Philippians 2:1-4, 1:29, 1:27 & John 13:34-35
Pastor Steve moved on in his series to Philippians 2 today, starting with the four assumptions Paul was making in the first verse: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”
1) There is encouragement in Christ. We know this because in verse 2, Paul is saying if there is, this is what you should do. The simplicity of this encouragement is what makes it so profound; mutual encouragement is the most magnetic thing you will ever see. The vulnerability this requires is intense and requires a willingness to tell others when we aren’t feeling great or are struggling.
2) There will be comfort with love. This forces us out of superficial, suburban Christianity where we say hello, throw some money in the plate, and never touch others’ lives, Steve said. This only happens as someone is willing to go first, lay down their pride, display vulnerability, and be loving. Steve commented that he wants Celebration Church for vulnerability, messiness, and love.
3) Participation in the Spirit, which means fellowship and Communion. If this is happening, Steve said, it’s the definition of church. The Holy Spirit works to produce this, giving evidence of a Spirit-inspired love and unity. He may put someone on our heart to pray for, or take to lunch and listen to their story.
4) Affection and sympathy. For a large section of his Christian life, Steve admitted that he didn’t care if something was wrong in someone else’s life; he had enough of his own problems. Empathy is when we know what someone else feels like and can identify with their pain. God will move us into their life where we can suffer together. This isn’t something we do because we should, but because God moves us to feel that way.
Then, in verse 2, Steve said there are two things Paul says we should do to complete his joy:
1) Be in unity. While we may think that is automatic, experience shows otherwise. He compared it to pro football players coming from New York and Alabama. While they may have little in common culturally, they put aside differences to play for the same team. Yet, too often, people see churches splitting over the color of the carpet or power struggles. We lose sight of the reason we exist.
2) Humbly consider others better than ourselves. Steve said we can’t do this without the help of the Holy Spirit. Yet when we are striving for unity, and have empathy for each other, we won’t be judging each other or priding ourselves on how much money we give or serve others.
“Imagine walking into church where all this is happening,” Steve said. “You’d be pretty impressed. Paul expected this to happen. We’re accustomed to thinking, ‘How do we get more people to come?’ So we try gimmicks and feel good-ery. We preach warm fuzzies and after 10 years no young people are in church and only the old people are hanging in there. That’s what’s happening in our country.”
We should be aware that the world is closely watching how we treat our own, Steve said. Celebration’s mission statement is to show others the reality of Jesus Christ. When despite our disagreements we are willing to die for each other, the world will take notice.