Unity in the Gospel

May 31, 2020 ()

Bible Text: Philippians 2:1-4 |


Unity in the Gospel | Philippians 2:1-4
Brian Hedges | May 31, 2020

Turn in your Bibles this morning to Philippians 2. We’re continuing in our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and finally we’re in the second chapter. It’s a wonderful chapter; we’re just going to look at the first four verses this morning, but the first four verses somewhat with verses 5-11, so I’m going to reference that by the end of the message; it’s the famous hymn about Jesus Christ.

But really, verses 1-4, though they lead up to verse 5 and following these four verses are actually just one sentence in Greek. It’s giving us a compressed exhortation to unity in the church. That’s really the theme of this passage, the theme of the message this morning. It’s all about sharing the same mind, the same mindset, the same outlook on life. Christ is the supreme example of the outlook we are to have, but Paul is exhorting the Philippian church to that outlook here.

I think it’s so relevant in the world in which we live, because this world is marked by division in every conceivable way. If you think about the global scale, there’s division, of course, between nations and states in different parts of the world, different ideologies that are at least in an intellectual war with one another, and sometimes that breaks out into actual conflict and actual war.

When we look within our own nation, of course, there’s as much division in our nation now as there ever has been. There is partisan politics on every side, there is racial injustice and conflict. We’ve seen terrible, violent examples of that just in the last week. There’s also a conflict of ideologies, of values and morals; so much so that it’s often stated that there are two Americas, two different countries, it seems like, within our one nation, so deep is the division.

Unfortunately, there has often been division in the church. In fact, if you read the history of the church, it’s often a checkered history of division after division—division between the Eastern church and the Western church, between the Roman Catholic church and the Protestant church. Then, within Protestantism, there have been many divisions over the past 500 years, so that we now have thousands upon thousands of denominations.

Now, all this is not to say that every division is necessarily a bad division. There are times when it is right for churches, for groups to divide when there’s not unity in the truth. But it’s always a tragedy when there’s a departure from truth, and it’s especially a tragedy in a local church, when there is division in a local church, when there’s a lack of unity in a local church. It’s especially with unity on that local level that Paul is concerned in this letter and in the passage we’re going to be looking at.

In some ways, this really just follows the theme that was already introduced in chapter 1:27, with this overarching command (we looked at this last week) to live as citizens, in a manner that is worthy of the gospel; that is, in a manner that fits the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul exhorts the church to stand together for the gospel, to strive together for the faith of the gospel. He wants them to be unified, especially as they face opposition from the outside, suffering from opposition in the world.

But now, he turns his emphasis to the church itself. I like what Alec Motyer says in his commentary on these verses. He says, “Unity is not just a useful weapon against the world,” thinking about standing together in opposition to those who oppose the gospel, “but,” he says, “unity rather belongs to the very essence of Christian life, for it is the way in which Christians display outwardly what the gospel is and means to them. Unity is the gospel’s hallmark.” That’s why when there is a lack of unity it’s always a tragedy, and it’s always, in some ways, a departure from the gospel itself.

So, what I want us to see this morning is Paul’s exhortation to unity and the basis of that exhortation in the gospel in Philippians 2:1-4. Let me read these verses, and then we’ll break this down into three parts. Philippians 2, beginning in verse 1. Paul says,

“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.”

This is God’s word.

When you look at this passage, it really breaks down into three parts. In verse 1, you have gospel motivations for unity. In verse 2, you have the exhortation to unity and a description of unity; an exhortation and a description to unity. Then, in verses 3-4, you have the practices that nurture unity in the church.

Okay, so motivations, an exhortation and a description, and then the practices that nurture unity in the church. Let’s look at each one of those things.

1. The Gospel Motivations for Unity

First of all, the gospel motivations for unity, in verse 1. Paul says, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…” He begins with the word “so”; it connects it to what went before—again, the overarching exhortation from 1:27 to live in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ.

He then follows the beginning of this verse with four phrases, “if” phrases, and the “if” here is a first-class condition in Greek, so it’s really more an argument. “Since these things are true, therefore you should live in this way.” It’s a fourfold appeal, and it’s an appeal to the gospel. Let’s look at each one of these.

