• Download

Striving Side By Side

Stonebrook Community Church https://www.stonebrook.org

When football teams like the Philadelphia Eagles win, almost without fail the team attributes their success to one crucial thing: They all worked together. Side by side. Not as 55 individuals doing their own thing. But all of them as a family….a unit…a team….pulling together for a common goal. Yes, each individual has to do his job. But the emphasis is the team.
Soldiers in battle are the same way. That’s why they think of themselves as a “Band of Brothers.”

In our Western culture, we Americans think very independently. And we are proud of our independence. Admittedly, some good can come out of that. Really.
I was brought up by my parents to be independent. My personality tends that way, too. But every year that goes by, God is teaching me more about the beauty and glory of “Side by Side.”
I believe in general our society and even we Christians have gone too far away from God’s design. We are made for community. For team. For family.

We are in Week 3 of an 8-week series on a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to a church in the ancient Roman city, Philippi. And in one key statement, Paul shouts, “TOGETHER!”
Philippians 1:27 ESV “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…”
Standing firm in ONE SPIRIT. ONE MIND….striving SIDE BY SIDE…for the faith of the gospel.

This is instructive for us. The Christian life is to be done TOGETHER.
As an army fighting in the foxhole together.
As a body, each part working together.
As a family, with each family member contributing.
As a team working to win. (“Striving” is an athletic term, meaning “to compete together.”)

In our passage today, this is one of Paul’s passions.

Philippians 1:27-2:11
Turn to Philippians 1.
So far, in two weeks we’ve covered most of Chapter 1. Paul offers his warm, personal remarks and prayer in 1:1-11.
Then in vs. 12-26 he moves on to his testimony of his JOY of proclaiming Christ even while in prison.
So far, he has given the Philippians no commands. That all changes now in vs. 27 through much of the remainder of the letter.

Vs. 27
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,…

Verse 27 encapsulates all he wants them to be: living in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
It’s quite informative to know the word Paul used when he wrote this in Greek. “Let your manner of life” is literally a verb, “to be a citizen.” The noun form of the word is in Chapter 3, where Paul says, “Our citizenship is in heaven.”

This is quite fascinating. Paul seems to be saying, “You are citizens of heaven. Citizens of the gospel kingdom of Jesus. NOW LIVE LIKE IT.”

Paul is NOT saying that if you live a certain way you will become a citizen. No, he is essentially saying here and throughout all his letters, “Faith in the gospel of Christ has MADE you citizens of Christ’s kingdom. Now live like it.

We don’t try harder to secure something. Rather something has already been secured, so we try to live up to that beautiful, grace-filled new life.

The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, started a few days ago. If I was really good at some winter sport and I was representing the United States there (…it’s hard to imagine, I know)…I would be told by the U.S. Olympic Committee, “You are a citizen of the United States. Now live in a manner worthy of your country. You are representing your country. You are carrying our name on your jacket.”
My citizenship is not based on my athletic performance or behavior. But my behavior is to be based on my citizenship.

Do you see the difference? This is CRUCIAL. We so easily get this reversed.

So Paul is calling them to something much more lofty and beautiful than a moral code (although morals are surely a part of this). He is calling them to a way of life. From last week, we looked at vs. 21, where Paul says, “To live is Christ.” Paul’s entire life orbited around Christ, like the earth orbits around the sun. Paul is speaking in that vein.

So now we ought to be asking a very important question: “What does this “life worthy of the gospel” look like?”
That is where Paul takes us in the next 22 verses.
Let’s begin that journey of discovering what the “Life Worthy of the Gospel” looks like.

First let’s continue reading, vs. 28-30:
Vs. 28-30
28 …and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.
29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Paul was enduring persecution. The Philippians were too. By speaking up for Jesus and telling the world about Jesus, they were encountering opposition. Criticism. Perhaps being arrested. Hated. Mistreated.
Honestly for most of us in the United States, we don’t know what this is like firsthand. Few of us, I suspect, have encountered much serious persecution.

