Unity Comes from a Humble Mind

Rob Green June 21, 2008 Philippians 2:1-14

 

Introduction

I would like to begin this morning with a little story. 

  • A number of years ago several men (5 in fact) had come to know Christ as their savior. 
  • While one decided to become a missionary after serving in the military during WWII and another decided during bible college these men came together to serve in Lord in Ecuador in 1952.  After several years of working with various villages and tribal Indian groups the men decided in 1955 that they would seek to reach another group – one that had no gospel presence whatsoever and one that was known for their tendencies to violence. 
  • These men cautiously and carefully sought to establish a relationship with this tribal group by giving gifts and learning enough of their language to broadcast messages of peace.
  • The effort was extraordinary in both time and energy. 
  • After several months of working the team decided that a personal visit was now appropriate. 

This beach was where the visit took place.

  • That visit, occurring in January 1956, would be the last visit any of those men made to anyone on earth.

All of the American missionaries were killed that day and the two of those men have names that are still some of the most well known in our history --- Jim Elliott, and Nate Saint.

It is possible to ask all kinds of questions about these series of events:

  • Why did these skilled, capable men go to the jungle of Ecuador (many of these men were recognized for strong leadership even before they went to the mission field)?  Why not somewhere different?
  • Given the fact that one of the most common problems on the mission fields is missionaries not working well together why didn’t these guys just split up?  How were they able to form a united team that was getting the job done for 4 years!
  • Why worry about the tribe known for its violence?  Wouldn’t it be easier to win a few of the other tribes to Christ and have them take the risk?

I would like to suggest that each of them came to certain conclusions about life, about other people, and about the gospel that exemplify what Paul teaches in this passage.

  1. Despite the danger, and they knew the danger, the missionaries believed that those Indians were worth the trouble.
  2. Despite the fact that each of the men were skilled, talented, and intelligent getting their way was not as important as the progress of the gospel that they could make together.
  3. Despite the fact that the tribe did not know anything about Jesus Christ and had been known for violence the missionaries truly believed that power of the gospel could overcome any sin
  4. Despite the fact that they could have had very comfortable lives in the States they were willing to handle hardship for the greater progress of the gospel.

With that in mind I would like to invite you to open your bibles to Philippians 2:1-4.  Our summer series is entitled  “Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity.”

The purpose of this series is to help us develop Unity here at Faith. 

  • We need Unity not only to continue doing our current ministries with excellence but also any of the plans resulting from our year long effort at ministry planning.    
  • But also because Unity is part of what God expects from the church all the time.  He wants us functioning together for the progress of the gospel.

This morning we are going to consider how this passage contributes to this theme of unity by showing that “Unity Comes from a Humble Mind.”  In order to show how the text develops this thought I would like to organize our time around three simple points.

I.  God Commands us to Promote and Protect Unity for the sake of the Gospel

            A.  The Command for Unity

The first word of v1. “therefore” provides a link from what occurred before in vv. 27-30.  Paul’s exhortation was simply “Conduct Yourself Worthy of the Gospel.”  We have seen already that the book of Philippians is all about the gospel and the joy that results from God’s people coming together in joyful unity.  The gospel demands certain actions on our part!!!

It is simply not possible to say that you are living worthy of the gospel unless you are part of the solution to promote and protect unity in the church family.

It is fascinating that in God’s Word we find these passages:

Titus 3:10-11  10 Reject a factious man after a first and second warning,  11 knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

Proverbs 6:16-19  16 There are six things which the LORD hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:  17 Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood,  18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil,  19 A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.

God takes the unity of his church very seriously and condemns those who seek to disrupt and destroy the unity of the church.  A passive approach that assumes unity will happen is simply not living worthy of the gospel.

I have used the terms “promote” and “protect” because throughout the book of Philippians there is a sense in which

  1. There is unity (For example Paul ‘s praise for them in 1:3-5)
  2. There is a need to become unified (not only here but a specific example in 4:2-3). 

In other words, there is a sense in which it is something that we have to keep working at and striving to attain. 

That involves promoting unity:  aggressively seeking to create unity where unity was not present.

  • Being thankful for what God is doing here in the way you talk about the church with others
  • Expressing thanks to those who watch your children so you can enjoy the worship service without distraction.

It also involves protecting unity. 

