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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Joy of Unity in Christ

Pastor Shim's message from February 6, 2011
Philippians 2:1-11
“Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it”
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned. Not to each other. But to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers meeting together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.” - A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God
Paul instructed the Philippians church to follow Christ as a standard by which they tune up their attitudes. Paul said. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." What does Christ’s attitude look like? Matthew 11:29-30 tells us, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Then Paul reminded the Philippians church of all the benefits they would have in following Christ’s humility as an example in order to have unity and positively affect each other and their society. What Paul said to the Philippians is applicable to us today since we are the followers of the same Lord as our standard of conduct. Now let us examine verses 1-5.
1) Our unity in Christ will result in positive benefits.
Mutual encouragement in Christ: Paul tells us to encourage each other in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. Hebrews 10:25 tells us how to encourage each other. “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.”
Mutual comfort in Christ: Paul told the Philippians to comfort each other in the love of Christ. Romans 5:5 tells us that as Christians we have enough love to go around because “God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” What does love look like in practice? Love's actions are all positive (1 Corinthians 13:4-8): Love is patient, love always protects, love is kind, love always trusts, love rejoices in truth, love always hopes, love always perseveres, love builds up and holds together. The opposite of love is indifferent, destructive, disloyal, self-centered, and leads to disunity or to continual fault finding. The way to check our heart’s attitude is by following Jesus’ laws of love as in Mark 12:30-31, “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. There is no commandment greater than these.” Love is the fulfillment of the laws. Where there is love, fellowship centers on Christ. Without Christ no unity lasts.
Fellowship in Christ: The basis of fellowship is the Spirit of Christ, yielding to him is the secret of mutual blessings. The four benefits of gathering together , Acts 2:42: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to breaking of bread and to prayer. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” As church and a family, let’s make our best effort to follow the example of the first church to spend time together. We sadly observe today's family fragmented in many instances. For example, a while back, a family was featured on TV: at meal time, they would take their food and go to their individual rooms to watch TV, or to call friends, or to text friends, or to play games. When they were challenged to give up all those activities for one week to spend time together as a family, they acted like it was a prison sentence. However, when they agreed to give up the TV, the phone, the cell phone, etc., they were surprised by the joy and love they discovered. Spending time together helps us to learn about each other's need and to show tenderness and compassion.
Tenderness and compassion—Paul told the Philippians church to practice these graces. How do we show tenderness and compassion? By following the Golden Rule, “to treat others the way we want to be treated.” It’s proactive, or as James 2:8 puts it, “If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right.” Jesus told a story about being a good neighbor in Luke 10:33-35, “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’”
2. Our four acts of kindness will lead us to fullness of Joy, Philippians 2:2-4, “...then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (likemindedness, the same love for all, one in spirit and purpose, valuing others above yourselves.)
Likemindedness, same love, one spirit and purpose. This is not a call for conformity in thoughts but Christ-like attitude in order to work together in unity. If we have divided minds about knowing or doing God’s will, we cannot in faith pray effectually. A divided mind hinders us from trusting God, and He will not answer faithless prayer, James 1:8: “That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” Unity of purpose in Christ is the way to avoid being double minded and ineffective, which leads to disfunctionality at home, at church, and in a society.
Let’s stand together looking to Jesus as Hebrews 12:2 says: “...fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
The fourth point list in our text (value others above yourselves) might be difficult to practice. When you hear the instruction to value someone above yourselves, what emotion rises up within you—a putdown of self? We are told again and again about self esteem. Putting others ahead of ourselves goes against everything we have been told by our society, but Paul’s advice to us (as it was to the Philippians) is this: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the other.” Paul lived his advice as his master Jesus Christ modeled it when He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:4-5), “so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”
As Jesus’ followers, we’re called to follow his example to honor others even if we have different views. “Although George Whitfield disagreed with John Wesley on some theological matters, he was careful not to create problems in public that could be used to hinder the preaching of the gospel. When someone asked Whitfield if he thought he would see Wesley in heaven, Whitfield replied, ‘Fear not, for he will be so near the eternal throne and we at such a distance, we shall hardly get sight of him.’” - W. Wiersbe
In the above example, we see George Whitfield’s Christ-like attitude of putting his friend John Wesley above himself, even though they disagreed in theology. They held each other in the highest esteem because they weren’t in love with themselves.
A recent news release told of a Charlotte, North Carolina, woman who set a world record while playing a convenience store video game. After standing in front of the game for fourteen hours and scoring an unprecedented 7.5 million points on the game called 'rapper, the woman was pleased to see a TV crew arriving to record her efforts for posterity. She continued to play while the crew, alerted by her fiancé, prepared to shoot. However, she was appalled to see the video screen suddenly go blank. While setting up their lights, the camera team had accidentally unplugged the game, thus bringing her bid for 10 million points to an untimely end. The effort to publicize her achievement became the agent of her ultimate failure.
The cure for selfish ambition or vain conceit is to adopt Paul's advice, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests others.”
3. Jesus Christ is our ultimate example of humility, which is the basis of all unity. Our Lord lived a humble life to fulfill his Father’s purpose and died on the cross to cure the sin problem, but God raised him up and gave him the highest honor possible. St. Paul magnificently captures Jesus’ descent from glory to earth where sin and pain wreaked havoc on God’s children. Jesus came as God’s cure to humanity. Turn to Philippians 2:5-11 and read this most glorious poem or hymn together: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, Who, being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming 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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity. - Psalm 133:1
Willows United Methodist Church
544 N. Shasta Street
Willows, CA 95988
Pastor Shim Habte
God wants to bless you and wants to make you his agent of blessing. Amen!
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