THE SPILLING OUT LIFE: [Together in Unity]

We continue this morning with our series from the book of Philippians. We are moving today into chapter two and covering the first four verses.

Leslie Flynn in his book, Great Church Fights, quotes a story from a Welsh newspaper about a church that was looking for a new pastor:

“Yesterday the two opposition groups both sent ministers to the pulpit. Both spoke simultaneously, each trying to shout above the other. Both called for hymns and the congregation sang two – each side trying to drown out the other. Then the groups began shouting at each other. Bibles were raised in anger. The Sunday morning service turned into a bedlam. Through it all, the two preachers, continued to out shout each other with their sermons.  Eventually a deacon called a policeman. Two came in an began shouting for the congregation to be quiet. They advised the 40 persons in the church to return home. The rivals filed out, still arguing. Last night one of the groups called a “let’s be friends” meeting. It broke up in argument.”

Of course this is the kind of thing Saturday Night Live would have a field day with and should for that matter. When churches fight and Christians bicker with one another it makes a joke out of Christ following.

In last weeks message we were remembering the words of Paul who encouraged the church to “let their manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” He encouraged them to stand side by side and fight together for the gospel message to be shared.

In this follow up chapter he begins to demonstrate why they should work together and not let anything separate them from the mission and vision Christ left for the church. Bad things will happen in churches when we become less than missional or mission driven.

Bill Easum  writes about spiritually dead churches:

1. Have lost their sense of mission to those who have not heard about Jesus Christ and do not pant after the Great Commission;

2. Exist primarily to provide fellowship for the “members of the club;”

3. Expect their pastors to focus primarily on ministering to the members’ personal spiritual needs;

4. Design ministry to meet the needs of their members;

5. Have no idea about the needs of the “stranger outside the gates;”

6. Are focused more on the past than the future;

7. Often experience major forms of conflict;

8. And watch the bottom line of the financial statement more than the number of confessions of faith.

Let’s read the words of Paul as he expressed his feelings in chapter two:

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate?  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
  Philippians 2:1-4

These verses are about getting along with others. This message is especially needed at times in the church body. This is about lifestyle and how we live each moment with Christ as our focus. He is our model. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom we strive to bear His name well as we journey through life.

Statements of Unity:

  • We the people. . .
  • All for one and one for all
  • Can’t we all just get along?

    If you look at your sermon notes sheet we can see where this is going together. Paul’s opening remarks here are an emotional appeal for these Christfollowers to pause and remember what it meant to them when they professed to follow Christ. We are going to break this first part up into the “woulds “ and “coulds.”
     

 1. “Woulds”

       a. Would you think it beneficial and encouraging to belong to Christ?

          “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?

 Clearly what Paul is teaching here is that those of us who are believers and followers of Christ need to pause at times and remember how we felt when we first believed. I don’t know your story but I know mine and I know that when I made the decision that I was going to follow Christ there was an overwhelming sense of consolation and strength. It was so encouraging to know that while I was new to faith I was a Christian. My life was going to change and I was ready for anything that might come my way.

Do you find yourself encouraged to day by the fact that you belong to Christ? Now if you are living a life that is unworthy of the gospel you are going to be miserable and find no encouragement from your half hearted attempt to follow Christ.

     b. Would you find any comfort in Christ love?

          Any comfort from his love?

George Matheson wrote these words:

“O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.”

To be loved by God unconditionally is a tremendous source of comfort. It is incredible to pillow one’s head at night and realize that you are loved by God. That you love God so much that what you have done with your time, your day and your resources have brought glory to God and that you have been a son or daughter worthy of this great love.

Paul begins to get a little closer in his teaching with the next series of questions.

2. “Coulds”

      a. Could you practice fellowship together in the Spirit?

          Any fellowship together in the Spirit?

This word fellowship is deeply embedded in this letter. It is partnership and fellowship centered around the Spirit and His work in the world. The enduring reality of our lives as Christfollowers is fellowship in the Spirit. Community, community, community! We are called to be in relationship with others Christfollowers. This is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit at work in the church.

      b. Could you buy into possessing tender and compassionate hearts?

          Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 

I love being around people with tender and genuinely compassionate hearts. They keep the focus on Christ and everything they do is a direct result of the incredible love flowing through them directly from Christ. A person in touch with Christ and following Him will have a steady stream of love and tender compassion that flows to everyone around them.

Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” (Math 5:7) In other words he was saying that having mercy is a sign that you have received mercy. Compassion and mercy flow from the lives of those who have experienced them.

Many times the reason Christians lose this compassion is they forget too quickly what they were when they came to Jesus and what mercy looks like.
Paul is emotionally compelling in this writing. Kent Hughes says, “He has taken the Philippians back to the graced memories of the supernatural work of Christ in their souls at salvation. He has activated their spiritual camcorders. They had all experienced encouragement and comfort in Christ. They remembered the consolation of Christ’s love when they became His. They, through Christ, had found fellowship in the Spirit. And the compassion and sympathy of Christ had not only graced their souls but flowed from them to others.”

It is important to pause and remember. In a few moments we are going to invite you to the table of the Lord to experience communion. Communion should be special. It should be a time for reflection. One of the reasons we don’t do it all the time in this context is that I don’t want it to become just another ritual or habit that we really don’t take seriously.

Let’s make a transition from the “woulds” and “coulds” to the “shoulds” and then we will close by looking at some timely words for us to pay attention to together.

Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.

3. “Shoulds”

      a. Shouldn’t we be on the same page and agree with the vision and mission?

Christfollowers and consequently churches have been given one goal and mission by Christ. He left us on this earth with very specific instructions. Jesus taught that we were to make disciples. We are to teach them to obey what He has commanded and to baptize them into the faith. This understanding of purpose and mission is what unites us and keeps us focused on the main thing.

When churches lose sight of this purpose and vision, and they often do, it is the beginning of an ineffectiveness that leads to a slow painful and prolonged death. It leads to bickering of style or how the church should be run. Message is not that important but the methods of worship become battlegrounds.

What is our mission? What drives us as a church? Our mission of course is leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ. Everything we do should be done through this perspective. We also believe in being involved in the lives of our neighbors around the church. Just this week, I stopped by a business in our Williams street neighborhood to thank a lady who doesn’t go here to church but who filled 20 bags of school supplies for Operation Gear Up. She lives in this neighborhood and I told her she was probably helping some of her neighbors. She responded that her little neighbor boy had participated in Mega Sports and Creative Arts Camp and that he couldn’t quit talking about it. As I was driving home I noticed a Mother and daughter walking down the street behind the church here with matching Mega Sports camp shirts. I loved it. We are called to impact and be in relationship with those around us. How else will they discover Jesus Christ?

     b. Shouldn’t we love one another?

Let us love one another. Love will motivate you to be like Christ. After all the bottom line of a Christ following life is to be like Jesus.

     c. Shouldn’t we work together with one mind and purpose?

This will cause you to be involved in the mission and ministries of this church. In a few weeks there is going to be a vacuum of leadership and a major adjustment that is going to go on as we launch the church at The Firehouse. Williams Street is a launching pad for our two other locations. Already some of our body has left to start being a part of the Real Life body and I am thrilled about that. Some more of you need to consider that. Others are being recruited to go and serve at The Firehouse. This means that we at Williams Street will need to have some more people step up and participate in this ministry.

Remember attend one and serve one. Remember that we have been saved to serve and that the loudest boos come from the cheap seats. In other words those who are not involved. Step up and get involved. There are opportunities everywhere in this church. From serving here to joining two other dynamic church ministries in our city. (The Firehouse and Real Life)

Paul leaves us with some action steps.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Philippians 2:1-4

4. “Don’ts”

     a. Don’t be selfish
     b. Don’t try to impress each other
     c. Don’t think more of yourself than you should
     d. Don’t just think about yourself

In the secular, Greek and Roman dominated world of Jesus day humility and lowliness was rarely encouraged. It was a derogatory thought or a sign of weakness to be less than self motivated.

We certainly live in a very similar society. We live in a world that invites us to be all about ourselves. Conceit has been in vogue for centuries. From the times of the Casers to the modern politician arrogance and selfishness has been the watchword and song.

The writer Oscar Wilde was asked when he was going through customs if he had anything to declare and he answered, “Only my genius.” Conventional wisdom has it that you can’t get anywhere with out a healthy dose of ego and self interest. There may be some truth in that in the world but in the church culture and the life we have been called to it is an abomination.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  Philippians 2:1-4

A pastor preached at Southern Seminary in Louisville Kentucky. After the sermon he asked the president about A.T. Robertson the famous Greek scholar. Roberson was the towing genius and masterful scholar of his day, as the nearly 1,400 pages of his Grammar of the Greek New Testament testifies. He was the son in law of John A. Broadus, New Testament scholar and on of the founding professors of the seminary. The president offered to take this pastor to the cemetery to see Robertson grave. They drove to the Cave-Hill Cemetery.

“But first he pointed me to Broadus’s grave, a towering monument erected by his relatives. As I gazed up at its granite inscription, he directed my attentions down to a flat grave marker next to it – that of the great A.T. Robertson. The president remarked, “Robertson wanted to be buried in Broadus’s shadow.”

That is a real life illustration of what Paul is trying to instill in the heads and hearts of the Philippian church. The old language of the Bible states it this way, “but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” The lowliness detested by the Greeks and that makes such little sense today should be the highest virtue for the child of God.

St. Chrysostom wrote, “There is nothing so foreign to a Christian as arrogance.” Paul is always directing the church to think of others ahead of ourselves. Looking to the interest of others is at the heart of godly marriages and godly families. It should be the oft repeated mantra of a Chrsitfollowing family.

We are called to be in unity and harmony.

The conductor of a symphony orchestra was once asked what is the most difficult instrument to play. He responded, “Second violin. I can find plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play second violin with enthusiasm – that is a problem. And if we have no second violin, we have no harmony.”

It takes more grace than I can tell, to play the second fiddle well.”

To quote Paul for last weeks lesson, “Let you manner of life be worthy of the gospel or Good News of Christ.”

As we prepare our heart for communion let me read these four verses from the Message Bible.

Let us hear the word of the Lord:

“If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor:

Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

Jesus took the cup and offered it to his disciples. He said as often as you do this, do it in remembrance of me. We have remembered today our relationship with Christ. He took the bread and broke it and said this is my body. Eat it all. Do it in remembrance of me.

He also warned his disciples about participating at His table with un-confessed sin or broken relationships. This meal is about unity. Unity with Christ and unity with each other.

Let us come to the table of our Lord.



2008/08/03