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. Christlike unity and service at Logos

CHRISTLIKE UNITY AND SERVICE AT LOGOS COMMUNITY CHURCH

 

Introduction.

This is my first sermon in 2016 and for a while I have had in mind to talk to you on this day a little from Philippians chapter 2. Let’s read the section together and then I will share a few thoughts, while keeping in mind that we cannot do justice to this text in one sermon.

Philippians 2:1-5 (ESV) 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. 3 Do nothing from rivalry 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. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,…”

 

One of the things we are striving towards at Logos is to break free from being an institution caught up in ceremonies and rituals, but rather to be a real family. It is a hard road, but it is an important road. I don’t think we will ever get there perfectly, but it has to be our goal. We need to see a culture at Logos where we are real with one another and real with God. But more than that, there needs to be a kind of relational atmosphere where God may be pleased to give us wisdom for our personal priorities and our families and our citizenship of South Africa in ways that are God-glorifying, Christ-exalting, gospel-fashioned and people-helping. That task cannot belong to a few of us, but it needs to be shared by all.

 

I believe that if there were to be a flag flying over this sermon, it will be verse 4. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” The reason I believe verse 4 is the flag is the further references to Christ, to Paul, to Timothy and to Epaphroditus as ones who did not just simply look after their own interests, but to the interests of others. I believe that what Paul is showing us is how verse 4 finds it outworking in their lives, how they each overcame self-centeredness and looked after the interests of others.  Now let me just say something about it being our flag. It has to be more than that. Oliver Wendell Holmes whoever he was said something interesting on the Sermon on the Mount. I picked this up via Pastor Google. But I love what he said. He said: “Many Christians are willing to take the Sermon on the Mount as a flag to sail under, but few will use it as a rudder by which to steer”. May it not be said of Logos that we are willing to take Philippians 2:4 as a flag to fly under, but we refuse to use it as a rudder to steer with.

The word ‘interests’ in verse 4 is open-ended. Paul does not define what he means. The sky is the limit. It can be another way of saying: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:39). That is, make the good of others the focus of your interest and strategy and work in the same way as you are concerned about your own good.  Find your joy in making others joyful.

One of the keys to this radical way of living is in the second half of verse 3: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves Or as the old King James says, “Let each esteem others better than themselves.” One of the things I have sadly seen even in the ministry is rivalry amongst pastors. There is an attitude that I can always do better than the other guy, and we compete instead of working together in unity. I have seen this in my old denomination where one pastor will rejoice when the other pastor is weeping, and weep when the other is rejoicing. It is so contrary to the teaching of Scripture.  And guess what I have seen it in churches. I have seen it in worship ministry, ladies ministry, men’s ministry, youth ministry, elder boards, diaconates, you name it.

The point is what you count others to be. The focus is: Will you count them as worthy of your help and encouragement, will you count them more significant than you? The question is not, whether they are worthy or more significant than you? But will you count them as worthy and significant? It all has to do with a Christ-like attitude.

And where does this kind of ‘other-oriented’ commitment come from? Verse 3 says,In humility count others more significant than yourselves.” It comes from humility. Literally: “lowliness.” This is the great opposite of a sense of entitlement. You know ‘entitlements?’ It is the favourite mints eaten by South Africans today.  Humility is the opposite of “You owe me.” Do you realise that your personal value never goes up, when you break others down, when you slander others or judge others. Your value only goes up when you humble yourself.   Paul said, Romans 1:14 (ESV) 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.”

In other words, they didn’t owe him. He owed them.

Why do Christians act the way they do? Why do Christians walk through life feeling a humble sense that we owe service to people, rather than them owing us? The answer is that Christ loved us and died for us and forgave us and accepted us and justified us and gave us eternal life and made us heirs of the world when he owed us nothing. He treated us as worthy of his service, when we were not worthy of his service. He took thought not only for his own interests but for ours. He counted us as greater than himself: Luke 22:27 (ESV) 27 For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.”

That is where our humility comes from. We feel overwhelmed by God’s grace: saving grace in the cross and moment-by-moment arriving grace promised for our everlasting future. Christians are stunned into lowliness. Freely you have been served, freely serve.

So the crucial relational mark of the culture of Logos church should be Philippians 2:4 (ESV)4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This is the “mind” or the “mind-set” that we should have in life together. This is the relational atmosphere where God will grant wisdom for the perplexing work of living in this world.

