Philippians 2:1-11
3. Connected In Christ

Choosing Joy
3. Connected in Christ    Dan Bidwell, Senior Pastor
Philippians 2:1-11    19 February 2023


In a Peanuts cartoon Lucy demanded that Linus change TV channels, threatening him with her fist if he didn't. Linus asks, "What makes you think you can walk right in here and take over?" 

Lucy says, "These five fingers. Individually they're nothing but when I curl them together like this into a single unit, they form a weapon that is terrible to behold."

 "Which channel do you want?" asks Linus. Turning away, he looks at his fingers and says, "Why can't you guys get organized like that?"


Today we are thinking about the idea of unity as a church. Not unity so that we can form a weapon, but unity so that together we can achieve great things. 

However unity is not always easy. It’s something we need constant help with. So why don’t we pray that God would show us the pathway to unity as we open his Word right now.

Our heavenly Father, please speak to us today. Speak to our minds and hearts, and teach us to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Unite us in Christ, and in spirit for your glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen

Well we are in the middle of our February series from the book of Philippians, all about Choosing Joy.

And in our passage today, Paul speaks about something that would make his joy complete. So why don’t we jump into the passage. 

1. If…

You might not know it, but before I was a minister, I was a school teacher and I taught languages. I taught French and German. And when I read the passage for today, I was reminded of a something that that we used to do in German class. It was a grammar exercise to practice a special verb form [called the Conjunctive].

But the exercise went like this. It was all about if…then… sentences.

If I had a car, then I would drive to the beach.

You try one out…

-    If I had a million dollars to spend today, then I would…
-    If I had a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, then I would...
-    If I could do one part of my life over, then I would…

Our passage today begins with an if and then. If you have this attitude… then your actions should be like this. 

It’s a continuation of the last idea from the previous chapter. Paul said (as the church) we should conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel. And now he continues to explain what a life worthy of the gospel looks like.

1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

So we have the if and then. Actually four ifs…

First if: if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ. 

The first idea is if you have been united with Christ: that is if you've put your faith in Jesus, if you have become one with Jesus, that's another way to talk about faith or trust. Paul is talking about people who have given their entire lives over to Jesus, put all their eggs in one basket with Jesus. And he says if that one-ness with Christ has brought you any encouragement, then…

Second if: If you have any comfort from Jesus’ love.

That is, if you've understood Jesus’ love for you. His forgiveness, his mercy, his grace, his restoration of your relationship with God. If that love of Jesus brings you comfort, then…

Third if: [Paul says] if you have any common sharing in the Spirit…

I think this means if you have received the Holy Spirit. 

BTW we believe that we receive the Holy Spirit when we receive Christ. The Spirit is how God makes his dwelling place in our heart. He takes us residence in us and does his work of changing us and shaping us and sanctifying us from within.

And the Holy Spirit is not something that comes and goes from our lives, like it did in OT times for example with King Saul. No, Jesus promised that after his ascension he would pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit on believers, so that he would be with us always, to the end of the age. In Ephesians 1, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance. When we trust in Christ, we have the Holy Spirit. (That’s a little theology of the Holy Spirit for you!)

So Paul says: if you have the Holy Spirit in you and if you've shared in that… I think what he’s getting at here is if you're genuinely a Christian. If you're united with Christ, if you understand his love, if it brings you comfort, if you share in the Holy Spirit. Then the fourth if: he says if you have tenderness and compassion…

This word ‘tenderness’, it’s a word meaning something you feel deep down inside. So if you feel the gospel deep down inside, if it has churned you up and changed you and made you something new… And if it’s made you look at the world differently, if it’s given you compassion for others, and a burden that they would come to know Jesus the same way that you do…

Those are all the ifs. 

So I think Paul is really saying: If you have been affected by Jesus. If you have been affected by the life and death and resurrection of Jesus, by the Gospel of Jesus. If you are genuinely a Christian.

Verse two. He says then…

2. Then…

He says, then “Make my joy complete.”

Remember, this whole book has been about joy. Paul talks about rejoicing in all kinds of circumstances. He says [to the church] if you do this one thing, you can make my joy complete…

Paul is in prison. He is in chains for Christ. So what would make Paul happy? What would make his joy complete?

We imagine the answer might be for Paul to be set free. Or for him to be honored as the pioneering missionary of the whole church. We imagine Paul’s joy might be made complete by him being able to continue on his journey throughout the Mediterranean sharing Jesus with people everywhere. 

But actually the answer is something different. Look at v2:

2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Philippians 2:2)

Paul is saying that nothing would make him more happy than to see the church united.

