There was a young man who was a candidate for the ministry. He was about to preach his very first sermon. As he went up to preach he new he was well prepared and he had confidence in his abilities. Before he started to preach the veteran pastor who saw him approach the pulpit with an attitude of pride just shook his head. The young man preached his first sermon and he failed miserably. He left the pulpit in humility after such a failure.
The young preacher asked the veteran pastor what happened, I was so confident and prepared? The veteran pastor told him, “If you had gone up the way you came down, you would have come down the way you went up.” Sometimes we fail miserably because of foolish pride. The Bible calls us to humility, Especially in these verses Philippians 2:1-4.
How often do we ourselves fail because our own foolish pride causes us to act in the flesh rather than in humility and depend on the Lord? Paul in these verses is writing to the Philippian Christians. He wants them to be like-minded. He wants there to be harmony in their church so he gives them the keys to church harmony. The main aspect of to church harmony is humility. Paul gives the Christians incentives for being like-minded.
Paul speaks of the great mercies we have from our Lord. Paul uses these great mercies of God to motivate the Philippians. He wants them to be like-minded. To motivate them to be like-minded he does not use manipulation or a guilt trip. Paul uses mercy incentives. We would do well to think of these incentives and apply them to our hearts. That we too would be like-minded as a fellowship. It is an attitude that Paul wants the people of Philippi to have. More than just a mental like-mindedness, but an emotional attitude of putting Jesus Christ first in their life. He uses these incentives so they would be like-minded, all with the same purpose in Jesus Christ.
We see these incentives that Paul talks about. He says, vs. 1 “If you have any encouragement in being united in Christ.”
I) Being united with Jesus Christ is incentive for like-mindedness.
Becoming a Christian you are united with Jesus Christ. If that is not incentive for like-mindedness, then I do not know what is. To think back that we as sinners have been saved by grace and that we are united with Christ is a great a great incentive for us to be like-minded as a church body.
Illustration-Away from the Lord
I think back on my own life, wondering for years apart from the Lord. I talked about this with a friend of mine in college. After I became a Christian he showed me a prayer list that he had. He had been praying for twenty people in our fraternity to become Christians. I said to him as I looked at that list, and he was a good friend of mine, one thing I want to ask you about. We are good friends and my name was not on that list? Why were you were not praying for me? He said you know why? I did not think you would become a Christian. I thought your heart was too hard to become a Christian. He thought my heart was too hard, yet the Lord saved me miraculously, I was that one whose heart was so hardened.
When I think of the great incentive of being united in Christ, all that I did while I was apart from the Lord, yet Jesus Christ came into my life and I became united with Christ. I am sure there are many people here who can think back on their own life away from the Lord, whether in a dramatic way or just in a way of attitude you did things displeasing to the Lord. For you, now you think, how wonderful it is that I am united with Christ!
What an incentive for like-mindedness. This is what Paul used for the Philippians to become like-minded and this should be our incentive for being like-minded. Think how wonderful it is that we are united with Christ. Let that be an incentive for like-mindedness and church harmony. Paul does not stop there with this incentive. He uses another incentive. It is the very love of Christ.
II) The Love of Christ is an incentive for like-mindedness Vs. 1
There could be no stronger love than the love of Christ. Paul uses this love as an incentive for the Christians in Philippi to be like-minded. Jesus said, "Greater love has no man than this than one lay down his life for his friends." What a tremendous love to love someone so much to lay down your life for that person. Here is Jesus Christ and he loved us so much that he laid down his life willingly that we might know eternal life. This love can hardly be grasped it is so wonderful. This should be an incentive for us to be like-minded. How often do we think about this great love that Christ showed for us? Let this be an incentive for our church to serve with one purpose having this like-mindedness.
Paul says being united with Jesus Christ is an incentive for like-mindedness. He says the love of Christ is an incentive for like-mindedness and he tells us the fellowship of the Holy Spirit should be an incentive for our like-mindedness.
