ďFightingĒ††††††††††††††††† Philippians 2:1-5††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††October 3, 2010

 

SI:Weíre studying Paulís letter to his favorite churchóthe Philippian church.

First he fills them in on his situation, his imprisonment.

†† He tells them not to worry about him, because heís at peace,

†† and the Gospel is being advanced in spite of his chains.

 

Then he begins to exhort them.

†† He tells them the things he wants them to know and do.

Whatever happens, the main thing, no matter what . . .

†† live a life worthy of the Gospel.

 

Then he gets down to specifics.

What does a life worthy of the Gospel look like?


 

INTRO:I read the Wednesday edition of the Cullman Times

and made a list of the fights and conflicts that were mentioned.

The front page headline about legal battle for control of the county water system.

†† Also on the front page, a man arrested in Hanceville, with shots fired by police.

 

Inside there was the story of a casino developer who is challenging the governor.

†† And a group of miners who sued Dow Chemical.

†† And a Blount County high school girl who was stabbed in the back by three

†† other girlsónot a figure of speech, they literally stabbed her in the back!

 

In the letters to the editor there was conflict over the local House and Senate races.

†† Some specific words used in those letters were:

†† dirt, venom, trashing, smears, mud, and croniesóyou get the idea.

Then there was the police reportóAnd I was glad to see none of your names.

†† And there was a scattering of national and international news involving

†† crimes and wars and political maneuvering.

 

Fighting and conflict is what drives the news.

†† Every newspaper around the world this past Wednesday had similar stories.

†† Itís part of human nature, people fight.

There are always those who say itís not part of human natureó

†† that itís bad models and bad influences.People just need good models.

If they had education they wouldnít fight.

†† But thatís nonsense.

 

The occasional stories of unity prove the point.

Sometimes people are unified to fight a common threató

†† but even then, there are disagreements and fractures, and when the threat is dealt

†† with, the people involved start to fight amongst themselves.

†† It doesnít take longs for cracks to appear and open antagonism.

Do you remember September 11 nine years ago, when all the members of Congress,

†† from both parties stood outside the Capitol and sang God Bless America,

†† and pledged unity in defending our country? How long did that last?

 

And when there is lasting unity, itís usually not very impressive.

†† Because itís usually based on something superficial like loyalty to a sports team.

†† Or itís a common effort to support charitable causeó5K run for cancer research.

In other words, itís unity built on people thinking exactly alike about one thing.

 

How often do you find people maintaining a spirit of unity

†† and togetherness even in the face of real disagreements?

How often do you hear people say:

†† I disagree with you, Iíve even been slighted by you,

†† but I understand you and love you and Iím for you?

I refuse to let those things disrupt our fundamental unity.

 

That sounds impossible.But that is exactly what Paul tells the Philippians.

†† ďMake my joy complete by being like-minded,

†† having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.Ē

Heís telling the Philippians that Christians are to be people who get along

†† with each other no matter what.

Jesus Christ said the very same thing.

†† He said that the world will know the truth of the Gospel,

†† by the unity of Christians.

 

When the world sees a community where people love each other and stick

†† together in spite of their faults and differences and disagreementsó

†† Jesus said, the world will be forced to account for what it sees.

When the world sees a Christians who stay together and continue to think

†† the best of each other even when they rub each other the wrong wayó

†† when the world sees that, it is a testimony of Godís supernatural love.

 

The topic of church unity always raises the issue of denominations.

If Christians are supposed to be unified, why are there huge, historic divisions

†† in the churchóthe Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant branches.

†† Why are even those big branches divided even farther.

And thatís an important question.

 

But thatís not the direction Paul is going here.Heís focusing on one church.

†† Heís saying:Hereís where it starts.In the local church congregation.

†† With the flesh and blood people you worship with every week.

Hereís where you start to understand your sin, and hereís where unity starts.

†† If you are going to live a life worthy of the Gospel, you need to get serious

†† about bringing Godís grace to bear on the sin that causes you to have conflict.

 

Look at this under just two points.Very practical and very profound at same time.

The cause of fighting.The cure for fighting.

†† Weíre going to apply it to our own hearts and our dealings with each other.

