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, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

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.

12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.”[c] Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky.

Philippians 2: 1-15

September 28, 2014

It is not about you! Neither is it about them. The lines of demarcation are not clear at first. Many of us like to think in terms of I, ME, and MINE. We like it that Frank Sinatra sang the song, “I did it my way”. It appeals to our sense of self, our ego if you will. Some of that is necessary in the secular world just to be successful in business, to compete, to get ahead, to earn a living.

But in today’s scripture, we are looking at the Christian life as a WE or an US which we acknowledge and support because we became CHRISTIANS. If you had not, you probably would not be here today.

The scripture I just read is from the Apostle (make that the SERVANT) Paul because that is the way he wanted to identify and describe himself. Although we acknowledge him as a very important man of the scriptures and the predominate church man, he never sought to elevate his position. He believed that it was most important to be humble and place Christ Jesus in the place of honor. Paul started the church at Philippi and the scripture we’ve listened to is from his letter to this church.

In the chapter before the scripture we’ve read, Paul emphasizes that Jesus, who is fully God, demoted himself to be a lowly human and took on the very nature of a servant. Jesus humbled himself and adopted none of the trappings of importance like rulers, kings, elders, and priests. We know he did not ride through the streets on what we celebrate as Palm Sunday on a prancing white steed but rode a donkey instead. He was not born in an inn, or a castle, or even in a room in a shack; He was born in a manger or animal stall in what passed for a barn in those days.

He had no home. Even though others furnished him places to sleep, he was in fact. . .HOMELESS. He attracted the dismay of the religious leaders because he associated with the lowest class of people around. Especially the hated tax collectors and prostitutes and shepherds – all very common folk. IT WAS HIS WAY, IT WAS HIS STYLE, IT WAS GENUINE JESUS.

I think we know why or at least have a strong guess why He did this – – people in the lowest class of society have no sense of importance; they have no notion of what is the right, correct, or socially accepted way to behave. . .AND, they are more willing to accept new ideas and ideas which challenge whatever oppressive foot that is stomping them.

They exhibit a willingness to listen and maybe change. . .to REPENT. . .because to repent is to do a 180 or turn around and to the other way.

Many folks – WE – like to develop a routine. A set way of every day activities. A set way of believing what church is and ought to be…what is the best car to buy (an SUV maybe, or a Cadillac or a Lincoln, or a FORD. I used to zing my tech classes at the University on the first day of class by asking for a show of hands from those who liked Chevys, then Fords, then others. . .then I would say, “You Ford guys should be excited feel special because at this time there are more Fords on the road than any other brand.         All the others made it home.

Well, back to the topic, we like to do, behave, and associate in ways we feel comfortable. To associate with the right and good people, to place ourselves in a place we like where we feel cozy and at home.

Is that wrong? Well, not necessarily! I bring it up because it is something that affects us all and it is something that can be dangerous to our relationship with Christ Jesus.

Relationship – that is what we’re supposed to have with Jesus. And sometimes we get stuck in a rut of behavior and in a stagnation of expectation.

Paul tells the church at Philippi that they should have the same attitude as Jesus had: remember todays’ scripture — (read again verses 5 – 11)

Paul then both commends and reminds the Philippians that they have always obeyed Jesus’ teachings. They have obeyed and followed when Paul was there with them and they did so when he was gone and they were on their own.

He stressed to them that they should “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” Does that sound like you work for salvation?

It might unless you know what I discovered: the original Greek from which our scripture is translated has a plural pronoun, so it refers to the body of the church, not to individuals which make up the church. Salvation remains a gift from God until it becomes the responsibility of the church as a group to act as the body of Christ to formulate action and develop methods. . .then it becomes work. You all knew that, didn’t you? You can’t be on a committee or work cooperatively in a church group without knowing it is work. Along with work comes some expenditure of time and frequently some frustration.

Paul has advice and instruction here as well, “Do all things without murmuring and arguing so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, IN WHICH YOU SHINE LIKE STARS IN THE WORLD.”

That’s a quote, that is a command, that is a principle we should follow: Make your Christian life together shine like stars in a crooked and perverse world. The world is certainly crooked and perverse and we need to remember to step up..