AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW – Philippians 2:5-8

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INTRODUCTION:

In Philippians 2:1-4 we studied what it means to be humble, to put others first, to look out for the interests and needs of others. We learned that true satisfaction and joy come from loving others and being unselfish toward others. Remember the motto that Dwight L. Moody gave to a graduating class at Moody Bible College? “Do all the good you can to all the people you can in all the ways you can for as long as you can.”

How do you teach humility? The only way is by example. This next passage of Scripture, Philippians 2:5-8, is one of the most profound and amazing passages of Scripture in the whole Bible. The apostle Paul uses the perfect illustration of humility – Jesus Christ Himself. Paul says in verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” Our attitude should be the same as Jesus Christ’s because our attitude determines our actions. If our attitude is selfish, our actions are going to be selfish and destructive. In reviewing what the Son of God did to become the Son of man, we should be reminded that one who suffers little does not groan in the presence of one who suffers much. For instance, would it be appropriate to complain bitterly about chapped hands while visiting a person who recently had one of his hands amputated? Or what sensitive citizen would complain about having to pay taxes while standing at the graveside of one who had given his life for his country? When we think about the birth, life, and death of Christ, all our problems and inconveniences become insignificant.

I. HE THOUGHT OF OTHERS (verses 5-6)

Following Jesus’ example means humbly serving others. Verse 6 takes us back to eternity past. The phrase “form of God” has nothing to do with shape or size. God is spirit. The word “form” refers to Jesus’ inward nature. It means that in eternity past, Jesus Christ was God. But Jesus didn’t consider His equality with God as “something to hang on to.” Jesus didn’t think of Himself. He thought of others. Jesus’ attitude was: I can’t keep my privileges to myself. I must use them for others, and I’ll gladly pay whatever price is necessary. What a contrast to Lucifer. Most Bible scholars believe that Lucifer and Satan are the same person. Lucifer was the highest of the angels and was close to the throne of God, but he wanted to be “on” the throne of God. His pride cost him his place in heaven and he was cast into hell, along with his followers.

II. HE SERVED (verse 7)

In verse 7 Paul traces the steps in the humiliation of Christ. First. He emptied Himself, laying aside His majesty, and the independent use of His attributes as God. Secondly, He permanently became a human, in a sinless physical body. Thirdly, He used that body to be a servant. And fourthly, He took that body to the cross and willingly died. Have you noticed that as you read the four Gospels that it is Jesus who served others, not others who served Him, with only a couple of exceptions?

III. HE SACRIFICED (verse 8)

Have you ever talked to or heard about people who thought that they had finally achieved humility? One man wrote a book entitled “Humility and How I Attained It”. When a person thinks he has attained humility, he is actually far from it. Our desire and prayer should not be “Lord, keep me humble”, but “Lord, make me humble”.

Jesus chose the way He would come to this earth, and He chose a lowly birth. He was born in a stable. He chose lowly parents. His step-father, Joseph, was a lowly carpenter. He chose to be very plain looking. Isaiah 53:2 says, “He has no stately form or majesty, that we should look upon Him.” He chose to have no status or reputation. In Luke 22:27 Jesus said, “I am among you as one who serves”. He chose to have no abilities. In John 5:30 Jesus said, “I can of mine own self do nothing”. He chose not to be independent. In Luke 22:42 Jesus said, “I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me”. No wonder the apostle Paul encourages us to be like Christ.

The word “servant” in verse 7 is the Greek word “doulos”, which means “slave”. Under Roman law, a slave was greatly humiliated. A slave had no rights and no justice. A slave could be bought and sold, and could be tortured to the extreme. That description of a slave also describes the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Many people are willing to serve others if it doesn’t cost them anything. But if there is a price to pay, they suddenly lose interest. Jesus, however, “became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Ministry that costs nothing accomplishes nothing. The person with a submissive mind does not avoid sacrifice. He lives for the glory of God and for the good of others. If paying the price will honor Christ and help others, he is willing to do it. A man by the name of Douglas Hyde was a communist for 20 years. In his book, “Dedication and Leadership” he says that communists never ask a person to do a small task. They always ask him to do something that will cost him. They make big demands, and they get a willing response. The “willingness to sacrifice” is one of the most important factors in the success of the communist movement. Even the young people in the movement are expected to study, serve, give, and obey, and that is what attracts them and keeps them going.

