotd, as we discuss this issue, as we discuss a local situation going on in Philippi, though we may not be experiencing the same today, there could come a time when these truths will come to bear and be very very vital for us. So we pray Lord that the Spirit of the living God would break the bread of life fresh to our lives and hearts, that we might know how to serve you better by serving each other. In Jesus' name. Amen.
There wasn't always harmony in our home growing up. I was one of four boys. Four rowdy boys. And did we know how to wargue, did we know how to fight and sometimes the fights were very vocal, very noisy. I remember throwing my brother through a window and him throwing me through the same window after it was repaired by my parents. I remember coming at my brother with a knife and him coming at me with a pencil. And um, we have since then learned to get along a lot better with each other as we have grown up. But that happens in families. If you are parents or you think back to your own family, you've got your own stories. I know that. Well, in the Christian family, when you have spiritual infants and spiritual adolescents and spiritual teenagers and even spiritual adults, there can be friction within God's family. It's sibling rivalry of sorts.
There was a dad who came home, wanted some peace and quiet, opened up the newspaper to read and he heard his young daughter and her friends in the next room, they were talking. Then they got noisy and more argumentative and they were pushing and they were yelling and even calling each other names. And when dad put his newspaper down and demanded an account, his little daughter walked in and smiled and said, "Daddy, it's okay, we're just playing church."
But the goal is to grow up. The goal for Christians is to grow up. Paul said as much to the church at Ephesus. Paul wrote them and said, "Grow up." Or, in his own words, "that we should no longer be children but that we may grow up in all things." It's okay when children act like children, even when they fight and squabble, there's something cute about that. They can say things that make us laugh. But it's tragic when adults do it. There's nothing more tragic than to see children in adult bodies, they've got the power but they don't have the wisdom. And whenever you see church splits or church fights or church arguments, what you are seeing and what you are hearing is children in adult bodies, that's what you're seeing, that's what you're hearing. Children at play who don't want unity but will promote disunity just to get their own agenda.
Now, Christians throughout history haven't always gotten along. And if I may just switch form the need to grow up to just say that it doesn't always happen. And I just want to normalize this, just a little bit, I want to normalize it. As I read my New Testament, I discover that even Jesus' closest apostles didn't get along with each other, that they had fights while Jesus walked the earth and argued about who would be the greatest in the kingdom, who's going to sit at Jesus' right hand when he comes again. As I read the New Testament I discover that even Peter and Paul didn't get along with each other but had an argument in Galatia over the meaning of the law and its application. As I read my New Testament I discover that the council at Jerusalem argued about the relationship of the Christian to the law of Moses. And on and on, and through history, and through councils; even during the Reformation, great reformers like Luther and Svingley argued about the Lord's supper and how that is to be administered.
According to US News and World Report, there are twenty-two thousand different denominations and sects of Christianity throughout the world. What does that tell you? It tells you that you have a lot of different ways of looking at things and dealing with each other. So, the church is the society of the redeemed not the society of the perfect. And I say all that in hopes that you will lower your expectation a notch or two when it comes to the church. There's some people that have such high expectations of perfection among the church and church leaders, it is impossible and will always be impossible to please them.
Well we're in Philippians 2 and I know I told you to turn to Philippians 2 but what I'd like to show you is that there were two forces at work that were pressuring the Philippians to divide. Pressure number one, false teachers from the outside. Pressure number two, fighting Christians in the inside. False teachers, fighting Christians, both were addressed by Paul. If you look at chapter 3 you'll see the first, "Finally my brethren rejoice in the Lord for me to write the same things to you is not tedious but for you it is safe. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation." These were false teachers, he calls them dogs. I like Paul. The second problem was the fighting members on the inside. Look at chapter 4, "Therefore my beloved, my longed-for, my joy, my crown, so stand fast in the Lord beloved. I implore Eodia and I implore Syntichae (these were two women in the church) to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers." We don't exactly know what the issue was but apparently there were two strong-personalied women in the church at Philippi that polarized people around their issue. They were at odds with each other. Maybe these were two women who were there from the very beginning when Paul first went to Philippi down at the river bank. But now it was causing a division. So, to our text in Philippians chapter 2 he is laying groundwork. This is groundwork of getting along with one another. This is where it all begins, here are the basics of getting along and the basis of getting along, Philippians 2:1-4.
