Last night marked my last night teaching in the youth group at Court Drive. One more Wednesday left in our time here before we return to Houston. With that being said, I am going to blog my message for anyone interested either in returning to it who was there last night, or who would benefit from it and like to read it.
Think with me for a minute to the movie The Princess Diaries. Princess Mia (played by Anne Hathaway) finds out she is the princess and heir to the throne of Genovia. The movie is a comedy based movie with a tension focused around if Princess Mia will learn to live a life worthy of the throne of Genovia. Through some stereotypes of royalty and wealth, we see earthly values of a life worthy of royalty.
As we enter Philippians 1:27-2:11, this is similar to the question we are faced with. Princess diaries asks and deals with what does a life worthy of an earthly throne look like. In Philippians 1:27, Paul introduces the idea of living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ. And this is the question we face, what does a life look like that is worthy of the gospel of Christ?
How do we live a life worthy of the gospel of Christ?
Philippians 1:27-2:4 is the first section we will look at, and it reads:
27 Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, 28 and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29 For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well— 30 since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
So what is the first part of living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ? It is living as one body. We are united under one head of the body, Christ. The body follows where the head leads, or at least it should. Think of a car for example. If the front tires are spinning forward and the rear tires backwards, the car is not going to move very well. And if when you turn the steering wheel right, one side goes right and the other side tries to go left you are going to face problems. In the same way, the body of Christ begins to hurt when it is not moving in unison together as one.
We live as one, united horizontally as the body of Christ.
I am known to often times talk about the gifts believers have. Not talking about our little quirky gifts/talents that we are called to use, but just the gifts of the Spirit – think of things such as teaching, preaching, tongues, prophecy, interpretation, discipleship, administration, encouragement, etc. – which can be found it the Pauline letters. There are a number of these, and each of us have some different gifts of the Spirit. How can we use these gifts to benefit and work for the kingdom?
It is easy for me being right handed to assume my right hand is far more important and useful than my big toe, but my big toe is crucial for my balance. Each part of the body is unique and has its own purposes to benefit and help the body. While some may seem to do larger roles than others, each part of the body is crucial for the body to properly function, and the same is true for the body of Christ. And the body must be working together and in sync.
We have one love which we share, the love of Christ. We have one mind we share, the mindset of Christ. We have one goal we share, serving the kingdom of Christ. And we have one Spirit which we share, the Spirit of Christ. I believe the spirit spoken of in Philippians 1:27 and 2:1 is not a spirit of the atmosphere, like you would have at a football game, but the Holy Spirit which resides in all believers. We are putting to death ourselves for the Spirit to live inside of us. Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John that he must depart so that someone greater can come. This is because Jesus in flesh can only be one place at once, but the Spirit can reside in all believers simultaneously. We share one Spirit because it is one Spirit which lives inside all of us.
The last thing we need to look at from this section is in verse 27 of Philippians 1. Paul mentions striving “side by side,” which in the original Greek is the word sunathlountes. The translation “side by side” is a pretty solid one, but without this prefix sun, the word athlountes which is a military/gladiator focused word. But think back to Philippians 1:21 with me where Paul says “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.” Or in Ephesians, remember Paul talks about putting on the armor of God. This is because we are at spiritual warfare with the enemy. Not with flesh and blood, but with evil forces which stand opposed to our God.
June 6, 1944 is one of the most important dates in the whole 20th Century. D-Day marks the day that the Allied forces storm the beaches of Normandy to take back France from Nazi Germany. Spear headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied forces worked in unison to strike precisely for the victory needed. But imagine if one platoon landed 30 minutes to early or if one shot was fired an hour before the attack. All the planning and strategy that went into the preparing for D-Day hinged on the execution of working together.
Or take the American Revolutionary War. We could not defeat the British in a straight up war in the 18th Century. The Americans sat down and decided that they were out-numbered, out-trained, out-resourced, and out-skilled. But the one things the Americans knew was the layout of their land. So in the midst of revolutionizing warfare of the time, the Americans decided on the strategy of guerrilla warfare through organized attacks which were unconventional and aimed at catching the British off-guard and thrown into a panic. But if the Americans are not fighting together against the British, we find ourselves speaking with funny English accents today and under the throne of England.
In the same way, we as the church must be fighting together as one against the enemy. The church is required to be on the same page, united together as the body and united under the lordship of Christ. Which brings us to where these two sections meet.
Our horizontal unity which we share as the body unites us because we are also to be united vertically with Christ.
So how are we to live united with Christ? We are to have the same mindset in us that is also in Christ. Another way to say this is that we are to be of one mind with Christ Paul tells us in Philippians 2:5-11 that:
5 Let the same mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Now let me make a side note for a few minutes. This is one of the most important passages in the WHOLE Bible about Jesus. Along with John 1, Romans 5, Colossians 1, and Hebrews 4-5, Philippians 2 tells us the most important and theologically deep truths of who Jesus Christ is. But that is of absolutely zero focus of Paul in the letter to the Philippians. He does not introduce this major idea or set it up for the depth of truth that it is. That is because it is believed that this was an early Christian hymn which churches sang along with the Lord’s Prayer more than likely. While this passage is super important for our understanding of Jesus across the Bible as a whole, for the sake of the letter to the Philippians Paul is focusing on the humility which Jesus lived and how we are to model that humility.
This is the humility which Christ embodies for us. You see, while Princess Mia in the Princess Diaries is shown to live a life worthy of the throne of Genovia by living fancy and proper, Jesus shows us that a life worthy of the gospel is lived in humility. It is lived by serving and not being served. When Jesus faced the toughest time in his whole life, being separated from God the Father which he had never before experienced, he did not call down legions of angels to rescue him as he could have. Instead, he took the crucifixion for us and died for our sins though he never knew sin.
And this same humility and mindset of looking to others over ourselves is the same mindset we are to have. D.L. Moody was a pastor who lived in the 19th Century. Pastors from around the world traveled to New England every year to learn from him through these seminars he put on. Before air travel was a thing, European pastors were crossing the ocean to learn at his feet. Yet D.L. Moody always kept a servants heart. A peer of his tells a story where one time during this conference some European pastors came to learn from Moody. That night after they went to their rooms in the dormitory they were staying in, Moody was walking the halls praying for them and making sure everything was okay when he came across the hall of these European pastors. As was typical in Europe, they left their shoes outside of the room to be cleaned overnight by the house servants. Moody sees this and tells some of his students helping with the conference and they basically respond with “who cares?” As the servant he is, Moody decided to then take the shoes to clean himself. Some of his students caught what he was doing and then decided to join in and help him, but it was these students of his who later told this story of what Moody did. That is a life modeled after the humility of Christ.
Or for one more example, let’s compare two athletes. On the one hand, we have Ronnie Lott who embodies the perfect team player. Lott is one of the best NFL defensive backs of all-time. A 4x Super Bowl winner and member of the NFL Hall of Fame, Lott is big time in sports. Yet, when an injury to his pinky finger was going to cause him to have to sit out at the beginning of the 1986 season, Lott opted to have the pinky amputated at the end so that he could be out there with his team.
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Kawhi Leonard who, when healthy, is a top five talent in the NBA. A quadriceps injury in the 2017-18 season caused him to miss a significant amount of time. Eventually Leonard was cleared by multiple doctors to play, but he insisted he did not feel right still. Although cleared medically, he made a decision in his own best interest not to return to the floor with the Spurs. This led to the disastrous fallout and eventual trade in the off-season of Leonard to the Toronto Raptors. Now I am not advocating for anyone to put themselves at risk medically, but rather I am using an extreme example to show one who looks to the needs of others rather than his own.