A church board met with their youth group as they planned the annual “youth Sunday program”, and one of the board members suggested that the teenagers could serve as ushers, lead in prayer, and bring special music. One of the teens stood up and said, “quite frankly, we’re tired of being asked to do little things. We’d like to do something different this year, and maybe keep it going all year long. We’ve talked and prayed about this, and we’d like to work with our trustees in remodeling that basement room so it can be used as a classroom, and we’d like to start visiting our elderly members each week and taking them cassettes of the services. And, if it’s OK we’d like to have a weekly witness on Sunday afternoons in the park. We hope this will be OK with you.” He sat down, and the new youth pastor smiled to himself. He had privately challenged these teenagers to do something that would cost them, and they enthusiastically responded to the challenge. He knew that sacrifice is necessary if there is going to be true growth and ministry.

The test of a submissive mind is not just how much we are willing to take in terms of suffering, but how much we are willing to give in terms of sacrifice. And in the Christian life, the more we give, the more we receive; the more we sacrifice, the more God blesses. The result is an inner joy. As we share in Christ’s sufferings we also share in His joy. Is it costing you anything to be a Christian?

CONCERN FOR OTHERS – Philippians 2:1-4

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INTRODUCTION:

In Philippians, chapter 1, we learned how to have joy in spite of circumstances in our lives. The secret is to have a single mind, putting Christ first in our lives and serving Him with all our hearts. In chapter 2, the apostle Paul tells us how to have joy in spite of people. The secret is to have a submissive mind, putting others second in our lives. In verses 1 and 2 of chapter 2, Paul gives the members of the church at Philippi something to think about, and then challenges them in verses 3 and 4.

I. THE REMINDER (verse 1)

The word “if” in verse 1 would be better translated as “because” or “since”.
Paul’s words in verse l are not expressions of uncertainty but statements of fact. Let’s ask ourselves if his statements are true in our lives. “Is there any encouragement in Christ?” Has Jesus Christ ever encouraged you to find solutions instead of taking sides? Has He encouraged you to be patient with others as He is with you? Has He ever encouraged you to be at peace with others and resolve your differences? “Is there any consolation in love?” Have you ever received comfort from God’s love for you, or your love for God, or from the love of other Christians? “Is there any fellowship of the Spirit?” Have you ever experienced a sense of oneness with God and with other Christians? “Is there any affection and compassion?” Has God, or have other Christians ever let you know how much you mean to them, and helped you when you’ve been down?

II. THE CHALLENGE (verse 2)
If so, Paul says, “make my joy complete” by being the same way yourselves, having the same love for others, the same oneness with other believers, and the same desire to help meet the needs of others.” Paul is already joyous and thankful for what he hears about the church at Philippi: their faithfulness to God’s Word, the certainty of their salvation, and their efforts to proclaim the Gospel. Now, Paul is saying, “what would make my joy complete” would be for them to humbly work together in unity to accomplish God’s goals for them. This topic of unity is so important that the apostle Paul brings it up in every one of his epistles to the Churches. This is because unity is so hard to develop and maintain.

III. PUTTING OTHERS FIRST (verse 3)

In verse 3 Paul hits on the problem. We live in a selfish society. Here’s a true example of selfishness. A farmer who was single decided that he wanted a wife. So he put an ad in the newspaper that read: “Man 35 wants woman about 25 with tractor. Send picture of tractor.”

The person who lets others go first is often considered to be weak. But if you forget yourself for the sake of others, others will not forget you, and your life will be filled with joy.

