Vision and Values: Mission | Philippians 1:12-2:11
Brian Hedges | May 6, 2018
Thank you, worship team.
Well, turn in your Bibles this morning to Philippians chapter 1. Today we’re concluding a four-week series we’ve been doing on our vision and values as a church. We’ve been talking about who we are as a church, our core values, and this morning we come to the last of those. Let me just begin, before we turn to the text of God’s word, by reminding you of our mission statement and then of these four core values, and then we’re going to focus on the fourth one this morning.
Our mission statement goes like this: “As people whose lives have been transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ, our mission is to worship the Lord, live together in community, and reach out in both word and deed in the Michiana area and around the world.”
We break that down into these four core values. First of all, “Trusting Jesus and his finished work with all of our hearts,” that’s the gospel. The gospel is the finished work of Christ and trusting in Jesus is our response to it.
Secondly, “Seeing Jesus every week in Scripture, prayer, and at the table.” That’s worship; that describes the dynamics and the rhythms of what we try to do every week as we come to see and to savor Jesus Christ, to taste and see that he is good, and to do that in prayer, both prayers that we say and prayers that we sing; and in Scripture as we read it, as we hear it; and at the table as we see in the sacraments the glory and the beauty of Jesus Christ.
Number three, last week we talked about this, “Following Jesus in partnership with others”; that’s community. We are a community of disciples, we are the body of Christ, and as such we are seeking to follow Jesus together, and we do that in our relationships with our leaders, our relationships with one another, and especially in our relationship with God.
And then finally, this morning we’re looking at mission, which is, “Sharing Jesus in word and deed.” Sharing Jesus in word and deed.
Now, with every one of these messages I have felt the constraints of time, because there’s so much that we mean by these core values, there’s a lot packed into those, and it’s hard to cover everything in one message. That’s especially true this morning. This core value is, “Sharing Jesus in word and deed,” and the “deed” aspect of that really encompasses the whole realm of mercy and justice, and how are we to express through the way we live and through tangible acts of mercy and justice, how are we to express that in the world? I’m not going to cover that this morning. I’m not covering that this morning, not because it’s not important - it is important; there have been whole messages on that, you can go back maybe a year and a half to two years, there’s a whole sermon on Micah 6:8 that’s on justice. That’s probably my best attempt, so far, to give an expression and some teaching about what we mean by justice in the church. So you can go back and find that online.
This morning I’m going to focus more on sharing Jesus in word and, really, the heart of mission. What is involved in mission, and what are some of the components of that? I want to do that from Paul’s letter to the Philippians. So we’re going to be in Philippians chapters 1 and 2; I’m going to read kind of a long section of Scripture and just pull from a few portions of what I read, Philippians chapters 1 and 2.
You know the context of this letter. Paul is writing while in prison, he doesn’t know whether he’s going to live or die, and he’s writing this letter to a church that he founded, that he planted; you have the record of that in Acts chapter 16. This was a church that was made up of a very diverse group of people, and it’s a church that he wants to see unified around the gospel for the sake of mission, and that’s really the theme of this letter. You even get a taste of that here in chapter 1 and in chapter 2.
So, let’s read it, Philippians 1:12-2:11, and then I want us to consider three things that are necessary for mission that we can learn from Philippians. Alright; let’s read the text. Philippians 1:12:
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. 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. 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.”
This is God’s word.
So, this letter is really all about mission, written out of the context of Paul’s imprisonment and his relationship with the Philippians. There are a lot of things we can say about mission; I only have time to talk about three of these things, but I want you to see three things. I want you to see Paul’s ambition, the partnership he had with the Philippians, and then the mindset that he encourages them to have.
So, ambition has to do with the honor of Christ; partnership, the body of Christ; and mindset, the mind of Christ. I think all three of these things are absolutely crucial to the church, the church in general and our church in particular, if we are to fulfill the mission that God has given to us.
I. Ambition: The Honor of Christ
So, number one, ambition. Ambition: the honor of Christ. Mission begins with the right ambition, and the right ambition is not that our own name will be known, it’s not our own personal success. Our ambition should be the honor of Jesus Christ. Paul is such a wonderful model of this, and I want you to see it here in the first chapter.
You see it in two ways. Paul says that he wants Christ to be proclaimed and that he wants Christ to be praised, and what’s so amazing about this, so interesting and, really, encouraging about this is that Paul wants this in spite of how it affects him personally. In fact, this is what gives him strength, it’s what gives him hope, it’s what motivates him in the midst of very difficult personal circumstances.
