Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. Today we’re continuing in part two of the series “Perspective” and we’re looking at the book of Philippians, a letter written by the apostle Paul to the church in Philippi. As we look at this book we’re going to see many references to the mind and to how we think, so I’m asking God to change our perspective about how we think today.
The great theme that we discover in the book of Philippians is joy, but within the context it’s obvious that Paul’s not referring to a joy that comes from getting your way all the time. It’s not a joy based on your circumstances, but its joy based on knowing who you are, knowing your purpose and identity in Christ. It’s that kind of joy that we find expressed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Now last week, we talked about joy being a choice you make and a habit you develop knowing that God is always with you, that God always has a plan for whatever you’re going through, and that God is so good that he can take whatever situation you find yourself in and turn it into something good. That was how Paul could find great joy in the midst of difficult circumstances, because he knew that God was working in it all to bring about good even when he couldn’t understand why. Paul’s positive attitude truly reflects his divine perspective and yet what I want you to understand is that this doesn’t come naturally, it’s an acquired habit, it’s something we develop, and so today we’re going to talk about the joy of serving.
You see, there are times when the old self rises up and resists, because it doesn’t want to care for others, it’s only concern is for itself. Deep inside of all of us, we have a natural tendency to take the path of least resistance, believing that pleasing ourselves, doing what pleases us in this moment, will bring us lasting joy, but I think, and I hope we all know that this isn’t the case. The truth that we find in God’s word is that true lasting joy comes when we learn to give ourselves in service to others. Paul described his life this way to Timothy, he said, “I am already being poured out like a drink offering” (2 Timothy 4:6).
You may be familiar with it, but there’s a TV show called hoarders, where they film the personal lives of people who refuse to throw anything away. They live their lives with stuff piled everywhere, climbing over trash, with no place to sit, no place to eat, nothing but a small path to walk through the house. Some will even stockpile food keeping it long after it has expired, long after it is completely spoiled, and so these counselors come into their homes and try to help the subjects work through their attachment issues. And you can see the difficulty, the struggle, and the inner turmoil these people are facing with their inability to let go of anything.
Today, I would like to suggest that some of us are hoarders. Maybe you’re a money hoarder, relationship hoarder, situational hoarder, but whatever it is we selfishly and stubbornly cling to whatever we think will bring us joy and refuse to let go or give back to anyone else. We take and take, always looking for “what’s in it for me?” Yet in Philippians chapter 2, the apostle Paul shows us a completely different way to experience joy. We’re going to see him talk about what our attitude is and how when we change our perspective it gives us a different way of thinking and we can experience the fullness of joy in life. In Philippians chapter 2, Paul says this:
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if you have any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with His 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.” (Philippians 2:1-2)
Now Paul says, “Make my joy complete” because he’s saying, “I’ve been your pastor, your teacher, your spiritual leader; I’ve poured my life into you and nothing makes me happier than to know that you’re doing well, that you’re living the life God called you to live, and when you live together in unity, I’m filled with joy because it indicates to me that your spiritual life is right on target.” You see, his whole reason for living, was to build others up, to encourage them so that they would come to trust Christ, becoming fully devoted disciples of Jesus. That’s why in Galatians chapter 4 he said:
“My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, how I wish I could be with you…” (Galatians 4:19-20).
What he’s saying is that, “I struggled to bring the gospel to you, so you could be saved, and now I am struggling again, like childbirth, to help you become mature in your faith.” You see, that’s what was most important to Paul: to help them, to encourage them, building them up, and seeing them doing well. So number one, he encouraged them to change the way they think and to be like-minded.
He said, “make my joy complete by being like-minded...” You see, Paul knew that the way you think determines what you become. In fact, one of the things that I’ve heard repeatedly in church leadership conferences is don’t copy what other churches are doing, because you don’t have the same gifts, the same talents, and the same calling; but what you want to do is find out how they think, discover what influences them, and try to understand the thought processes in their minds. If you can begin to think like they think in your own demographic, with your own resources, you can successfully apply those things to what God has called you to do in your own ministry.
But let me ask you a question. Let’s bring this home and make it personal. How would you finish this sentence? “Make my joy complete by…” What? What would you say?
