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Philippians 5

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Philippians 5.

Can we turn to Philippians chapter two please? We have been looking at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi [P]. They were a healthy active church, partners with Paul supporting him in His work of spreading the Gospel, the message of life in Jesus Christ. This is the message that the Messiah has come! God’s Son came as a human being and lived among us, a perfect life. He, of His own volition, laid down that life as a sacrifice, an offering to take away sin; enacting a covenant in His blood, whereby the one who relies upon Him is given righteousness and eternal life. The inescapable consequence of going our own way is inevitable death, but now a way salvation from that fate has come! It is a vital message to be imparted to all people. But there was a major hitch. This great herald of this Good News was holed up in a Roman prison. His friends and fellow-workers in Philippi were discouraged – we have seen how Paul wrote to them to change their perspective, to alter their view on things – he now says: [P] [Philippians 2:1-11 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, (then) 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 for the interests of others.] Have any of you had the joy/misfortune of doing some computer programming? – Computers are very logical animals that operate by something called Boolean Algebra. One of the key commands in making a computer program was the “IF statement” – where you would get the computer to do a certain thing depending on a condition that you set. “IF” a value is >90, “THEN” output: “Well done”; “IF” value < 50 “THEN” output: “Dummy”! Look at (phil 2:1) we have an “if then” statement – in fact a whole raft of “ifs”, 4 of them! [P] The output is conditional on the input – there is a necessary consequence dependent upon conditions. But look at the conditions: “If there is any encouragement in Christ” – well, is there? “If there is any consolation of love” – what about that condition? “If there is any fellowship of the Spirit” – and that one? Well, what about: “If any affection and compassion” – well, is there? They are every one of them obvious and taken as given. Why then say “if”? Well, Paul knew exactly what he was doing. He was drawing attention to his big idea. Paul was using a convention in the Greek language; how would we accomplish the same thing in English? What if Paul had reframed the conditions as yes/no questions? Would that have the same effect? Take a look: Is there any encouragement in Christ? (Well, yes, I suppose there is.) Is there any consolation of love? (Well, yes, of course there is.) Is there any fellowship of the Spirit? (ok, that too.) Is there any affection and compassion? (most definitely!) This leads up to the Big Idea: If all of these things are true, then complete my joy by AGREEING! Paul’s goal was not to make us question these things, but to remind us that they are present. We might do the same thing: for instance, my dad used to ask me questions about “what I knew to be true” as a means of correcting me. He would work me into a corner using obvious questions that challenged me to reconcile my (negative) behaviour with what I claimed to be true: “Do you love your sister?” (Well, yes.) “Do you want her to be kind to you?” (Yes, I suppose I do.) leading up to the Big Idea: If so, then … Framing true statements in the form of conditions has the same effect. By putting it this way Paul leaves the reader with no choice but to accept what follows. All of these true if statements effectively lead them down a path that ends with no option but to positively respond to the “then” statement: “BE LIKE-MINDED!” Let’s take a quick look at these conditions: [P] ENCOURAGEMENT – is there encouragement in Christ? This is no “if”, I don’t think any of us would deny the wonderful encouragement in Jesus – I don’t know how those without Christ get on. Before I came back to the LORD life was utterly futile, what on earth is the point?! Life is utterly discouraging without Jesus. The world is a depressing place – look at the record of man running this place! Unless there was the hope of One coming to rule and reign in righteousness and justice, then there is no hope. But in Christ there is comfort, consolation – it is closely related to that word used for the Holy Spirit, the Encourager, the Comforter, the One Jesus sent when He went to the Father. And the Father Himself is the God of all encouragement [2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort (when it says comfort it is this same word, “encouragement”), the God of all encouragement, who comforts-encourages us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort-encourage those who are in any affliction with the comfort-encouragement with which we ourselves are comforted-encouraged by God. ] So there is encouragement in God and especially in His Son. Simeon in the temple was looking for the “encouragement” of Israel – when he took the Baby in his arms he knew that he had found it! [Romans 15:4-5 For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (Jesus said that they spoke of Him) we might have hope. Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus,] – interesting when it talks of this encouragement that comes from God, the outcome intended is being of one mind. “Encouragement” is a big subject in Scripture and I don’t have time to do it justice this morning – but suffice it to say: this “if” statement is most assuredly true: there is encouragement in Christ. If the Bible has a lot to say about “encouragement”, in contrast this next word “CONSOLATION” [P] only occurs this once in the New Testament. The word for “encouragement” is sometimes translated “consolation” so they are quite similar in meaning, but this also involves the idea of tenderness. I was never any good at sport, so at the Sunday School picnic at the running race, when I trailed way behind the rest, they would give me the “consolation prize” – they felt sorry for me and wanted to make up for what I had missed out on. And when we give our lives to the LORD we do miss out on some things – there are things we give up, there are certain things that we can no longer do. There is a loss. One thing for me was a passion for all things aeronautical; that was about the only interest I had – it took a too bigger part of my life. That was laid aside and it was a big deal at the time but what I found in the LORD made that loss seem utterly trivial. The consolation is far greater than the loss. Peter expressed this: [Matthew 19:27-29 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. ]. You gain far more than you ever lose! You console someone who has suffered loss, who has cause to be sad