So, here Paul is in prison, right? He’s in prison, and you see this in verses 12 and 13, that he believes that his imprisonment, his suffering, is actually serving to advance the gospel. Look at verse 12 again, 12 and 13: “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.”
Now, here’s the missionary, right? He’s a missionary, and he has all these ambitions (we know those from Romans chapter 15); he has the ambition to preach Christ where Christ has not been named. That’s what he wants to do. He wants to go to Spain. He wants to travel to Europe. He wants to take the gospel to the ends of the earth; that’s his desire, and he’s locked up in a cell! And he says, “My imprisonment has served to advance the gospel.”
Well, how is that? Well, the explanation is that he was chained to a guard 24 hours a day. These guards were on six-hour shifts. There were, at this time, approximately 9,000 men in the imperial guard, and Paul, knowing that he’s going to have a guard chained to him 24 hours a day, decides to turn his prison into a pulpit. So, he’s just witnessing to these guys all day long, until some of them finally get saved, and then the word starts to spread, and the name of Christ becomes known in the whole imperial guard, he says.
The effect is that Paul has effectively, if not personally, reached all 9,000 men. That’s why he is so deeply persuaded that his imprisonment is advancing the gospel. He is seeing here that his suffering paves the way for the gospel to advance, and his one hope, his one ambition here, is that Christ will be proclaimed.
Now, you see that in verses 14 through 18 he begins to describe the ways in which this has reverberations in the church, leading to the greater preaching of Christ.
First of all, he says that his sufferings have served to advance the gospel by making others bolder to preach Christ. Look at verse 14. He says, “Most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Now, Paul recognizes that his suffering is advancing the gospel, not only in the fact that he’s turned his prison into a pulpit, but also in the fact that others are becoming more bold because of his suffering. They have more confidence. They see Paul suffering, they see the fruit of his suffering, and they’re not going to leave it all to Paul; they’re actually going to be bold in sharing the gospel themselves.
That is the pattern, isn’t it? Have you ever noticed how, when a missionary comes and shares, they begin to tell about the sacrifices they’ve made and the people that they’ve reached and the hardships they’ve been through, yet they’ve tried to be faithful and then God has blessed them in some way; it emboldens us, it makes us want to share the gospel more in our own contexts. That’s exactly as it should be. So Paul is encouraged that Christ is being preached.
And then in verses 15 through 18 he talks about another group of people who are preaching the gospel, and I just love the way Paul deals with this. I mean, this is so significant. This has really helped me as a preacher, alright? So, there have been points in my life and in my ministry where I have really struggled with envy. This is a terrible thing for a preacher to feel, but I have at times. I’ve struggled with envy of another pastor or church that looks more successful.
Where I always come back to is this chapter. I don’t know that I’ve always perfectly been there - I’m sure that I haven’t - but this is the way I pray: “Lord, help me be like Paul.” Because Paul is talking here about people who are preaching Christ out of envy, alright, so I don’t want to be like those kinds of people; but he’s also talking about people who are gloating in their successes while he is suffering in prison. Look at his heart - I mean, this is so amazing - verse 15, “Some, indeed, preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former,” the ones doing it out of envy and rivalry, “proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, but thinking to afflict me in my prison.” It’s like they’re gloating over the fact that, “You know, Paul’s in prison, but hey, we have a successful ministry!” That’s a really, really terrible thing for a Christian to think.
You know what? Paul just says, “So what? Jesus is being talked about! Christ is being proclaimed, and so I rejoice in this.” It’s amazing that he does not utter some kind of terrible condemnation, even though they’re not sincere. Now, he knows that some of them are not sincere, but he rejoices that Christ is proclaimed. He will utter condemnations when the gospel is being perverted, when the gospel is being distorted (we see that in Galatians chapter 1), but here he’s just like, “Hey, Jesus is being talked about, the mission is going on, and so I can rejoice in that.” It’s a wonderful model and a wonderful example of a heart that is governed by this ambition for Christ.
So, his ambition is that Christ will be proclaimed, and then secondly, his ambition is that Christ will be praised, or that Christ will be honored. You see this in verses 19 through 26, and he’s really thinking here about the dilemma he’s in. He’s in prison and he doesn’t know whether he’s going to get out or not, and he’s saying, “On one hand, it would be better for me to survive this so that I can help you; but on the other hand,” he says, “it would be better to just be with Christ.” But his ambition here is that Christ will be honored. Look at verses 19 through 21.
