Title: The Road Less Traveled
Series: Philippians (11/20)
Reference: Philippians 2:1-8
If you have a Bible, I want to invite you to open up to the New Testament book of Philippians. As you’re doing that, we’ll take a moment and dismiss the kids to Children’s Worship. So all the little boys & girls, you can make your way to the back of the Sanctuary, and from there you’ll be escorted off to another great Bible adventure.
For those of us who remain, we’re studying the book of Philippians on Sunday mornings. We are just beginning chapter 2. The title of today’s message is “The Road Less Traveled.” I’ll begin reading with verse 1, and I’m going to ask if you’re physically able– Let’s all stand, in honor & reverence, for the reading of God’s Holy Word. The word of God says in Philippians chapter 2, beginning with verse 1:
“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also fro the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Missing ingredients can sometimes be disastrous. I remember one time when Haley & I were living in OK, I was home alone (which is always dangerous). I was hungry, my tummy was making noise, so I decided to fix a little cinnamon toast.
I had never made cinnamon toast before. In fact, I had never really made much of anything before, but I thought, “It’s cinnamon, and it’s toast; how hard could it be!”
So I made some toast and put a little butter on there. Then I sprinkled a ton of cinnamon spice all over it (because that’s the good part)! I sat down, took a big bite & I’ve got to tell ya– The stuff tasted awful! I mean, it was really bad!
For a long time I didn’t know what I did wrong. (I knew something was wrong because cinnamon toast wasn’t supposed to taste like that). It wasn’t until Haley came home that I discovered I had left out one key ingredient…sugar!
In cooking missing ingredients can be disastrous! You know what else is like that? Life! In life, missing ingredients can be disastrous! You can have everything else, but you leave out one thing, and it all becomes bad. And for many of God’s people, the missing ingredient in their life is an attitude of joy! And without joy, life can be like popcorn without the butter, like bread without the yeast, like cinnamon toast without the sugar (it’s just kind of bluh)!
So this morning I want us to think about how we can cultivate a joyful attitude in our lives. You guys remember back in chapter 1 when we talked about finding joy in difficult circumstances, and I told you it all came down to the word “perspective.” In the same way, I believe cultivating a joyful attitude also comes down to one word, and that’s the word “humility”! Humility is the key; A healthy understanding of who you are, and who you are not, is the key to cultivating an attitude of joy in your daily life. If you’re taking notes, let me share with you two guidelines for taking steps toward humility
Number one– Remember the right foundation.
Now in the historical context, here in chapter 2, Paul begins to address a problem in the church at Philippi. We’ve caught hints, here and there, that not all was well in Philippi, and over in chapter 4 Paul will call out a couple of ladies in the church that were causing problems.
So here in chapter 2 Paul begins to address this issue. I want you to notice how this entire section starts off with a call to unity. (You’ll see how humility comes out in just a moment, but for now, just note how everything begins with this call to unity).
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
All of those phrases in verse 2 (the same mind, the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose), that’s all about unity! Paul says you can make my joy complete by living together in unity.
We all would agree that we should live in unity (that’s a good thing), but where we might disagree is how we do that. Typically, we would just try harder.
It’s like we say, “Well– I’m supposed to live in unity with these folks, so here I go! I don’t really like them. I don’t really get along with them. They neglected me, overlooked me, ignored me, but I’m supposed to live in unity. I guess I’ll just put on my happy, unity-Christian face, and I’m really going to try and make things work with this other person.”
That’s usually how we go about cultivating unity with one another (we try to “will it” to be so through the flesh)! That’s what we do! As a pastor, I see this in marriages all the time (even in my own marriage)!
When things are not right between Haley & I, when there is tension; when there is a void of unity in our marriage (in any relationship), the natural thing is to try and do more! And so we send flowers. We say nice things. We speak with tenderness. We do something thoughtful. This is the way we are wired. We want say something, do something, buy something, we’re all about engage, engage, engage!