Now, you have four verses as do I in my Bible in this chapter. What you may not know is that in the original Greek it's one long complex ongoing sentence. Verses 1 through 4 is all one sentence. And it's put out in a literary format, a literary device called prodosis and epidosis, an if-then clause, a conditional clause. If this is so then that must be so. That's how it is set out, that's how Paul works it, to make a very strong point.
Now what I'd like to do this morning is look at these two things: the basics of getting along and the basis of getting along. I'm going to not start in verse 1 but actually in verse 3 to give you the basics, because in verse 3 and verse 4 Paul gives us two ways we should not be with each other and two ways we should be with each other. "Don't be like this," Paul says, "but be like that." So these are the basics, negative and positive. By the way, these first two negatives are exactly the same way and same reasons that Satan didn't get along with God. I want you to hear this. Exactly the same thing that happened with Satan and God could happen with each other in church. Listen to what Satan says in Isaiah 14, "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God, I will be like the Most High." What is that? That's this: that's selfish ambition and conceit; the very two things Paul says don't be like that. So, these first two things describe the personality of Satan, the second two things; humility, etc. describe the personality of Jesus Christ. The first two things will ruin a church, the second two will remedy the church.
So, look at the first. Number one, don't live selfishly, or as he writes it, "let nothing be done through selfish ambition." There's not a person in this room who doesn't know what selfishness looks like. Do you have children? Then you know what selfishness looks like. Do you have parents? Then you know what selfishness looks like. Do you know any other human being, then you know what selfishness looks like. And if you're honest with yourself, if you're the only one around you, you know what selfishness looks like. You getting my point? It's a natural human trait. It is a trait of all fallen human beings.
Calvin Milller said that if we were the ones to have written the Lord's prayer it would sound like this: "Our Father who art in heaven, gimme, gimme, gimme." That's selfish ambitions. That's natural fallen humanity.
Now the word means to cause division in order to get your own way. To cause division in order to get your own way. This is a pushy person. "I'm going to get my way," says that person as he walks into an issue or a situation. That's selfish ambition. Just like the little boy and his sister who were riding a toy horse together out in front of the supermarket, you know you put a quarter in it and the thing moves around, I don't know if they still have those, I guess it's all replaced by I-phones and gadgets now. But in the days there were little horses out in front of supermarkets, a little boy and his sister were trying to ride it together. Good luck. The little boy turned to his sister and said, "You know if one of us would get off there'd be more room for me." That's selfish ambition, me-first philosophy. And that ruins friendships, families, marriages, and churches. "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition." So that's the first thing not to be, don't live selfishly.
The second negative, the second thing not to be is don't live pridefully. For the same sentence, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit." Now if any of you this morning have the old King James Bible, I just confess to you they translate this word far better than the new King James, NIV, NLT, anybody. They use the word vain glory. Vain glory. A very descriptive word of what this about. Conceit, vain glory. The empty pride of living for other people's opinions. The empty pride of living for other people's opinions. This is the person who is so exalted in his own opinion and he's concerned that others share that same view of himself or herself. Paul says in Romans 12 verse 3 that we should not think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. That's vain glory, that's conceit. That is the very opposite of what Paul considered himself to be, of what Peter considered himself to be, of what John considered himself to be. What is the one word that all three of these writers introduce themselves as whenever they wrote a New Testament book? Servant. You got it, servant. Paul: a slave of Christ, a bondslave or a bondservant. Servants keep churches from splitting. Vain glory is self absorbed people help it split. There's two ways you can enter a room: you can enter a room of people with a sort of a stance and attitude that says, "Well here I am." Or you can enter the same room with a group of people with the attitude that says, "Aw, there you are." That's a servant. That's the servant.
