Opening Prayer: Gracious Father, we ask you to give us courage this morning as we consider your word. We are afraid of really submitting to your word, and we are often even more fearful of submitting to other people. Teach us to rejoice in obedience, but even more, teach us to see the glory of unity.
We’ve now considered the fact that other people are gifts, and that these gifts have been piling up long before we got here. This tradition, this culture arrives at us in the fathers and mothers that surround us today. And the honor we bestow upon our fathers is ultimately based upon the fact that God is our heavenly father.
Pursuing the Same Mind
Paul exhorts the Philippians to be likeminded based on three realities: their consolation in Christ, comfort of love, and participation in the Spirit. Paul may have any number of things specifically in mind here, but it sounds highly reminiscent of the Trinitarian benediction at the end of another letter (2 Cor. 13:14). If any of that is real and true, Paul says that the completion of his joy would be found in being likeminded, being united in thought and affections (2:2). If you know the Trinity, be like the Trinity. He literally says the “same thinking, the same love, having united spirits, and one way of thinking.” This is another way of saying “conform.” The gift of the Holy Spirit is the gift of conformity to the image of the Son so that we might be like him, like brothers (Rom. 8:26-29). And at the same time, Paul says don’t be “conformed to this world” but be transformed (Rom. 12:2). Peter says the same thing when he says not to be conformed to their “former ignorance” but be holy just like God is (1 Pet. 1:14-16). So we are always called to reject one way of thinking, acting, living, and called to embrace another. The question is: whose mind are you pursuing?
Putting off Rivalry and Conceit
Paul says that one of the ways you can know the difference is by whether you are acting out of rivalry or conceit (Phil. 2:3). And this rivalry and conceit often shows up in two different ways: Option A is the straight up rivalry and conceit: I will be better than them, and I will get all the glory. Option B is the not so straight up but just as obvious rivalry and conceit: Since they are better, more ____ (fill in the blank), I will do my own thing and steal their glory. And people do this with all sorts of things: clothing/hair, sports, home culture, theological convictions, worship styles/traditions, etc. But Paul says we must consider others better than ourselves. This word only shows up five times in the NT, and in two of those places it means being subject to civil authorities. Consider others, Paul says, as having more importance, worthy of more honor than you and your opinions. This is another way of saying that people always submit. The only question is ‘who are you submitting to?’ And who has priority: mom, dad, roommate, blogs, books, pastors, teachers, parents’ friends, TV, magazines? Again, whose mind are you pursuing? And Paul says that when you make a decision do it in the interest of others over your own; not your will but their will be done (Phil. 2:4). And the summary of it all is: have the mind of Christ who gave up everything that was his due so that he could have more (Phil. 2:5-11).
Conclusions and Applications
The gospel of Disney, Hollywood, and all of the rest of the modern day prophets is the imperative of following your own heart, be different, go against the flow. But the question that needs to be asked is ‘different than what?’ ‘different than whom?’ ‘which flow?’ ‘what’s my heart saying?’
Two things need to be constantly kept in mind: first, apart from the grace of God, the heart of man is desperately wicked. And second, Christ rose from the dead to make all things new. This means that we need to hold together a certain skepticism regarding human nature and a certain optimism about the trajectory of history. And that means first and foremost a certain skepticism of our own wisdom and a certain optimism about the people God has surrounded us with.
Finally, given what we have already established about the people God has given us and the gifts of our fathers and mothers, we need to train our instincts to act and think with the flow of God’s blessing. Go with that flow. And this applies across the board in your families, with your children, with your teachers, with your classmates, with your neighbors, and of course in the church. Work at having the same mind and loving the same things. Of course you are different; that’s the point.
In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen!
Closing Prayer: Almighty God, we confess that so often we sin against the Holy Spirit by not trusting Him to bring us back from the dead. We don’t mind going under here and there, but we are afraid to lose ourselves, to lose our gifts, to lose our concerns, our opinions, our desires, our dreams, but Father we know that Jesus gave up everything and he had far more to lose and yet you gave it all back and even more. Therefore we rejoice in your calling us to die because we know that you have prepared great things for us. And therefore we cry out to in faith praying the words that Christ taught us, singing…