What does church unity look like for Paul? 

First, he says we ought to be like-minded. Like-minded means having our focus on the same thing. 

[Now churches can focus on all kinds of things – social justice, human rights, politics, a particular aspect of doctrine]

And all of those focuses may be important, but they are not the focus that Paul has in mind. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:2 that he resolves to know nothing […] except Jesus Christ and him crucified. That is, Paul’s focus is on Jesus.

And so here at Yountville Community Church our focus is on Jesus. As a church, Jesus is our main focus, and understanding all of the riches of the gospel in Jesus Christ: his life, his death, his resurrection. The new life that he gives us during this lifetime, and the eternal life that we have when he brings us into his glory. 

Now that doesn’t mean we never think about anything else. But the way we think about those peripheral issues (social justice, politics etc) they will always be shaped and informed by the gospel. The gospel of Jesus will always be the thing that shapes and organizes our direction as a church. It will always be the thing that that centers and focuses our thinking.

So number one, have the same focus.

Number two, he says, having the same love. 

What kind of love ought we to have as the church? Love that is the same as God's love. Love that is other-centered, love that honors others, love that is merciful and grace-filled and forgiving. Love that is perfect. 

Paul wants us to have the same kind of love as God, the same kind of love that Jesus displayed in his life and death. That kind of love ought to characterize the church. We should be known for it. The world should be surprised by it, just how different we are in the way that we love. Wouldn’t that be an amazing reputation to have – a church that is so loving that you can’t fault them…

So loving the way God loves us. That’s having the same love. 

Next, he says, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Do you remember back in chapter 1, there were people in the church who were preaching Christ out of rivalry and envy. They were divided over some petty quarrel. But here Paul says, I want you to be united in spirit and in mind. He wants them to find a fundamental one-ness, a togetherness, a unity that is founded not on a cause, but a unity that is founded in Christ.

And they’re to let nothing undermine that unity. 

Which leads us into v3. After all those positive instructions, we now see the attitude that threatens to undermine their unity.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

About 15 years ago I had a mentor, an older Christian guy, probably 10 years older than me, their kids were a bit older than ours. They were a godly couple a few steps further on in the game of life than us. 

Anyway he gave me some marriage advice once. He said, “When your marriage is in a good place, it's a good time to talk about things that maybe you could improve. Don't do it when you're in a bad place. Don’t do it when you’re fighting. That’s the wrong time to ask for a list of ways you can improve. But when you’re in a good place, ask your partner: what is one thing that I could do to improve?”

Jo and I were in a good place, so I asked her. She thought about it for a while, and she said: “You’re selfish.”

She was right. Of course she was right. And it was actually a really godly and wise answer.

And so I started to pray, how can I be the opposite of selfish? How can I work on my selfishness so that I don't think about myself as much in the marriage and instead focus on Jo and the kids? And what does that look like in my attitudes and my actions? 

It was actually a wonderful thing. I know it sounds harsh at the beginning, but when you're in a good and trusting place you can hear the negatives and work on improving them.

Paul is doing that same thing with the church in Philippi. He says if you are in a good place with Jesus, then here are some aspects of your character that you can work on. This would be good for you.

He wants the church (v3) to do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Instead he wants us to think about others, to value others above ourselves. 

With that attitude, we would ask ourselves: what would serve other people in this church? How do I serve others? How do I lift up others? How do I encourage and love and help?

That’s the opposite of doing things out of vain conceit. Vanity and conceit would say: I’m the most important person in the room because I wear the jacket and stand at the front. Or I’m more important than someone else because I lead a ministry, or serve on a particular roster. Or I’m more important because of the kind of lifestyle I live compared to others. 

It’s so easy to slip into the comparison game, isn’t it? 

But comparison is the currency of vanity and conceit. Nothing good comes of vanity and conceit.

Instead, Paul calls for humility and valuing others above ourselves.

He says don’t do anything out of selfish ambition. 

Ambition is one of those human traits that brings out the best and the worst in us, doesn’t it? Ambition says: I want to be the most important person in the room. I need to show that I'm the most important person in the room. 

That's how I grew up, by the way. I grew up with ambition as the only goal in life, ambition leading to money and power. And even after 30 years following Jesus, I still find that attitude welling up in myself regularly. 

