Thursday, January 15, 2004

Philippians--Joy in Service

This is lesson 5 in a study of Philippians. To start at the beginning, click here.

All you need is love

Give peace a chance.

The popular songs that present love as the solution to the world's problems are both right and wrong. The statement is right, but the love they speak of is an intangible noun. It is to say, "I have warm and fuzzy feelings about you and the world." But John Lennon who wrote these songs divorced his first wife and he had no patience for the "establishment." His widow, Yoko Ono, is in legal battles over the lucrative Lennon-McCartney franchise. If I could not establish peace in my home, who am I to demand it of the whole world. The sentiment is as sweet as it is empty. The love thhat can make a difference is a verb and the Bible, not popular music, defines and models it--and oh boy is it hard!

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4)

"If there is any ..." Paul lays down four conditions and then makes a request. This is an interesting ploy. Look at each of them. Would anyone in Philippi say, "Oh I don't have any of that?" Would you say, "I have no encouragement in Christ, no consolation of love, and neither the fellowship of the Spirit nor affection nor compassion belong to me?" Since we all have some measure, then it is our task to make Paul's joy complete. 

"Encouragement in Christ." We have Jesus' teachings about Himself and the Father. We have his instructions about the path of discipleship. He died for our sins and rose from the dead as a promise of our resurrection. Jesus' death means that we have the Holy Spirit and His gifts. We are in the new covenant era where the Law is written on our hearts and we can have a righteousness that emanates from our faith. The gospel is good news. This is the foundation of our lives as Christians. Of course we have encouragement in Christ.

"Consolation of love." Following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and His command that we love one another, we should be both receiving and providing help to one another. 

"Fellowship of the Spirit." All believers are sealed by the Holy Spirit and He desires to fill and empower us. He is also the basis of our unity between ourselves and with the Father and Son. 

"Affection and Compassion" It would not be a good life in the Church if there were people that we did not not like to be around. And we must be troubled about ourselves if there are none for whom we feel compassion at their needs and work to meet them.

"Make my joy complete." Paul has joy in a Church that flows with the encouragement of Christ, that loves, that fellowships, that like each other, and work for the welfare of all members. His joy is made complete, when that same Church is not satisfied and presses on to exhibit more of the same.

  • Encouragement in Christ -- Being of the same mind. We should have the mind of Christ and press on to reflect His character more.
  • Consolation of Love -- Maintaining the same love. Love always requires work and devotion to maintain. I have been married 30 years. There have been good times and bad times, but on the whole it has been a good marriage because Stephanie and I have always made it our business and goal to make it one. The same is true in Church. Some people will be easy to be around and others will be a royal pain. Love must work to build and maintain relationships in the problem areas. Fortunately, Paul will have more to say about how to make this work.
  • Fellowship of the Spirit -- United in Spirit. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can overcome misgivings and bad feelings and reach out
  • Affection and Compassion -- Intent on one purpose. To enjoy being around others and working to meet their needs.

The key to this is to serve others instead of grabbing for ourselves. The key phrase is "look out ... for the interest of others." It is easy to itemize those things that interest us and that we would like to have. What would happen if we began to tick down the list of people that we know in the church and began thinking of their interests? This requires a conscious choice. It is an exercise of the will until the habit finally forms. The child says, "I want it." The Christian that would bring Paul joy says, "Let me get that for you."

What will you say today?

Friday: The example of Yeshua Adonai.

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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