Text: Philippians 2:1-5 May 13, 2012
1) Blessings of a growing church: The Philippians church was a growing church- a very strong and growing church. When a church is strong and growing, it is always full of vision and planning, and it always working out a strategy to carry forth the gospel. A strong and growing church launches ministry after ministry and program after program. It never stands still and it is never complacent, neither the mind nor the hands of the people. Therefore, there is always the danger of differences of opinion and priority; differences in vision and approach, or emphasis and interest.
2) Dangers of a growing church: The point is this: the more strength and activity a church has, the more attention must be given to unity. Why? Because a strong and growing church has more mind and bodies working, and when more people are working, more differences are bound to arise. Consequently, all those who are busy for the Lord and the church must give attention to the need of unity. Paul knew this. He knew that he had to put the church on guard to protect it against internal strife and possible outburst of division.
THE FOUNDATION OF UNITY: (2:1)
1) It all begins with Christ: ¡°If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ.¡± (2:1a) All of us were born with a selfish nature that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to keep unity with others----everyone looks for his own interest. But if we all can be united with Christ, all have the life and mindset of Christ, unity is more than probable but inevitable. Paul emphasized this point in 2:5 when he said, ¡°Your attitude (mindset) should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.¡± (2:5)This is the only way to bind all different minds of all people into one mind and one heart to achieve true unity.
2) Through the love in the Spirit: ¡°If any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit.¡± (2:1b) Human spirit is all selfish and self-centered that unity is not in that nature. It is only in the Spirit of God and his power to overcome our human nature that unity may be achieved. When the Spirit of God dwells in us and if we are obedient to his leadership, we all will follow his lead in working with one another, then unity is achievable.
3) Our internal compassion: ¡°If any compassion and mercy.¡± (2:1) Compassion comes from passion which means ¡°a strong love¡± for someone or something. It is the passion of Christ that drove him to the cross to die for our sins. Human unity must be built on the foundation of passion of each other. This is only possible through the renewal of the nature of life. When we are full of love and mercy, we have a strong foundation to work together in unity and harmony. True unity takes more than will power; it takes the inner willingness and love of others to make it work.
THE CONSTRUCTION OF UNITY: (2:2)
1) Building on same mindset: ¡°Make my joy complete by being like-minded.¡± (2:2a) ¡°Like-minded¡± or ¡°same mind¡± is from Greek to auto phronete literally ¡°to think the same thing or same way.¡± To think right is essential to spiritual unity. Among the 26 times phronete appears in the New Testament, ten are in Philippians. This is not about same mind in doctrine or moral issues but about building a common understand and agreement in the way we think. Our mind set is the course of our thoughts. If we want to build unity we must begin from the way we think.
2) Building on same love: ¡°Having the same love.¡± (2:2b) Again, agape is used here, denoting the ¡°willful decision¡± other than emotional impulse. God chose to love us because of His will, not on his emotion. We want to build unity among brothers and sister in God¡¯s family, so we choose to do it because we love the Lord and love one another. Same, auto, love is about mutual love, love shared among God¡¯s people. People in God¡¯s church are not in competition to win over others, but to love others the same way we love ourselves. When there is love in a church, everything can be worked out without strife or division.
3) Building on same spirit: ¡°Being united in spirit and purpose.¡± (2:2c) Sum-psuchos is literally ¡°one in the soul,¡± the deepest part of a person, the soul. When we begin to build our soul, our mindset on God¡¯s love, there is no room for chaos or internal fight. Paul also encourages us to build unity on purpose on all things we do, decisions we make, approach we use, we have one purpose: to advance his kingdom, to reach the lost, to build up his saints and to bring Him the glory.
THE DEMONSTRATION OF UNITY: (2:3)
1) ¡°Do nothing out of selfish ambition¡±: (2:3a) ¡°Selfish ambition¡± from epitheian literally rivalry or ¡°in competition¡± on opposite sides for opposing goals. This is a natural outcome of the above building process. If people of God are truly one-minded, in one love and one in spirit, they are on the same side, and will not fight for opposing goals or purposes. Many of the issues that eventually divide and destroy churches start from having opposing opinions of what and how to do and who will win over others. Most times, opinions are suggested not to divide the church, but when opinions become personal, and people take sides, then it creates strife. We need to be very careful, when good ideas become the cause of struggle or divisive, we need to stop the process, give people time to soften the tension and heal the wounds to stop the slippery slop of strife. A church is not a political organization. 51% of the votes cannot rule over 49% of others and still have a 100% united church. They split.
