Summary: Sermon 3 in a study in Philippians
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus”
I had the thought of opening this sermon with a great quote by a successful military leader from history, pertaining to the mindset of a well-trained soldier; or perhaps a political figure who had overcome great difficulties.
So I went to the web and discovered that good quotes are not easy to find. I finally located a site that has a long page of quotes about attitude. The first thing I discovered there was that none of them were useable for my sermon, the reason for which I will tell you in a minute or two.
The other thing I noticed is that most of them are suitable to fill a fortune cookie and not much more. Even quotes by very famous people whose names I know and some of whom I respect for what I know of their lives; when I read what they had to say about attitude I found myself thinking, ‘well, that’s just obvious’.
Be that as it may, as I said, none of them have anything to do with this sermon, but I did pick three to share with you just because I had spent the time and they gave me a chuckle.
“Every thought is a seed. If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.” – Bill Meyer
“A positive attitude may not solve all your problems”, says Herm Albright, “but it will annoy enough people to make it worth the effort.”
The third one is understandably anonymous. “There is no danger of developing eyestrain from looking on the bright side of things.” Yeah, I’d be embarrassed to claim that one too…
Here is why none of the quotes I found were applicable to my sermon. It is because Paul was not encouraging his readers to have a mindset that would bring them success in their worldly endeavors. He wasn’t advocating an attitude that would help them rise above their hardship.
In fact, if this verse that we have as our text today can be considered a command of scripture since it is Holy Spirit inspired, then it may very well be the most demanding and difficult command of scripture.
For who can have the mindset of Christ? Which of us sinful, self-full creatures can begin to have an inkling of the humility and total selflessness that brought God down to the lowest place of all in order to lift us up?
Nevertheless, in the God-ordained authority of an Apostle, Paul has given instruction here, not just suggestion, and we are wise to consider carefully before assuming that we are anywhere in the region when it comes to living it out.
I think the best way then, for us to understand this attitude that Paul exhorts us toward, is to not look at ourselves, but look at the One who demonstrated the attitude – the mindset – that we are now to pursue.
OTHERS MORE IMPORTANT
Looking back to the opening verses of this chapter, Paul has made clear that his great desire for them would be that they remain united in spirit and in purpose.
He speaks of same mindedness, and love and humility, but I think all of it is contained in and dependant on this one particular focus; let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.
Now if we’re thinking in terms of our interpersonal relationships then that’s kind of a fortune cookie bit of advice, isn’t it?
It sort of falls into the category of Thumper the rabbit’s line in the animated version of Bambi. “If you can’t say somethin’ nice, don’t say nuthin’ at all”.
Right? Consider other people as more important than yourself, Grasshopper, and you will have fulfillment.
But Paul says this, and then says that we should put the interests of others before our own interests, which is really another way of saying to consider them as more important, and his very next line is our text verse.
Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.
Now we can see by the sentence structure that he has made reference to the attitude, or the mind set, of Christ and will now go on to describe this mind set.
But if Paul’s Holy Spirit-inspired wish is for the church to be of the same mind as Christ, then the admonition of our text points backward as well as forward.
Are you with me? He wouldn’t tell them to be like-minded and showing love and preserving unity and being intent on the same purpose and humble and self-depreciating, if those things were anything other than what Christ is.
Why tell someone to manifest certain characters in their life, and then go on to tell them to be something entirely different than what he has just described?