and distressed, grieving – you alleviate their distress, turn the mind aside from the care that overwhelms them. We all go through stuff, suffer loss and sadness, we grieve. The love that there is in Christ consoles us – those in the world grieve without hope, but we have hope, there is consolation. The verb associated with this noun is found in [1 Corinthians 14:3 But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation (that word “encouragement again) and consolation.] We know there is consolation in Christian love – this if statement is true also. FELLOWSHIP [P] is also another big theme in the New Testament – and it is not just having a cup of tea after the service or a meal, though that may be part of it. Fellowship is having all things in common. It characterized the early church – no one said that what they had was their own: [Acts 2:44-45 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. ] [Acts 4:32-35 And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them. And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all. For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need.] This is not natural, you don’t normally see this happening in the world around us. Why did they? The Holy Spirit had been poured out on them – made them one. There was one Spirit, they were one, together, had all things in common. Where does this unity, this togetherness, this having things in common come from? From the Holy Spirit. Hey, this is way deeper than just having a meal together and a chat over a cup of tea! Well, is there any fellowship of the Spirit? Well, the Bible says there is: [2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. ] I never forget when a fellowship I was attending was going through a rough patch, and I guess I was too – feeling isolated; there was stuff going on which I had big questions about. It just so happened that I was looking to give the family piano a good home, and I put a notice out and some guy who I didn’t know responded and came around to look at the piano. I’d never met this guy before (I don’t even remember his name) but as soon as he came in, saw a book on the table by Andrew Murray, and started talking we were at one! It was amazing, never spoken to him before but we were speaking on deep level, a spiritual level, like you would with someone you had known all you life and trusted. Instant fellowship – the fellowship of the Holy Spirit – a wonderful and amazing thing! I’ve never met him again but I have seldom experienced fellowship like it. Is there any fellowship of the Spirit – without any doubt! I have said this before but we are a diverse lot: John makes electrical cable (well, he used to) – I know as much about that as he does about blood cells. He loved to surf and hunt – I’ve never done either! John loves motorbikes – what I ride he would even deign to use the term “motor-bike”! He spends his time salmon fishing – I can’t really get excited about dangling a piece of string in a river all afternoon. Fellowship is having things in common – what on earth have we got in common? – nothing on the worldly plane! What have we got in common? Jesus, one Spirit who dwells in us, the same Father, the same family. Indeed there is fellowship, wonderful fellowship – it is not of earthly interests but of the Spirit. Well, is there any AFFECTION? [P] In some ways I think that I am particularly qualified to answer this – you see I had got to a state where I was pretty much devoid of any affection, completely unfeeling – not even for my own family – I had cut myself off from everyone. You see when you have natural affection you may be accustomed to it, but when you have none you see that any affection you have is not from yourself, it is supernatural it comes from God. When I was filled with the Holy Spirit, came back to the LORD I had a love for people, affection toward people that I just knew was not from myself. It is not my affection it is the affection of Christ. I know where it comes from! So did Paul: [Philippians 1:8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.] It is that response from deep within to others, the Greeks said from “the kidneys”, we’d probably same from “the guts” – it is the strongest word that they had for deep seated feelings of compassion. And that is the last “if” statement – if there is any COMPASSION [P] – that is feeling with someone, suffering with them, feeling what they are going through as though it were yourself. It is the outworking of tender feelings in compassionate yearnings and actions. It is to show mercy and concern, with the implication of sensitivity and compassion—it is sometimes translated “mercy” (e.g. Romans 12:1 I urge you by the mercies of God), earlier we read: [2 Corinthians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (that is that first word: encouragement)] So in God there is this mercy, this compassion and encouragement. It is “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!” to all these “if’s”. All are to be found in our life in Christ and the relationship with have with the Father – they are an integral part of our Christian life! Bless the LORD. Encouragement, consolation, fellowship, affection, compassion – they are all to do with personal relationships, care and concern for people. Each of them is there in our Christian life, there in Christ – I treasure them personally for myself as they apply to me – but if they apply to me, do they not apply to others? They are to do with concern for others – if we experience them ourselves, should we not extend them to others. If they are there, and we have seen that they are, then we must get on with others. If you have affection, compassion, fellowship with others, console and encourage them – aren’t you going to be getting on well with them? When Paul says: “complete my joy” it is a comment on what he is about to say. Statements like “I don’t want you to miss this!” do the same thing, where “this” refers to an important idea coming up. This is another way that Paul highlights the big idea of the passage: that WE SHOULD BE IN AGREEMENT [P]. This keeps cropping up in this letter. Look, the Philippian church was doing well, there were no big doctrinal issues to address, they were active and enthusiastic supporters of Paul, one of the few to practically help him in what he was doing, they were partners with him – let’s just have a quick scoot through what we’ve read so far: (Phil 1:5) speaks of “your participation in the Gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil 1:7) says: “both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me” in (phil1:19) talks about their prayers for Paul’s deliverance (Phil 1:26) speaks of their “proud confidence” in Paul – the Philippian church was right behind Paul – but there are little hints that they weren’t so together