He says, “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now, as always, Christ will be honored...” There is is, “that Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
I mean, there’s the ambition. To live is Christ, to die is gain. That’s the heart that drives mission. That’s the heart that will drive you to share the gospel with other people. That’s the heart that will drive us as a church to be about mission and to be about evangelism and to be about mercy and justice and be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of the gospel, because we want Christ to be honored! To live is Christ! That’s what keeps courageous missionaries in a hard place, willing to suffer and even face death, because they are able to say, “To live is Christ and to die is not loss, but to die is gain.”
That just takes a miracle in somebody’s heart to be able to say that, because we have so much to lose. We have so much to lose, especially in our culture, especially in America. We have comforts and we have a family and we have our jobs and our careers, we have all of our earthly ambitions, we have our possessions; we have all these things, and you think about dying - any of us, we think about dying, our first thought is probably going to be all the loss, especially in terms of relationships.
That’s not the way Paul thought. At least, Paul worked through it pretty quickly, because he says, “To die is not loss; to die is gain, because I get to be with Jesus.” He just wants Christ to be praised, whatever happens; whether he lives or whether he dies, he wants Christ to be praised, he wants Christ to be honored, because he values Christ so deeply.
This has been the heartbeat of all the great missionaries. Let me just give you the example of one. Have you ever heard of Henry Martin? He was a missionary in the early 19th century; he was actually born in 1781. He was an Anglican missionary to the peoples of India and Persia. So, this guy actually planned to become a lawyer, an attorney, and then in the October term of 1802 he heard a preacher named Charles Simeon speak about the good that had been done in India by a single missionary, William Carey. So, just like Paul’s suffering emboldened others to share the gospel, William Carey’s suffering and his ministry emboldened Henry Martin, and he started thinking, “I want to be like that. I want to be a missionary.”
And then he read the life of David Brainerd, who’d been the missionary to the Native American Indians, kind of in the era of Jonathan Edwards. He was reading Brainerd’s diaries, and he was so captured by it that he just said, “I have to be like this man.” That was his heart. So, he left. He went to Persia. He translated the New Testament into three different languages, and he said (here’s the key quote), “I could not endure existence if Jesus was not glorified. It would be hell to me if he were to be always dishonored.” So he worked, and he worked, and he worked, and he died, when he was 31 years old, of a fever. And his biography still inspires people today, people who will read it.
It’s the story of all the great missionaries. Think about Jim Elliott and the five who died, was that 60, 70 years ago now. “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” They all had this basic ambition, and the ambition was that Christ will be honored.
Have you ever heard that old hymn - we don’t really sing this one much anymore, but the old hymn “When Morning Guilds the Skies”? I just thought of the phrase. I was working on this yesterday and I was thinking of this phrase, that Christ would be praised or Christ would be honored, and I remembered that somewhere there’s a hymn where the refrain of the hymn is, “May Jesus Christ be praised.” So I looked it up, and this is how it goes:
When morning guilds the skies,
My heart awaking cries,
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Alike at work and prayer,
To Jesus I repair:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Does sadness fill my mind?
A solace here I find:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Or fades my earthly bliss?
My comfort still is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
You can almost hear Paul’s words here: to live is Christ, to die is gain!
In heaven, eternal bliss,
The loveliest strain is this:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Let earth, and sea, and sky,
From death to heights reply,
‘May Jesus Christ be praised!’
Be this, while life is mine,
My canticle divine;
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Singing this eternal song
Through all the ages long:
May Jesus Christ be praised!
Is that your ambition? Is that your heartbeat? Let me tell you something: as some missionary once said, “Where enthusiasm for the kingdom is lacking, the reason is because there’s no enthusiasm for the King.” To whatever degree we are not governed by a passion for the praise of Jesus Christ, to that degree our enthusiasm for mission will be lacking. Paul had this ambition, the honor of Christ, and that’s what drove him in his suffering and in his ministry.
II. Partnership: The Body of Christ
So, an ambition, the honor of Christ; now number two, partnership in the body of Christ. I want to back up just a little bit into an earlier part of Philippians chapter 1, where Paul uses this language of partnership to describe his relationship with the Philippians. They were partners with him in the gospel. Look at verses 3 through 5.