III) The fellowship of the Holy Spirit should be an incentive for us to be like-minded. Vs2
The Holy Spirit is the great comforter. The great empowered for the Christian life. As a Christian you have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that works in our lives and enables us to be like-minded as Christians and to have our purpose focused on Jesus Christ. It should be that gift of the Holy Spirit that not only empowers us to be like-minded, but also motivates us to church harmony and to want to serve together as like-minded people.
In the Bible a man made the mistake of thinking he could buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. He saw miracles happening through the power of the Holy Spirit and he offered money for the Holy Spirit.
We need to remember, as the Bible makes clear, the Holy Spirit is not for sale. The Holy Spirit is a gift God gives to his children. This gift of the Holy Spirit should be an incentive for us to serve together for the purpose and cause of Jesus Christ.
IV) Human compassion alone is a motivation for Humility.
If all these were not incentive enough in Vs. 1 Paul says, "If there is any compassion and any tenderness." In other words if all these incentives have not motivated you, just for human pity sake won’t you be like-minded? Human compassion alone should be enough to motivate us to be church harmony and live together in like-mindedness. Even Aristotle said that man was never meant to be like a pack of snarling wolves, but to live together in fellowship and in expression of deep feeling.
How can we be unmoved by these incentives Paul gives us? So many people today are trying to motivate people through a kind of false incentive or guilt trip, but Paul only motivates through what is pure, what is right and what is good. These great incentives, to know the unity of Jesus Christ, the love of Jesus Christ, the gift of the Holy Spirit, human compassion, won’t that motivate us to serve together like-minded with one purpose together?
Paul uses three ideas to express this. He speaks of being like-minded or having the same love or being one in the spirit. He uses three ideas to motivate them to this like-mindedness. It is like piling one idea on the other to emphasize the importance. That we would serve together like minded in one common purpose of Jesus Christ.
You see disharmony threatened the fellowship there in Philippi. So many times in our day too disunity and disharmony threaten the church fellowship. Paul is calling Christians to be like-minded. He calls us to one common purpose in Jesus Christ. The high call of a unity of a like-mindedness and a unity in our lives. To have peace in our lives and in our church.
I know God has great plans and great purpose for this church. It could be threatened by disharmony. From people not being likeminded. We need to pray and use these incentives to claim like-mindedness for the sake and cause of Jesus Christ.
Paul gives the real key to harmony in Vs.3. This key, if we are going to be harmonious Christians, if we are going to live in harmony with ourselves and as a body of believers is our need. in Vs 3 we are told it is humility. Humility is what will cause us to be like-minded and have harmony in our fellowship. Paul states it in two ways.
The first way he states it is negatively. Avoiding selfish ambition negatively states it. Avoid vain conceit. Earlier in the book of Philippians Paul talked about a group of preachers who were preaching out of selfish ambition and vain conceit. Paul was saying if we are to have harmony in our fellowship then these are what we must avoid. How often do we put our own self-interests ahead of the interests of the Lord? We need to avoid all selfish interests. It is one of the great temptations. It may be a greater temptation than money or all the material things that are tempting people. This is the great temptation of self-interest.
We are so often looking to our own needs. How tempting is it to desire the honored place at a banquet or to be sought after and known in public. In all these things we put our own interest before the interest of others. The aim in Christianity is never promoting self-interests. As a matter of fact the aim in Christianity is crucifying self. We are to put our own self-interest down and lift up the interests of Jesus Christ.
I remember seeing a great cyclist that I had admired so much of for a long time. They made a movie about his life and that movie won an academy award. He won the race I was watching and he was up on the winner’s platform. In his speech he simply said, “Fame is but a fleeting moment in time.” There is no use seeking after self-interests that are so fleeting. Only the purpose of Jesus Christ and like-mindedness in his purposes is truly eternal.
The great Christians of the past are not the ones who were seeking the important offices, but they even would shrink from them. Even the great reformer John Knox said he shrank from the responsibilities before him. He is known far and wide for spreading the flames of reformation, but yet he did not seek after self-interest or fame. He wanted only the interest of Jesus Christ. That is the key to avoid selfish ambition.
