December 14, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 2)

Submitted by Jackie W. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 2:1-4

  • How do the blessings of being in Christ (listed in v. 1) lead me to experience having “the same mind” and “same love, being in full accord” with other believers? 

The blessings of being in Christ listed in v 1 include encouragement, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, affection and sympathy. The gospel of Christ is a message of grace, mercy, and hope for broken, wretched, and prideful sinners.  As I see myself as a helpless sinner in need of God’s mercy accurately described by the gospel, the message of the blameless, sinless Son of God willingly dying on the cross to atone for the sins of a sinner like me humbles me. Recognizing the gospel truth of the depth of my sin, my selfish thoughts and desires, pride and rebelliousness against God and people, envy, jealousy and competitiveness, my greed and worldliness, I see that arrogance, pride and confidence in myself is so inappropriate before God and before others and I am led to greater humility. And knowing the shameful and sinful darkness within me, it is unbelievable and amazing that God would send His Son to die for me and that he would count me as righteous in Christ and have grand vision for me. In Christ, I can rejoice and be relieved because there’s now no condemnation; in Christ, my daily struggle against sin is no longer hopeless but I am empowered; in Christ, I have the assurance of victory over death and freedom from fear of death; in Christ I am released from the power of sin and trap of the devil; in Christ, I am no longer an alien or an orphan but a beloved child of God and a member of God’s household; In Christ, I have the unending grace and unconditional love of God no matter how many times I fail and fall; in Christ, I no longer need to be strong on my own but I can be weak and find sufficiency in God; in Christ I have God’s tender love and compassion; in Christ, I have been given a noble calling and meaningful work to do

These blessings in Christ lead me to experience lesser and lesser desire for “me” but more for Christ to come in to fill my life as I recognize the beauty of God’s ways. The salvation that I have received in Christ leads me to a sense of gratitude, indebtedness and a heartfelt desire to surrender my whole life to Christ, to put aside my pride, self-assertion, and desire to control and all the narcissistic attitudes. As the “me”, my ego, pride, self-assertion and self-love decreases, as I make LESS of myself, as I enter into a posture of humility, there’s now room in my life for the attitudes, mission, vision, love, character, thought, mind of Christ to dwell and control. The blessings in Christ lead me to a lowliness of heart as I see how big and grand God is and how small I am. And as I submit to Christ and adopt the mind of Christ, I am able to share the same mind, same purpose, same vision, same mission, same love, and be in full accord as the other believers who also humble themselves and submit to Christ. Our mutual submission to Christ in humility as His followers leads us, different members, to oneness, to form one body. And as my pride and self-will is being sanded away, the more I will be able to humble myself before others as well, and therefore leading me to greater agreement and harmony with others.

  • Consider the call to love and oneness in this passage.  What specific exhortation here do I need to heed? 

Considering the call to love and oneness in this passage, the specific exhortation that I need to heed is to count others more significant and to look not only at my own interest but also interest of others. Although I have known, memorized, and even tried to put into practice this exhortation to count others more significant than myself, I think in subtle ways, in the attitudes of my heart, I still want to count myself more significant than others. When I feel stressed out, feel like I don’t have enough, and when I am in a situation of having to give out of “poverty”, then I see this desire to protect myself coming out, the attitude of wanting to calculate the costs and “weigh out my interests against the interests of others” so that I can be served somehow in the end. Ultimately it shows my nature is still to love myself and count myself more important and significant than others. This passage tells me that it’s not merely an external behavior modification, but I need to have a complete change of attitude, a change of mind, a change of perspective, and a change of thought. It is really about learning how to be other-centered, to really practice to place myself in other people’s shoes, to have empathy for people, seeing them as people who are more “in need” than me, so that my “sacrifice” would not really be sacrifice because it is more important that their needs are met than mine. Concretely, in order to allow this other-centered mindset to sink deeper and become reality of my life, I need to quickly silence the voices of calculations when they come, to intentionally practice noticing the needs of others, serving and meeting their needs. I need to practice denying my desire to keep my agenda and schedule and practice welcoming interruptions.

  • What about the gospel would enable me to look out for the “interests of others,” without “selfish ambition or conceit”?

The essence of the gospel is exactly that Christ Himself demonstrated his selfless love on the cross by looking out for the interests of the whole world of sinners who are hopeless in facing sin and death and clueless and powerless to save themselves. He did not hold onto his rightful place as the Son of God reigning on high or exercise his power, as he deserved. He did not respond to the temptations from the devil to take matters into his own hands, avoid pain and suffering and make his life easier. He did not boast of or abuse the powers that he possessed to feed his ego and vain conceit. He did not use his power to rule over dominions or gain followers nor did he save himself by calling down angels to his ally as he was persecuted and crucified on the cross. In Christ, there was not a hint of seeking selfish ambition or vain conceit. He did not care for his own interests to the point of giving his own life willingly in my place because he knew that I would not be able to reverse the curse of sin and overcome death, because he knew that I would never be righteous or be able to save myself. This great gift of grace that I have received makes me overwhelmed with gratitude and desire to follow the command and the way of Christ. As Christ calls me to follow his steps by denying my own desires and interests and to love my neighbor as myself, I am enabled to do so because Christ has done the hardest thing to solve my biggest problem and compared to what Christ has done and sacrificed, what I am called to do is so trivial, small and easy. I am enabled to give up some sleep to talk with someone who needs company or counsel. I am enabled to spend a free evening on organizing some tech equipment for a church-wide event. I am enabled to help out someone who is in financial need. I am enabled to give up some hours of time to relieve a harried mom by watching her kids. I am enabled to extend a helping hand to a sick coworker while I am swamped with work myself. I am enabled to deny myself in these little ways only because Christ has given his life away for me first.