(1) He says, first of all, “If there is any encouragement in Christ.” The idea here is encouragement that comes from being in union with Jesus Christ, encouragement in Christ. He’s already addressed the Philippians as the saints in Christ Jesus, in chapter 1:1. Remember, this is part of their basic identity. They once were outside of Christ, now they are united to Christ, they are in Christ. This is one of Paul’s favorite phrases, one of his favorite descriptions for what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who is in Christ, who is united to Christ.

This is deeply encouraging because of everything that union with Christ brings in our lives. So he says, “If there is any encouragement in Christ.” Think of how encouraging it is for someone who once was outside of Christ and now is incorporated and is in union with Jesus Christ. At one time they belonged to the old creation, but Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17 that “if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and behold, all things have become new.” At one time, the person outside of Christ was relying on their own righteousness, but now, if we are joined to Christ, we are relying not on our own righteousness, but relying on him.

In fact, Paul says this, doesn’t he, in Philippians 3:8-9, when he says, “I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him—” listen to this “—not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith.”

We’re new creations, and if we’re found in Christ we have the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Jesus Christ. That’s deeply encouraging. It means that our lives have been changed, it means we have a new record; it means that when God looks at us, he looks at us in his Son and through his Son.

Listen, that is true of every single Christian. Every person who believes in Jesus Christ is in Christ. This is Paul’s first appeal. He says if there (or since there) is encouragement in Christ, we are to be of the same mind.

(2) Secondly, he says, “If there is any comfort from love.” Probably he has in mind God’s love for us, the love that God has shown to us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Maybe he has love more broadly in mind; not only the love that God has shown us, but the love that binds us together and the love that we have for one another.

He says, “If there is any comfort from love.” Again, this word “comfort” is an important word in Paul’s letters. Especially you find this in the letter to the Corinthians, the second letter to the Corinthians. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. He says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God.”

Now, Paul has just told the Philippians that it has been given to them, it has been granted to them not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for his sake. He himself is suffering for the sake of Christ as he writes as a prisoner of Christ, as he writes in chains in Rome. He’s writing now to the Philippian church, knowing that they also are faced with conflict, but he reminds them that in their suffering there’s also comfort. There’s comfort for them.

Again, 2 Corinthians 1:5 says, “For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings you will also share in our comfort.”

I think of the stories that I’ve read of people who have been persecuted for the sake of Christ, who have suffered for Christ. One that comes to mind is Haralan Popov, who was a pastor in Bulgaria in the 20th century, and was imprisoned I think it was for 12 or 13 years for Christ, tortured in all kinds of ways. He wrote a biography called Tortured for His Faith. But in the midst of that torture and that imprisonment, he talks about how Christ manifested himself in such a strong way, how it brought joy and encouragement and comfort to his soul.

That’s been the experience of those who have suffered for the sake of Christ. Where there is suffering for Christ there is also comfort, because Christ, who died for us, also loves us. So, because of his love, he comforts us in our affliction.

Paul appeals to that. He says, “If there’s been encouragement in Christ, if there’s been comfort from love…”

(3) Thirdly, he says, “If there is any participation in the Spirit.” We’ve already encountered this word. The word “participation” is the word koinonia (κοινωνια). It’s our word for fellowship or for partnership. You remember in chapter 1:5, Paul has already reminded the Philippians of their partnership, their koinonia in the gospel, and that they are fellow partakers with him of grace, also using this basic word.

Now he reminds them of their koinonia, their fellowship in the Spirit. It reminds us, doesn’t it, that the Holy Spirit who is given to the church, the Spirit who regenerates and indwells believers, the Spirit who lives in the heart of every single person who believes in Christ; that the Spirit is the one who unites us to Christ and who unites us to one another in the body of Christ. The Spirit, in other words, is the source and the author of our fellowship. He is the source of our unity.

In fact, Paul will say to the Ephesians in Ephesians 4 that we are to be eager to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.” Here he tells them that “if there is any fellowship in the Spirit, [you are to] be of the same mind.”