“Make my joy complete by… doing this project for me… sending me some money…. buying me something…. giving me more recognition… making my life easier?” What is it that will make your joy complete? Paul says it could be seeing those around you doing well, seeing them living well, seeing them getting along, seeing them growing in Christ and experiencing the fullness of the Holy Spirit. And the reason this makes your joy complete is because you know you played a part in making it happen. You know that you had some influence in the lives of these people.
And so Paul’s attitude was: When I see you walking with the Lord I’m filled with joy, because I know that I did what God called me to do. And I can tell you that one of the things that make my joy complete is seeing my son, Matt, and my daughter, Megan, serving Christ. One of the things that makes my joy complete is seeing young people like Brandon, whom I baptized many years ago, now serving the Lord. One of the things that makes my joy complete is seeing my brothers and sisters in the Lord studying, serving, and even preparing to enter the ministry.
I could go on and on, but you get my point. If you want to experience the fullness of joy in your life start looking at your life in terms of the good you’ve accomplished in others. Start living your life with the goal of being a positive eternal influence in other people’s lives. Finding ways to help them experience a closer walk with Christ; helping to encourage them, building them up in their faith, so that they’re united with Christ, comforted by his love, in fellowship with his Spirit, and one in Spirit and purpose.
You see, for Paul everything was about Jesus. And he didn’t just want them to think like each other but he wanted them to think like Christ, that Jesus would be the common strand. In 1 Corinthians chapter 2, he goes as far as to say, “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). And this is so important, because if you think like Jesus thought, you’ll live like Jesus lived. So number two, your attitude, the way you think, affects the way you act, and you’ll be one in Spirit and purpose. That is God’s desire for you.
You see, Paul knew that if you have the mind of Christ, if you think like Jesus thought, if you’re empowered by the Spirit of God, you can actually live like Jesus lived. The apostle John said this exact same thing, first John chapter 2,
“This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did” (1 John 2:5-6).
Now we know from the Gospels that Jesus thought about pleasing God the Father and loving people. Once he was asked, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?" And in Mark chapter 12 he said,
"The most important one is this… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Mark 12:28-31).
The principle that Paul was teaching, is that Jesus was all about pleasing God and loving people. If you’ll be like-minded, if you refuse to think like the world thinks, you’ll be one in Spirit and purpose, you’ll be transformed by the renewing of your mind, thinking and living like Jesus. And so Paul tells us in Philippians chapter 2, at verse three, therefore…
“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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5).
He says your attitude, the way you think, affects the way you act. Your attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. It can change the course of your life, but notice that Paul didn’t just say have a positive attitude, but that he said you should have a Christ-like attitude. Look at verse five and following,
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Philippians 2:5-7).
Now we’re all accustomed to having a worldly attitude, because we live in the world. But this is a totally different way of thinking. No longer is it about promoting ourselves, improving our game, having more Facebook friends, or Twitter followers; this is a paradigm shift, because the Kingdom of God has a totally different way of thinking. Jesus who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. This is important, because equality with God is not something that we should desire to grasp either.
Jesus said it this way, “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:15-16). But if you remember that's exactly what the fallen angel Lucifer sought in Isaiah chapter 14, he said, "I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). And when he came into the garden to tempt Adam and Eve he said, “When you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God…” (Genesis 3:5). The temptation was that you can be like God, but both Paul and Jesus knew that equality with God the Father is not something to be grasped. Life is not about self-promotion, but the relinquishing of self, being one in Spirit and purpose, and living in the fear of the Lord.
Jesus said it this way, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25). So we lose our life in Christ, to find Christ's life in us. Therefore our attitude should be the same as he who made himself nothing, Jesus, who being in very nature God. John’s gospel tells us that he was in the beginning, he was with God, and he was God (John 1:1). But Jesus gave up the glory of heaven, he stripped himself of everything to become a servant to those who’d sinned against him. Though he had every right to be worshiped, even though God had put all things under his power, he would kneel and wash the feet of the lowest of the low, making himself as nothing.
Now I want to make sure that you get this, because the Holy Spirit is trying to say to us today, that as long as you don’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, as long as you’re nothing, God can make something out of you. But when you start thinking of yourselves as something, when you start thinking of yourself more highly than you ought, that’s when you’re at risk of missing God’s calling for your life. You see, Jesus made himself nothing, giving up the glory of heaven and the praise of angels for a time, because he had a different perspective. He didn’t come to promote himself. Matthew chapter 20 tells us, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Therefore, it’s all about you and I saying, “My life is not my own, I’ve been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and my life is now all about him who made himself nothing, and number three, the one who took “the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:7).