Now I’m not saying any of those things are bad. I believe they all have a place, but I don’t think it’s first place. I don’t think our first move should be to engage & do & say!
Your notes put it like this: Unity is not about trying harder, but its’ about focusing on Jesus. This is why Paul begins the way he does in verse 1. 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ…(and “in Christ” is the sense behind all of these. Paul is highlighting what we have in Christ): …if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit…
I imagine when this letter was first read to the church in Philippi, folks would have been like, “Of course, Paul! There’s plenty of encouragement in Christ!” What about love? Is there’s any love in Christ? Any fellowship in Christ? Any affection in Christ? Any compassion in Christ? You see (this is so insightful for us)– As Paul begins to deal with this lack of unity, he does so by first pointing to what we have in Christ.
When unity isn’t there (in my marriage, in my family, with my friends, in any relationship), my first move is to sit with Jesus and realize everything I have in Him, and then it’s out of what I have in Christ, then I can begin to move back toward unity.
This is how it’s meant to work, beloved. In the middle of my conflict with my wife, the first thing I want to do (in my flesh) is to fix her! Because the problem is always someone else. If they would change. If they would understand. If they would give. But it’s only when I stop and sit with Jesus that I realize it’s not about her, but it’s about me, and it’s about what God is doing in me! Then I’m ready to move back toward unity!
Paul begins by talking about unity, but his point is that the only way you & I can live in unity is for us to live in humility. But that leaves us with some good questions: Here are the questions I thought about this past week: What is humility, and what does that look like in the context of relationships?
I think the best way to understand humility is to think about its opposite, which is pride. I’ve got a little illustration of pride here. Bob, could you come and set up our ladder for me.
Now I think this ladder represents pride really well. We love ladders. They help us reach up & ascend to high places! And we love upward phrases in America. We say things like: “I want to climb up the ladder of success. I want to move up in this company. I want to be upper-class. I want to keep up with the Jones. Or, like that old TV show, “I’m moving on up” with the Jefferson’s!” (Are you getting nervous yet, because I am)!
This is how we typically think about things in America. We want to keep moving up & up & up in our lives, but can I tell you something? This feels awkward! It’s weird being up here and speaking to you down there. In fact, I would say that I was not made to stand all the way up here and, at the same time, try to connect with you down there.
But this is what pride does! When our attitude is all about getting up & up, or when it’s all about self and what I want, and what I think, and how I feel–when it’s always somebody else that has the problem (and “I” am elevated), this is what it looks like.
You know who else lived like this? One of the fallen angels by the name of Lucifer.
Isaiah 14:12-14 says this (listen for the prideful expressions):
12″How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! 13 But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.'”
Do you hear the pride, and the evil, in those words? And when our lives are all about self, when it’s always about me being right and me getting my way, this is exactly what we look like, and it’s the very opposite of what Philippians 2 is calling us to live out!
There’s only one Person who deserves to be up here. What Paul is saying in Philippians 2 is that this Person, the One who rightly deserves to be up here, the One who is rightly seated above all others in Heaven, the One who is high & exalted above all things, He choose to come down, and the Bible says “You should do the same!”
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 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.
That brings us to number two on your notes– Follow the right example. And who is the right example? It’s Jesus!
Let’s go back to the commands in verses 3 & 4 and take note of these (because this is the example Jesus leaves for us). This breaks down real easy. On the negative side, the Bible gives us two things we should say “no” to. On the positive side, there are two things we should say “yes” to. And in both cases, who is the example? Jesus is!
Things to say “no” to– (There are two of them)– The first is Say ‘no’ to selfishness.
3 Do nothing from selfishness… If we’re going to follow the example of Jesus, then we have to say “no” to selfishness.
Selfishness is basically the attitude that says “what’s in it for me?” You know people like that? People who constancy view things through, “What’s in it for me? How does this affect me? How’s this going to work for me?” That’s a self-centered perspective, and the Bible says we shouldn’t be like that. And if you want to experience joy in your life, you can’t be like that!