Paul not only says to avoid selfish ambition, but he states it in a positive way he says, Vs. 3 "In humility count others better than yourself." We need to do more than just putting our self-interest aside, but we need to look to the interest of others. Have you ever seen the poster that has the word JOY? It says Jesus first, Others second and then Yourself. That is the key to humility. Putting Jesus Christ first and others before yourself. If we are going to have joy in our lives it is going to come through putting the interest of others ahead of our own interests.
Humility is the opposite of pride. But what humility is not, is weakness. If we have a low self-esteem and allow people to run all over us that is not humility. Humility is a strength of character. Humility is to look to another person and see their interests and to count them as more important than your own. That does not come from weakness but from strength. It takes strength to look out for others. Humility is a call to high Christian character. It is a call to strength.
So many people are involved in a false humility. Someone could be an excellent concert pianist who plays all over the United States and they may say, “Oh I am no good at the piano, don’t say I am any good at all.” That is not humility, that is speaking something that is false. Humility is dependence on God and to acknowledge that God gave you what you have. That it is only through God that you can do and say what you do. That is what humility really is, dependence on God.
If you look through the Bible you will notice that every time you see the characteristic of humility you will see that characteristic is praised and every time you see pride that characteristic is rebuked. If we want to be effective as Christians then we need to do so in an attitude of humility. We need to think more of our fellow servants in Christ than we think of our own needs. This is the great need.
One time F. B. Meyer said that he felt like God’s gifts were on a shelf and the taller he got the more he could reach the gifts of God. Then he said that he became wiser and realized that God’s gifts were on a shelf. But it was not becoming taller that he could reach the gifts it was as he stooped in humility he could reach the gifts of God. Humility is the key to harmony and the key to being used by Christ as a church fellowship. We need a spirit of humility.
In Vs 4 Paul expands on this key to humility, He says, “Look to the interests of others.” The situation in the Church of Philippi is that there was self-interest seeking. Paul is saying, no. Look to the interest of others. Let that be more important. His intention for them was to express real humility in the way of unselfishness.
A football player had lost a great football game and he was speaking on the telephone and he said we would have won this game had we only had a blocking back. His little son heard him and said, “Daddy I want to grow up to be a blocking back.” Then the boy asked, "Daddy what is a blocking back?" The father said it is someone who does all the work but does not get any of the credit. That is what humility brings about. Seeking to do the work for Jesus Christ, but not looking for the credit. That is what is called for in our church today is an attitude of humility.
We all have interests that we need to think of, health, financial matters, and our basic needs in life. It is not wrong to take care of these needs in our life. But what the Bible is calling us to is to go beyond chiefly looking to our own needs. But to look out for the interests of others. That is what we need is for those to look to the interest, not just of themselves, but also of others.
I was discussing with my wife about the literacy training that goes on in our church on Monday nights when they teach English. She told me about one of the participants who stood up when asked why are you involved in this program? One lady said, "I had a disease when I was young and I have never been able to give blood. This literacy training is something I can do to help others.” There is the attitude of humility. Asking how you can help others, not just looking out for self-interests.
Won’t you heed the call Paul gives to the Philippians? It is the call to humility. Those of you who studied the Sunday school lesson this morning learned of a tax collector beating his chest because he was so dissatisfied with his life. There was a religious Pharisee contrasted who had so much pride in his own self-worth. You know which one truly went away blessed. It was the one who had humility. Won’t you give your life to Christ and taking on this humility?
The question is asked far to often, “What is in it for me?” The question we need to ask instead is, "How can I help others?" The call is to be concerned about others needs. We need to be concerned not just with peoples physical needs, but with their spiritual needs too. There are so many around us that have spiritual needs because they do not know Jesus Christ. They do not know that if they put their faith in Jesus Christ that they will have eternal life. We need to be thinking about their interests, that they need to know Jesus.