He says, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”
Now, that partnership really is a fellowship. That’s the word from which we get our word - it’s usually translated fellowship, the word koinonia (κοινονια). It originally was a word that was used of business partners. So, people who were in a business partnership together were in koinonia together, they were in a fellowship. They were in this close relationship, where they’re sharing the work together, and Paul is using that language to describe the fellowship, or the partnership, that they have in the gospel. I think he means both their shared salvation in the gospel, but also their shared partnership in the work of gospel ministry.
You see more in verses 6 through 8. He says, “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart. For you are all partakers,” there’s the same word, or a similar word, “with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.”
So he sees them as somehow being fellow partners, fellow partakers, in both the grace of the gospel and in the defense of the gospel and the confirmation of the gospel. It’s a partnership, and that partnership kind of governs the rest of this letter. You see this in three ways here in chapters 1 and 2, and I think three things that belong to gospel partnership, three ways we can think about our own partnership with one another and with other ministries, missionaries, and churches; partnership for the sake of the gospel.
(1) Here’s the first. First of all, it involves standing together in and for the gospel. So, this is unity, right: standing together in and for the gospel. Look at verse 27. Paul says, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent I may hear that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” He wants them to be unified, and he says this is what the gospel should do: it should unify you as a church.
The unification is unification in the gospel itself. They’re standing firm in that. They’re standing firm in the gospel. In fact, Paul’s concerned about division in the Philippian church. He actually names two people who are being divisive in the church later in the letter, in chapter four, and he exhorts them to be of the same mind.
But then look at chapter 2:1-2 where, again, he just gives reasons for why they should stand together. He says, “If there be 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.”
Now, I don’t think what Paul means by this is that there can never be a disagreement within a local church. I don’t think it means that. There are obviously going to be disagreements. We’re going to disagree on certain kinds of secondary and tertiary doctrines, we’re going to sometimes disagree on certain kinds of decisions. Disagreement’s going to happen. But I think what he means is that you do not let disagreements become so strong that they compromise your unity in the gospel. I think that’s what he means. So that there is this striving together for the sake of the gospel, where you’re continuing in love with one another, you’re staying of the same mind together. So that’s one way that we express partnership, is by being unified in the gospel.
(2) Here’s the second way: by suffering together for the gospel. Look at verses 28, 29, and 30 in chapter 1. He says he wants them to live this manner of life that’s worthy of the gospel, “not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
These are just amazing verses to me. He says, “It’s been given to you to believe. If you have faith in Christ, God gave it to you. It’s a gift. It’s been given to you to believe, but not only that, it’s been given to you to suffer.” Sometimes God gives suffering, and he does it for the sake of the gospel. Again, we’ve already seen the exposition of this, haven’t we, in Paul’s own example. He suffered for the gospel and says, “It’s advancing the gospel! My imprisonment is leading others to Jesus Christ.”
(3) And then, here’s a third way in which there’s partnership, and that’s supporting gospel work in generosity and prayer. The generosity you see in chapter 4:10-20, where Paul is thanking them for their partnership in sending a gift to him. I’m not going to read that (you can go read that later), but you also see it almost as an aside in verse 19, here in chapter 1, related to prayer, where he says, “For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” Their prayers were helping him. Their prayers were encouraging him, were strengthening him. Through their prayers God was empowering Paul for faithfulness in his suffering, and so prayer is a part of the partnership.
Folks, we need to be praying for our missionaries. We need to be doing that personally, we need to be doing that in church, we need to be doing that in prayer meetings together. So, let me again just give an exhortation to try to engage in the prayer meeting. If you’re not able to come on a Monday night, that’s fine; I know there may be reasons, with work or school or family commitments, where you’re not able to, but find context with other believers, in your small group, in your home, around your table, where you are praying for the success of the gospel and for the faithfulness of our missionaries. They need our prayers. We need to pray for them.
Now, you put all this together, and here’s the main takeaway point I want to give you for this second point on partnership. You put all this together, and what you see is that mission involves partnership, or, to use another phrase, it involves teamwork. It involves teamwork. It involves working together with other believers for the sake of mission. Paul wasn’t doing this as a solo sport. He was suffering with others. He had his own little band of brothers who were traveling with him. He had friends, both men and women, who were helping him in this gospel enterprise. He was planting churches, and these churches were homes that were hosted by people who were using their various gifts to help further the gospel, and the teamwork is absolutely necessary.