Just notice here that, as we’ve looked at union with Christ, comfort from love (probably the love of God), and then fellowship in the Spirit, that Paul probably has in mind here the grace that comes to us through the gospel from the triune God himself. In other words, there’s a trinitarian focus here. In fact, the language here is pretty close to 2 Corinthians 13:14, that great trinitarian benediction of grace, and we close our service with this every Sunday, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” That’s what unites us together as believers in Jesus Christ, and Paul appeals to that as motivation for why they should then live in unity.

This is so important, brothers and sisters. The unity that we share in the church is unity hat is based on God’s own work in bringing us together into one body. I love the words of Michael Horton, from his book The Christian Faith. He says, “The catholicity and unity of the church is found only in fellowship with the triune God. These attributes of the church do not arise from the individuals or a religious society, but from the Father, in the Son, by the Spirit.” That’s the source of our unity, the basis of our unity. It’s our unity in Christ.

(4) Then there’s a fourth thing that Paul says here is a motivation for unity. He says, “If there is any affection and sympathy.” It seems that he turns here from the objective realities, the experience of God’s grace in the gospel that unites us together, now to the subjective expression of that in affection and sympathy for one another.

The word “affection” is literally the word for the inward organs. It’s a word that would refer, perhaps, to the kidneys or other inward organs. Just as we talk about being moved in our hearts or having a visceral reaction to something, so in the ancient world, people would use this word, they would talk about a visceral reaction, a visceral feeling, and it was a sign, of course, of sympathy, of affection, of deep compassion. So that’s the word “affection.”

The word “sympathy” is the expression of that sympathy and compassion; it’s the expression of those emotions as they go out to other people. So Paul appeals to this as well, that they have this affection for one another and this compassion for one another, sympathy for one another. All of this is part of the basis, the motivation of their unity. The gospel motivation for unity.

Before we move on, I just want you to notice something here that I think is so important, that the basis of this unity, our experience of Christ, the love of God, through the power of the Spirit, and how that brings an affection into our lives for one another, that this basis cuts against two wrong-headed approaches to unity that we see so often today.

On one hand, you have what we might think of as ecumenism, the whole ecumenical movement. This is the approach that seeks for unity without truth. In the extreme forms of this, it’s the idea that all religions are essentially seeking for the same thing, we’re all worshipping the same God, and whether you’re a Muslim or you’re Jewish or you’re a Christian, we all worship the same God and we shouldn’t divide over our theologies, over our doctrines. Of course, no Muslim actually believes that, and no orthodox Jew believes that, and I don’t think that as orthodox Christians we could believe that either, because in fact we don’t worship the same God, in fact we don’t have the same doctrine, the same theology; so real unity is not possible on that basis.

On the other hand, though, sometimes within the Protestant church, especially, there’s been sectarianism. It’s almost the polar opposite of ecumenism. In sectarianism, you have people who want to divide over virtually any truth claims, over any doctrine, whether that doctrine is a primary doctrine of the gospel or not. So you have people who divide over baptism, and you have people who divide over their view of prophecy, and you have people who divide over their view of spiritual gifts, and you have Calvinists and you have Arminians, and you have people across the whole spectrum, fighting over doctrine, to the point that sometimes you have denominations within denominations, and split after split after split. All these splintered groups who agree in the basic teaching of the gospel, but who disagree on some of the other things and they can’t get along. Surely that’s a denial of what Paul is after here, which is unity based on our experience of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

What we need is unity in the truth, but in the primary doctrines of the gospel, those things that we share with other believers while we have love and charity and extend liberty to one another in the secondary, much less the third and fourth level, doctrines.

I love that statement that’s been attributed to Augustine and to Luther and to other people, but whoever first said it, I think it’s a good statement. “In the essentials [let there be] unity, in the nonessentials [let there be] liberty, and in all things [let there be] charity.”

I think one of the great examples of this in the history of the church is George Whitefield, that great evangelist from the 18th century. As you may know, Whitefield was actually Anglican. He was ordained a priest in the Anglican church; he never actually left the Anglican church, even though most Anglican churches would not let him preach in their pulpits. He’s associated with the Great Awakening and with the revival, sometimes preaching to crowds of 15-20,000 people, and saw hundreds and thousands of people brought to Christ.