  • Sometimes we are in a situation with a brother or sister in Christ who is complaining and whining about this, that, and the other thing. 
  • Sometimes one person gets divisive and tries to get a bunch of other people to think like he does.
  • Living worthy of the gospel means that we handle complaining, divisions by seeking to solve problems biblically and promoting unity.

B.  The Joy of Unity

It is also significant that when you are promoting and protecting unity it brings the kind of joy Paul is asking to be make complete (fill it to brim --- load me up).  The goal is not for us to make Paul happy.  The goal is to be unified which in turn produces great joy.

            C.  The Picture of Unity

The bulk of v. 2 contains 4 descriptions of what unity really “looks like”

1.  By being of the Same Mind (moving in the same direction)

God tells us first that each of us has to be of the same mind. 

  • This does not mean that everyone thinks the same thing or that everyone agrees with everything. 
  • It is focused on the attitude or intent of life. 
  • All of our thinking and our actions are directed toward the same goals. 
  • It is having a common agreement and understanding.

To put it another way, we are all to be “mission focused.”  God has given us a mission to accomplish “to win people to Christ and disciple them to be faithful followers” and as a result everyone who knows Christ as their savior should have the mindset that whatever we do we have to get that done.

Sadly, sometimes folks in the church are too worried about getting the program they want, getting the music they want, getting the opportunity they want and they become “me” driven rather than mission driven.

Not only is agreement one characteristic of unity, but so is love.

2.  Having the Same Love

Second, we are to have the same love.  Once again, this does not speak about the way we love, but that we have love for one another. 

Love impacts all that we do. 

  • Love determines whether we will pray for another person. 
  • Love determines whether we would help another person in need. 
  • Love determines how often we get upset with each other
  • Love determines whether I am quick to forgive or quick to seek revenge

A lack of unity in a church is a clear sign that there is a lack of love.

3.  United in Spirit

The third phrase used to describe this unity is “united in spirit.”  In this verse the “spirit” is us – it is our human spirits.  While this has a similarity to the other descriptions the picture is a “strength in numbers” idea.  Ecclesiastes 4:12   12 And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.

For example:  It is like watching the Zebras or Wildebeests crossing the crocodile filled rivers.  You see this mass of Zebras.  To the crocs it is like paradise --- racks of meat everywhere!  Those animals cross together. 

  • They know that if one should separate from the pack then they are sure to be dinner for the crocodile. 
  • However, if they can stay together, moving together, then a whole pack of them can move across safely.

That is us.  The crocs (better known as powers, principalities, and things which war against us) are seeking to pick us off one by one.  It is the “tie” the link, the unity that helps us all.

4.  Intent on one Purpose

The final description of unity is intent on one purpose.  In many ways, this is a copy of the first reason. 

  • However, this may highlight the fact that they are to be focused on the correct job. 
  • Sometimes we spend so much time fussing about everything that we never get to the real work of the ministry. 

So verse 2 is pretty clear – God commands us to promote and protect unity for the gospel.  That means we are moving in the same direction, linking arms, loving one another, and doing our part to see the mission accomplished.

Now it is necessary to return to v. 1 and notice …

II.  God Provides the Motivation we need to minimize our differences and maximize our common commitments

Sometimes we read passages like v. 2 and say “no way” that is going to happen. 

  • You mean to tell me that I have to be unified with those in my church? 
  • We have to be mission driven moving in the same direction? 
  • You mean to tell me that I have to demonstrate love to them?

For crying out loud I don’t even have that in my family.  My wife is from Venus I am from Mars and we are convinced our kids are from Jupiter!!  If we cannot get it done there how are we going to get it done in the church?

God has some good news for how to accomplish that…lets go back and read v. 1

I love the way the text puts this.  Vv 1-2 are actually a conditional statement.  If ….then…..  The “then” part of the statement said we had to protect and promote unity.  Paul provided 4 descriptions of what that Unity would actually look like.  But he bases that unity on 4 experiences that every believer has had with Jesus Christ.

By using the word “if” in v.1 he is not casting any doubt on the truth of that reality.  Instead he is highlighting it and drawing attention to it.  If there is encouragement (and you know that there is) then….

Maybe a little illustration would clarify things a little:  Growing up I had tendencies toward laziness. 