I read something a long time back, I thought about it for a good long while. It seems that if thoroughbred horses get attacked that they have a strategy, if they're attacked from the outside, they form a circle and their heads are all in the center of that circle, giving them the ability to kick outwards and backwards in any direction from any predator. That's smart. But the same article talked about how donkeys react when they're attacked. They also form a circle but they all face outward and they'll start kicking but they'll start kicking each other. I read that and I thought, "That is so descriptive, so telling, so indicting." I guess that begs the question: Are we thoroughbreds or donkeys? Don't live selfishly, don't live pridefully; those are the first two negatives. Here's the second two and they're positives: do live humbly. Do live humbly. Look at verse 3, "Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit." Those are the first two negatives. "But in lowliness of mind," Lowliness of mind. Now lowliness if one word in the Greek language, it's topino froscunae, topino froscunae. It's hard to say, it took me all day to memorize how to say that just for this moment. But the reason I did that is this: One of the most despised characteristics in Greek philosophy was the quality, they didn't call it a quality, the vice of being topino froscunae, of having a low mind. In fact, the Greeks gave that title to slaves that they would conquer, somebody who would grovel in the dust, was given this humble-minded, lowly-minded title. So if you were conquered by a Greek army and they turned you into submissive slaves, they would give you this title: lowliness of mind. That is because the virtues that the Greeks loved were things like self-assertiveness, confidence, self esteem. So they saw this not as a virtue but as a vice. And I'm bring that up because that up because that's exactly the opposite of how the Bible view it. The Bible doesn't view lowliness of mind as a vice but as a virtue, something to want, something to incorporate in one's life. The opposite of being confident and self assertive: lowliness of mind, the crouching submissiveness of a slave. And why is that? And why is that? Because that's exactly the attitude of Jesus Christ. Remember I said the first two are the personality of Satan, the second two are the personality of Christ. This is the personality of Christ. Look at verse 5, he brings that point very clear, "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God but He made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death on the cross." Jesus didn't exalt himself, he humbled himself. You want to get along with other Christians in church, do that. Do that. It shouldn't be the attitude of, "How can I climb the ladder higher and higher?" But, "How can I descend the ladder lower and lower, like Christ?"
Those are the basics. Lowliness is the grease that keeps the gears of relationships smooth in any body of believers. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am gentle and lowly in heart." Whenever I see somebody who is puffed up and they have these exaggerated ideas of their own importance and want everybody else to know about them, I think, "That person isn't following the one who's lowly."
One of my favorite authors, F. B. Myer, Frederick B. Myer, a British pastor, did work on both sides of the Atlantic a century ago almost wrote this, "I used to think that God's gifts were on shelves, one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. But I now find that God's gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that its' not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower. You want a rewarding church experience? Get down. (Sounds like I'm a disco guy, "Get down.") Get lower, get more humble. So, do live humbly.
And finally, the fourth, the second of the two positive characteristics, do live respectfully. Do live respectfully. Again, verse 3 says, "In lowliness of mind," that's the first, here's the second, "Let each esteem others better than himself." If you're an American, if you're a Westerner, and I assume all of you are, this flies directly in the face of everything you've been taught the last thirty years in our culture. This says, "Let each of you esteem others better than yourself." The person next to you, the person in front of you, the person behind you, better than yourself.
The last thirty years has seen the idea of self esteem become the hallowed virtue of Western culture. It's all about your self esteem, "Well how does this affect my self esteem?" "Well, if they say that to me, what will that do to my self esteem?" Your self esteem is so guarded, it's so important, and it's so hallowed. I went on Google yesterday and Googled self-esteem. Thirteen million nine hundred thousand hits, almost fourteen million hits. Self esteem, the hallowed virtue of the American pantheon.
Here it says, "Let each esteem others better than yourselves." See what I mean, it's directly antithetical, it's counterintuitive to everything we've been taught. The Wiliams translation puts it this way, "Practice treating one another as your superior." What would happen if we started doing that? If when we met a person, there's a little bit of a rift, we start imagining, "This person is my superior, my boss. Writes my paycheck." You're going, "Okay, that's tough. How do we pull that off?" Verse 4 tells you how to do that, "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests but also for the interests of others." That's how we do it, we look out. We start watching, we start noticing, we actually become interested. Here's the deal, here's the bottom line: If I'm always looking out for myself and you're always looking out for yourself, if I'm always putting myself first and you always put yourself first, we're going to collide, there's going to be some nasty fireworks. But if I'm thinking about you and you're thinking about me, things are going to run very smoothly, moreover the body of Christ, the church, is going to be built up and become helpful. The key words in verse 4 are to look out. Do you see those words? Look out. It doesn't mean "Look out! Watch your back." The idea means to focus one's attention upon or to notice or to keep your eyes carefully on something else. It's where we dare to notice and care what's going on in another person's life.
I heard about two boys who were talking, two little boys, and if you know me, you know by now that I love conversations between kids. And one little boy said to his friend in a candid moment, "Wouldn't you hate to wear glasses all the time?" Just like a kid, right? "Wouldn't you hate to wear glasses all the time?" And his friend said, "I don't know. Not if they were my grandmother's glasses." He said, "You know my grandmother has this ability to be able to see if there's a problem or a hurt in a person's life and say and do exactly the right thing to make that person feel better. And I asked Grandma, 'How do you do it?' She said it's the way she has learned to see things the older she gets. And the kid who came up with the protest in the beginning said, "You're right. It must be her glasses." He just didn't get it.