Submitted by Jeremiah L. from Gracepoint Berkeley Church

Philippians 2:2-4    

  • How do the blessings of being in Christ (listed in v. 1) lead me to experience having “the same mind” and “same love, being in full accord” with other believers? 

In this passage, Paul implies that being in Christ comes with a number of spiritual blessings. These include encouragement in Christ, the comfort from Christ’s love, participation in the Spirit, and the affection and sympathy we receive from Christ. On this basis, Paul exhorts the Philippians to “complete [his] joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Paul assumes that “being of the same mind” and this like-mindedness and like-heartedness should be the logical outflow of the Philippians having all received the blessings of being in Christ.

I can testify that receiving these spiritual blessings has led me to experience this kind of like-mindedness and like-heartedness with other believers.  This like-kindness and like-heartedness is the reason that even as our church grows and I and my fellow believers here are spread across different ministries, different cities even, we are able to still share in the same heart of gratitude and love towards God, as well as in the same heart to see God made known among all people, from the very young to the elderly, to college students and youth across the world. It’s the reason we’re able to come together during times like baptism services, where we together marvel at God’s initiative and love in bringing lost sinners to Himself. It’s the reason times like Thanksgiving Retreat are so precious, and why those times always seem like a preview of heaven, where we will all see the full picture of God’s working and faithfulness in all our lives. It’s the reason that my peers and I, as different as we all are in terms of background, personality, and temperament, can the type of deep, dependent relationships we have with one another. That we can be of “the same mind” and “same love, being in full accord”, when naturally our fallen state leads us to be merely self-interested, small people, is possible only because we have each come to believe and trust in the simple truth that we are each sinners who have been saved only by the amazing grace of our merciful Heavenly Father. And, of course, this kind of like-mindedness and like-heartedness doesn’t just extend to fellow believers at our immediate church, but to so many other believers, literally, around the world. Faithful men and women across the globe who, although their circumstances and ministry and backgrounds even, are so different from my own, but by sheer fact that we have each been saved by God’s mercy and given these spiritual blessings in Christ, we can have oneness in mind and heart with.

This is really incredible to me that I can experience oneness with others in this way because without God, I would just be a completely self-centered, self-focused person who wouldn’t be able to share in the same heart and mind with others because my heart and mind would be narrowly devoted to my own interests, my own comfort, my own appetites, and my own advancement. This doesn’t mean, though, that oneness just automatically happens without effort, or else Paul’s exhortation here would not mean much. But the taste of joy and richness that I’ve experienced as a result of being of the same mind and love with my fellow believers spurs me on to want to make sure that my behavior and attitude constantly moves toward this picture of complete oneness in mind and love with other believers.

  • Consider the call to love and oneness in this passage.  What specific exhortation here do I need to heed? 

One specific exhortation that I need to heed is that of v. 4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” I specifically need to heed this exhortation because it challenges every instinct that I have through growing up in this world. From a very young age, I was taught through the messages of this culture and of media to look after myself above all else. I grew up believing that life was all about fulfilling your “potential” or “making it to the top”. Our culture has a way of making selfishness and feeding one’s own ego appear admirable. We’re taught to achieve our dreams, accomplish our goals for ourselves, and somehow, people who successfully do that, no matter the detriment to others they cause along the way or how selfish their goals are, are actually applauded for their ruthlessness or sheer ambition in meeting these dreams and goals. The world’s mantra is more like, “Do everything from selfish ambition or conceit, and if there is any more significant than you, work until you become more significant than them.”

When Apostle Paul said this, he was likely thinking of those who “preach Christ from envy and rivalry” (1:15). These people he referred to were doing a very Christian thing outwardly (i.e. preaching), but they were doing it based on selfish ambition or conceit instead. This is a warning to me and to all believers. Some of the ways that I can fall prey to this kind of selfish ambition and conceit is to what I do to impress other people, to appear “spiritual” to others, or out of the selfish ambition of wanting to get God to be obligated to me for my service or acts. There is selfish ambition or conceit when I do what I do all to keep up with others out of competition or envy. When I do this, this is not being of the “same mind” and “same love” as my fellow believers, although outwardly I could be doing the same or similar things as them. I need also heed the exhortation to “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Again, this is a very hard thing to do because it is so different from what I would do naturally. Before, I would consider myself more significant than anyone else. This was evident in my actions and in my attitude. This was how I was living before Christ’s intervention in my life, and would be how I would be living today without it, and it’s something that I need to continually learn how to live out. Before, my wishes, desires, perceived needs, came way before anyone else’s. I was my own number one priority. Lack of humility continues to manifest itself in my life when I’m tight with my time, money, resources, and mental, physical, and emotional energy, and hoard these things for myself rather than utilizing to meet the needs of others. When I do this, it shows that in many ways I still consider myself more significant than others, because I’m often quick to feed my own desires, however petty they might be, but in contrast, slow to act to meet the real needs of others. This is not the proper way to respond in light of all the spiritual blessings I have received in Christ, and all the I have received from God and so many others–my own life would look very different if those in my life did not count the needs of others, including me, more significant than their own.

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