The Joy of Humility and Dependence
Missionaries are flawed, imperfect people [mention meeting Michael Card and his comment]. I know missionaries who are wonderful godly examples and I know others who, unfortunately, are not. The experiences that I will be sharing with you this weekend have nothing to do with some special superpower or spiritual turbo boost that I possess. I’ve been incredibly blessed to see God work in some amazing ways, all of which the myriad of details were fully orchestrated by Him from beginning to end. The global economy, technological advances, political regimes, and the growth of the global body of Christ, to name just a few, are things I have precious little control over…and thank God for that.
[The story of preaching at REM and the woman falling asleep, dreaming and coming to Christ as a result.]
This passage could probably be summed up most simply in a sentence as: Embracing a posture of humility and dependence upon God in our relations with one another.
I’ve been asked several times as a missionary, What are some of the qualities you believe make for a successful missionary? I believe answers this question beautifully. A successful missionary is someone who looks like, albeit imperfectly, in it’s description of Christ. I want to use the translation of that passage that a well-known evangelical Greek scholar gives which is ‘adopt towards one another, in your mutual relations, the same attitude that was found in Christ Jesus’.
What we see in this passage is a humble, unassuming character, willing to lay aside his privilege and power for the sake of advancing God’s kingdom. This is exactly what Paul is calling us to; not just missionaries but every Christian. This is the spirit of a missionary.
I believe Philippians has several things to say about how we grow toward that kind of character that we’ll be highlighting throughout this weekend in both our individual and corporate identity.
The title of our series is The Spirit of a Missionary.
As a young Christian I loved to listen to Keith Green. I used to believe that everyone was called to be a missionary. After three decades of working in cross-cultural ministry, mostly to Chinese, I don’t believe that anymore. But I DO believe that those character qualities that make for a good missionary are also the character qualities that we are ALL, as individuals and as a body, called to grow in. This is why I chose this title.
I believe we need this missionary spirit for two important reasons. The first is something I mentioned a few seconds ago having to do with our individual and corporate nature as Christians.
Most of us here come from a culture that emphasizes the individual. We see examples of this in our entertainment, movies, TV shows, even our language is embedded with this. The bible, however, is written to people more accustomed to thinking corporately so we need to make some adjustments in how we understand things. The remedy for this has been proposed that we should swing toward a more collectivistic reading however there are errors in this as well. The bible always includes the individual as well as the corporate in as much as when one is being emphasized, the other is not far behind. The biblical view of humanity is neither collectivistic nor individualistic but rather organic. We are neither a hive nor a collection of islands, but rather one body with many members. Our God is a Trinity, three in one, so this view of humanity should not surprise us.
“Sirs, vwhat must I do to be wsaved?” 31 And they said, x“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you yand your household.”
And all these, uthough commended through their faith, udid not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, vthat apart from us they should not be made perfect.
We need balance here. Some people take this too far and develop theologies that swing too far in the other direction.
The second reason I believe we need to embrace the spirit of a missionary is that we need to learn what it means to be a cross-cultural body. Whether this is represented in your congregation or not, because it is the texture of our corporate nature as Christians. You need to understand yourself individually as part of a corporate body that is multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-ethnic.
To bring it home even further we need to face the reality that our country and our religion are becoming increasingly so. Last year the conservative think tank, the Brookings Institute, posted an article on their website entitled “The US Will Become Minority White in 2025, Census Projects”. The article is written by William Frey and is an excerpt from his book “Diversity Explosion”. In it he says the new statistics project that “whites will comprise 49.7 percent of the population in contrast to 24.6 percent for Hispanics, 13.1 percent for blacks, 7.9 percent for Asians, and 3.8 percent for multiracial populations.”
With all that in mind we read these words from Paul, in , again using the translation:
‘adopt towards one another, in your mutual relations, the same attitude that was found in Christ Jesus’
Adopting the attitude of Christ in our:
1. Relationships with one another (unity is a strong theme in the book of Philippians, Paul uses koinonia κοινωνία 6 times throughout the entire letter)
2. Relationship with God
3. For the glory of God and the expansion of His Kingdom
1. Paul is emphasizing this idea of adopting the attitude of Christ to promote unity and Christian fellowship
Paul is emphasizing this idea of adopting the attitude of Christ to promote unity and Christian fellowship
Q. 27. Wherein did Christ's humiliation consist?
A. Christ's humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.
Think about a relationship now or in the past where you experienced significant conflict for a period of time. Consider the subtle temptation to treat the other person in a way that de-humanizes them to justify your anger or negative feelings toward them. How do Paul’s words here speak to you and I. Our sinful nature is very adept at subtly dehumanizing those we don’t like and when we do that we begin the slippery slope of seeing them as somehow less than being made in the image of God, we obscure their dignity, we demote them to the status of something less than who they really are, regardless of whether they are in the body of Christ or not, and we find it easier this way to treat them as an enemy or even to hate them.
Two years ago my wife and I were deeply hurt by a fellow missionary on our team who left our team and our organization with a great deal of anger toward us, all written down in a lengthy document submitted to my supervisor that was filled with accusations toward me and criticisms of my leadership. Just this past week his name came up in a conversation after not thinking about him for months and I found myself confronted once again with strong emotions. I confessed to the Lord my anger and even hatred toward this brother and asked God to set me free.
I’ve been going through the Psalms in my devotional time and have been ministered to by several Psalms where David talks about those who are attacking him but David shows us the attitude of Christ in his dependence of God. He takes refuge in God and does not seek revenge. Think about how David twice had the opportunity to kill Saul, and in that culture it would have been completely justified, but instead he recognizes Saul as the anointed. This is a picture of what we are called to here in .
2. Not only does David exemplify one who adopts the attitude of Christ, who for him was the future Messiah, in dealing with others including his enemies David also shows us the second point in our passage which is adopting the attitude of Christ in his relationship with God. David imperfectly exemplifies the servant attitude spoken of by Paul in . David’s imperfect servant attitude actually points to Christ who gave us the perfect example.
Here is where we read that:
Not only does David exemplify one who adopts the attitude of Christ, who for him was the future Messiah, in dealing with others including his enemies David also shows us the second point in our passage which is adopting the attitude of Christ in his relationship with God. David imperfectly exemplifies the servant attitude spoken of by
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but semptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
There are certain words that are being thrown around a lot lately that I believe relate to this passage. The words are privilege and power. Sometimes you hear things like “white privilege” and we cringe a little bit. Often these phrases are used by those in the more progressive or liberal political camps and so there is a good bit of baggage attached to these words. But long before these were connected to political issues in our country, Christ demonstrated his willingness to set aside his advantage, his right, his privilege as the perfect God/Man, as the Word incarnate and the eternal one, for the purpose of advancing God’s purposes and God’s kingdom.
When we think of privilege, we might think of something like the spoiled child of Royalty who uses their position to escape military service during a time of war, or movie stars who use their money and influence to get their kids into top name universities. These are examples of those who uses their advantage to gain benefits and protect themselves from any number of harms that might come their way. What this passage in tells us is that Christ did the exact opposite. He put himself in harm’s way when he had every justification to not do so. He understood his relationship as the second person of the Trinity to be one that shows forth obedience, and humility. He shows us what it means to be truly human because we lost touch with who we really are, creatures made in the image of God to be God’s servants.
3. Finally, this passage tells us that all of this leads to Christ being exalted above all names, meaning above all authorities on this earth. This in turn leads to God being glorified.
Finally, this passage tells us that all of this leads to Christ being exalted above all names, meaning above all authorities on this earth. This in turn leads to God being glorified.
All of this comes about through Christ’s obedience in weakness and humility. This is not the way we do things, normally, but this is how God works. As puts it 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even pthings that are not, to qbring to nothing things that are,
So….here’s my question for you today. What is man’s chief end? Sound familiar? Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
So let me ask you another question, are you enjoying God? Do you delight in him on a daily basis? These words in the catechism made a huge difference in my life. I realized that my salvation, my purpose, my chief end was to bring glory to God by enjoying him (that’s John Piper’s interpretation). My chief end is not to evangelize, not to be a missionary, rather to bring glory to my God and enjoy him forever.
I believe this is the same thing as having the same attitude as Christ. In our relations with one another are we enjoying God? If so it is highly likely we are also adopting the attitude of Christ in the way we treat other. Are we enjoying God? If so we understand our relationship with God as his servant.
So be honest with me. Be honest with yourself. Are you enjoying God? If the answer is “yes”, praise God. Keep on pressing on. Don’t get cocky or proud because as soon as you do, you’re not really enjoying him. If your answer to this question is “no” here’s what I suggest. First, go to the Lord and confess “Lord, for some reason I’m not enjoying you or maybe I’m not enjoying you as much as I would like to. Please, show me your beauty and your goodness, convict me of any lingering, abiding, indwelling sin. Lord help me to adopt the attitude of Christ in my relations with others and in my relationship with you, for the glory of you and your Kingdom. In Jesus name. Amen