MP#1The cause of fighting

The cause of fighting is sin, of course.But Paul gets much more specific.

Look at verse 3 again:ďDo nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.Ē

†† Selfish ambition and vain conceit is the way the NIV translates two Greek words.

†† And thatís a good translation.

But if you looked at five different English versions of the Bibleó

†† you will find these two words translated five different ways.

Thatís because itís hard to capture the full meaning of these words in English.

 

In these two words Paul is summarizing the cause of all fighting.

First word, might say, is the spirit of conflict and the second is the motive.

†† The first word gives us a deep insight into why we fight.

†† And the second word goes even deeper.

So letís look at these words.

 

Selfish ambition.Itís also translated rivalry, strife, jealousy.What is it, exactly?

Itís the spirit that makes you take things personally.

†† It makes every disagreement about you.

This is the spirit that makes it impossible for you to talk and think calmly

†† and reasonably about the truth of a matter confronting you.

Instead, the spirit that carries you along is:

†† What does this do to my pride, my standing, my reputation?

†† How does this affect me and mine, how does it make me look.

 

Often, Christians will claim that they are standing on principle.

†† They will claim they are not taking it personally.

And they will convince themselves theyíre only concerned about truth and fairness.

†† But everybody looking at their reaction from the outside can see that they are

†† taking it very personally, and itís all about defending themselves.

 

Once heard a minister tell of a man in his church who was a popular SS teacher.

Then another man joined the church and he started teaching Sunday school class.

†† He was very gifted, people started moving over to his class.

†† And the first man reacted very negatively, claimed concerned about doctrine.

†† But it was clear that he was taking it personally.

Allison teaches at Cullman Christian School.Once disciplined a student.

†† The mother of the child admitted what her child had done, but reacted violently.

†† And claimed she was taking the high road, just interested in fairness.

But it was plain to those on outside, not fairness, but this spirit Paul describing.

Now be careful.Donít do what I just did.Donít follow my example!

Donít say, I know people like that in my church.

†† People at Christ Covenant who take things personally and are easily offended.

The nature of this spirit is that you can see it easily in other people, but not yourself.

 

Who is Paul writing to?The Philippians.His best church.

†† No doctrinal problems.No big divisions and church fights.

†† Just some petty conflicts between members.

Paul addresses two members by name later in the letter who are in conflict.

†† You can tell by what he says that these are good, active church members.

 

Hereís the point:When Christians in a church clash, this spirit is at work.

†† And when it gets a foothold, it hurts the church and our walk with Christ.

The best Christians can deceive themselves by saying:Iím standing for principle!

†† When we are doing nothing of the sort.How do we deal with it?Will get to that.

 

But, letís go one step deeper and look at this second word:Vain conceit.

Thatís a good translation, but the old King James Version is even better.

†† It uses the word vainglory.Do nothing out of vainglory.

Iíll give you a quick Greek lesson.The word is kenodoxia.

 

ďDoxiaĒ or ďdoxaĒ means glory.We often sing the doxology.

†† Whatís the first word of the doxology?ďGlory be to the Father . . .Ē

†† The doxology is the glory word.

Prefix ďkenoĒ means empty.Kenodoxia.Empty of glory.Starved for glory.

†† Glory hungry, vainglory.

Glory is such a huge theme in the Bible.Itís such an important idea.

†† Glory means to matter.To have worth.To be weighty, important.

Paul is saying that the most fundamental motive of fighting is a hunger for glory.

We want to know that we matter.We want to know that we have worth.

 

So when anybody treats us as small and unimportant,

†† When we think are being overlooked, and ignored, and disrespected, we fight.

†† Because our glory is being threatened.We feel weíre being treated like nothing.

So we fight for our glory.

†† We fight when we feel that we are not receiving the honor we deserve.

†† This is not psychology.Itís deeper than psychology.Itís theology.

It starts in the Garden of Eden.

 

When God created Adam and Eve, they had glory.

†† They had physical glory.If we could have seen the two of them in those early

†† days of creation, we would have been stunned by their physical beauty.

And they had a great spiritual gloryóan absolutely solid sense of worth.

†† And they had it because they werenít focused on themselves, but on God.

That was the glory of our first parentsóthey were fulfilling their true purpose.