This kind of attitude is something we always have to be on guard for in the church. Because what tends to happen in any church is that we form into these little pockets of community. And typically you have the youth, and they all like to sit together & hang out together. And you have the parents of little knee-knockers; they like to spend time together. And then you have senior adults who like to hang out with who? With other senior adults. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing because we naturally relate to some better than others)! But what is not okay is when we start expecting everything in the church to revolve around our little group. What is not okay is when we start looking at everything the church does, and we say things like, “How is this going to affect me & my group? What about us? What are we getting out of this deal?” And I’m not saying that’s a problem here– I’m just saying this is what Paul is saying not to do, and this is what we have to be on guard against.
So say “no” to selfishness. Here’s the second one: Say “no” to empty conceit. If selfishness is the “what’s in it for me” attitude, then empty conceit is the “who is noticing me” attitude.
Do we struggle with that today? Do we need for others to notice us? Sure we do! We see it in the symbols on our clothes or the emblems on our cars. Or what about when we do something for God and nobody notices (or maybe the right person doesn’t notice), and so we sort-of let the cat out of the bag, right. We talk about how we served when nobody else would serve, how we gave when nobody else would give, how we sacrificed and how we worked to make this thing happen!
That’s empty conceit. That’s vain glory. Jesus said when you do Kingdom work for the applause of men, then the applause of men will be the only reward you get!
So, on the negative side: say no to selfishness and say no to empty conceit. What about the positive side. Two things to say “yes” to. The first is say “yes” to the importance of others.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves…
Can you believe that! This is one of those places in the Bible where we read it, and then we pretend that we didn’t read it because this is hard! 3 …with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves… That’s hard to do!
Maybe I could count others as good as myself (that’s doable), but to count others as more important than me, that’s hard to do, and that’s why Paul begins by pointing us back to what we have in Christ! Because it’s only Christ living through me, that’s the only way I can live something like this out!
So say “yes” to the importance of others. The second one: Say “yes” to the interest of others.
4 do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others. The sense here is just like you would look out for yourself, now you do that for someone else!
In all this, Jesus is the example. Jesus said “no” to selfishness & empty conceit. He said “yes” to the importance & the interest of us, and Paul points to that example beginning in verse 5.
And let me just say (before we read these next few verses again), these are some of the richest, and heaviest, portions of Scripture in the entire Bible. There’s much to be gleaned from here, but rather than crawling through this and noting all the words & concepts, I want us to see this passage for what it is (at its most basic level), and that’s an example for how we should live & treat others!
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God… So here is Jesus in this high position. He is high & lifted up, existing in the form of God. He is exalted above all things.
6 …although He existed in the form of God, (He) did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped… That means to be held onto. It’s the image of clutching something and drawing it in as if to say, “I won’t give this up!” Verse 6 says Jesus wasn’t like that!
7 but emptied Himself… Jesus set aside His glory in Heaven. Jesus set aside His comfort in Heaven. He set aside that high & lifted up, exalted position:
7 …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.
Jesus is the example, beloved! And the Bible says in verse 5 to have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus… The Bible is saying look at Jesus. Look at how Jesus choose humility, and He put the interest of others before His own comfort. The Bible holds up that example and says “Now you do the same!”
Let me pray for us…
Father, thank You for this time together in Your Word. Thank You for Your Spirit within us & among us, helping us to understand. And we thank You, Father, for Jesus! We thank You for His willingness to leave the glory of Heaven, and to come to this sinful earth (deity: God Himself, clothed as a mere man)!
Lord Jesus, we thank You for choosing humility & putting our good & our interests above Your own comfort. Help us to live that way toward one another. Help us to put aside self, and to truly consider others as more important.
Father, bless this time of response. Help us each to understand what it means for us to choose humility, and to put the needs of others above our own. Help us to follow Jesus in this way. We ask it according to His strong name, amen.