January 25, 2015
“Your wish is my command.” Wow! Would anyone ever really say this? I picture a genie coming out of a bottle saying, “My wish is your command.” But I can’t imagine anyone else wanting to make that kind of promise.
Of course in a situation in which a person deeply loves someone else, I can conceive that a person might say, “Your wish is my command.”
In Jn. 4:34 we read, “Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.” In other words, for Jesus, doing the will of God was like eating for him. Who doesn’t like to eat? Doing the will of God sustained his life. The Father’s wish was Jesus’ command
And that brings me to the matter of serving the Lord. If we are becoming more and more like Jesus then we will desire to serve the Lord. And this leads me to say that it is a most wonderful privilege to be able to serve the Lord.
I. OUR SERVICE FLOWS OUT OF OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST. Phil.2:1-2
The wonderful thing about Jesus Christ is that through his death and resurrection he is able to offer us real forgiveness of all our sins and bring us into a new, eternal life in the kingdom of God through a reconciled relationship with God.
But please understand that this reconciled relationship with God is not something that happens because we were raised in the church. Nor does it come about because we try to live a decent life. No one should assume that he or she is in this relationship with God. This particular relationship with God comes to us as we repent of our sin and place our daily confidence, our faith in Jesus as our Savior, Lord and King. We embrace Jesus with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you don’t see a need for Jesus, then you have not entered into a reconciled relationship with God. You are not in the Kingdom of God and you need Christ.
Something else: Coming to Christ is not just about having our sins forgiven and going to heaven. Coming to Christ is all about a certain kind of life. Through Christ we are brought into a new kind of life that is lived out 24/7. As someone put it, “salvation is ‘participating in the life that Jesus is now living,” in and through us.” The idea is to learn by daily experience to live like Christ in our character and conduct. Because Jesus is alive and because God dwells inside of us, we can turn to Him every moment of the day for strength and wisdom in living our lives with Christ.
It is clear from these verses that we have an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. Note that Paul writes, “If there is any encouragement, comfort, participation, etc.” Paul is not doubting that these things are a reality for believers, but he is encouraging the believers in Philippi to consider whether or not they are a reality in their own lives. The idea is more like, “Since there is encouragement in Christ and so on.
Look back to 1:29. The believers in Philippi were experiencing some form of persecution. They were suffering for the sake of Christ. At that very moment Paul was under house arrest in Rome for the sake of Christ. So in 2:1-2 Paul reminds them that as Christians we have encouragement through our relationship with Christ. Not only that, but there is comfort from love. Whose love? I believe it is God’s love. We have participation (koinwnia) in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit. It would appear that Paul is writing about ongoing blessings that we receive by virtue of being immersed in the Trinity through Christ. Having come to Christ, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit dwell in us, impart life to us, strengthen us, and minister to us on a daily basis.
The question that I want to ask is: Do you have this kind of a relationship with God? You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with the privilege of serving the Lord.” Well it has everything to with it. For one thing, serving the Lord will not seem like a privilege if you do not live in a daily relationship with the Lord. Service will see more like a duty. How can you enjoy serving someone you don’t really acknowledge from day to day?
For another thing, serving the Lord is something that we do together in the local church. You notice that Paul writes in v.2, that we should be of the same mind, having the same love and being in full accord and of one mind. The phrase, “being in full accord” literally reads “being together in soul.” In his commentary, Gordon Fee calls this “feeling and thinking together.” Unity in the church, unity in Christian service flows out of the unity that we experience through having the same God dwelling in us and empowering our lives through the Holy Spirit. In Ps.133, David writes, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” It is good and pleasant. When brothers and sisters in Christ seek to live in and from Christ, if I can put it that way, there will be unity that is good and pleasant because we are all seeking to serve the Lord.
Do you remember in Genesis 29 when Jacob fell in love with Rachael? He said to Rachael’s father, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Then we read, “So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.” Wow. Seven years seemed like few days? He was in love. Hey, it may not be an exact comparison, but the idea is similar. When we live in Christ day by day, our service for Christ is a privilege and joy. Now it will not always be easy. If we are tired we might grow impatient at times. We are each wired differently and so like iron we sharpen one another. But in Christ we are willing and joyful servants. We have the work of the Lord and his church in our hearts.
II. OUR SERVICE REFLECTS THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST. Phil.2:3
I’m sure I don’t have to remind us that we live in a society that is all about selfish ambition. Yes there are many good Samaritans, but there is far more selfish ambition. Just think about the T.V. programs that are popular. American Idol, The Voice, Shark Tank, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, The Apprentice and many others. Picture in your mind the professional athletes as they celebrate scoring a touchdown or a three pointer at the buzzer. Clearly it’s all about them.
And when we think that our perspective, opinion, or our Biblical interpretation is right we must be careful about selfish ambition. It is not easy to be right. In Phil.4 we read about two workers in the church at Philippi; two women who could not agree with each other. These women, Euodia and Syntyche had labored together with Paul, but they could not get along. Presumably it is because they both believed they were right. In that situation Paul did not seem to be concerned about who was right. His concern was that they learn to agree in the Lord.
Here Paul tells us that we are to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. Isn’t ironic that we can be serving in the church of Jesus Christ out of a motivation of selfish ambition and conceit?
Paul’s words here tell us that it is very important to be self aware. We must especially be aware of our personal motivations. I am one who believes that none of us knows the depth of sin that dwells within us. I’m not certain that any of us can completely know everything that motivates us. However I do believe we can be self aware enough to discern selfishness. We have the Holy Spirit who dwells in us and I believe that God also seeks to make us aware of sinful motivations.