I recently read two essay-length biographies of Whitefield, and both of them stressed Whitefield’s catholicity, that he was willing to partner with people who disagreed with him. Whitefield himself was a Calvinist, but he was willing to partner with people who disagreed with him, even in his theology, if they were united in the gospel.

He had a great love and affection for his friends the Wesleys, John and Charles Wesley. There was actually a falling out between John Wesley and George Whitefield, fairly early in their ministry, but they repaired that eventually, and Whitefield maintained a charitable heart towards Wesley.

Someone once asked Whitefield, “Do you think we will see John Wesley in heaven?”

This was Whitefield’s response. He said, “No, I don’t think we will, because he will be so much closer to the throne than you and I will be.”

When Whitefield died, do you know who he asked to preach his funeral sermon? It was his friend the Arminian, John Wesley.

That’s a great example of catholicity of spirit and the kind of unity that we even with people where we may disagree. Even in our own church, there can be disagreements on some of the secondary doctrines, but we have unity in the gospel. Paul appeals to that unity here. Gospel motivations for unity.

2. An Exhortation to and Description of Unity

That leads, then, to this exhortation. Let me read verses 1-2 to get us into the exhortation. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, and 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.”

Notice here the basic exhortation, and then the unfolding description of unity. The exhortation is actually in this phrase, “complete my joy.” That’s the imperative verb. Paul here in this letter writes a lot about joy, and he shows that his own joy is bound up in the health and the wellbeing of the church, and he exhorts them, “Complete my joy by being unified. Complete my joy by being of the same mind.”

That phrase “being of the same mind” is the word phroneo (φρονεω). It’s also a word that we’ve already looked at, and it carries the idea of sharing the same outlook, of having the same mindset, of adopting the same mentality. It’s an important word that is governed by the object of the mindset. What is it that we have the same mentality about?

Listen to what Gordon Fee says in his commentary. I find this helpful. He says, “The word does not mean to think in the sense of cogitate; rather, it carries the nuance of setting one’s mind on, thus having a certain disposition towards something.” That could be towards life or towards people or towards values or whatever. He says it’s “having a certain disposition towards something, or a certain way of looking at things, thus a mindset. What he means by the same mindset will be explained in verses 6-11,” when Paul points them to that of Christ (“Have this mind in you, which is yours in Christ Jesus,” verse 5).

Fee continues, “The emphasis is thus on the Philippians’ unity of purpose and disposition, unity with regard to the gospel and their heavenly citizenship, not on their all having the same opinions about everything.” That’s important, because anytime you get a group of people together, in any organization, including in a church, you’re going to have a broad spectrum of opinions.

It’s been joked before that if you get two Jewish rabbis together you’re going to have at least three opinions; and you could say the same thing about preachers and disciples and Christians in the church. You get two or three together and you’re going to have multiple opinions on all kinds of issues. That’s fine. That’s not what Paul is talking about here.

What Paul is saying is don’t let the differences of opinion distract you from this one basic focus, this one mentality, a mindset that is governed by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

He wants the Philippians, and by implication us, to complete his joy by being of the same mind, and then “having the same love.” He’s already talked about comfort from love; now he’s saying, “If you have this love, the same love, I want you to express this love to one another,” and then, “being in full accord.” This literally means “to be of one soul.”

Often the Greeks would talk about friendship in this way. They would say a friendship can be described as one soul in two bodies. That is, people who so agree with one another that it’s like they share the same soul, even though they’re in two bodies. That’s the idea here. Paul wants them to have a gospel friendship, a Christian friendship, being in full accord and of one mind. Once again, he’s using the cognate of that word phroneo.

Let me give you an illustration of what I think this might look like. One of my bucket-list items (anybody else have bucket-list items?) is to attend a live performance of all nine of Beethoven’s symphonies. That’s something I’d like to do by the time I die. I’ve attended two so far, including the great Fifth Symphony, certainly one of Beethoven’s greatest.