A rich baker sent for 20 of the poorest children in his town and said to them, “In this basket is a loaf of bread for each of you. Take one and come back every day and I’ll give you more.” Immediately the youngsters began quarreling about who would get the largest loaf. Snatching from the basket, they left without even thanking the baker. Gretchen, a poorly dressed little girl, patiently waited until the others had left. She then took the smallest loaf which remained in the basket, kissed the old man’s hand, and went home.
The next day the scene was repeated. But when Gretchen’s mother sliced this loaf, she found many shiny silver coins inside. When Gretchen took the money back to the baker, he said, “No, my child, it was not a mistake. I put them into the smallest loaf to reward you.” Are we willing to be unselfish for Jesus’ sake? Dwight L. Moody was a well-known pastor, evangelist, and founder of a Bible college which is now called Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He gave this motto to one of the graduating classes: “Do all the good you can, to all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.” What a wonderful reminder of how you and I can demonstrate our concern for others! Say that motto over again several times until you can quote it for memory. Then say it to yourself each morning, and ask God to give the ability to put it into practice with a spirit of joy. Each evening thank God for the ways He used you that day, and pray for the
individuals you had the privilege of serving.

IV. LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS (verse 4)

Verse 4 tells us that there is a balance. God does not want us to neglect our own needs, nor does He want us to become a “doormat” for others to walk on and take advantage of. But Paul says, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Loving others can set us free from our own selfishness.

A mother took her young daughter shopping one day and grumbled about a disabled beggar who was partially blocking the sidewalk. He was sitting on a street corner trying to earn a few pennies selling pencils. “Mommy, let’s give that poor man something”, pleaded the little girl eagerly. “We’re in a hurry, darling”, replied the mother in a muffled voice. “And besides, he’s none of our business!” Tightening her grip on the child’s hand, she hastened past the beggar and went on to purchase two new hats she really didn’t need.
That night the youngster said her prayers as usual while her mother listened.
After repeating her “Now I lay me down to sleep”, she suddenly exclaimed, “Dear Jesus, please help that poor man we saw on the street today!” There was a short pause. Then she said, “Oh, I’m sorry, Jesus, I forgot. Mommy said ‘he’s none of our business’!” Convicted by her daughter’s words, the mother hung her head in shame.

Dr. Karl Menninger, the well-known psychiatrist, was asked at a forum what to do if one felt a nervous breakdown coming on. You would expect him to say, “See a psychiatrist”. Instead, he replied, “Lock up your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need, and do something for him.” That was good scriptural advice.

Let’s live unselfishly today, so that as we close our eyes in sleep tonight we can do so with the satisfaction and joy that comes from looking out for others.

ESSENTIALS FOR VICTORY – Philippians 1:27-30

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INTRODUCTION:  Several years ago a believer in Jesus Christ was walking past a tavern in the city of Philadelphia.  Looking in, he saw a man who claimed to be a Christian drinking and gambling.  He took a pencil and wrote a message on a slip of paper.  Seeing a young man standing near the door, he greeted him and said to him, “Would you do something for me?  Do you see that man over there playing cards?  Would you give him this note?”  The young man agreed to do it.  When the backslidden believer opened the note, he blushed, for it read, “Ye are my witnesses!”  Immediately he got up and left the tavern.  That note was used by the Holy Spirit to bring conviction to his heart.  He realized that he had not been true to Christ.  In the passage of Scripture we are studying today, Philippians 1:27-30, the apostle Paul gives us three essentials for victory as we strive to demonstrate our faith in Christ and in His Word.

I.  CONSISTENCY (1:27a)

The first essential is consistency.  In verse 27 Paul says, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.”  The Greek word translated “conduct yourself” is the word from which we get our word “politics”.  Paul is saying, “behave the way citizens are supposed to behave.”  Speaking to people about the Lord is important because the witness of our lives is not enough to save other people.  It’s the Word of God that contains the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  However, if our words are not backed up by living evidence, our words are empty.  Dr. Daniel Steele says, “All jurists in a court of law will tell you that one bit of authentic evidence is worth 10,000 words of pleading.”  Paul is implying that we Christians are the citizens of heaven, and while we’re on this earth we ought to behave like heaven’s citizens.  This argument of Paul’s was very meaningful to the people in Philippi because Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were actually Roman citizens, protected by Roman law.  Similarly, the church of Jesus Christ is a colony of heaven on earth, and we ought to behave like citizens of heaven.

