Purpose: To realize that expressing the mind or attitude of Christ results in a willingness to serve others.
Scripture: Philippians 2:1 – 13
Today’s Bible lesson contains one of the best known passages in Paul’s letters. It is one of my favorites. This passage even contains an early church hymn (verses 6-11).
There is one word that is repeated three times in this passage. That word is “mind”.
When you use the word “mind” what do you mean by it?
There are at least twenty definitions for the word “mind” in Merriam-
Webster’s Dictionary, about evenly divided between noun and verb. No definition that I found matches exactly the usage of Paul in this passage.
I am going to give you a few sentences or phrases with the word “mind” and let’s talk about how the word is used:
“Keep that in mind.” = “Don’t forget about it.”
“I’ve changed my mind.” = (usually) “I’ve decided to do something else.” Or “I’m not going to do what I said I would do.”
“Don’t pay him any mind.” = “He has nothing to say of any value.” Or “He’s full of …..”
“I don’t mind.” = “You are not imposing on me.”
One definition of “mind” is, “the element or complex of elements in an individual that feels, perceives, thinks, wills, and especially reasons”.
This definition is not very far from Paul’s definition. Other words that could describe Paul’s us of “mind” include “personality” or “character”. But none of these words completely get it. For Paul the word “mind” included the whole person: thinking, feeling, willing, and acting.
In our student book there is mention of a Sunday School class called the Joy Class. In that class was a sign which displayed the class motto: Jesus First, Others Second, Yourself Last.
What do you think of that acronym?
What would Paul have thought of J.O.Y.?
Paul probably would have agreed but would have added: Putting others first is how we put Jesus first.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be 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 regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
(Php 2:1-4 NRSV)
In Chapter 1 of the Letter to the Philippians Paul called on the Philippians to live “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” In these verses Paul continued to expand upon what it means to live that type of life.
What is the root cause of most internal conflicts in churches?
Paul put his finger on church conflict in verses two and three: individuals acting out of selfish ambition rather than out of humility. The opposite of “being in full accord” is to be in discord. To act out of selfish ambition is to put yourself first and to make your needs, wants, and concerns the highest priority.
Ambition itself can be a good thing as it motivates us to work hard and do the best job we can. But selfishness combined with ambition is toxic. Nothing undermines a church’s unity more quickly than individuals putting their own self interest above those of others. Selfish ambition is totally at odds with the church’s purpose.
What did Paul prescribe as the antidote to selfish ambition?
Humility. Regard others as better than ourselves and act accordingly.
What does humility mean?
The act of being humble.
How do we become humble?
Does humility require that we put ourselves down or think lowly of ourselves?
What is the difference between humility and insecurity or low self-esteem?
Humility does not mean thinking poorly of yourself. True humility is putting the needs and concerns of others above your own. The root word of “humble” is the word humus which means earth.
Is it possible to think too lowly of yourself? Can humility be overdone?
To be safe which would be better: to err on the side of being too humble or on the side of being too proud?
Humility means two things. One, a capacity for self-criticism.... The second feature is allowing others to shine, affirming others, empowering and enabling others.
Are we to ignore our own interests?
Does anything bad happen if we ignore our own interests altogether?
I must take responsibility for my own needs. If I refuse to meet my own personal needs, someone else must meet them for me. Then I am not placing their needs ahead of my own. That is not humility.
Who has been an example to you of genuine, biblical humility?
If we are to be of one mind, does that mean that we must agree on everything?
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death--even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(Php 2:5-11 NRSV)
How much difference does attitude make? Can you think of an example? Anyone have a story?
There is a story of a certain organization offering a bounty of $5,000 for wolves captured alive. It turned Sam and Jed into fortune hunters. Day and night they scoured the mountains and forests looking for their valuable prey.
Exhausted one night, they fell asleep dreaming of their potential fortune. Suddenly, Sam awoke to see that they were surrounded by about fifty wolves with flaming eyes and bared teeth. He nudged his friend and said, "Jed, wake up! We're rich!"
What do we learn about Jesus from this passage?
This early hymn recorded in verses 6-11 portrays the Christ story in three movements: preexistence, existence, postexistence.
Christ has always existed with God.
To say that Christ preexisted, was with God prior to life on earth, is common in the New Testament. At least five passages attest to this idea but the passages are difficult for us because the idea of preexistence is for us finite beings a foreign idea.
Christ is equal to God because he is God.
Christ did not hold on to his preexistent state.
Though Christ is God, he became a man in order to fulfill God's plan of salvation for all people.
Christ chose to empty himself.
Christ did not just have the appearance of being a man—he actually became human to identify with us.
Christ voluntarily laid aside his divine rights and privileges out of love for his Father.
Christ died on the cross for our sins so we wouldn't have to face eternal death.
Up to this point in the hymn it is Christ who decides and who acts, relinquishing claims, emptying himself, becoming human, serving, obeying, dying. Now it is God who acts.
God highly exalted Christ because of his obedience.
Jesus Christ is Lord.
God raised Christ to his original position at the Father's right hand, where he will reign forever as our Lord and Judge.
Is submission of the lordship of Christ limited to the human realm?
How did humility benefit Jesus?
With all of these thoughts in mind what does it mean to “let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus”?
How does humility benefit us?
Verse 11 is one of the most important in the New Testament.
Jesus Christ is Lord.
Those four words were the first creed that the Christian Church ever had. To be a Christian is to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. This was a simple creed, yet all encompassing.
Over the years, there have been arguments and disagreements as to what those four words mean exactly, but it is still true and always will be that anyone who can say “Jesus Christ is Lord” is a Christian. If we can say that, we mean that we are prepared to give him an obedience that we are prepared to give to no one else.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
(Php 2:12-13 NRSV)
What is the difference between work out and work for your salvation?
What exactly does it mean to work out your salvation?
From the earliest days of the church, the relationship between the power of God and the responsibility of believers in living the Christian life has been debated.
Is the Christian life essentially a matter of passive trust or of active obedience?
Is it all God's doing, all the believer's doing, or a combination of both?
This is not an unusual question when dealing with spiritual truth; in fact, the same question arises about salvation itself.
Is it all God's doing, or is there a requirement on man's part in response to the command to believe the gospel?
Scripture makes it clear that it involves both God's sovereignty and human response.
Does Christian living require a lot of effort or very little effort?
What part does grace play in our salvation?
Sanctifying grace: for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
We work out our salvation only by the grace of God.