†† They were focused, body and soul, on serving their Creator.

Adam and Eve never fought, why would they fight?

†† They lived under the smile of God.Focused on him.

 

Then they decided to be their own masters, and sin entered the world.

And the creation glory, that total focus on God was brokenó

†† and Adam and Eve and their descendants became starved for glory,

†† and deeply fearful of being worthless and unimportant.

Of course, no longer following Godís purpose for life.

†† So they began to manufacture their own glory and fight for it.

 

The first murder in the Bible happens in Genesis 4.Why?

†† Why did Cain murder Abel?Because Cain felt belittled and cut down when

†† Abelís offering was praised and his was not.His glory was threatened.

So he fought with his brother and killed him.

 

The essence of sin is self-centeredness.

The more glory you seek for yourself, the more you focus on yourself.

†† And the more you focus on yourself, the more empty and boring you become.

†† The more unimportant you become.

Because you are moving farther and farther away from your real purpose in life,

†† and that is to glorify and enjoy God.

 

Letís go ahead and push this to itís logical conclusion.

Hell is described in many ways in the Bible.

†† The physical descriptions tend to catch our attention:

†† ďWhere the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.Ē

But one way hell is described is this:

†† Itís when a person tries for a lifetime to create his own worth and glory.

And when he dies, the Lord says to him:ďI donít know you.Ē

†† Spends a lifetime fighting so that people will look at him, respect him.

†† God says, Iím not going to look at you ever again.You are empty and worthless.

And that glory hunger torments him forever.

The cause of your conflicts with fellow believers, and the cause of many of your

†† other conflicts with people outside the church in your workplace, wherever,

†† is a sinful spirit that takes things personally and seeks your own glory.

There is, of course, a spectrum here.Some Christians are dominated with this,

†† and others have gained more controlóbut itís the default mode of all our hearts.

The Lord wants this dealt with.So letís consider now. . .

 

MP#2The cure for fighting

In one word, the cure is Jesus.Verse 5.

†† ďYour attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.Ē

Or, as the King James Version puts it so memorably:

†† ďLet this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.Ē

 

What this verse tells us is that there is an attitude and a mind you can have that

†† gets rid of vainglory.A mind that makes you no longer touchy, no longer taking

†† things personally, no longer starved for glory.

And it starts by looking outside of yourself at the attitude or mind of Christ Jesus.

 

This verse points forward to verse 6 and the following verses.

We didnít read them.Theyíre so special, treating them on their own next week.

†† But this is all one argument in chapter 2, so itís impossible not to refer to them.

What does chapter 2 tell us?In a nutshell, that Jesus emptied himself of his glory.

†† It says he was in very nature God.Had all the glory of God.

†† But he emptied himself and took on the form of a servant.

 

In other words, Jesus Christ willingly embraced the thing you hate the most.

†† He embraced being looked down on and treated as nothing.

†† He walked right into that life.

Isaiah 53 says:

†† He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,

†††† nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

†† He was despised and rejected by men,

†††† a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.

†† Like one from whom men hide their faces

†††† he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 

He came as a plain man.Might even say an ugly man.He came as a poor man.

†† And in the end, he was utterly rejected.By the Jewish people.

†† By his disciples who fled from him and denied him.

And ultimately by his Father.

That is the cry of dereliction from the cross:

†† ďMy God, my God, why have you forsaken me?Ē

The reason you fight, the reason you are touchy,

†† is because you hate the feeling of being treated like nothing.

†† But Jesus chose that.He chose to be empted of his glory.

 

And why did he do it?In John 17, Christ is thinking about his crucifixion,

†† and praying for his disciples and he says, Father,

†† I want them to have the glory I had with you before the world began.

There it is.He emptied himself of his glory so that you could be filled.

†† He wanted empty, vainglorious, selfish people like you and me, to be forgiven

†† and given new hearts and lives that can participate in the glory of God.

Thatís the mind of Christ.Thatís the attitude of Christ Jesus.

 

Now, Paul says, let this mind be yours.Your attitude should be the same as Christ.

†† What that means is that when you become a Christian,

†† you bring into your life a living argument.

And that living argument is always telling you, when you are about to get upset

†† because someone is treating you as smalló

†† Who cares what they think, when I love you so much.