among themselves. Last time we read about Paul exhorting them: [Philippians 1:27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel;] When talking about living the way they should as Christians Paul emphasizes unity. It is one thing to be sold out to Jesus; it is another to do so together with our fellow believers! Why are there so many denominations – because we can’t agree! [James and Carolyn working together with others in Kazakhstan to establish an orchard so they can reach the Ouigah people – but they have run into problems with their co-workers, disagreements over decisions made – I remember the leader and founder of the Red Sea Mission Team, who often stayed in our home, saying that almost all problems in missions came down to the people, the missionaries – “where there are people there are problems”]. If indeed encouragement, consolation, and fellowship can be found in Christ, then why can’t Christians get along with each other? It’s because we have forgotten the things that make Christian unity possible. The statements in [Phil 2:2-4] spell out what it (practically) looks like to agree [P] [Philippians 2:2-4 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 for the interests of others.] This gives us real-life insight into what it takes to get along—with unity of love, spirit, and purpose being the key. We are to have the Same Mind! How on earth will that ever come about?! There is only one main verb in these verses; all of the others are secondary participles, elaborating on the one command to be like-minded – the important thing to remember is that there is still only one big idea. Paul had one main idea; the other thoughts described what his main idea looked like in practice. Paul has one big idea: being like-minded. The other ideas are what bring it about. There are two sets of paired statements, each telling us what not to do before telling us what we should do. Normally the negative follows the positive. Telling us what not to do forces us to think about what we should do. This gives the positive alternative extra attention. Paul is highlighting something for us. Here is a paraphrase: [Don’t do anything from selfishness or conceit; instead, count others more important. Don’t just look out for your own interests but the interests of others also.] Paul could have just told them to “work harder at considering one another’s needs” and to “look out for the interests of others,” without any negative counterpart. Using this negative/positive order attracts our attention to what he thought was most important! Verse 4 focuses on something more practical: looking out for other people’s interests. Paul uses the same negative/positive order to draw attention to his second statement: “to look out for the interests of others”. This statement is even more important than the last. Here’s why: as selfish human beings, we most likely look out for our own interests, possibly even to the exclusion of anyone else’s! We are to do both [P] but looking after our own interests happens without even trying [Ephesians 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,] – you can’t help but look out for your own interests. It has been pretty slippery with this snow and ice – you slip, you automatically put your hand out to break your fall, it is instinctive – it is not so instinctive to look out for others welfare. It is not just a matter of your interests or those of others. Instead, we need to look out for the one without letting go of the other. Only then will a biblically-sound balance be struck. Looking only to our own interests results in selfishness. Looking only to the interests of others is not sustainable, even though it sounds like a good thing. The key is to do both. But where your interests don’t line up with the interests of others, they should be set aside. If we are each doing this then we will be like minded. Where our interests line up with the interests of others we are like-minded. If you are looking out for the interests of others, how can you be at odds with them? These opening verses of Philippians 2 are all about unity and how to work towards practically living it out. The long series of true if statements requires us to heed Paul’s call to unity, but this is no easy task. It requires unity of love, spirit, and purpose. It takes saying “No!” to selfishness and conceit, and saying “Yes!” to valuing others more than ourselves. Paul challenges us to reconcile our actions with what we say we believe. He also practically spells out the actions that bring about unity. Remember, the great blessings of consolation, affection, fellowship, and compassion that can be found in Christ. When you have lived with believers, and some of us can be right difficult! this being like-minded seems a Pollyanna pipe-dream. One of the big barriers to being in agreement is pride: conceit – thinking we are better than others, superior, further on in our understanding or faith, selfishness – seeking our own way, everything revolving around me and what I want. This is why there are disagreements. If only we considered the other person more important than ourself, how much disagreement would immediately disappear. How can we have the same mind? [P] – the clue is in [Philippians 2:5 Have this mind (same word as in v.2) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,] – the mind of Christ Jesus – not our own! It says in [1 Corinthians 2:16 But we have the mind of Christ.] If we each have the mind of Christ we will have the same mind. The same love? [P] Well where does the loves come from? [Romans 5:5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.] – it is the love of God, it is from Him! The same love! United is spirit [P] – we all have the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit given to us by the Father [1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.] [Ephesians 2:18 for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.] [Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit.] – one Spirit so we are to be united in Spirit. Only if we are not in the Spirit will there be disunity. One purpose? [P] Well what is that purpose? What is our reason for being? We were created for God’s glory. Our one purpose is to glorify Him: [Romans 15:5-6 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.] This unity of mind, love, Spirit and purpose is seen in practical outworking in us getting along together – looking out for each others’ interests. This unity, having the same mind, is what brought joy to Paul’s heart – and I think it delights our Father too [Psalm 133 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers (and that is what we are) to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there יהוה commanded the blessing—life forever.].

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