Paul knew that death for him was a real possibility. In other parts of the world, Christians can relate to Paul quite easily.
Last night at supper my wife and I were reading an article about persecution in North Korea, just a short distance from the Pyeongchang Olympics in South Korea. A pastor, Pastor Han, had shared the gospel with a man who then believed in Christ. His name was Sang Chul. Though Christianity is outlawed, both of them kept talking about Jesus. Just two years ago, 2016, Pastor Han was martyred for his faith. But Sang Chul kept sharing the gospel all. Recently, the government was trying to hunt him down. So Sang Chul had to flee North Korea to China, where he is currently hiding. He hopes he can be reunited with his family someday.

Few of us know about such suffering. The Philippians did. Paul did.

So he tells them in vs. 27:
• Stand firm in one spirit. Don’t be swayed or intimidated.
• With one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. Stick together. Keep fighting the good fight side by side.
Then in vs. 29, he tells them that they’ve been given two gifts. The word “granted to you” actually means, “graciously given to you.”

What has been graciously given to the Philippians?
1. Salvation.
2. Suffering!
WHAT!? Suffering? Yes, as Paul was presently suffering in prison….and as he had suffered many, many times before…so the Philippians would suffer. Paul doesn’t want them to stop talking about Jesus. Keep spreading the good news….Stand firm…..Don’t be frightened. Because suffering for the gospel is a sign of Christ in you. Your salvation. He suffered. You will follow in his footsteps if he is in you.

This doesn’t sound very cheery, does it? I would prefer if “Walking in a manner worthy of the gospel” was easy. Comfortable. I don’t like the suffering part. But Paul says, here it is.

Chapter 2 is really a continuation of this calling to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. We who are in Christ are citizens of heaven. And Paul is going to tell us more of how to live like a citizen.
As we read this, notice the emphasis Paul puts on the community of faith. On the people of God getting along. Loving each other. Sticking together. All this while they spread the gospel.

Vs. 1-2
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

• If you have encouragement from being in Christ
• If you have found comfort from the love of God and the love of the saints.
• If you have fellowship— participation—in the Holy Spirit.
• If you have found affection and sympathy in your Christian experience.
• If you have any and all of these things, Paul says…….
….then there is one thing that would CAP IT ALL OFF. …the best thing of all…That is, that you all—the church in Philippi…all of you….that you would love one another. That you would be in full accord—that means to be one in spirit. That you would be one in mind. Think alike.

Paul goes out of his way to hammer this point home. He wants the church—even in the midst of suffering persecution for Jesus’ sake—to get along in an extraordinary way.

Paul is saying, “Think and act as a unit.” Like a company of soldiers working together under one captain. Like an orchestra playing different notes and instruments but in glorious harmony. Like a football team all running the same play with the same goal. No independence. No ‘me-first’ attitude. It’s about the team, not the individual performance or goals.”

Last week I met with two other men from Stonebrook. We had some differences of opinions. There had been some tensions.
We met for an hour, and the outcome was beautiful. There was humility. Kindness. We all worked at understanding each other. To me, the outcome was a wonderful example of what Paul is seeking after here.

Then he goes even farther.
Vs. 3-4
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Paul gives us hard words: Selfish ambition. Conceit. None of us would ever want to be told we are that way.
The word “conceit” in vs. 3 literally means, “Empty glory,” or “Vainglory.”

It’s a remarkable word. It literally means a glory that is groundless and empty and in vain. We seek after glory that is no glory at all. We are conceited.

Then Paul gives the antidote to such selfishness and vainglory: humility Humility. Not thinking HIGHLY of yourself. Rather, LOWLY. To be humble means to be lowly of mind. Now let me make it clear. Biblical humility is not at all about thinking we are losers. Good for nothing. Beating ourselves up for being so stupid and worthless.
That misses the mark entirely. For THAT attitude is still focused on SELF.
Biblical humility is a healthy view of ourselves. We know the Lord loves us. We know how gracious he has been to us. We know we are made in the image of God.
But we claim no right to such lofty thinking. We don’t demand favorable treatment. We willingly and cheerfully say, “I’m going to put other people ahead of me.” I’m going to look out for the welfare of others.
And in vs. 4, “I’m going to consider others as more significant than self.” Not ME FIRST. But OTHERS first.

