Monday, April 18, 2016

Monday Morning Rewind: A People Just Like Jesus

Goals are easy to set, but often much harder to reach.  Think for example about weight loss (yeah I know.  I could have picked a less convicting one, right?  But its pretty relevant I think)  Its easy to look at a particular physique in a magazine, cut it out, paste it on your bathroom mirror, and say "I want to look like that guy/gal!"  But getting there is hard and annoying work!  You have to sacrifice your favorite foods (which for me is ice cream.  I just can't stay away from it!), exercise, and go through those awkward phases on your way from A to B that leave you between belt loops and wardrobes.

The path is MUCH harder than the destination!

For the past several weeks, we have been moving verse by verse through Paul's letter to Philippians, and we have seen a beautiful picture drawn for us--the picture of a church that moves, thinks, and acts as ONE body!  And with that picture now posted metaphorically in our minds, Paul begins describing in depth what its going to take for us to get there.  In this too, the path is much harder than the dream, but the destination is worth it, and the three sequential steps we see in Philippians 2 lay that path out clearly for us.

1. Seek Solidarity by Seeking Unity.  The Gospel is unstoppable.  We have already seen that.  But we can be stopped from sharing in its advance if we don't seek unity.  Paul says to the church; "I will be filled with joy when I see solidarity among you.  And you will achieve that when you are of "one mind."  That's the goal!  Again, its not easy when we have so many varied and strong opinions, perceptions, ways of processing information and handling conflict, but here we are promised that if we want solidarity, the unity we need to have it can be ours!

2. Seek Unity by Seeking Humility.  Let's face it.  Humility is a hard thing to practice.  For one thing, we live in a culture that rewards pride.  But on the other hand, the church as a whole often misunderstands what it means to be humble.  Fortunately, Paul gives us an accurate definition of both pride AND humility.  Pride is when we are focused on ourselves.  Humility is when we are focused on others.

The old saying is true:  Humility isn't thinking less of yourself.  But it is thinking of yourself less.  I can say this from experience: In my 24 years of ministry, nearly every time I've seen relational breakdown in the church its been due to the exchange of godly humility for selfish ambition--"looking out for number one!"  But there is no solidarity without unity, and there is no unity without humility.  The great news is that we have a model for precisely this kind of posture in the person of Jesus!

3. Seek Humility by Seeking Christ.  Verses 5-11 are, I believe, not only the most powerful in the entire letter.  They represent the best of Paul's writing!  These seven verses are so rich with meaning we simply didn't have time to plumb their depths yesterday.  But we did have time to cover the "big idea," which is that the humility we need to "start the engine" toward unity as one body is found in how Jesus humbled Himself.  We are told here that Jesus "emptied Himself" for us all, suffered for the sake of His bride, and in doing so modeled the very kind of humility we need to assume.  True humility as members of the church means we are willing to give of ourselves for the sake of others, and suffer for, and with the other members of the body.

For Jesus, assuming that humility was repaid with His victory over sin and death, and the promise that one day, every knee will bow--every tongue will confess that He is Lord to the glory of God.

Don't confuse humility with weakness!  Jesus' humility will one day result in His triumph over all.  And our Christ-like humility toward each other will likewise produce a unity and solidarity that will be unstoppable!

Someone once told me that to lose weight "you have to be convinced that skinny feels better than chocolate tastes!"  Well, to be the unified church God has called us to be, we have to come to the conclusion that unity feels better the selfishness.  And why shouldn't it?  After all, when we move, think, and act as ONE BODY, we are no less than a people just like Jesus!

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