So how would a person begin to know if he or she is being motivated by selfish ambition and conceit? One telltale sign is the presence of irritation and anger when someone has a different way, perspective, or opinion.
Perhaps you have read something about the controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll who recently resigned as pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. It was a church that he co-founded in 1996. The church existed in eleven campuses located in two states. In April of 2014 there were over 25,000 people attending Mars Hill. Mark also founded Acts 29, a church planting network. Mark is one of the biggest names in Evangelicalism. But over the years he became known for his harsh way of leadership. This was not the only issue, but it was one significant issue. Another issue involved the church paying some $210,000 to the marketing company, ResultSource, Inc, in order to boost his book Real Marriage onto the New York Times bestseller list. Other Christian authors have done that as well. I’m sharing this to point out that Church leadership is filled with temptation to maintain control. It makes no difference how large or small the church. And a person does not have to be in leadership to fall prey to selfish ambition.
So what is the antidote? Paul talks about humility. Humility is a lowliness of mind. Humility has to do with having a truthful estimation of oneself. A humble person is well aware of their faults and deficiencies and also recognizes their gifts and abilities, but, as Gordon Fee writes, “makes neither too much or too little of either.” A humble person is someone who entrusts themselves to God and does not try to muscle or manipulate things for themselves.
What is the mark of humility? Well, in v.3 Paul writes, “...in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” In other words, we are putting the care and welfare of others ahead of ourselves.
It seems that the disciples struggled with this. More than once they would get into arguments about who among them was the greatest. And Jesus had to remind them that the greatest among them was the one who served. Greatness in the kingdom of God is not about lording it over others. It is about serving others. Jesus came to serve, not to be served. Paul points us to Christ in v.5-11. Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. That is profound. God does not have to hold on to being God. What did he do? Jesus emptied himself. He took the form of a servant. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death. Jesus died to himself. He did not have to be God. Now he is God and will always be God, but for a time I believe Jesus gave up the independent use of his divine attributes and lived in dependency upon the Father and Holy Spirit. We can’t fully understand that, but we can understand the idea of humble service by looking at Jesus.
Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Men and women when we selflessly serve others in the body of Christ, we reflect the character and mind of Christ. When we do not have to hold onto power and position but can humbly serve others, we are showing the character and love of Christ. If Christ dwells in us, we will serve others even at the expense of ourselves and we will consider it a privilege to serve the Lord.
III. OUR SERVICE MINISTERS TO THE BODY OF CHRIST. Phil.2:4
It’s one thing to consider others as being better or more important than oneself. But in v.4, Paul takes it a step further. We are to look beyond our own interests.
Now obviously it is true that each of us must attend to the matters of our own lives. We need to be able to provide for ourselves and our families. Paul talks about parents saving up for their children. In Gal. Paul talks about how each one must bear his own load. Elsewhere Paul makes a point of saying that we all should work. He says, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” God has made it possible for us to learn skills so that we can earn a living.
But in the body of Christ we are also to look out for the interests of others. This doesn’t mean we should be busy bodies, putting our nose in other people’s business. But it does mean that we must look out for one another’s welfare. We want to seek the good of others. In 1Cor.12 Paul tells us that in the body of Christ, “If one member suffers, all suffer together, if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”
This is not easy in our society of independence. Often our lives are so disconnected from each other that we don’t even know that someone is suffering. In our society we are private and so we don’t know the interests of others. This is one of the values of being in small groups in a church. People get to know each other on a deeper level, a more personal level. We can pray for each other and seek to serve each other.
One of the things I appreciate about our church family is that we have brothers and sisters who genuinely care for the interests of others. Their hearts are quickly moved to compassion. They will go out of their way to serve someone in need. Some seem to have an intuitive sense that others are in need or are hurting. This is so important. Looking to the interests of others is how we show the love of Christ. Like giving, when we serve others in the church from humble, willing hearts, God is working in our lives and the church is being built up in Christ.
Companies are always trying to help their employees feel as if they are a team, not just a team, but even a family. In other words many companies want their employees to think and feel that going to work is the greatest because they all get to work together and they like each other. But it’s pretty difficult to work at a factory or a hospital or a school and feel like a family. In order for people to feel as if they are family, there must be deep relationships.
In the church we talk about being part of the family of God. In days gone by we might have sung, “I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.” Are we the family of God? Of course, on the one hand we absolutely are because all those who are in Christ are part of the family of God. But do we view the local church as our family? One wonders. I mean when only 20% of the average congregation are doing 80% of the ministry, what does that say about being a committed part of the family? As members of a church family it is our privilege to serve each other, to have each other’s backs, to worship together, to fellowship together. We extend grace and mercy to each other. We sharpen one another. We build each other up. It’s a privilege because we are brothers and sisters in Christ who love and care for each other.
Now maybe you are sitting here thinking to yourself, “Well, I’ve been hurt by some of the brothers and sisters in this church.” Well, I’m not surprised. Actually, the only people who would not think like that are those who have never entered into the privilege of serving the Lord. You see when we serve the Lord in his church; we are serving alongside people like ourselves, people who are redeemed sinners. And when we are hurt it is so important that we forgive and show mercy. Sometimes we can let it go with no hard feelings. Sometimes we must have a conversation to reconcile the relationship so that we can continue to serve. The truth is, we have all been hurt by people in the church and we have also been blessed by people in the church. When our eyes are fixed on the Lord, it is a privilege to serve him in his church. Amen