In Sunday’s message, I talked about three joy-killers: disunity, pride and selfishness. And I talked about the solutions to each.
The Northstar vision is to help the whole world find and follow Jesus. We need to agree on our mission, our purpose, our future and the path to that future. In fact, we as a body of believers need to agree on a whole lot of things. To do this, the church must be united. And, for a church to be united, Paul recognizes that humility must prevail. Without humility there can be no unity, and where there is no unity, there can be no successful advancement of the gospel by a local church.
But even though unity is necessary, and even though unity is possible, unity is not automatic. Christian churches do not drift towards unity on their own. On the one hand, unity is a gift of the Spirit, but on the other hand, unity requires that we work towards being humble. If working towards humility is the key to unity, what does humility look like? Paul’s answer: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Philippians 2:3-4.
This is not a case of “be humble” because Paul says so, or, “be united” because Paul says so. The reason we strive for humility is because it is the way we accomplish unity. And the reason we strive for unity, is because it enables us to carry out our mission. We should have the same mind, the same love, the same spirit, and the same purpose which is help the whole world find and follow Jesus.
Jesus is our example of humility. His demonstration of that humility should be enough incentive for every Christian in the church to “do nothing from selfishness” and to “regard one another as more important than himself.”
On the subject of selfishness. Selfishness comes naturally to most of us and God’s standard of selflessness does not. Remember Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit…” I can’t help notice the word nothing. Do you notice how much of the responsibility of obeying this verse falls on us? All of it. We can’t use Philippians 1:6 as an excuse or rationalization for our selfish tendencies. That verse says, “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” So, if God wants me to be selfless He is going to have to do it. Unfortunately, it does not work that way. Part of the perfecting process God uses is our own obedience. We need to work on being more selfless every day.
1. How important is it that a church be unified? What specific things can YOU do to encourage greater unity at Northstar? How about encouraging greater unity in your home, marriage, family, community, school, etc? What effect do you think gossip has on unity? How does it do damage? Based on this week’s message, what rights are you willing to give up?
2. Consider what Jesus gave up by humbling himself to bring eternal life to us. What thought from the Philippians passage is most precious to you? Why? Have you ever humbled yourself by giving up something that you deserved for the benefit of others? Ask God to begin to show you how you are puffed up in any area of your life right now. Pray for humility.
3. How would you describe the differences between being selfish and selfless as a member of the church? How do you apply selfless wisdom in response to the gospel? Read the following verses and ask God to make you more selfless than selfish? What do the following verses say to you: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.: (Matt. 23:12) “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt you.” (James 4:10) “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” (I Peter 5:6)