Summary: We have become a society centered on
We all are selfish by nature. The unhappy trend in North America is that self is becoming more and more important. Reality shows on T.V. underline the growth of this attitude; that self is the primary motive of people in this culture. The antics on these shows, we laugh at, but the underlying reality is the premise that self is the most important truth. That is why we watch these shows – to witness people being selfish.
In Philippians 2 Paul is writing to the people of Philippi, who he loves. He sits in a prison cell in Rome and writes to them about their inner motives in life.
If you look closely at this passage it tells us a lot about Paul. It tells us where he is spiritually and more important it tells us what he has learned from Christ. He demonstrates that his happiness is bound up in the spiritual welfare of the people. That is a profound way to think – that he can only feel real happiness if they are spiritually well. That is the mark of someone who in fact loves them. His deepest joy depended, not on his own personal comforts, but on the spiritual progress of those whom he loved.
He asks the people of Philippi to complete his joy – not by giving him gifts, but by living together in holy love and “keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
The whole philosophy of Christian life is stated in one sentence by Paul in the previous chapter. “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Now, in chapter 2 we learn about the pattern for Christian living, which is the mind of Christ.
It cannot be an imitation. When we think about this “mind of Christ’ we need to understand that Paul meant that the ‘mind of Christ’ was supposed to be in us, not imitated – there is a big difference.
Wendy and I were watching T.V. the other night and there was an ad on for something or other. They showed the Toronto Argonauts football team’s locker room. In it worked a diligent man of about 30. The team members call him ‘Dave the Wave.’ He was obviously different than other people because he had Down Syndrome. He was in charge of the towels and drinks for the players. As I watched the commercial I thought how wonderful it was for this child-like man to work there; these huge players towered over him and rubbed him on the head on the way by. Dave was included in some team pictures and there was this very real feeling that he was loved by all the team. His other job was retrieving the football tee after each kick-off. He would be ready and dash out for it and bring it back with tremendous pride. This is his job and he delights it.
The interesting thing to me was the reaction of the players to this man. They reached out to him because he is the definition of one who has no perception of selfishness. Every moment of Dave’s day is devoted to doing his job, which was doing for others. This gentle man, never it seems, is concerned about self. He derives his joy from being concerned for others.
When we read the first three verses of Chapter 2 of Philippians we find a very small word, with an imposing challenge to us all. “IF, you have any encouragement from being united with Christ. IF any comfort from His love, IF any fellowship with the Spirit, IF any tenderness and compassion.” This is not a conditional clause. We will notice as we continue understanding Paul that the word “if” is used by him as an argument, not a ‘what if.’ Think about replacing the word ‘if’ with the word ‘since’ and you will get the meaning right away. So, ‘since you have encouragement from being united, and ‘since’ you receive comfort from His love, and ‘since’ you have fellowship with the Spirit, and since tenderness and compassion are present, then make my joy complete by (continuing) to be like-minded with Christ.
This morning we are celebrating the Lord’s Supper. This day of all days we should be affected by selflessness. The work of Christ on the cross is the ultimate definition of selflessness. This method of looking at the world and negotiating our way through it is one of the fundamental teachings of Christ. We continue, though, to look through our own perspectives of the world and the people in it, rather than to energetically attempt to live as though Christ’s mind was our mind.
There was a girl named Maria who had broken up with Jimmy. She told him she simply didn’t want to be with him anymore. But after about a year of being broken up, she wrote Jimmy a letter. She said, “Jimmy, I miss you bad. I think of you all day and all night long. You dominate my mind and I just don’t want to be apart from you anymore. Jimmy let’s reconnect. P.S. Congratulations on winning the lottery!”