Monday, April 25, 2011
Paul is writing to the Philippians urging them to live out the Christian life with unity, humility, and now helpfulness. All along the way, Paul has given encouragements to do what he is writing for them to do. Today, we’re going to look at that final thing that Paul has exhorted us to.
Do you know what the true obstacle to unity is in the church?
For many years there have been people who said the real obstacle to unity is doctrine. We’ve got so many doctrines. There’s such a long list of doctrines that we can’t be unified, because we’ve got all these doctrinal differences. If we just got rid of doctrine, we’d have unity.
That’s not what Paul says. You know what the real obstacle to unity in the church is? It’s not legitimate differences of opinion. You can live in unity with someone with a legitimate difference of opinion. The true obstacle to unity in the Christian life is self-centeredness, selfishness, me-first. And Paul is out to blow that apart in this passage.
He’s first called us to unity; he’s told us that humility is going to be absolutely essential to unity; and now he tells us about a third thing: helpfulness, mutuality. He’s saying that one of the first principles of the Christian life is that we are here on this planet to serve one another and in order to serve and help one another, we have to submit ourselves to one another.
And so there are five things that we can learn from the Apostle Paul about helping one another from this passage we’ve just studied, and the first thing is this:
First, we are to have built into our very outlook an orientation to the Church.
Paul’s concerns for unity, humility, and helpfulness are all congregationally focused. We live in a self-centered world, sociologically and by philosophy. There is stuff that tempts us to self-centeredness that we don’t even realize is tempting us to self-centeredness. But Paul says, ‘Thing Number 1 is this: the world is not centered around you. God’s world, God’s plan for your life, God’s blessings on your life, and the deepest desires of your life are experienced congregationally, so that the center of the universe is not you. It’s the whole people of God.’
Secondly, we are to have the well-being of others and the whole congregation as a part of our basic outlook.
So not only are we to have an outlook oriented towards the body, the church, but we also have the well-being of others and the whole congregation as a part of our basic outlook and orientation in life.
Just like mothers don’t get their children out of their minds in any of their waking moments (they’re always back there somewhere), so also we ought never to get out of our minds the well-being of others in the congregation.
Thirdly – and this hurts! –we are to seek the well-being of others in the congregation not from the standpoint of voluntary service, but from loving servitude.
This is pretty radical. He’s saying your service to one another is not to be something that you view as something that you decide to do whenever you want to do it, giving a little bit of left over of your time and resources to help somebody else. No. Actually, you don’t have any time and resources, you’re a servant. All of your time and resources belong to Jesus. And He has said what you’re supposed to be doing in life is helping one another. Paul says that we are to be ready to seek the well-being of others in the congregation not from the standpoint of voluntary service, but of loving servitude.
Fourth, that means that we are to be ready to set aside our personal checklist in order to serve others, and the body as a whole.
If you really view yourself as a servant of Christ, your personal checklist has to take Level B in comparison to the service of the Church. It’s just like when a father is really, really busy at work, but his son needs his time…now. The schedule has to change. If we’re going to help one another, if we’ve going to serve one another, if we’re going to mutually commit ourselves to helpfulness, then we have to set aside our personal checklist in order to serve others, and the body as a whole.
Finally, we are to live in mutual helpfulness and servitude because of the gospel, and in imitation of Jesus Christ.
It is amazing how often this teaching comes up in Paul, it is not just here in Philippians 2:4. This is not a thought that just popped into Paul’s mind while writing from prison to the Philippians. He wants Christians to live in mutual helpfulness, service and servitude.
This also is the exact opposite of the world. All around us we have self-centered people. Paul is saying be other-focused. Be Christ-directed, but be other-focused, caring for them, especially in the family and in the congregation of faith. (And certainly to our neighbors and to all men as well, but fundamentally in those inner circles we’re to be living in an outwardly focused way) But you’re not to be directed by others. You’re directed by Christ. You’re His servant.
Elsewhere when Paul is talking about this, he talks about our serving one another in the fear of Christ, out of awe and reverence for Jesus Christ. Paul is saying that we’re to live in this mutual helpfulness and servitude because of the gospel and in imitating Christ. And that is what Philippians 2:5-11 is about. It’s about us having the same mind, the same outlook, the same orientation that Jesus had. And that’s what we’re going to study tomorrow, God willing.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:01 PM