People Thieves Of Joy
SERIES: ENJOYING THE JOY OF JESUS
SERMON: KEEPING UNITY WITH JOY IN THE PRESENCE OF PEOPLE
READING: PHILIPPIANS 2:1-11
INTRO: People hurt us. It is sometimes intentional, often it is not. In some cases it is aimed at us and in other cases we just happened to be in the wrong place. “Criminal Intent” tells of attitude. “Terrorism” speaks of hate. Computer viruses and spyware must come from those who love evil. My son recently went to the bank to withdraw a few dollars and discovered the account was dry! He found out that someone had stolen his identity. That’s intentional evil.
But in families, even the church family, it is usually not intentional hurt. It just happens. It may come from our kids, or our parents, or relatives. When brothers and sisters in Christ steal from us it is most often a complex scenario. Perhaps a preacher is unfaithful to his wife. Many people may be robbed by this one person’s actions. A contentious person, left undisciplined may steal years from our happiness and confidence in others.
Philippians is a letter of joy to a lovely congregation of saints. It is closer to perfection than any other church recorded in the New Testament writings. However, there was one item that caught Paul’s attention and he dealt with it. The attitudes and actions of two sisters in the church there had the potential of mushrooming into a giant divisive problem which could steal the Joy of Jesus from many. This is found in the fourth chapter, “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow,a help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” Verses 2, 3
Charles Shultz is credited with, I love mankind, it’s the people that I can’t stand. Some lesser known person said, I love the church for which Jesus died if only I could get rid of the people. You have probably said that at some time. The more people at church, the greater the problem.
Paul did not recommend a sound tongue lashing for this people problem, nor did he write a new and improved law. He recognized these two ladies as belonging to Christ and headed for heaven but were acting out of selfish motives which spring from pride. His message: “Help them” by applying God’s gifts in love, compassion and tenderness.
KEEPING OUR UNITY WITH JOY EVEN WHEN THERE ARE PEOPLE INVOLVED
Paul has already alluded to a problem when he wrote,
“Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.”
Jesus prayed and died for unity and this church had unity…but with some disagreements.
GOD’S GIFTS AND OUR RESPONSILITIES
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others”- Philippians 2:1-4.
Unity is made possible and rejuvenated by the four qualities we read about in the “if you have,” clauses.
It is important for us to recognize that while we can read four ifs in the section, there is really no uncertainty about this. This word carries the meaning of since, and that changes everything. These people are saints in Christ Jesus and with that comes a plethora of spiritual blessings. This paragraph highlights four gifts that “come down from the Father of lights.” Christ brings us encouragement, Love results in comfort, the Holy Spirit authors the fellowship we enjoy, so we are moved to practice tenderness and compassion.
Let’s see just what the advice involves.
1. For an earthling to be united with Christ the Messiah would naturally be a source of encouragement. Paul uses a word which is a noun describing the help given by another. It is literally help that comes from one called alongside to assist. God encourages us by uniting us with His Son, or Savior. God is on our side.
2. To be loved in such a way as to have heaven speak to earth through the sacrifice of God’s own Son, and that for us personally, is a reason for our comfort. This word can also be rendered encouragement. God is in the positive encouragement business with regard to His children.
3. Fellowship carries with it the idea of sharing. While we share with others of like precious faith, this passage reminds us that we are participating with the Holy Spirit in God’s work on the earth. Praise the Lord! Here we have more encouragement. From his same prison cell Paul wrote, “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit”-Ephesians 4:3
4. The last if clause contains two charming characteristics that all churches should have in abundance. They are “tenderness” and “compassion.” Tenderness is a translation of the word for intestines. This is because the ancients believed the heart, lungs, liver, etc. were the seat of emotions, so they spoke of affection this way. In Philippians 1:8 Paul is heard saying “how I long for you with the affection of Jesus Christ.” “Affection” translates the same word as in our text.
Compassion is the standard word for mercy and concern. “Tenderness” describes the sensitivity one has towards the feelings of another, while “compassion” speaks of the ability to feel the sorrow of another person and working to alleviate it.
The picture is this: God gave and continues to give. This should result in unity in the body. The affection and mercy is also an indirect result of God’s dealing with us. How much easier it then becomes to help people who possibly are a threat to unity of the body and the Joy of Jesus when we have tender compassion. Imagine coming together regularly with those who are not only of “like precious faith,” but who speak encouragement, practice agape love, share openly, as that is the meaning of fellowship, and have this all take place in tenderness and compassion. Wow!
THE COMPLETION OF PAUL’S JOY
Here, in verse 2, is the second part of Paul’s “If…Then” approach to possible unity wreckers. He continues, “Then, make my joy complete.” The apostle lives with Christ’s joy in spite of circumstances. He presently possesses joy and will have that joy even in the shadow of death -2:17. He wants them to rejoice also. But, his joy is still at an incomplete level. There is joy and complete joy.
Allow me to illustrate. When an auto mechanic replaces the brakes on your car, the last thing he will do is to make sure the brakes are “bled” properly. This simple procedure involves one person applying pressure on the brake pedal in the car and one person opening the little valve at just the right time under the car. At the signal the pedal is depressed and held to the floor while the mechanic under the car observes a squirt of brake fluid out of the line. A job well done. Well, maybe not. They then must test the brake pedal for a spongy effect. If the pedal does not feel reasonably firm at the end of its travel, there still must be a small amount of air in the line. No air bubbles are observable, but the condition that can be dangerous, must be fixed. Until all the air is eliminated, the mechanic is not completely satisfied with the job. His joy is not complete.
John the Baptist said, “The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.”-John 3:29. The reason is in John 1:29
John the Apostle wrote: “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”- John 15:11 and “We write this to make our joy complete.”-I John 1:4
Paul’s joy will be made complete in one way and one way only. Built upon the strong foundation of the things contained in the “if” part of his approach, he desires the saints at Philippi to be one in mind, love and purpose.
He does not expect these Christians to agree in everything. Diverse backgrounds, individual levels of spiritual maturity and opportunities forbid such. Here is verse 2-“then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
“Like-minded” and “purpose” derive from the same Greek root. In 1:7 it is translated “feel,” and is used through Philippians. The basic idea conveyed by the word was a frame of mind or a life direction. The sense is of thought, but it has emotional overtones. More than intellectual agreement, Paul is requesting them to be of one attitude, which attitude will be seen in verse 5. Their mind and purpose will be like Christ’s. Their love for each other would be a response to Christ’s love for them.
EAT YOUR PRIDE AND KEEP YOUR UNITY WITH JOY
In lesson one it was noted that it must be Christ first. Today, in chapter two, it is Others second.
Last week we recommended the SINGLE MIND, today it will be the SUBMISSIVE MIND.
In reading Philippians 2:3,4 observe the nasty negatives and the contrasting preferred positives:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
On the one hand we have selfish ambition, vain conceit and protecting one’s own interests.
On the other hand there is humility, thinking of other people before ourselves and looking out for their interests instead our own. These are lessons never too late for the learning.
Paul knew and now we have experienced the fact that humility is a necessary ingredient we must have in place when keeping our unity with the Joy of Jesus in the presence of other people.
WOULD THE MOST HUMBLE PERSON PLEASE STAND UP?
Many of the terms Paul employs in these verses are either synonyms or antonyms of humility. Then there is humility itself. What does it really mean, especially in a church setting?
It does not describe a person who thinks badly of himself, rather one who does not think of himself at all.
This is not a doormat type person who feels that she must let everyone else walk on her in order to keep peace in the body.
Humility is that grace that as soon as you think you have it you have lost it.
The humble person knows himself and accepts himself- Roman 12:3
She yields herself to Christ as a servant.
A humble person is not a know-it-all. What he does know does not cause him to become conceited. He gives God thanks for His gifts. This is important to note: This whole paragraph is outside the realm of the worldly mind. It is not possible for a person without the Spirit of God to fathom this information and format it into useful material.
Reader’s Digest told a story a while ago about a flight canceled due to bad weather. One solitary agent was trying to rebook all of the travelers whose schedules had become messed up. One passenger became impatient, pushed his way to the front and slammed his ticket down on the counter. He said, “I have to be on this flight, and it has to be first class.”
The agent politely said, “I’m sorry, sir. I’ll help as soon as I can, but I have to take care of these other people first.”
The man became angry and shouted, “Do you have any idea who I am?”