How do you choose not selfish ambition, but ambition for Jesus? For me, its an attitude that says: I want to see Jesus honored in the Napa Valley and beyond, not Dan Bidwell. I want to grow a church, but not so that Dan Bidwell looks famous, but so that Jesus looks famous. Not so that they say, wow, you should see that preacher at that church. No, I want them to say: when you go to that church, you'll have a sense of Christ and his presence and his power and his authority. The preacher is just a messenger, a delivery boy. The real message is Jesus. Jesus is the hero of that church.

You see, when we keep Jesus at the center, our egos fade into the background. The church isn’t about us, it’s about him. It’s not about a pecking order of importance, or a game of social networking where we trade on our godliness and jockey for position. Following Jesus is about taking up our cross and following him, denying ourselves and giving everything we have to grow his kingdom. We’re not here to be served or set on a pedestal. We’re here to roll up our sleeves and join in the work of making disciples. 

Because that’s what Jesus did.

And that leads us into big idea number three. The reason why we ought to conduct ourselves in this kind of matter.

3. The Reason Why

The reason that we ought to be humble servants is because that was what Jesus was like.

In v5, Paul says:

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)

What was Jesus’ mindset? It’s there in vv6-11.

6 Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; (Philippians 2:6)

Of all people, Jesus could have claimed self-importance. This verse tells us that he was in his very nature God. Jesus was not just a human. He was fully God, and equal with God as we read in the second line of that poem. In the book of Colossians it tells us that Jesus was there at the beginning, and all things were created by him and for him. 

Jesus is in very nature God. And yet he didn’t play that card. He didn’t hold on tightly to that status, as something that could be used to his own advantage. Actually he used it for a far greater purpose. Look at v7:

7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness. (Philippians 2:7)

Jesus voluntarily stepped down from the throne of heaven to be born as a human, and one born in very humble circumstances at that. Jesus was born to a teen mom, his dad was a carpenter. He was born in a barn not a palace. He didn’t wear robes. He was never honored in his lifetime as a king, unless you count the crown of thorns that the soldiers put on Jesus’ head as they crucified him…

That’s what it looked like for Jesus to make himself nothing. To take on the nature of a servant. To choose humility for the sake of others. For our sake…

Look at v8:

8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:8)

In his humility, Jesus was so obedient to his plan to save us that he allowed himself to be killed for our sakes.

I just finished reading Matthew’s gospel, and at the moment of Jesus’ arrest, he says:

53 Don't you know that I could ask my Father, and he would at once send me more than twelve armies of angels? (Matthew 26:53 CEV)

Jesus didn’t have to die. He could have called for rescue. But he didn’t. 

He chose to lay down his life for us. He became obedient to death, on a cross. Jesus didn’t consider his life worth more than ours. He put us first… 

Jesus often said that the first shall be last, and the last shall be first. 

Jesus put himself last, for the salvation of all who would put their trust in him.

But that’s not where the story ends. Look at v9:

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

Jesus put himself last, but God honored Jesus by exalting him to the highest place. He gave Jesus a name that is above every name – King, President, Prime Minister, Pope, CEO, celebrity – Jesus’ name is exalted far above all of those names. His honor and his power exceed them all. 

And even though those are the names that are exalted in our society, a day is coming when all those other names will be shown as nothing. And Jesus Christ will be revealed as the name above all names…

And on that day, at the name of Jesus every knee will bow to him. Whether they want to or not. Every creature on earth and in heaven and under the earth, every human, every angel. Jesus will be the undisputed sovereign over all, and all creation will bow to him.

And similarly on that day every tongue will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

I said last week that sometimes we think that ‘the culture’ is winning the war against the church, and that the church is at risk from cultural influences. Philippians 2 reminds us that the culture will not prevail against Christ, or his church. It may look like we are losing the battle, but Christ has won the war. 

And it will be very clear one day.

And so our work as the church is to continue living lives worthy of the gospel. Having the same mindset as Christ, the same humility, the same love, the same mission and goal. To bring Jesus Christ into every relationship and every situation so that wherever we go, more and more people hear about the lordship of Jesus Christ, and his love and mercy towards us. 

Why don’t we pray about that now.

Heavenly Father, we thank you for this word. We pray that we would live lives worthy of you. Thank you that in Christ you unite us with him. Fill us with love, fill us with compassion. Fill us with tenderness. Fill us with minds that seek to glorify Jesus in all that we do. Help us not to be vain or selfish or conceited. Help us not to treat others as less than ourselves, but help us to serve the interests of others above ourselves. We thank you that we follow a humble servant in Christ. May this church be also characterized by humility, so that as we share the hope of Jesus in the Napa Valley and beyond, many people would say: in that church you can meet Jesus, to the glory of God the Father. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.