Summary: God frees us to be other-oriented by giving us the mind of Christ.
A turtle in Cleveland wanted to winter in Florida. Since it was too far to walk, he convinced two geese to tie a rope around their necks and fly south while he hung on with his vise-like jaws clamped onto the rope. As they crossed the river into Kentucky, some other geese joined the formation. Very impressed with the getup, one said, “Hey, who thought up that brilliant idea?” The turtle immediately opened his mouth to say, “I did…” and fell to his death.
The Bible warns often about the dangers of pride: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall… (Proverbs 16.18). By pride comes nothing but strife and shame (Proverbs 11.12; 13.10 NKJ). Satan was cast from heaven because of pride. It is considered one of the seven deadly sins. And few things destroy a church’s unity quicker than pride.
The Church in Philippi was not unified; they were too selfish to be. Like the Queen obsessed by the answer to: “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” they were self-absorbed.
John MacArthur was asked the secret to Grace Community Church’s growth. He first reminds people that God sovereignly determines the membership of a church, and numbers alone are no gauge of spiritual success. But given those caveats, he recognizes that the numerical growth combined with spiritual vitality has been remarkable. “Our elders both model and proclaim Jesus’ call to discipleship: ‘Whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it’ (Matthew 10.38-39). And a commitment to self-sacrificial discipleship produces an attitude that is antithetical to selfishness—humility. Here is the prescription for a healthy church: ‘Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (Philippians 2.3-4).”
MacArthur’s prescription is our text. As we read and study it this morning, may God make us a healthy church.
[Read Philippians 2.1-5. Pray.]
The key principle for unity in the body of Christ is simple and clear: in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Easy to say, but oh, how my flesh argues against the practice. Nevertheless, the promise is glorious.
Psalm 133.1 notes: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity.” “Good and pleasant”—we have not always experienced that, have we? God has shown me again how difficult it is to maintain unity in the short two weeks since we returned from vacation. I discovered that some are troubled by my editing the words in a few hymns and printing those in the programs. So I am working on the worship service, imagining how you appreciate your pastor caring enough to type out the words to some hymns to make it easier to follow along without distractions, and updating some archaic words, only to discover that you worry that I have compromised with the world. Seeds of disunity sprout even from efforts to plant a garden of pastoral care. Three things to remember as we begin:
• Unity good and pleasant: remember Psalm 133.1.
• The command is clear (Philippians 2.1-4). Everyone here responsible to work hard on this.
• The power is available (Philippians 2.5-11)
We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us—we can build a unified, healthy, Biblical church testifying to the world that God is doing great work in our lives!
1. Apart from God’s Supernatural Work, We Live for Ourselves (Php 2.3a, 4a)
Philippians 2.3a, 4a: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit…. Let each of you look not only to his own interests….”
The good news begins with a sad truth. Have you seen this in yourself? Have you noticed your inclination to cast your own motives and behaviors in the best possible light? Do you realize that you cut yourself more slack than you do others? Have you recognized that your heart insists on looking out for number one?
There is a song in Oklahoma, which shows our hearts all too well: “Oh, what a beautiful mornin’, Oh, what a beautiful day. I got a beautiful feelin’, Ev’rything’s goin’ my way.” Have you sensed how circumstances control your mood—whether “everything’s going your way”?
Almighty God promises that everything works together for my good. In Christ we have God’s everlasting love, perfect providence, and provision of every spiritual blessing—all the promises of God find their Yes in Jesus! But when someone at work treats us poorly, we fall apart. Why?
It is because, since the fall in Genesis 3, our sinful desires naturally order the priorities of the universe with self at the center. According to this way of thinking, when my needs and desires are met, when my circle is full, then I can consider others.