Why are you trying to complete yourself by demanding glory in this situation?

†† So this person has disrespected you?Look at me dying on the cross for you.

†† Donít you see how valuable you are to me?Donít you see how much you count?

And that living argument drains your need to fight for glory.

 

This summer we were coming back from Florida and we got off the interstate

†† to drive through a little town White Springs, Florida, near the Georgia state line.

I had read about it in a travel magazine.One of those towns that was a very

†† popular resort back in the 1800s, with famous old hotel and other buildings.

It was early in the evening when we got there.Everything was very quiet.

†† Huge live oak trees draped with Spanish moss, and this fascinating old hotel.

†† We went inside and poked around a bit.

 

When we stepped out, a drunk man came out of nowhere and accosted me.

†† He was angry and he started hurling accusations.

The more I tried to get away from him, the more belligerent he became.

†† And the nature of his accusations were that he thought we just eaten in this hotel.

There was a restaurant inside, they were serving supper, but we hadnít eaten.

†† He wouldnít listen to me when I tried to explain, he just got more worked up.

And the reason he was so upset was that years ago, when he was a boy,

†† he had wanted to eat in that restaurant, and they wouldnít let him,

†† they wouldnít even let him come inside, because he was a black man.

And he was angry that I had eaten in there.And did I think I was better than him?

†† And by God he had money and he could eat in there if he wanted,

†† but he would never set foot in that place.

 

I wanted to get away from him, but I also felt for him.

†† I thought, chances are this man grew up in church.I have no reason to think heís

†† born again, but chances are, small Southern town like this, heís at least heard

†† the Gospel and knows about Christ, but what do I say to him?

The Lord brought a saying to mindóYouíve probably heard it.

 

I said: Sir, can I say something?

†† Itís not a problem of skin.Itís a problem of sin.

†† Itís not a matter of race.Itís a matter of grace.

†† And when Godís grace deals with manís sin, there will be no problem.

He froze.And every bit of his anger just melted away.

†† And he grabbed me in a big beery hug and said,Amen.God bless you, brother.

†† We prayed together and I told the kids to hurry and go get in the car.

 

Hereís my point.Some people would say this manís problem was outside him.

†† The cause of belligerence was the way he was treated, racism of the old South.

†† Some people would say, No, itís modern day politics of discontent and class envy.

But the Bible says that his problem is inside.Itís vainglory, glory hunger.

 

Of course those things outside of him were significant.

But they just exacerbated a mind and attitude already present.

†† So he was being eaten alive by perceived slights and old wrongs that seemed to

†† belittle him disrespect him, and he responded with fighting.

 

And whether he was born again or not, as Iíve said, I donít know.

†† But what was it that soothed his soul, at least for a moment?

†† What made him realize his tremendous value as a person?The Gospel.

The Gospel which says we are all sinners, but God has poured out his grace

†† on us in Christ.And when that sinks in, who cares what people think?

 

Jesus became small, he let himself be made of no reputation,

†† so that you can live a big life, not a petty life.

Stop being upset by slights.Stop worrying about criticism.

†† Take it like a big person, because you are bigóin Christ.

Be the first, especially in your church, to put out your hand and say:

†† Letís work this out.Letís make it right.

 

Thatís the living argument.Thatís the attitude and mind of Christ.

You canít say that there are other believers who donít deserve your love and

†† sympathy, because you didnít deserve Christís love, but he gave it to you.

You canít say your interests are more important than theirs,

†† because Christ interests were certainly more important than yours,

†† but he put your interests first.

You canít look down on someone, or dismiss someone

†† whom Christ loves as much as he loves you.

 

How does Paul put it?

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

 

There is an inescapable logic here and every true Christian knows it.

St. Augustine once said to his Christian friend Alypius:

†† ďWe were washed in the same blood.Ē

Every one of you is obliged to say that about your Christian brothers and sisters,

†† and to treat them accordingly.

 

Especially when you have disagreements with them.

Especially whenthey slight you or rub you the wrong way.

Especially when you want to take something theyíve done or said personally.

 

This is the Gospel life you are called to live.

So letís come to the Lordís Table, and recommit ourselves to it.