May God give us new glasses to look out for each other. So, those are the basics of getting along. Don't be like that, do be like this. Now comes the basis of getting along. Now what I want you to notice with me briefly is the reasons Paul lists of why we should get along with each other as believers. And I'm going to take you to the first word of chapter 2. What's the first word? Therefore. Therefore. Now if you know anything about language, you know you don't start a thought with the word therefore. It is a word that refers to other things that I have written about or talked about before this. So to begin a chapter, therefore, you have to know what the therefore is there for. You've got to get the context of it. So we will begin in chapter 1 at verse 27 to understand the therefore. He says, "Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, that I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel and not in any way be terrified by your adversaries which is to them a proof of perdition but to you of salvation and that from God. For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him but also to suffer for his sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear in me. Therefore (and now it begins a new chapter). In other words they in Philippi were getting persecuted. And he mentions that, he says, "Stand firm because you're getting persecuted by the world just like I've been persecuted by the world. You saw it and heard about it in me. Then he says, "Therefore…" In other words, here's reason number one: we should get along with each other because the world out there won't provide it for us. It won't provide it for us. Paul is saying, "Since the world is going to persecute you and is going to afflict you and because you will suffer at the hands of the world, the one place where love and acceptance is to be found is not out there, don't expect to get it out there. And if you can't get it out there, the one plac eyou should get it is here, with each other. Jesus put it this way, "In the world you will have tribulation. But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." So, since the world won't provide this kind of love and acceptance and forgiveness for us and the one place we find it is together, this is the reason why when a church splits or fights or argues, it is so utterly absurd. It's like a soap opera. It's like a soap opera. Now I'm not a soap opera fan, if you didn't guess that already. But I do know that soap operas have been going on a long time on television and I actually know a couple people in my lifetime who have watched them. So I have on occasion tuned in, only long enough to discover the them of most soap operas is deceit, envy, avarice, all of the base experiences and emotions of humanity. And as I watched some soap operas on the little snippets that I have gotten, I wonder, "Do any of these people get along with anyone else?" It seems to be constant conflict and constant churning. So that is why it's absurd when the church acts like the world, a thinking unbeliever looks at the church and says, "Excuse me, I don't want to join that. I can stay at home and watch a soap opera. I can get that for free at television. Id on't need to see that kind of drama played out inside a church. It's awkward when Christians battle.
The second reason is because you belong to Christ. Because you belong to Christ. "Therefore," that's the first reason, because the world won't provide it. Second is because you belong to Christ. Notice, "Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ." You see the little word if? Cross it out and put since, that's the meaning of the Greek word. What he's saying is this: Since it's true that there is consolation in Christ, since it is a fact, since it's verified that you and I are consoled by Jesus Christ himself who forgave us by his blood, that forms the basis for getting along with each other, it takes that same kind of acceptance. Acceptance, love, forgiveness.
Now there's some things that are true about human beings. People can blow it, people can get very nasty. People can say hurtful things. People can be downright stupid and egg-headed. Amen? That's precisely why they need forgiveness. Hear me. No more of these arguments, "You can't believe what he said." I can believe it. I've heard it. Moreover, I'm a keen observer of human nature. "Oh, but they're so horrible." That's exactly why they need your forgiveness. Because they're sinners and they say and they do those hurtful things. That's the point. There's consolation in Christ and there is. And since Jesus did that for you, you can't do that for somebody else? I'll reinforce that. Ephesians 4:32, you know that, "Be kind one to another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God in Christ forgave you. So because the world won't provide it, because you belong to Christ; the third reason: because His love is the catalyst that gets this going. Notice the next phrase in verse 1, "If there is any comfort of love." Now it's speaking about his love for us. If there's any comfort that you derive from his love for you, God's love is one of the most comforting things ever. No wonder Billy Graham has always said at the end of his crusades, "Remember God loves you." He says, "I'll say that thirty times in a message." Because it's so comforting, the comfort of his love. I love that song, "Oh the wonder of it all, the wonder of it all, just to think God loves me." I hope you're not the kind of person that says, "Well I am pretty loveable. I don't think it's a great wonder that God loves me." Hey, do you remember that fairy tale of the beautiful princess who kisses the ugly toad? Everybody knows it. And it's always struck me as odd because what toad wouldn't want to be kissed by a beautiful princess? Now that's great, it's the best day of his life. But what princess would ever want to kiss dirty slimy odorous toad? I can't think of one. The ultimate kiss in history was John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever would believe in him would not perish." So there is great comfort in God's love for us that he would bow to that extreme. But, do you know that you have a capacity to love? You have a great and deep capacity to love the unlovable, to love the unruly, to love the nasty? Because the Bible says, "the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts." That the love we have received from him, God has given us all a wonderful huge limitless capacity to show love to another. It's a wonder why we don't, we have that capacity.
