Monday, April 23, 2007

Philippians 2:1-4

One of the things that I have learned from being, and around athletes is the importance of coming together for a common goal. If you want to win, team unity is essential. You can have the most talented athletes and the best coaches, but if the team doesn’t work together you will not win. One person cannot do it all. It’s a team effort and requires everyone to pull together. We've all heard the adage there's no I in team . . .

The same is true for Christians. Our effectiveness is determined by inner qualities, not outward abilities. God is not impressed by how smart you are, how talented you are, by how much knowledge of the Bible you have, or by how well you can sing or play an instrument. What God is after is a heart that loves Him completely. God is looking at whether the character of Christ is being formed inside of us. Are we becoming more like Christ? Are we right on the inside?

One of the ways you can tell whether you’re right on the inside is by asking yourself if you pull together with other Christians. Are you looking for ways to work together or things over which you can disagree? Do you find yourself giving encouragement or tearing down? Are you hard to get along with? Do people have to bend over backwards to please you? Do you generally think the best or worst of people? These are important questions to ask ourselves. The answers to them will reveal what’s going on inside.

Have you ever wondered why the cults are so effective? In many cases, the message they are preaching is far more difficult to believe than biblical Christianity. The one thing that they have that makes all the difference in the world is their unity. They are uncompromisingly united. They pull together and have a shared vision, a common goal, and a singular purpose. They go after their goal with every ounce of their being. I believe that this is why they are so successful. This kind of unity is very attractive. Would you rather hang out with a bunch of kids who are always fighting or a group of kids who do fun stuff together and have a blast?

Paul gives us five insturctions for coming together in unity in Philippians 2:1-4:

You could easily change the "if" to "since" in order to convey the true meaning of v. 1. Paul was reminding them what they had received because of their relationship to Jesus. They had received encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness, and compassion. And so have we! Every Christian has received these things because they are the benefits that come from knowing Jesus. We have been shown tenderness and compassion. God has given us His mercy when we deserve his judgment.
Remembering what we have received in Jesus gives us perspective. We have been blessed way beyond what we deserve. Therefore, we should be thankful. We should be grateful for all that God has done for us. God’s blessings should replace a negative spirit with a positive one. So the first thing we need to do is remember the many blessings we have received in Christ.

Paul reminded them what they had received in Christ, he went on to say v. 2 This is a call to unity. We’re called to be like-minded, to have the same love, to be one in spirit, and one in purpose. So now you ask yourself if it is really possible that we "all speak the same thing," and that we can be "perfectly united" in our "opinions" and "judgments?" As Christians, our opinions ought to be subservient to Christ’s opinion, and so we ought to be seeking to find out what is God’s opinion and conform our opinions to His. Our unity is a testimony to the fact that God sent Jesus into the world. In other words, if we want people to believe that the Father sent the Son, we need to demonstrate our unity to them. This kind of unity must be worked for, chosen, and purposefully undertaken. I do not believe that this kind of unity simply happens. This kind of unity must be a decision of the will. This is precisely why it is a command.

The enemy of unity is the enemy within each of us. In other words, we can be the worst enemy of what God is trying to do to bring us together. Our own selfishness can derail the activity of God in our midst. Selfishness is at the root of every sin. Selfishness deals with "what I want" and "my opinion." At its core, selfishness is the antithesis of what God is. God’s love is selfless and other centered. So, if we would like to be like Christ, we must resist every selfish attitude and action. (See "What's in it for me" blog-post)

Here is a command that has the power to deliver us from attitudes of selfishness and pride. It is a command that goes against every sinful nature we have. You might even think this is a command that is impossible to keep. It may be an impossible command to keep in our own strength, but Jesus can give us the strength to keep the command. Remember, God never gives us a command that he is not committed to give us the power to keep. God’s commands are not a demand upon us, but rather a demand upon the God who gave the command. To do this properly we need the quality of humility. Humility is the ability to see ourselves as we really are before God. Humility informs us that we are no better than anyone else. Humility enables us to look outward toward others. Humility puts us in a position where God can lift us up. Our hearts will only become humble if we bow before the living God to acknowledge Him as Lord over our lives and as we surrender to His will. When our hearts are right before God, we will be able to see others from His perspective.