You are a citizen of heaven, Paul tells us. Now live like it.
And setting aside selfish ambition and conceit, and instead humbly putting others first….THIS is a life WORTHY of the gospel of heaven. The GOSPEL….what God has done for us by sending his Son Jesus to save us….elevates us to GLORY in Christ. It makes us CITIZENS of heaven. But at the same time, we are humbled. Because we realize God was merciful and gracious to us. So now we are to go and show the people of God mercy and grace like we’ve been shown.

Let’s pause for a moment. Let’s list all Paul calls them to concerning their relationship as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as citizens of a heavenly kingdom:

• Standing firm in one spirit (vs. 27)
• Striving side by side (vs. 27)
• Don’t be frightened (vs. 28)
• Be of one mind (vs. 2)
• Have same love (vs. 2)
• Be harmonious (vs. 2)
• Think the same (vs 2)
• Don’t be selfish (vs. 3
• Don’t be conceited [VAINGLORY] (vs. 3)
• Be humble (vs. 3)
• Count others more significant (vs. 3)
• Look to others’ interests (vs. 4)

Wow! What a list! What a calling!
This partially describes what it looks like to live as worthy citizens of the gospel of heaven.

Think of your relationships with others in this room. In your Life Group. In your home. If you’re not humbled by this list, well….then…you’re not humble! 🙂 This list seems impossible! It is other-worldly.
Only someone from another world….another kingdom…could live this way. The Christian…the believer in the risen Christ…is a citizen of another kingdom. Another world. He or she can live this way, by the power of the Holy Spirit.
And by knowing, believing, and obeying Christ.

That brings us to the next 7 verses.

Slide
Vs. 5-8
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped
7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

This section is among the most widely debated and studied passages in the Bible.
It’s debated because of the question of “Who is Jesus really? Who was he before coming to earth? Who did he become? What changed?” But in that debate, often the point is missed as to how it fits into Paul’s overall letter and his points within.

So what is Paul’s point in bringing in Jesus’ example?
• Is he simply giving us the perfect moral example of humility and glory of Jesus Christ?
• Or, is he giving us a deep treatise on who Jesus Christ really is, what he accomplished?
The answer is, “Yes!” I think Paul intends both.
He is pointing us to Jesus Christ. He says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ.”
Have this mind of humility and unity in the family of God. There is no one more humble than him.
Jesus Christ was in the form of God, but he didn’t insist upon that. He obeyed the Father by humiliating himself to take on humanity. Not merely to spend a couple years in human form. But to take on humanity. The word for this is “Incarnation.”

At the same time we mark Jesus’ humility, we also mark his glory and magnificence. He was in the form of God. God exalted him to the highest place.

But this is only HALF the story.
Vs. 9-11
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is far, far more than a wonderful moral example. He is Lord of all.

Jesus is not our mode of therapy. He is not one of a dozen of options for a happy life, even if he is a better option.

No! The Jesus Paul speaks of MADE US. He created us. And now He has been crowned Lord, and Lord of all.
Every knee of every man and woman in heaven and on earth will bow before him. Every one owes him their lives since he made us.

In the gospels, Jesus told us of a foundational truth of God.
Matthew 23:12 ESV “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”
God did this with his Son who humbled himself more than anyone else. Jesus humbled himself to the lowest place by taking on humanity and going to his death. And then God exalted him to the highest place.
Everyone…everyone…even the staunchest atheist….will bow before the LORD Jesus Christ. Everyone….will acknowledge he is Lord. Some will do this out of hatred and anger. Others will do this out of joy and admiration.
But all will bow. All will confess he is Lord.

So really, in a sense we don’t look back to Jesus as a good example to be imitated. Rather, we look up to him… once humbled, now exalted….to be obeyed. He has risen from the dead, and is now seated on his throne.

