Summary: If you and I have Jesus in common, our faith and love and passion for Christ will naturally be for each other as well.
THE JOY OF BEING ONE
I have a theory. It is a simple theory based on my observations of the Church. Here’s the theory: Put two people in the same room, leaving them alone, and in time they will find something to disagree about.
I told you it was simple. The theory itself is one that I have developed over the many years that I have been in church leadership. Make a statement and someone will argue that the syntax and grammar aren’t correct; plan a project and someone will find weakness in the execution. The point is, and you have to admit this is true, people in the church love to disagree (I dare you to disagree with this statement).
How easily we allow factions and strife to divide us. We are divided between the long time members and the newcomers; we are divided over the role of women in the church; we are divided between those who enjoy traditional worship and those who prefer a contemporary service. And you know something? That’s okay. It is the fallout of that disagreement that we have to be careful about.
The main problem with disagreeing is that we allow those issues to taint our feelings about the brother or sister themselves. If one of you believes in the pre-Tribulation rapture and the other is an Amillenialist, can you not still be friends? If one of you is a Nonresistant peace Christian and the other believes God uses war for his purposes, do you naturally have to dislike each other? It sounds silly but we do this. We put the issue in front of us and turn off our affection for each other. And it doesn’t have to be a theological issue, there are some people in the Church we simply don’t like – we don’t get along and so we conclude we don’t have to love them.
But here’s the scoop: Yes, we do! In our recent studies of Philippians we have discovered that living this life is not for ourselves but for Christ and for others. Paul taught that “To live is Christ and to die is gain” and followed that up with saying that living was good because it would help others to grow in the joy of their faith. Then in 1:27 he challenged his readers to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
You and I know that the chapters and verses in our Bibles are artificial, that they weren’t there when Paul wrote. So the theme continues: the unity of the Church is essential to the glory of Christ and the joy of the Christian. But here Paul gets very specific about how we are to act and feel.
1. One with Christ
Our text begins with a reminder of what God has done for us. This is the vertical relationship each of us has with our Lord who saved us. Notice that each of the four statements in v. 1 begins with “if.”
“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…” (v. 1).
What’s missing at the beginning of the sentence is a “therefore” connecting it with 1:30. And those “ifs” are not expressing doubt; they could be translated “since.” Or if we make them questions, they are the kind of questions that you would automatically answer “yes” to. Let’s look at it this way:
a) Isn’t it great to follow Jesus? Yes it is. The phrase “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ” refers to our salvation experience. We have received a tremendous comfort from our relationship with Jesus. Our great consolation is that we can know God because our sins have been washed away in the blood of Jesus.
Remember when you first believed in Christ? Wasn’t that a really special time? Everything was new and exciting. I was 14 when a change occurred in my life. I had been flirting with a lifestyle that was in no way healthy. My friends and I would prowl around at night looking for trouble, “to be chased” as one friend put it. And one night we were pursued after vandalizing someone’s property. After a brush with the police that night, I decided I had had enough. I didn’t like where this was going. I clearly remember dedicating myself to Jesus that night.
After that my spiritual hunger took off. I read my Bible, memorized scripture, read Christian books and listened to Amy Grant instead of 92 CITI FM. My rebellion came under Christ’s control and life began to have purpose.
What was your experience with Christ like? Or what is it like now? Isn’t it great to be united in relationship with him? Paul assumes you would say “yes.”