But here recently I attended the Fourth Symphony in South Bend at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. Every time I go to the symphony, I’m just amazed at the harmony and the beauty of the music. Just think about what it could be. What if you had on stage a full symphony, with all the different instruments, and they’re not in tune with one another, and they’re all trying to play their own thing, and they’re not following the direction of the conductor. What would you have? You wouldn’t have a symphony, you would have a cacophony! You would have chaos, you would have dissonance, you would have discord, you would have a horrible sound that nobody would want to sit through.

But the contrast is that when you do go the symphony, they’re all in the same key (after the oboe plays the A), they’re all playing the same music, they’re doing so with great skill, and they are following the lead of the conductor. So what you get is a masterpiece of music.

I think that’s a wonderful analogy for what the church be like. We have different gifts, we have different perspectives, we have different instruments, you might say; but we are all to be tuned to the key of the gospel, and we are to be led by the conduction of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, through the word of God, so that we are in harmony with one another. When we do that, it leads to harmony and to joy. For Paul, he could say this would “complete my joy,” and I think this would be true of any Christian leader, to see people who are in step with one another, who are in sync with one another, who are in tune with one another. Because of the gospel, because of the work of the Spirit, it leads to joy in our lives. This is what Paul’s after, this is what we want in our own church as well, this kind of Christianity.

3. The Practices that Nurture Unity

So, how do we get there? The third point, the practices that nurture unity in the church. That’s what verses 3-4 (and honestly verses 5-11, as well) are about. Let me point out three things, three practices for nurturing unity in the church.

(1) Here’s the first: cultivating humility. Look at verse 3. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Notice there’s both a negative and a positive. He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit...” Selfish ambition; that means a self-serving aim. It’s actually the word that was used of those preachers in Rome in Philippians 1 who were preaching Christ not sincerely, but they were preaching out of rivalry with Paul; they were preaching from selfish ambition. It’s a self-serving aim. They were preaching in order to promote themselves rather than to promote Christ. Paul says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.”

This word “conceit” is an interesting word. It’s a compound word, and it literally means “empty glory.” In fact, many of the ancient Christian writers would talk about the seven deadly sins, and one of those seven deadly sins was vainglory, and it was this word. It’s the idea of one’s assessment of oneself that is puffed up with pride and yet without any real substance to it. Paul is saying, “Don’t let that characterize you. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit [or vainglory]...”

But in contrast to that (here’s the positive command), “...in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” This word “humility” is the word “lowliness.” This would have been perhaps even shocking to Paul’s original readers, because the pagan philosophers such as Aristotle and Plutarch and others, when they would use this word, it was almost always in a negative context. They didn’t think of lowliness of mind as being noble.

But Paul’s mentality here is shaped by the gospel, because of the humility of Jesus Christ himself, as he will go on to describe in verses 5-11. He’s saying that just as Christ in humility and in weakness came and served others, “so you in humility are to count others more significant than yourselves.” Cultivating humility; that’s first.

We should ask ourselves, what are our aims and ambitions and how do we assess ourselves? Paul doesn’t want us to be aiming at self-promotion, and he doesn’t want to assess ourselves with vain conceit; he wants us to aim at serving others, thinking of others as better than ourselves; and he wants us to assess ourselves with humility. It’s so important that we beware of attitudes that lead to self-promotion rather than to the building up of others.

(2) That leads to the second practice here; not just cultivating humility, but then very deliberately putting others first. Look at verse 4. He says, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

When Paul says, “Let each of you do this,” he is taking a general command for the whole community and he is now applying it on the individual level. He’s saying, “Each single one of you.” Each member of the church, each brother and sister, each man, each woman, each saint; “let each one of you look not to his own interests—” the word “only” is not actually there in the Greek. It’s, “...look not to his own interests, but to the interests of others.”

In other words, we are to put others first, because we consider them more significant than ourselves, more valuable than ourselves. This is so contrary to everything in our society, which tends to put self first. Look out for number one. But that’s not the Christian ethic. The Christian ethic is to consider others more valuable, more important than ourselves, and to look out for the interests of others.