The word “worthy” means “to be of equal weight”.  Paul is saying, “Make sure your behavior as citizens adds up to, or is consistent with, the gospel message you present.  That’s our challenge today!

While the great French artist Dore was travelling in Southern Europe, he lost his passport.  When he came to the border of a particular country, a border guard asked him to show his papers. ” I’ve lost them”, Dore said, “but you can trust me.  I am Gustav Dore, the artist.  Please let me proceed.”  “Oh no!”, said the officer.  “many have tried to pass themselves off as important people”.  A lengthly conversation  followed, with both parties protesting.  Finally the officer said, “Here is a pencil and paper.  If you are the famous artist, prove it by drawing a picture!”  With a masterful hand Dore quickly sketched some of the features of the surrounding countryside.  “Now I’m perfectly sure of who you are!” exclaimed the officer.  “Only Dore could do that!”

In living the Christian life, an ounce of illustration is worth many pounds of talk.  There’s a well-known poem that goes like this:

You are writing a gospel, a chapter each day,
By the deeds that you do, by the words that you say.
Men read what you write, whether faithless or true.
Say, what is the gospel according to you?

II.  COOPERATION (verse 27b)

The second essential for victory, as we strive to represent Christ and obey His Word, is cooperation.  In the middle of verse 27, Paul speaks of “striving together for the faith of the gospel”.  The words “striving together” were used to refer to the teamwork of athletes. The key word is “together”.  The local body of believers is to be like a team of athletes.  Each of us has an assigned place and job, and if each one is doing his job, it helps all the others.  Not everyone can be captain or quarterback.  The team has to follow the rules, and the word of God is our “rule book”.  God doesn’t want any “glory hounds” in His church.  You know, the ones who always want to be in the spotlight and get all the praise.  We are called to be a team, and our goal is to make one Person look good and receive all the praise.  That person is our Lord Jesus Christ.  There is joy in our lives, even as we do battle with our enemy, Satan, if we live for Christ and practice “Christian teamwork”.  Remember, we are members of the same team and should work cooperatively.

III.  CONFIDENCE (verses 28-30)

The third essential for success as we face the enemy is confidence.  The apostle Paul says in verse 28:  “Don’t be alarmed by your opponents”.  This phrase was used by the Greeks to describe a horse shying away from battle.  There’s no reason for us to be afraid.  We are on the winning side because Satan was defeated when Christ died on the cross for our sins.  We have the victory when we trust in Christ’s power.

In verses 29 and 30 Paul gives us several reasons to be confident in the battle.  First, these battles prove that we are saved.  For some reason many Christians have the idea that trusting Christ means the end of their battles.  Actually, it means the beginning of new battles.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”  II Timothy 3:12 says, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

Secondly, the presence of conflict is a privilege.  When we suffer for Christ or with Christ, it is an honor.  Thirdly, others are experiencing the same conflict.  Satan wants us to think that we are alone in the battle, that our difficulties are unique.  But this is not true.  Paul is reminding the Philippians that he’s going through the same difficulties they are experiencing.  Knowing that other believers are also engaged in the battle is an encouragement for us to keep going and to pray for them as well as for ourselves.

We all have our bad days when it seems like our whole world is against us.  Life isn’t always a picnic, is it?  But Paul is saying that he’s had many of those rough days, but he hasn’t let those days rob him of joy. Paul was faithful and persistent, in spite of his obstacles. That’s the kind of attitude Paul is looking for in the Philippians, and God is looking for in each of us.

Do you want to have joy today in spite of the circumstances you’re in, or may be facing?  Remember, you can be confident that you’re a citizen of heaven if Christ is your Savior and Lord, and He wants you to act like one.  Remember, we are all members of the same team, and God wants us to cooperate with each other and be concerned for each other.  Remember, we face the same enemy and need the confidence that only Christ can give us as we depend on Him.  Christianity was never meant to be dull, but exciting!