A few years ago, one of our missionaries, Virgil - many of you know Virgil; he hasn’t been here in a few years, but a few years ago Virgil was here and he was sharing with our elder team. We were talking about missions and we were talking about ministry and partnership in the gospel and these kinds of things, and he used an illustration that really connected with me; you’ll know why here in just a minute. It really connected with me, and it helped kind of give me a picture and an understanding for how ministry and teamwork in ministry can be effective in a local church and beyond with our missionaries.
So, the illustration was The Fellowship of the Ring, alright? I thought this was brilliant. He said, you know, in Fellowship of the Ring you have all these different groups of people who do different things. You have the wizards; they’re the ones that are traveling fast and they’re moving and shaking and getting people mobilized. He said, you know, that’s what a mission mobilization kind of guy is like. He’s like the wizard. He’s the one that’s behind the scenes, he’s getting people moved into the right positions. And then you have, you know, the dwarves and the elves; they’re kind of in the thick of battle and they’re helping things move along. And you have the hobbits, who are just kind of your ordinary folk, but they’re the ones that are actually carrying the ring into Mordor, right? They’re doing the crucial work!
He said that’s really what your average Christian’s like. The average Christian’s like a hobbit who’s just doing the service and doing the evangelism and doing the ministry. And then you have the Ents. You remember the Ents? The Ents were the trees, the talking trees, and they come together for council, and they just take forever to make a decision. He said, that’s what the elders are like!
You might not like that illustration, because you might be thinking, “I don’t really like being a hobbit; I’d rather be an elf or a wizard.” I don’t really like being an Ent, but there’s something about that, because there are these different roles, right? There is the place for the patient, hard work of pastoral care and leadership and these closed-door meetings, thinking through strategies and so on, and I want to commend to you our elder team, who I believe is doing this and doing this faithfully.
But on the other hand, if all you have is a group of guys who are in a room making decisions, and you don’t have people on the front lines who are sharing Jesus on the job, there’s just no point to it. We all have a role to play. And you might think, “Well, I don’t really have a gift of evangelism. I have a hard time sharing Jesus with people in evangelism.”
Well, maybe that’s the case, but do you have the gift of hospitality? Maybe you should be the kind of home that people are coming into for there to be a Bible study where they can hear about Jesus, you’re showing hospitality in that way. Or do you have a gift for prayer? Maybe you’re the person who, in the closet, is holding up the missionaries, holding up the evangelists, holding up the people on the front line.
Whatever the gift - maybe it’s service and it’s helping to set up events like VBS or the neighborhood fun night, and you’re using your gifts of service to help us get the stage set so that someone with a teaching gift or a proclaiming gift is able to share Christ. But whatever your gift is, there is a place for you to serve in the body of Christ, and we are to do that in partnership with others, and it’s only as the church together does this that the mission moves forward.
III. Mindset: The Mind of Christ
So, mission requires partnership, and then thirdly and finally, there’s a mindset, and that mindset is the mind of Christ. I’ll be brief on this, but you see it in chapter 2:3-11. It’s interesting here that you have an exhortation in verses 3 through 5, and then you have a condensed summary of the gospel itself, verses 5 through 11, where the example of Christ is seen in his self-giving humility.
So I want you to see the example, and then the imitation that we are exhorted to. I don’t need to do much more than just read this to you. So look at verse 5, beginning in verse 5.
Paul says, “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…” Now, the idea seems to be here that Jesus, he is equal with God, but he did not count that position of equality something to be exploited, he didn’t count it to be held onto, the rights and prerogatives of that to be held onto and exploited, but rather, in his true Godness, he did something else. You see it in verse 7. He emptied himself. The word “emptied” here doesn’t mean that he emptied himself of any of his deity or any of the attributes of his deity; he didn’t cease to be God at all, but rather, he “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant.”
So, this is the incarnation, right? He takes on human nature, so human nature and his divine nature, joined in mysterious union in the one person of Jesus Christ. Here’s the incarnation: he “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.”
There’s the gospel. You have the incarnation, crucifixion, exaltation. It’s right there; there’s a gospel summary. The interesting thing here about this passage is that Paul is not giving this mainly to teach doctrine; he’s giving this to give reason for the command that precedes it. You see that command in verses 3, 4, and 5, where he says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each one of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…”
And then he’s describing what the mind of Christ Jesus is. The mind of Christ; what is it? It’s the mind of humility. It’s the mind of self-giving love. It’s where you’re not pursuing your own interests, but you’re pursuing the interests of others.
