Good morning church! How’s everyone doing a week after the retreat? I would say that the retreat was a blessing for all of us and what’s interesting is that today’s passage seems like a continuation on the topic of “Unity”.
It does seem like something that God is impressing on our hearts as a church. As we all turn to Philippians 2 in our series titled “A Joy filled life”, I want us to be reminded of what’s been happening at the church at Philippi.
A couple of weeks back we did learn about the persecutions that these believers were facing because of their faith in the Lord Jesus. But not only were things difficult for them with the world outside but internally things were not great between members of the church too.
Two women who apparently were co-laborers with Paul got into a disagreement and this was affecting the rest of the church. How should the church respond? Let’s read in v1-4
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
“You’ll never find a perfect church!” I remember this quoted being mentioned to me ever since I became a follower of Jesus. It didn’t take me too long to realize the reality of that quote but that presented a set of problematic questions: “How is the church ever going to be united with so many differences and disagreements?” “Should they overlook and ignore all the issues?” “Or should they pin-point and correct every single issue?” “Specifically, how am I as a follower of Jesus required to live in the midst of this?”
And knowing that we have married couples in our congregation and young people who are looking to get married sometime in the future, I want to extend these questions on unity to them as well – “How can I experience true unity in my married life?”
4 points of observation from today’s text:
1. Unity can only be brought about through the Gospel (v1,2)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
What I find so interesting is how Paul starts this chapter – He starts by talking about amazing truths and gifts that are ours through Jesus Christ.
- Encouragement in Christ: Because Jesus Christ saved us and rescued us from the wrath of God, we are encouraged to approach the throne of God with boldness. We need not be afraid of the presence of God anymore.
- Comfort from love: For people who were once staring at hopelessness and eternal death, the amazing truth is that we have God who eternally comforts His people with love. “Don’t worry. I’ve got you”. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thess 2:16,17)
- Participation in the Spirit: God graciously pours out His Spirit on everyone who places their faith in Jesus Christ. All of us have the same Spirit who convicts us, changes us, works through us to make us more like Jesus!
- Affection and Sympathy: These are words that basically mean compassion and mercy being shown to someone. When God saw us in our sin and misery, He had compassion on us and came after us to pull us out of pit of sin and darkness.
And his point is that – if we’ve truly experienced these amazing things, then it needs to be evident in our lives as well.
Right now because we are expecting a child, we do have a lot of experienced parents who meet us and give us advice. A few weeks back someone shared with us that after the 20th week or so, the baby in the womb actually has a capacity to hear.
This parent advised us to be mindful of what we communicate during this period and also encouraged us to sing Christian songs and read verses that the baby will actually identify once out of the womb! And that process continues even as the child grows, what the child sees the parents do, that they’ll imitate and do. Wow! And I kept thinking – isn’t it that same with all of us spiritually as well.
God being our Father wants us to experience His grace, love, mercy and kindness and be filled in it so that we can extend it outwards to the people around us!
Here’s what I think the application for this point is. If we think that more events or programs or combined activities is what is going to keep the church together or the marriage together, then that’s a very meaningless, faulty line of thinking.
There’s only one way for your marriage, your family, and the church to experience true unity and that’s going to happen when we understand and respond to God’s grace, love, mercy and kindness – the message of the gospel.
2. Unity doesn’t necessarily mean similarity (v2)
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
My immediate thought when I read this verse was: Is he trying to say that all people should talk the same way, think the same way and walk the same way? I don’t think he’s saying we need to become similar people.
We are so wired in the world to group ourselves around similar people – people who think, talk and walk like us. People who are different from us are labeled as “awkward and weird”. When the world talks about unity – they are more or less talking about similarity.
But when the Bible talks about unity – it has to do more with the One gospel and Savior & how we now care for each other within the church.
If you ask around the room today, you’ll hear many unique testimonies of how God saved each believer here. Some of us were saved when we realized the purposelessness of sinful addictions, some of us got saved while we heard the gospel being preached at a Christian meeting, some of us got saved when someone personally shared the gospel with us and my own story is that I got saved while reading a Christian book.