Now I want you to notice that is exactly the way Paul introduced himself in the beginning of this letter, “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ…” (Philippians 1:1). You see, he didn’t introduce himself as the Apostle, he didn’t give his credentials, he just said, “I am a servant of God and I’m here to serve you.” Paul was devoted to doing the will of his master Jesus Christ, Jesus who made himself nothing so that he could become a servant and that is the attitude that we should have as well.
If we could start to see ourselves as servants, like Paul and Timothy did, if we could just see ourselves as Christ saw himself, if we could have any encouragement from being united with him, any comfort from his love, any fellowship with the Spirit, any tenderness and compassion, being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose, in humility considering others better than ourselves, and having the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus it would transform not only our lives, but our world!
You see, a servant is not what we do, a servant is who we are, and God has called us to represent Jesus everywhere in this world. It’s a totally different way of looking at things. Our perspective needs to be drastically changed, because it’s not just an expression, it’s an overflow of who we are in Christ. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Matthew 20:28) and verses 8 through 11 tell us how he served:
“Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:8-11).
That’s what Jesus did, and our attitude should be the same. He didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant. He was totally devoted to the will of his Father.
Now remember, Paul is writing this letter to the Philippians from prison. He doesn’t know what the future holds, and there’s the chance that he’ll give his life, that he’ll be executed for the sake of the gospel. And so Paul has two options:
First, he could dwell on what might’ve been, the life he could’ve had. You know, an easy life with a 9 to 5 job, a wife and kids, maybe a couple pets. He could’ve thought about the success he might’ve had with the money he could’ve made.
Or the second option, he could look at his life in the perspective of eternity, in terms of heavenly rewards, and what he’s accomplished that will last forever. Paul chose the joy of serving Christ, knowing the joy of self-sacrifice, and said in Philippians chapter 1, “To live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
As we close, I’d like you to consider how Paul who was chained 24 hours a day to a Roman guard could say, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18). You see, you can be sure that there will be times when you’ll be called upon to make sacrifices in your life. Maybe sacrifices at work, sacrifices in your relationships, even sacrifices in your walk with God. There will be times when you’re asked to give only so that others can reap the benefits. And you can choose to find resentment in this fact or you can find joy in it. I encourage you, to look at how your life, your actions, and your work benefits others and take joy in the good that you’re able to accomplish for others in Jesus name.
Paul said it this way in Philippians chapter 3:
“I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:8).
You might wonder, “How could he say that?”. Well, if you begin thinking like Jesus thought, you can begin living like Jesus lived; and it’s really a change of perspective, adopting a different attitude, and saying that it’s not about me, but it’s all about Him. About Jesus who said, “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve…” (Mark 10:45).
You see, there are all of these reasons that Paul, you, or I could be miserable, like I don’t have this, or this isn’t fair, I wish this were different, why didn’t God do this, I deserve more than this, and on and on and on. You know, how can we be happy in a world this bad? How can I be joyful when life isn't playing out the way I expected?
And Paul gives us the answer saying, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12). My joy is not based upon what happens to me, my joy is not found in my circumstances, but what God is doing in me and through me for eternity. It’s a change of perspective and that’s why Paul could say in chains, even knowing that they might execute him, in verse 17:
“Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you” (Philippians 2:17).
Paul says, “I’m glad, because it’s not about me, it’s all about Jesus. I’ll gladly lose my life to find it. My joy is found in who he is and what he’s doing in me and through me. Therefore, you can lock me up, but you can’t shut me up, because I’m here to glorify Jesus and I’m not going to stop until the day I die.”
You see, Paul discovered that the life that will bring you joy, contentment, and fulfillment, is a life in service to others, it’s a life with a kingdom perspective. Jesus said, the path to lasting joy is a path less traveled. In Matthew 7:14 he said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” Which means you won’t encounter much competition along the way, but what you will encounter is a peace that surpasses all understanding and unspeakable joy.
I encourage you today to measure your life by what you’re able to do for others and those things that will last forever!
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
November 20, 2016
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Preaching Library, and PC Study Bible.
Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.