2) ¡°Do nothing out of vainglory¡±: Kenodozian is a compound word from kono, empty, and doza, glory, from that we have doxology, glory to God. Seeking glory, control, fame and acclaim is one of the common reasons that divide churches the most. In fact all the glory of success, glory of position, glory of winning should be ascribed to the Lord. We are not here to defeat our fellow brothers or sisters. We are here to defeat the devil and its agents. Any winning of one side over the other doesn¡¯t create any glory but shame when it hurts the unity of God¡¯s church. Paul put the suffix ¡°vain, empty¡± here for a good purpose. All human glory in church strife is empty because it brings nothing to heaven.
3) ¡°Consider others better than you.¡± Humility, tapeinophrosune, noun, comes from tapeino ¡°lowly¡± and phronos ¡°the mind.¡± True humility is not how we look on the outside but who we are on the inside. When we are truly feeling lowly on our mind, our opinions, our way of doing things, we will look highly on others and their opinions, approach and way of doing things. Better in Greek is huper-exontas means ¡°surpassing¡±, ¡°over and above.¡± How often we think it this way when we are in conflicting ideas and different ways to doing things? Don¡¯t we always feel that our ideas or approach is better than that of others? Whenever we see things this way, the danger of division is clear.
AUTHENTICATION OF UNITY: (2:4-5)
1) Never be exclusive: ¡°Each of you should not look only to your own interest.¡± (2:4a) The Bible always encourages us to be responsible for our own words, deeds, needs, opinions, ways of expression or doing thing, etc. But discord and division are inevitable when people focus only on their own agenda or interest to the exclusion of others in doing church business. Oftentimes this narrow focus arises out of a genuine passion for the good of the church, but disregard of others, no matter how unintentional, is a mark of pride and indifference that may produce contention and strife.
2) Always be inclusive: ¡°But also (look) to the interest of others.¡± (2:4b)Everyone was born with the inclination of looking out for his/her own interest. No one needs to be taught to do that. But in serving the Lord in His church, we need to learn how to look out also for the interests of others, our dear brothers and sisters in the house of God. We need to be fair, even-handed, to look for the interests of both sides, not just our side even we believe we are on the right side. In fact, we all believe we are always on the right side or God¡¯s side. It takes a lot of spiritual humility on our side and respect for the other side to do that----be inclusive.
3) All are on Jesus¡¯ side: ¡°Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.¡± (2:5) Reading the following verses, 6-11, we see how Jesus humbled himself, never looked for his interest but the interest of all the sinners. He took upon himself the loss of all things to achieve the goal of saving the souls of all men. This is the ultimate example of genuine attitude for harmony or unity when God¡¯s people work together in God¡¯s church. We should never look to win over anyone, but to let Jesus win over of all of us in all the good things we try to do for Him.
1) Thank God for a growing church: Statistics show that in the past 50 years, great majority of churches in all denominations are either plateau or on the decline for various reasons. If we are given the privilege of serving God in a growing church, it is never because what we did it right but God did it right. We need to be humble and thankful before God for His blessings. We also need to be careful not to take any advantage or claim any credit for God¡¯s blessing. We need to remember: we are only his unworthy servants. (Luke 17:10)
2) Keeping the growing church grows: Not all growing-churches continue to grow for various reasons. One of the major reasons that slows or stops or even hurting growing churches is the temptation of internal deterioration of harmony. Because we all are human beings and are fallible in our ideas, desires and goals even in God work. No one can be right all the time. Therefore we need to be humble, respectful, loving and kind as we work to advance God¡¯s kingdom in our local churches. When signs of tension and divisive appear let¡¯s take time to pray for God¡¯s leadership and seek harmony from all sides for true unity. Being slow to make decision is better than rushing to decision that may plant seeds of division or strife.