So, let’s get to the four examples which I mentioned Paul gives regarding this mind-set of looking not just after your own interests but the interests of others. And by the way, even though I am presenting Christ as one example, at the end of the day He is our model. That is why Paul can say in Philippians 2:5 (ESV) 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”

Now take a very brief glimpse at four examples of this mind-set. All we can do is glance. But later you can read this chapter slowly with this one verse in view and see how central it is to Paul’s purpose in the way he illustrates it four times.

1. Jesus

First is Jesus himself. Ephesians 2:5-9 (ESV) Have this mind among yourselves [the mind of verse 4!], which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count [notice the word!] equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing [literally emptied himself], taking the form of a servant [that is what it means to look to the interests of others], being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself [he laid down all his legitimate entitlements] by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

If you ever struggle with humility or self-denial or serving those who are hard to love, think on this picture of Christ. This is what he did for you. With this in mind, how can we ever think we are more important than others? He is the great example of verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That is what he did when he came to die in your place. Your interests was His number one goal.

To be sure verses 9­–11 show that he was gloriously rewarded for this self-emptying, servanthood even unto death: Philippians 2:9-11 (ESV) 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.”

And it will be true for you as well. Matthew 23:11-12 (ESV) “11 The greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

2. Paul

Second is the example of Paul himself. Philippians 2:17-18 (ESV) 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Paul loved this church. He loved all the churches. And he died every day to serve them. 1 Corinthians 15:31 (ESV) 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!” He compared his life to a drink offering poured out on the sacrifice of their faith. In other words, he didn’t take thought just for his own interests; he took thought for their faith and was willing to deny himself over and over, and in the end die, that their faith would be strong.

3. Timothy

Third is the example of Timothy. And here the wording is an explicit recall of verse 4. Watch how Paul contrasts Timothy with others. Philippians 2:19-22 (ESV) 19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. [literally: your interests, your things]. 21 For they all seek their own interests, [there’s the exact wording of verse 4] not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.”

O how I pray that this mind of Christ—to take thought not only for our own interests but for the interests of others—will not be as rare at Logos as it was in Paul’s experience. “They all seek their own interests.” But you know Timothy’s proven worth.” Would you, with all your heart, join me in praying for this and pursuing this and willing this in the power of God’s Spirit? Make this the mark of the relational culture of our church.

If there is one thing that has saddened me as a pastor over the years, it is watching young men come into the ministry, and all they are interested in is their own interests. Their cooperation is with that motive, their submission is with that motive, and their hard work is with that motive. The way to test whether that is true, is to simply close the tap that feeds their self-interest. Sadly the mind of Christ is lacking. Praise God, there are some who will serve simply for the sake of Christ. A friend of mine, had to clean toilets for 2 years while working with Reinhardt Bonke, and in the end Reinhardt blessed him with equipment that you can only imagine and released him to do his own ministry. When he asked Reinhardt why, his response was: “when you pull down a stone in a catapult, when you release it, the further it was pulled down, the higher it goes.”

4. Epaphroditus

Finally, the example of Epaphroditus. Philippians 2:25-30 (ESV) 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. [Notice how amazingly their interests dominate: He was not distressed that he was ill, nor was he distressed that they had not heard he was ill, like most of us who want others to know if we are sick; instead he was distressed because they heard he was ill! Would they be too worried? Would they fear he died? Their interests were on his heart.]  27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honour such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.”

Summary:

So, the flag over this sermon is verse 4: Philippians 2:4 (ESV) 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” I think you would agree with me that if we get that right, we will be a beautiful church. Let’s all figure out ways in which we can do that. To accomplish this we need to follow the example of Christ, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. But remember that Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus had the mind of Christ. Philippians 2:5 (ESV) “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”

Can I challenge you this morning to take any chip off your shoulder and to realise that by grace Christ emptied Himself to take care of your interests? Are you willing to take care of the interests of others, realising this is a two way street of giving and humble receiving?

It was beautiful when Christ put our interests above his own earthly comforts and died for us, wasn’t it? It was beautiful when Paul suffered every day to plant the churches that brought us the gospel. It was beautiful when Timothy served side by side with Paul, putting the interests of others first. It was beautiful when Epaphroditus risked his life to complete the Philippian service to Paul.

And it will be beautiful when Logos seeks to imitate those examples so that God can make His wisdom grow up among us where the mind of Christ is so alive, that we are not seen, but only the Glory of God is seen.

Amen!

Soli Deo Gloria

Logos Community Church: 23 January 2016