The Marks and Motive of Selfless Living! 

Peninsula Community Church

June 30, 2019 

Philippians 2:1-4 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

What if I told you that there is a way to have deep joy in your life? This question is a critical one because there are so many who want to have joy but they do not know how to obtain it. In this passage, there is a principle for Christian life that bears our consideration. In living out the truths of this principle, we find that we will have greater joy and fulfillment in Christ and in our life as a whole. As we unpack this passage, we find that Paul details and outlines what our motivation in life ought to be. It is noteworthy that Paul accomplishes this as he does so often. He contrasts two ways of responding to life by giving us two negatives and then one positive. He then points us to One who is the greatest example of how to live this out.

As we dig into this passage, we find that Paul challenges the church in Philippi to complete Paul’s joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, and living in unity. In other words, Paul is saying that my joy will be complete when I see that you are getting along. This is not easily fulfilled because we battle with the sin nature that calls us to grab credit and puff ourselves up. We are motivated to get what is coming to us. Rather than love and unity, there is a sinful push to be honored and praised for what we do. We work in competition with one another, rather than in the unity the Bible calls us to. 

I was reminded that while we are called to have the same mind, same love, and unity; God has created us so differently and with different gifts and talents. This is a wonderful thing, but the reality is that we often circle our wagons around what makes us different, rather than what makes us who we are as a body of Christ. Too often, we are offended that our opinion is not received or we are taken back that someone has an opinion that is contrary to ours. We would rather gossip and argue than walk in healing and in forgiveness. 

You may not realize it but that is why we have it in the Covenant Member’s Agreement that as members of PCC we will seek unity. We promise we will not gossip about one another. We will seek to resolve our differences. Our Covenant calls us to protect the unity of the church. We do so by placing a higher value on seeing our church succeed in Christ than on seeing any of our personal preferences instituted. We will resolve any interpersonal problems in a loving and Biblical manner. We will submit to the leaders God places over us. We will wholeheartedly subscribe to the purpose, vision, and doctrinal statements of PCC. Finally, we will refuse to engage in gossip and evil reporting. That is the essence of Paul’s words here. We seek oneness and wholeness and not division and competitiveness. We are one body and we want to support that in any way we can.

As we return to this passage, we find that Paul states that we should Do nothing with selfish ambition or conceit. This is not a new teaching but is actually an echo of the words recorded by Matthew in Matthew 6 and Matthew 20. Matthew was struck by Jesus’ words. To summarize we see that the world works one way but not us. We understand that we will be rewarded for the things we do. We will either be rewarded here on earth, or we will be rewarded in heaven. Jesus, in essence, gives you a choice in how you will be rewarded. You can be rewarded now through the praise of men, or you can store your rewards in heaven. It is noted that our rewards here are short lived because we will always have to prove ourselves. We are always have to do more because we never do enough or feel satisfied enough. The eternal rewards, however, are not destroyed by rust, moths or other decaying means (Matthew 6:19-20). They last for an eternity. 

It is noteworthy that on several occasions Jesus alluded to a powerful understanding of this motivation. They do this, but not you! Notice that when it came to prayer, people would pray great grand prayers to make them look more spiritual than others (Matthew 6:3). There were those who made sure that everyone knew that they had given to the church and how much they had given (Matthew 6:7). They would fast and walk around in such a way that everyone knew they were fasting so others would know how spiritually pious they were (Matthew 6:17). They would lord their leadership over others and would let everyone know who was in charge and who the boss was (Matthew 20:25-28). Jesus’ response was to say this is how they lived their lives, but not you, because that is not the way a passionate follower of Christ functions. They are in competition. We serve one another. We give and pray in secret. We fast so that no one suspects that we are fasting and what is done in secret will be rewarded in the open. 

You see when we exhibit the characteristic of self ambition we are prone to self exaltation. Have you ever been around someone who boasts about themselves all of the time? Even if someone wanted to praise them they do no give the opportunity for that to happen. They praise themselves and lift themselves up so that others are sure to know what they have done. They do not give anyone else the chance to do that. They want the credit and are quick to let everyone else know how great they are. They are opposed to the Scriptural mandate to let others praise you (Proverbs 27:2). 

Secondly, Paul states that we are not to do anything with conceit. Conceit is defined as a false estimation of one’s self. In essence, people can begin to believe their own press and love it. In preparing for this I came across an interesting statistic. Did you know that 93 million selfies are posted on some media source every day around the world? That is amazing to me. It has also been shared that deaths from taking selfies are 5 times great than being killed by a shark. 

Consider this simple test in terms of being conceited. This test is between you and God. When you walk into a room does your attitude and body language communicate “Here I am.” “I have arrived.” “I am so glad you get to see me.” Or, do you communicate “man, there you are.” “It is so good to see you.” “I am so glad you are here.” Do not forget that it was selfish ambition and conceit that caused satan to be kicked out of heaven (Isaiah 14:10-17; Revelation 12:7) and it will cause is to fail and fall short as well.

While Paul gives us two negatives he also offers a counterpoint to selfish ambition and conceit. We are to walk in humility. How do we do that? We do so by counting others better and more significant than ourselves (Philippians 2:4). We find ways to bless others and lift them up rather than looking to build ourselves up. We look for the good and not the bad or the wrong in others. So, how much time do you spend looking to find things to criticize about others, so that we puff ourselves up and make ourselves look better?

Humility is a big and powerful thing! Listen to James words. But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Did you catch that? God will actually oppose those who walk in pride and self proclamation. The opposite is true as well. He gives grace to the humble. So let me ask you which side of the equation do you want to be on. I do not know about you but I want to be on the grace side and not the opposition side, because you cannot win when God is opposed to you.

As we start to bring this to a close let me give you two illustrations of humility. The first is my time in Mobile. I heard a story this week that only a hand full of people knew about. In fact, no one in the family knew about this event until they were meeting with the funeral director to prepare for my dad’s funeral. Several years ago a young mom and dad had a child that died as an infant. They did not have money to buy a burial plot, so my dad gave up one of his five plots so this family could have a place to bury their child. There was no fanfare. There was so self proclamation. He just did it and no one knew about it. The fact, however, is that Jesus knew, and today my dad has received his reward for that hidden gesture of grace and hope to a hurting and grieving family.

Paul supplies us with a second illustration by showing us one of the greatest examples of living in humility. Listen to Paul’s words. Rather than walking in selfish ambition and conceit, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:5-11).

Did you catch what Paul said? Paul challenges us to have the same mind as Christ. What Paul is saying is that we need to walk in the humility that is modeled by Christ. Notice what Jesus did. He did not try to usurp authority. He humbled himself by leaving the confines of heaven to come to earth. He lay aside His Deity which means that He did not function as God here on earth, but as man. In so doing, He was tempted in every way we were but without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He was obedient.  He was obedient to the cross which was one of the most humiliating and shameful deaths of any available at that time. In the end God exalted Him. 

So here is the take away for us. We can walk in conceit and selfish ambition or we can walk in humility. One gives us an instant reward, or so we think. The other gives us an eternal reward and models the way Christ lived and modeled life for us. God will exalt you in due season (James 4:10; 1 Peter 5:6). God did that for Christ but He will also do that for us. When we live humbly and we do not walk in selfish ambition or in conceit we will do more for the kingdom and not less. We will be a greater witness for Christ nor less. We will honor Christ with our life and our message. 

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Copyright © 2019 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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