Scott McIvey, associate pastor
Northside Baptist Church, Brunswick
The mission of the church can be encapsulated in two words – make disciples. A word sometimes used instead of “disciple” is the word “follower.” A true disciple is a follower of Jesus. In Luke 9:23, Jesus reveals four steps necessary for you to be a Christ follower.
First, you must desire to follow Christ. God can give you this desire (Philippians 2:13). Next, you must deny yourself. As you choose to do so, you will discover you are your biggest obstacle.
The third step centers on the only means whereby you can deny yourself. It is death. You must take up your cross and join Christ in crucifixion (Galatians 2:20). The final step is determination. As you follow Christ, you can do so with love, purpose, and humility by following the example of Christ.
Follow with love and purpose – Philippians 2:1-2
When someone wants you to do something, they usually make the request followed by the reasons. In this case, Paul begins with the reasons followed by two requests.
Paul’s first reason for his request is because of our resources in Christ. In verse 1, the word “if” can be translated as “since.” Paul alludes to five things made available to us in Christ. In Christ we have encouragement, consolation of love, fellowship with the Spirit, and affection and mercy. Each of these five things proves essential to the fulfilling of Paul’s request and are essential to following Christ with love and purpose.
The other reason for Paul’s request was based on the Philippians’ relationship to Paul. Paul asked them to yield to his request in order to fulfill his joy. Nothing gave Paul more joy than for the Philippians to follow Christ together. To follow Christ in this manner required a shared passion and a shared purpose.
First, Paul asks the Philippians to have a shared passion. This shared passion is born out of three things. It begins when people think the same way. Everyone has their own opinion. So, how can you come to a consensus with other Christians? The only way is for you to have the mind of Christ on any given matter. Paul reminded the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 2:16) that Christians have the mind of Christ. Christ’s thinking always coincides with His word.
To have a shared passion, you must also have the same love for one another Christ has for you. It is an unconditional love that is humble, forgives, and serves. A final characteristic of those with a shared passion is that they have the same feelings. The word used to describe people who have the same feelings is literally translated as a “shared soul.” As you worship, pray, fellowship, witness, and serve together with other Christians, the Holy Spirit knits your souls together. You truly have a shared soul.
Paul’s second request is that the Philippians would have a shared purpose. Paul wanted them to focus on the goal revealed in chapter 1, that as a follower of Christ, they would live a life worthy of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27). This kind of living occurs only when it is done so on purpose. This only occurs in people who have the right attitude, that of humility.
Follow with humility – Philippians 2:3-4
Paul tells the Philippians that to be humble it takes rigid determination and the right demeanor. The Philippians were directed to exercise rigid determination not to do anything motivated by egotistical competitiveness or empty conceit. This was the competitiveness Paul alluded to in the previous chapter (Philippians 1:17). Since competitiveness can result in conceit and conceit can lead to competitiveness, the Philippians were to avoid both. The key to being humble is to purposely humble yourself before God.
Humility also requires the right demeanor, a demeanor that considers others as more important than oneself. Christians are to treat others in a way that demonstrates they are important to God and important to them. You are to treat others as you would have them treat you (Luke 6:31).
A second characteristic of lowliness is concern for others. You are to be concerned for the good of others over your own good (See also 1 Corinthians 10:24).
To help the Philippians better understand what he was talking about, Paul gave them an example of a person with true humility, Christ Jesus.
Follow the example of Jesus – Philippians 2:5-11
Christ began by making an honest evaluation of Himself. He was not insecure. He knew He was God. However, He did not take advantage of His position in the way He lived His life and interacted with others.
We are to make the same personal evaluation. We are at one and the same time, a saved sinner and a sanctified saint. We are to be secure in our relationship to Christ. We are chosen, forgiven, saved, adopted, joint-heirs, etc. and nothing can change that.
Christ’s honest evaluation followed a humble emptying. He emptied Himself of immortality and the right to act as God, becoming incarnate. He humbled himself by becoming a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult. He humbled Himself by being a servant, submissive and a sacrifice. Likewise, we are to humble ourselves as a lowly servant and a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1).
As a result of this emptying, Christ had an honorable exaltation. In principle, humility always precedes exaltation (Matthew 23:12; 1 Peter 5:6; James 4:10). The purpose of your exaltation is the same as it was with Christ. It is to glorify the Father. As you follow Christ’s example through the work and power of the Holy Spirit, you will do so in love and humility.