Author Don Carson said,
“Unqualified divine majesty unites with the immeasurable divine self-sacrifice.”
With this in mind, to become Christlike and live in a manner worthy of Christ, we see the extent that the Lord wants us to aspire to. This is vastly more than a nice, moral life that simply makes for more pleasantness for us.
We are called to submit fully to him, and to live a life that is “all in,” i.e., “to live is Christ” (Phil 1:27), to live among one another as we are “in Christ.”

So a significant theme of chapters 1 and 2 is unity, unselfishness, and humility, and it is founded upon the glory of the once-humiliated-now-risen-to-glory Christ. This is a life lived “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27).

This is why Paul said, “For me, to live is Christ.”

Application

So what are some action points for us this morning? The overarching command from the Lord is vs. 27: “Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” You are a citizen of heaven because of Christ. Now live like it.

How?

Humble ourselves.
Humble ourselves. NOTE: We won’t die by humbling ourselves
First, ask the Lord if there is any pride in your life.
I did this recently, and I was shocked what I discovered. For the past couple months, I have met with some other pastors in Ames. Our focus has been racial reconciliation in the church of God. It’s obviously a topic nationally.
We wanted to join together to learn. 7 pastors: 6 of us white, 1 of us black. What should God’s church look like?
We have had many open discussions, read a book together, and watched some informative videos. One video we watched pointed a finger at our nation, and how whites for over 400 years have oppressed blacks.

So we watched this video, and I’m noticing in my heart I’m feeling defensive. I’m thinking, “Sure, white Euro-Americans have done this in past centuries. But I’M not racist! I don’t treat people badly.”
After our discussion, I am walking out to my car, and I prayed, “Lord, why am I so defensive?” At that moment, I had this intense conviction, “Brad, it’s because of your pride. You have a nationalistic pride.” It was like cold water thrown on me to wake me up.

My eyes were opened to a pride…an arrogance…that I have had about my country. I’ve thought, “Hey, our country was founded upon biblical principles. We’re a moral country.” Because of all that, I’ve had a subtle pride. An arrogance. I’ll even say a blindness.

And I’ve had pride toward myself, trying to absolve myself from any responsibility from racial problems in this country. But even in that, my eyes have been open to an apathy and an ignorance to the needs in this area.
As a citizen of this nation, I need to be humble. Our nation needs Jesus.
Some will say, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” God might say to us, “Let’s Make America HUMBLE” (again?) (btw, EVERY nation ought to do that.)
Not only nations need to humble themselves, but we do as Jesus followers. We need to humble ourselves.
Start in prayer: “Lord, is there any pride in my life?” Confess pride. Take the log out of your eyes. Stop insisting on your own way. Remember Christ’s humility as your example. And also remember his exaltation as Lord of all as your fear.

Seek oneness with God’s people.
This reminds me of our goal in our theme of Renew this year: Greater unity.
John 17:23 ESV I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
The world is watching. What will they see? A people who can’t get along. Or, a people who truly get along. Who are one.
Like a family.
Like an orchestra in perfect harmony.
Like a football team pulling together.
Like an army, a Band of Brothers fighting side by side against the enemy.
Is there anyone in this church with whom you are at odds? Anyone you’re angry with? Anyone you’re bitter against?
Or perhaps it’s a fellow Christian at work or in the neighborhood. Or your spouse.

Or perhaps you’re not overtly at odds with anyone. But are you acting independently in any way? Do you think mostly about YOUR agenda? YOUR time? YOUR money?
Have you given yourself wholeheartedly to the people in this room, and in your Life Group?
OR, are you holding some things back?? Are you holding back your HEART from others?

Conclusion

If you have believed in Jesus, your citizenship in heaven is far more impactful and important than your earthly citizenship. A citizen of the United States. Or China. Or Korea. Or Nigeria.
You are a citizen of heaven. And Jesus Christ, your Lord, calls us to live like it. To live in a manner worthy of the gospel of heaven.