I think this applies in two different ways to the church. It applies, certainly, in our relationships with one another, in the community itself, where we are putting one another’s interests ahead of our own; we’re willing to lay down our rights for the sake of others, we are seeking the wellbeing of one another. You know, that’s really the only way that relationships thrive. That’s how a marriage is going to thrive, is when one partner is putting the wellbeing and the interests and the needs of his or her spouse in front of his own, right? That’s the way marriage is going to thrive, that’s the way families are going to thrive, that’s the way a church is going to thrive, when people have servants hearts. They’re putting the needs of others in front of their own needs.
But there’s also an application of this to mission. Someone has once said that “the church is the only organization in the world that exists for the sake of its outsiders, not its insiders.” We exist for the sake of the outsiders, because we want them to come in. The church is here, yes, to glorify Christ; yes, to build up the body of Christ; but we can glorify Christ in heaven. God could just take us home right now; we could glorify him more perfectly there than we will here! And you know what? We’re going to be built up and be perfect in heaven, too.
The one thing we can’t do in heaven that we can do here is share Jesus with others. That’s why the church is here. That’s why you’re here. So we gather week by week, not just to worship and to be edified, but to be strengthened for the mission. We’re called into worship, and then we are sent out by the word, and in order to do that you have to put the needs of other people in front of your own. There are times when, as a church, we need to do that as well.
Let me just give you one example. You remember the missionary Hudson Taylor? Hudson Taylor was one of these pioneer missionaries. I mean, he was the pioneer missionary into the interior of China. Up until Hudson Taylor’s time, there were lots of missionaries that had been in the coastal regions, they’d been in the outskirts of China, but they’d never gotten into the inland. When they tried, they were persecuted or they were successful; they just couldn’t get into the interior.
Hudson Taylor had a burden to get the gospel there. But what he discovered is that he couldn’t do it unless he completely adapted his lifestyle from being that of an Englishman to being a Chinaman. So he changed the way he dressed, he grew his hair out so that he had a hairstyle that looked like the hairstyle of the Chinese men of that day, he wore their clothes and he ate their food and he learned their language; and he lived among them as one of them. He was doing what Jesus did!
That’s what Jesus did in the incarnation. He came down to us and he lived as one of us in order to reach us. It’s called incarnation, an incarnational ministry, and that’s one of the most important principles in missions, is that mission must be incarnational, where you seek to reach people by meeting them on their own turf.
Now, of course, it doesn’t mean that we sin in order to reach sinners, but it means that we will go to the hard places and we will lay aside our rights and our privileges and our prerogatives and we will adapt, in any way we can without being sinful, in order to meet the needs of other people. That’s the mind of Christ.
I’ll just close with these words; this is from a wonderful hymn that takes its cues from this passage of Scripture. So let me read this to us, and let this be a prayer, alright? The hymn is expressed as a prayer, and so let’s just bow together and let it be a prayer for you as I read it and close us.
May the mind of Christ my Savior
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and power controlling
All I do or say.
May the word of Christ dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through his power.
May the peace of Christ my Savior
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May I run the race before me
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.
Lord, especially this last verse, make it true of us.
May his beauty rest upon me
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only him.
So Father, we pray that the mind of Christ would be ours and that we would imitate Christ in his incarnational, self-giving love. Lord, show us what that means in our own hearts and lives. Show us what that means in our families, show us what it means in our church community, show us what it means in our world, in our neighborhoods, the world we live. What would it look like for us to have the mind of Christ, for the beauty of Christ to rest upon us as we seek the win the lost? They see not the channel; they don’t see us, but they see him.
Lord, this is our desire, and it’s our desire because we love Jesus, because we want Jesus Christ to be praised in life and death. “To live is Christ, to die is gain,” and we need your Spirit to do that, and we need one another. We need the body of Christ, we need this partnership, this fellowship, in order to do that well.
So we pray that your Spirit would rest upon us and that you would work in all the ways you need to work in our hearts this morning. Even now, as we come to the table, may the table be for us a tangible reminder of the incarnation and the crucifixion of our Lord, that he who was in the very form of God, without losing his divinity, took onto himself humanity and allowed that humanity to be bruised and crushed and broken on our behalf that we might experience redemption in him. Meet with us now as we continue in worship; we pray it in Jesus’s name for his sake, Amen.