Without hesitating, the agent picked up the loud speaker microphone and said to the hundreds of people in the terminal, “May I have your attention, please? We have a passenger here at the gate who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate.” The man backed off, and the crowd of people burst into applause.
Two vital points: This was a show of egotistical selfishness. This type behavior is not befitting a child of God. But why such a response from the crowd of people? Do we detect an attitude of “I like to see selfish ambition and vain conceit” pay the price? If so, one wrong attitude does not call for another.
What would have been your inner response when you heard the announcement?
If we, in humility, practiced what is being said here and practiced it diligently, we would so busy looking out for number two that number one (Jesus) would be glorified and number three (myself) would be satisfied with completeness of joy.
THE INCARNATAION FACTOR
An in-depth look at this stirring reality will have to be for another occasion. Suffice it to say that we learn from Philippians 2:5-11 the following:
1. That what we all need is the same attitude as that of Jesus. Perhaps we don’t quite understand the meanings of some words or how they apply in our day. Maybe we wonder about culture and customs. We might ask, “Would I be able to make Paul’s joy complete?” All questions are put to rest in this statement, “Your attitude should be same as that of Jesus Christ.”
2. Jesus did not think of himself but of others. His was an unselfish concern for us. We expect unsaved and uninterested people to be selfish and reaching for whatever they can get. Jesus has taught us the sacrificing and giving spirit. It is a Christian thing to do to look out for others. The “one another” verses bear this out for us. We are to “bear each other’s burdens,” “not judge one another,” make an effort to “edify each other,” “be devoted to one another,” “honor one another,” “in love, serve one another.” We learn all these from just adopting the attitude of Jesus Christ.
3. That to be a servant as Jesus was, we must practice what we preach. A famous man wrote eloquently about educating children and ended up abandoning his own. He believed he loved children in the general sense, but true love cause one to “do the daily chores.” Ask any mother or father. When John wished to explain what love really is the made this parallel, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us and we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” That is found in I John 3:16. However, lest we feel like this is limited to an actual physical death we must read on. He explains that what this requires is helping with their day to day needs.
4. The eternal plan of God must be honored. “Outlook determines outcome.” If we have a selfish outlook the actions will not be with tenderness and compassion. Instead we will promote destruction rather that construction in the house of the Lord. When Jesus left heaven and came to visit us, it was all downhill. And it got worse. Finally they killed him in the most degrading and ignominious way, the death of the criminal, the cross. He was staked between two real lawbreakers. The reason Jesus departed from heaven was not clouded by pain, suffering, exhaustion, dirt, sweat, and the name calling of criminals and passers by. Instead, our Lord, asked the Father to “forgive them.” Jesus had a purpose and we need to have that purpose driven life as well.
5. The way up is down. Our text says, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place.” Did you know that the parallel continues? It promises, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” –I Peter 5:6.
Only the SUBMISSIVE MIND can reach low enough to have God lifted it up.
A Journey Through Philippians
Joy In Your Attitudes
In writing one of the most profound passages of Scripture, Paul keeps it practical and teaches us how to find joy in our attitudes…
Paul identifies four pillars needed for a healthy “attitude” foundation (2:1-2)…
Œ Encouragement – “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…”
Comfort – “…if any comfort from his love…”
Ž Fellowship – “…if any fellowship with the Spirit…”
Tenderness and compassion – “…if any tenderness and compassion…”
Paul’s teaches us how to adopt an attitude of humility (2:3-4)…
Œ Say no to selfish ambition – “Do nothing out of selfish ambition.”
What’s in it for me?
Say no to vain conceit – “Do nothing out of…vain conceit.”
Who’s noticing me?
Ž Say yes to the importance of others needs – “…look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.”
Paul concludes this passage by teaching us both theological truths about Jesus and practical truths about following His example (2:5-11)…
|WHO IS JESUS?|
|His Humility||He is the eternalGod (v. 6a)||Who became fully man (v. 6b-7)||And was obedient unto death (v. 8)||Therefore…|
|His Exaltation||Name above allnames (v. 9)||Every knee willbow (v. 10)||Every tongue confess. (v. 11a)||Glory of God (v. 11b)|
Therefore, following the example of Christ means at least four things…
Œ Release – “…did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”
Service – “…taking the very nature of a servant…”
Ž Obedience – “…he humbled himself and became obedient to death…”
Reward – “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place…”