Fourth reason: Because we're a spiritual family, that's another and final basis of getting along, because we're a family. It continues, "If there is any fellowship in the Spirit," fellowship in the Spirit, we've already covered fellowship, we know what it means, koinonia. Joint partnership and a common interest. You and I are joined together, we're part of a family. We have the same spiritual resources, same spiritual blessings, we're part of the same spiritual family. That's one of the basis, God put us together, we're in his family. I'm a child of God, you're a child of God, that means you're my brother and my sister and vice versa. "If there is any fellowship in the spirit," the next phrase is also family related. Look at that before we close, "If there is any affection and mercy," he says in verse 1, "Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Any affection and mercy, now if you do happen to have an old King James Bible, this is where the translation goes from really wonderful before, vain glory, to a little bit weird. Because if you have a King James version, it says, "If there are any bowels of mercy." Bowels? Merciful bowels? Do you have merciful bowels this morning? It's an old word to speak of deep-seated emotional affection. Because the Hebrews believed that the place you feel the most emotion is in your gut. If you show genuine compassion to a person, you show it in the bowels. Jesus saw the multitude, it says, "He was moved with compassion," the Greek word splonkona means the bowels. He felt deeply compassionate and emotional. So as members of the same spiritual family we are to show compassion to each other, to value each other, because we have been forgiven, we have been blood-bought, we are under this covenant. So that is the basics and the basis of getting along.
I want to close with a story. It seems that ayoung manr was returning from war, he was a veteran, he survived. He came home to the shores of the United States of America, the first thing he did, he was good boy, got on the phone, called his mama, said he was coming home. They were excited to hear each other's voice (I'm going to tell you the story now as I read it). "As they talked for awhile, eventually the young man said to his mother, "Mom, I have my best friend and I want to bring him home with me, he saved my life, he was one of my buddies out in the field when a hand grenade was thrown into our foxhole and he was wounded saving my life. As a result," he continued tentatively, "he has only one eye and one arm and one leg. And Mom, he doesn't have any family except ours." He said this with hope in his voice, "I've told him, Mom, that he can come home with me. I'd like your permission for him to come and be one of our family and to live with us from now on. Can he?," his voice trailed off anxiously awaiting the reply. "You bring him home son," she said, "and in a few days we'll be able to find a place for him where I know he'll be happy. I'm so anxious to see you," she said trying to hold back the tears that were welling up in her eyes. But he pleaded, "Mother, I want him to come home and be a part of our family, not to go anywhere else but to live with us." "Well son, you're so young," she reasoned. "It'll be all right for a short time but after a while we would get tire of having to always care for him. So you can bring him home for three, four weeks," she conceded. "During that time we'll find him a place. You understand, don't you?" "Yes, Mother," his voice sounded so far away, "I think I do." They said their goodbyes and then hung up. The mother was so excited that she would see her son in a few days. The next day a government official stopped at that home with tragic news. Her son had taken his own life. The mother was obviously shocked and perplexed and wondered how this could ever have happened. In a few days, the son's body arrived in their hometown. Numb with grief, she went down to view the body of her precious son. She looked into the coffin. Then she understood. He had only one eye, one arm, and one leg. And he had tested her love andher love had fallen short. Having become crippled he no longer felt he had any love."
How very different is that from the love of Jesus Christ who has come for the crippled and the broken-hearted and the lame and the fatherless and the senseless and the directionless and says, "Ah, there you are. I've got a place just for you." And with that he gives the commission to us to say exactly the same to those that he calls to his body.
Heavenly Father, it is your body, the body of Christ, the hands and legs and vessels and cells of Jesus Christ on the earth, so when we speak it is Christ speaking, when we act it is Christ acting, when we feel it is Christ feeling. And Lord even though our own history of the church over the last two thousand years has been marred and marked by human failure, even though that is true, you call upon us to grow up, in all things in Christ, and to be those mature adults who have so received from Christ, and so get it what it means to be forgiven and accepted, it becomes so much a part of our nature to do that with others. In Jesus' name. Amen.