A natural result of regarding others as more important than we are is the ability and the desire to focus on their needs. The mark of a true Christian is that we are to genuinely love one another. If we do, we will care about the welfare of one another, and we will want to do what we can to stimulate one another to trust the Lord and follow Him. The example of Jesus should be what drives us to serve others. He did not come to serve himself. He came to serve others.

Don't get caught up in the, "if I look out for the needs of others, who is going to look out for me?" game. God will look out for you, and he may even use some of the people we help to do it.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Identified in Christ's Death

Romans 6:5-7. There is a sense where we are identified with Christ in his death - as he has died so we die to sin.

There is a legal identification of the sinner with Jesus in his death and resurrection. Because of Jesus' death on our behalf, we are viewed by God as if we ourselves died in the death of Jesus where he suffers the full penalty for our sin. The punishment for our sin rests on Christ and is dispensed with through the sacrificial offering of his own body. Thus, we die to the legal consequences of sin.

Just as Jesus was crucified on the cross, so our old self must be crucified and put to death. The old self is not the ability to sin because that remains no matter what. It does not eradicate the carnal nature of man either, for the Christian continues to war against his carnal nature as you can read in Galatians 5:16-17. What is put to death is the dominion and control that the sinful nature has over us.

I’ll digress a bit. When we are saved, sin and Satan's control over us is destroyed. Since the dominion of sin over us is lost in our death with Christ, we should treat sin itself as dead. Sin can no longer dictate to us or control us. We can overcome temptations and ignore sin's power. Although we can sin if we desire, we should not submit to sin but treat it as though it no longer exists. I heard in a sermon just today that referenced Matthew 3:13 - 4:11. The pastor showed that immediately after Jesus was baptized, that he was sent to the wilderness to be tempted three different ways by Satan. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that Jesus was tempted in three ways that can directly relate to every type of temptation we face.

We first apply the death of Jesus to our lives when we exercise enough faith to repent from our sins. So in essence we do die to our sins but it is a two-fold death to sin so to speak. We die to the world (sin) but also to the actual sin itself.

Now you have to also look at the fact we identify with Christ through His death AND resurrection. You cannot have one without the other. Identifying with Christ through His resurrection means that our identification with Jesus was not limited to our death with Him. We are actually in Christ. Whatever happened to Jesus happened to us, because we are in Him. Romans 6:5-6 shows that we were also buried and resurrected in the Lord.

This just touches on the question posed, but I hope that it inspires you to study deeper into Romans chapter 6 and really reflect on each verse. A lot of Paul’s writings discuss this issue and I invite you to find them and report back…

We can make this passage of Romans a continuing blog after Philippians 2, if you guys would like. Just let me know. You can always email me at:

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Carmen Christi (Philippians 2:5-11)

Philippians 2:5-11 is commonly known as "The Carmen Christi" or "The Hymn of Christ." It has been treated as a Carmen Christi, a Christological ode, devoted to the praise of the Lord and hailing Him in confession and worship as Jesus." This 'hymn of Christ' details the basic doctrines of Christianity concerning Jesus. The doctrines addressed include the preexistence of Christ, His deity, His equality with God the Father, His incarnation, His voluntary death, His exaltation by the Father, and His ultimate triumph over evil.

The example of Jesus is set before us. We must resemble him in his life, if we are to have the benefit of his death. There are two natures of Christ of this passage; his Divine nature, and human nature. Who being in the form of God, partaking the Divine nature, as the eternal and only-begotten Son of God, had not thought it a robbery to be equal with God, and to receive Divine worship from men. His human nature; here he became like us in all things except sin. Thus low (a servant), of his own will, he stooped from the glory he had with the Father before the world was. Christ's two states, of humiliation and exaltation, are presented. Christ not only took upon him the likeness and fashion, or form of a man, but of one in a low state; not appearing in splendour. His whole life was a life of poverty and suffering. But the lowest step was his dying the death of the cross, the death of a malefactor and a slave; exposed to public hatred and scorn. The exaltation was of Christ's human nature, in union with the Divine. Here we see such motives to self-denying love as nothing else can supply.

We should all realize this example of servanthood and Christlikeness. How much better would your life be if you took the focus off of you and placed it on others? How can we hate or be bitter and spiteful if we "love our neighbor?" It is my hope that all of you can grasp the fulfillment of serving others. The reward is greater than any selfish act could ever provide.