So many unique stories but one Savior Lord Jesus and when we heard the amazing love – that He would lay down His life on the cross and rise again on the third Day – our eyes opened and we turned from our sins and ran to Jesus to save us and our lives completely changed! And that’s what unites young, old, dark skinned, light skinned, tall, short, male, female alike. It’s not so much how similar we are but how united we are despite our differences.
Sometimes in our churches or even in our marriages, we also bring in this baggage of trying to make the other person like us thinking that if we are more similar then we’ll be more united. Not true.
For example in churches there’s always an issue between the elderly and the youths. The elderly people accuse the youths of being free-spirited and naïve. Young people accuse the elderly of being rigid and over-disciplined. But the thing here is that both groups need each other.
The elderly need to be encouraged by the zeal of young people to still remain passionate and radical for the things of God. The young people need to have the guidance and wisdom of the elderly to be able to grow in maturity. We need to learn how to embrace each other’s differences – in terms of giftings, cultural backgrounds, lifestyles, language and see how we can actually learn from each other.
As long as the gospel is our foundation and love is the motivation, the gospel allows us freedom to actually embrace each other’s differences and yet still be strengthened in unity.
3. Disunity is a result of SIN (v3,4)
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Please carefully note what these verses are trying to say. The reason for disunity isn’t really style issues, or worship preference or in marriage “communication issues” but the real issue that causes disunity is the “SIN ISSUE”.
There are 2 main root sins mentioned here:
- How can I get noticed for doing this or that in the church?
- If I’m serving the church in this way or that, I’m hoping that at least someone appreciates and acknowledges me for what I’m doing.
- If I do this for the church or my spouse, what will I get in return?
- At the core of it, I’m most concerned of how my needs are met in my church or my marriage?
- I’m not as bad as the person sitting next to me
- I’ve got more biblical knowledge and I’ve been so actively involved in the church for years
- This church event or Sunday service is successful due to my hard work.
- Why should I go and reconcile when I was the one wronged? I’m right! I’ve not done anything wrong. Especially in marriages there is that common joke which people crack – best way to have a successful marriage – just say that the wife is right. I don’t agree to that because in an argument or a fight – both are in sin and both aren’t right.
If I have to sum up all of these statements that I’m sure we’ve said or thought about in our lives, it’ll come to this “I deserve better”. In our sinful selves we all think we are entitled to something better because we think that we are great human beings.
But we aren’t. We are people whose hearts the Bible describes as “desperately sick”. Apart from the grace of what Christ did for us, we have absolutely no hope. And we are no better than the person sitting right next to us. The person sitting next to us needs infinite grace and so do we.
Even though we are believers saved by grace, we need to recognize the pride and self-centredness that is so evident and prominent in our hearts.
Which brings me to the last observation:
- Only the Gospel can heal Disunity (v3,4)
How do you know if a person is truly in love with Jesus? By his biblical knowledge? No. By his charisma? No. By his great spiritual feats and accomplishments? No.
Look at his humility! And how does a man become humble knowing how prideful and self-centred we are?
By kneeling before our Savior and realizing what Jesus did for us in spite of our rejection – how He faithfully pursued us, how He laid down everything for us, how paid the costliest sacrifice and opened the glorious gates of eternal fellowship with Him. That absolutely humbles us.
Brothers and sisters, I want to encourage and remind you of the power of the gospel this morning. I remember many times either at home, or while listening to a sermon travelling or while at a church gathering like this – my heart was filled with pride and selfishness and being hardened.
But in those times when the gospel was preached, I can’t express but it felt like something was powerfully breaking through my hardened heart mainly humbling me and allowing me to receive the truth and instruction from God. If you are also experiencing self-centredness and pride this morning,
I would urge you to come before our Savior and ask Him to reveal His love and kindness to you. Ask to melt your hardened heart so that you can enjoy true fellowship with Him.