  • I would do only what I had to in order to get by. 
  • So every now and then my dad might say something like this to me. “Rob, if you would like to mow the lawn I would appreciate it.” 
  • I would say, “Thanks dad, for giving me the option I appreciate your flexibility and I would not like to mow the lawn.  I’ll be down at Todd’s house.” 
  • What do you think is coming next.  “Rob, I don’t think you understood what I said, “if you would like to mow the lawn (and I know you would) then I would appreciate it.”

Got it???

In other words, God’s word gives us 4 motivations for promoting and protecting the unity God wants us to have.

A.  Encouragement/Comfort given by Christ

Paul may be going back to the moment of salvation for these believers.  In other words, they remember being faced with the reality that their sins had separated them from a holy God.  The horror of that reality was overcome as they understood what Jesus did for them.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Philippians 2:6-8  6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,  7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

In other words, God is taking us back to the time when we understand the comfort that Christ gave by taking our sins and removing them as far as the east is from the West.  He is reminding us of the reality that Christ gave us what we could never earn on our life – to become a child and heir of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11  9 ¶ Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,  10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God.  11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

Paul does not say that we have no differences,

  • he does not say that we will all think the exact same thing. 
  • He does not say that there will never be a disagreement about a decision in the church. 
  • What he says is those differences need to be minimized because of the personal relationship and experience we have with Christ our redeemer!.

The reality that we are his child is supposed to make a profound difference on who we are, on how we think, and on what we do.

In this text in particular, believers who understand what Christ has done for them are able to happily get on the team for the progress of the gospel.

The second motivation is …

B.  Consolation of the Love of Christ

This phrase is similar to the first, but its extent goes beyond salvation to our everyday experiences in life.  The text is call to remember those times and places when you experienced in a real sense comfort from Christ.

2 Corinthians 1:5  5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.

Maybe you

  • were really hurt by someone and you wanted revenge so bad you could taste it and God just intervened in your heart, calmed your nerves, and help you think biblically
  • were really scared about a sickness, or about some decisions your children were making and God just comforted you in the midst of that scary situation
  • you were uncertain about the future and how some of these details were going to come together and God just worked and provided for your needs.

In the suffering series we were reminded of several people in our church family and outside it that testified of the wonderful comfort of Christ in the midst of severe trials.

As I tell you about one of my experiences let me encourage you to think of one from your own life:  I remember getting ready to go to seminary.  A month before a visit that Stephanie and I had planned I had a call on my answering machine when I got home from work from a person in PA who heard I was coming out and wanted to talk to me about an opening with his company.  I had never heard of him, I did not apply for anything, it was just a day that God comforted me.

Once again, Paul is causing us to remember the wonderful blessings associated with having a personal relationship with Christ.

C.  Fellowship with the Holy Spirit

Not only do we have comfort and love that come from Christ but also we have fellowship with the Spirit.  Here is just a short list of the ways the Spirit works in our life:

  1. We know that the Holy Spirit indwells all true believers in Christ.  Romans 8:9 tells us that it is permanent condition.  It is not like the Spirit comes one day and leaves another.  We are sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit.   
  2. We know that the Spirit testifies to my spirit that I am a child of God (Rom 8:16).  The indwelling Spirit helps me to have confidence that I am a believer. 
  3. We know that the Spirit prays for us in a way that we cannot pray according to Rom 8:26.  Can you think of times when you did not know what to pray?  Finally you just told God, “I don’t know what to say!”  Romans 8:26 reminds us that during those times, the Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be understood.
  4. We know that the Spirit empowers us to fulfill the god given function he designed us to have.  He has equipped each and every one of you to help this church to build itself in love. 

What more do we need?  The text adds…

D.  Affection and Compassion of Christ

This fourth phrase may emphasize the grace and compassion that we receive the from the Lord.

If we were honest we would have to conclude that God is far more gracious to us than what we deserve. 

  • He deals with us with grace that seems endless rather than with the justice that we rightly deserve.
  • He gives us mercy when we deserve wrath
  • He forgives us when we sin in the exact same way for the 10,000th time!

Summary

Friends, if these is comfort in Christ, comfort in the Love of God, fellowship with the Spirit of God, and tender mercies and compassions then we should just sit back and enjoy them? Right?

No way!  If all of these things are true (and we know that they are) then we have a responsibility to promote and protect unity.  The overall point of this verse is that a person who is striving for unity in the church is a person who's heart has been moved by what Christ has done for them.

    - they are so in love with Him, and so in love with His people, and

       so in love with His church -- that they wouldn't possibly want to

       be a source of disunity.