James Montgomery Boice tells us a story from the Chinese evangelist Watchman Nee, about a poor Christian farmer that Nee once knew in China. His fields were high in the mountains, and he would every day have to pump water to irrigate his rice fields. There was a neighbor down the hill who every morning would open the dike so that the water would run from his fields into his neighbor’s fields. The consequence, of course, would be that his own fields wouldn’t get the water that they needed.

This was an act of injustice. The neighbor was effectively stealing from this man. So he met and he prayed with believers, trying to figure out what he should do to find a solution to this problem. Finally they arrived at a solution. This is what it was. Every morning he would rise earlier in the day and he would go water his neighbor’s fields first, and only after watering his fields would he go and water his own.

That’s what it means to put the interests of others ahead of our own. Just think of how beautiful that would be in the local church, if all of us were living in that kind of way, if we were putting the interests of others ahead of our own interests.

(3) Cultivating humility, putting others first, and then thirdly (and I only just want to name it and then read the passage, because we’ll come back to this in more detail next week), thirdly is imitating Jesus Christ. Christ is the great example of humility and of servanthood in this chapter. Look at verses 5-11. Paul says,

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Have the mind of Christ. Again, he’s exhorting them to a certain mindset. “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.”

When we imitate Christ in his humility, in his servanthood, Christ who did not count his equality with God something to be held onto, but rather made himself of no reputation, became a servant, became one of us in order to serve us, in order to live for us and die for us—when we imitate him in the ways that we serve one another, you know what that does? That leads to a church that is unified. It leads to a church that is together, a church that flourishes in the gospel and in unity with one another.

Let me just end in this way. I’ve been a pastor of two different churches, and I’ve been in this church for over 17 years now. I just want to say to Redeemer Church this morning a word of encouragement, that in the years here, what I have seen by and large in this church is the Spirit of this text lived out. Most of the time, with very few exceptions, what I have seen is this kind of heart, this kind of humility, this kind of unity, this kind of love for one another.

I’ve wondered what would be the case as we come back together with a pandemic going on, and we’re trying to decide what are the best measures for that, safety measures and protocols. You know, there’s a divide in our culture whether people should wear mask or not wear masks, and all the rest.

So we sent out a survey a few days ago to see kind of where our church was, and as those answers have come back, I’ve been so encouraged by the spirit and the heart of the brothers and sisters, the members of Redeemer Church, who are willing to do whatever they need to do to come back together and are willing to put the interests of others ahead of their own interests.

So I want to commend you as a church, and I want to encourage us to continue to think this way. Think this way in regards to one another as well as towards other believers in other churches in our area. Let’s be united. Let’s be united in the gospel. We have great gospel motivations for unity. Let’s live out this unity by having the same mindset, by having the mind of Christ, and let’s practice this, put it into practice, as we cultivate humility, as we put others first, and as we imitate the example of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let’s pray together.

Our gracious and merciful God, we thank you for your love for us, displayed supremely in the gift of your Son, Jesus Christ, and we thank you for the example of Christ, who came as a servant. Jesus even said that he came “not to be served, but to serve,” and to give his life as a ransom for many. He said that we should follow him, that if he, our Lord and Master, washed the feet of his disciples, we should also wash one another’s feet, that we should take the lowest place in serving one another.

Father, I just thank you that I’ve seen this attitude displayed so often in our own church fellowship. It’s a mark of grace, it’s a gift of grace, it’s an encouragement to me to see that your Spirit has done this work in our church. Lord, I pray this morning that you would continue that work, that you would continue to give us this mindset, that you would help us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Help us to cultivate humility and help us to consider one another, the interests of others more important than our own interests.

Especially in the days in which we live, as we’re facing new challenges in coming together, my prayer, Lord, is that as we do so we would do so with the hearts of servants, with humble hearts that want to see the wellbeing and the flourishing and the safety and health and encouragement of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Lord, our prayer is that as we do this that you would be glorified, that we would walk worthy of the gospel, that our lives, that our church would live in a manner that fits the gospel, and that the effect in our world would be that people would see the church and they would say, “Look how they love one another.” So let that be true in our lives as we are united together by your Spirit in this common hope that we share. We pray it in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen.