Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Gleanings in Philippians ~ Complete My Joy -- with Unity: Phil 2.1-2 (Part I)

We have been studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians and read his exhortations to live the Christian life. Yesterday and last week, we saw how Paul urged the Philippians to do so in order to complete his joy, not that they had never given him joy, but to make the joy that they had given him complete.

In coming days, we’ll look at four motivations for living the Christian life: the encouragement that we have in Christ; the comfort that we have in His love; the fellowship that we have in the Holy Spirit; and the tender affection and sympathy that we have in Christ. Paul piles up encouragement for us to live the Christian life. And then he says, “In light of those things…” (verse 2) “… complete my joy” by “…Pursuing unity (verse 3) …Humility; (verse 4)…helpfulness.
Do you think about God’s big purposes of unity in the Christian life? We stressed that Paul’s message to us is never “create unity amongst yourselves,” but that only God creates gospel unity. God has created us, made us in Christ Jesus to be one people, one family, one house, one temple. Everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ is united to Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit and also united to everyone else who is united to Jesus Christ. God has made that unity a reality, but do you think much in your Christian life about how you need to cultivate, manifest, and maintain that unity that God has already given us in Jesus Christ?

We will look at verse 2 today in which Paul asks us to have the same mind, the same love, and the same purpose.

Paul exhorts us to complete his joy by doing three things and the first is by having the same mind, being like-minded. He’s talking about having the mind of Christ.

When he calls on you to have the same mind, he doesn’t mean that you always have to think about everything in the same way. He’s going to describe that mind for you in Philippians 2:5-11. But what he’s saying here is that he wants us to have the same disposition, mindset, and outlook that Jesus had.

What was that outlook? The outlook Jesus himself had in the prayer that He prayed for you. In the middle of that prayer He says, ‘Lord, I do not pray for these only, but for all who come to know You through their ministry.’ It’s in John 17. It’s the night He was betrayed. We call it “the high priestly prayer.” And do you know what one of the things that He prayed was? ‘Lord, let them be one, like You and I are one.’ And so Jesus is deeply concerned for the church to manifest the unity that the gospel has given us; not to be little robots that all think the same way about everything, but who have a deep unity in the truth of God’s word, who have a deep unity in love to the one true God.

Then he says that he wants you to love one another with the same kind of love that Christ has loved you with. Now again, that is just an exhortation based on something that Jesus said on the night that He was betrayed. In John 13, Jesus turns to His disciples and says, “A new commandment I have for you that you love one another as I have loved you.” Paul is saying, ‘Philippians, complete my joy. Live the Christian life; walk worthy of the gospel by having the same mind and having the same love—the love of Christ for you displayed in your love for one another.’

Thirdly, he says, he wants you to have the same purpose. He wants (in the graphic language of verse 2) he wants you with your whole being to be set on the same thing. God is bringing everything in this world under the Lordship of Christ, and He is uniting all who trust in Christ into one family, one body, one people, one temple, so that Christ is given the name which is above every name, and so that as we are in Him, so we are exalted with Him.

Now what are the obstacles to that in a local church? He’s talking about the total unity of all the people of God in all ages, but that’s especially expressed in the local congregation. It’s easy to think nice thoughts about folks that you don’t have to hang around with for very long, but live with them for a little while, and unity gets to be a more difficult thing. So we want to especially think about this in the local church, and there are a lot of things that can destroy unity in the local church.

There are failures in communication that can totally, though unintentionally, bring division in a church.

Disagreements – legitimate disagreements – can bring division in a church.

Different agendas can divide a church. You know, somebody who says, “I don’t think the church ought to be doing this; I think the church ought to be doing that.” Or “I don’t think the church ought to be focused on this; I think the church ought to be focused on that.” That can divide a church.

And then there’s sin. Selfishness can divide a congregation. Nothing can divide a congregation more than looking out for “Number One.”

False teaching can divide a church. And you know…the list could go on.

The Apostle Paul is saying, ‘Christians, complete my joy. It is a big-ticket item on my agenda for you. It is a deep desire for me. I want you to have deep gospel unity. I want you to have the same outlook: the mindset of Christ. I want you to have the same love for one another, so you are loving one another in light of the gospel. And I want you to have the same purpose in life. I want it burning within you. And only then will you experience the joy that God intends you to experience in Christ Jesus.’

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