    - I think that may be a big problem for many of us---our hearts have not been

       impacted//moved//softened near to the degree that they should have

       been by what God has done for us in Christ

          - as a result -- perhaps we haven't been motivated like we should have to discard:

                 1) our ideas

                 2) our agenda

                 3) our preferences

     - there's too much harsh, "my way or the highway" or “ill take my ball and go home” living in Christian churches and in Christian homes.

     - we could ask ourselves -- why hasn't God's grace impacted us as

        much as it should have?

- Paul is appealing to the Philippians sense of how wonderful God has

    been to them in Christ---and then asking -- Has it moved you?

The final point of the text explains …

III.  God Explains that Humility and Concern for others is Required to have Unity

The final point reminds us of several truths that in one sense we already know; namely, that there are many threats to unity.

            A.  Threats to Unity

1.  Seeking the benefit for myself (Selfishness)

There is no I in Team.  When we are motivated, even in the church, with getting the benefit from our service Unity is not possible.  It is even possible to do the right things with the wrong motives.  Church service can be all about you…it is a desire to gain influence so you can get your way and get what you want….

2.  Seeking out the credit (Vain Conceit)

Another threat to unity is vain conceit which I have described as wanting the credit. 

  • You want to be the cause for the success of ABF,
  • you want to be cause of the wonderful conference,
  • or you want to be the cause for a wonderful week of VBS.

Several years ago they allowed professional basketball players to enter competitions like the Olympics and the World Championships.  We all talked about the Dream Team. 

  • The USA would be represented by the best players in the World. 
  • But as egos and statistics got in the way the Americans on one occasion did not even earn a medal. 
  • Too many guys wanted the success of the team to be all about them.

The point is that it is simply not possible to maintain unity if you are out to get the credit for anything that goes right.

            B.  Requirements for Unity

1.  With Humility valuing others

Instead what is required is genuine humility.  Human beings since creation have struggled with one another.  One group is constantly viewing itself as better or superior to another group

  • the jews over the gentiles
  • the romans over the barbarians
  • the germans over the non-arians
  • the white over the black
  • one tribe over another tribe
  • the rich over the poor
  • the brilliant over the normal

In other words we have used every excuse in the world to consider ourselves better than someone else.  Even in the early church, they are condemned for eating the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner; namely they did not wait for one another.  The halves enjoyed a feast before the half nots got there.  They divided over economic lines.

It takes a genuine humility of heart to value others.  That is what the missionaries had to do.  That is what we have to do.  We have to believe that everyone coming to the community center,  every child and parent associated with VBS, those sitting in jail for child abuse, or drug abuse, or the person who has lived a sensual life is reachable by the gospel of Christ and worthy of our time, effort, and energy for the sake of the gospel..

Stuart Scott in his helpful booklet From Pride to Humility defined humility this way – “A focus on God and others, a pursuit of the recognition and the exaltation of God, and a desire to glory and please God in all things and by all things he has given.”

Some of the ways that this plays is evidenced

  • being thankful and grateful
  • being overwhelmed with God’s grace and goodness
  • having an accurate view of your gifts and abilities
  • being gladly submissive and obedient to those in authority
  • seeking to build up others

If these are not the attitudes that are driving and motivating our hearts then there is no way that Unity, as God would want it, is possible.

2.  Being Concerned about the interests of others

We also find in the text that selfishness and getting credit is contrasted with being concerned about the interests of others.

Right now the ABF ministry is working through a series of one another’s in the Bible.  The goal is to think of very practical ways in which we can demonstrate concern in both though and action for others.

Unity does not come any other way.

Summary:

Friends, Living a life worthy of the gospel means that you will strive to promote and protect unity by being mission driven. 

  • It does not mean that we cannot have different opinions about lots of different issues but it does mean that when the mission (the gospel ministry) is at stake we set all the differences aside and combine to make the most impact for the cause of Christ as possible.
  • It means that we will not abuse or take for granted the grace and compassion of Christ--- if Christ (and you know he has) has been a comfort, if he has been better to you than you deserve, if he has been a help to you than remembering what he has done for you provides all the reason you need to promote and protect unity.
  • It means that you will seek to develop the kind of humility that allows you to value others above yourself.

Each of you, if you are going to contribute to unity in the gospel” must come to grips with a very simple statement found in 1:21 “for to me to live is Christ.” 

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.