Unity is achieved through humility
Thank you so much for those wonderful songs this morning. Again, man, how He loved us. It’s just such a wonderful truth and a wonderful message this morning. If you have your Bibles, I’d invite you to Philippians chapter two. We are turning the page to Chapter 2. We’re in a series, Advancing the Gospel Together, taking a look at Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, a very influential city and a very influential town of the day. It kind of set in the middle of the route between Europe and Asia, it was kind of the I-95 corridor if you will, that just connected about 800 to 1000 miles. And so it’s at the very heart of the Gospel being spread through this city and then being dispersed to all those different areas. So we’ll just continue looking at that, Advancing the Gospel Together.
And I’ll start with a little cartoon. I love the comics. The Sunday morning comics are not as good as they were when I was growing up, but there was a Charlie Brown one that was kind of took place like this. Linus was watching TV and he was enjoying watching TV. Lucy walks in, looks at Linus and says “change the channel.” Well, Linus responds, “what makes what makes you think that you can come in here and tell me what to do?” That’s what I would say if somebody told me to change the channels, right? What makes you think you can come in here and tell me what to do? And Lucy holds up her hand. “You see these five fingers? Individually, they’re not very much, but when I bring them all together they are a force to be reckoned with.” Amen? Yeah that’s how much we liked TV right? She knew there was power in her unified fingers.
But there’s power and unity, isn’t there? There’s power when a team comes together. We know that today’s Super Bowl Sunday. There’s power in those teams being united together. And just a quick little plug you don’t need to skip tonight. It’s written, Tom Brady is going to win. That script was written months ago. It’s fixed, so there I just spoiled it for you, so you can be here tonight, OK? But there’s power in the unity of those two teams. By the way, I am pulling for the Chiefs just so we don’t get confused here. OK, I heard a lot of people growl. Just so you know. So I’m just a realist, but there’s unity. There’s power when groups of people can come together, setting aside their differences to accomplish their goals. There’s power in unity. There’s power in our families when they come together. Businesses are more productive when all the workers work together with a common goal in mind, all moving the same direction. There’s power when friendships come together. Unity is a powerful thing.
But it’s a rare thing, isn’t it? To find groups of people who will set aside their own personal agendas, to set aside their egos is rare, and if it’s ever achieved, if unity is ever something that we can grasp, it doesn’t last long. It’s like trying to hold water in your hands. It just slips through the cracks, doesn’t it? Unity is so rare and it’s so hard to maintain. One of the biggest things that I remember when I was in high school. Probably the most unified I have ever seen a country was on September 11th, 2001. We were all Americans and we were all united under defeating terrorists. It was really in the midst of that sorrow and sadness, it was a beautiful thing to see how everyone came together. But it didn’t last long. You know how long it lasted? About right up to the next elections, didn’t it? And then that unity was broken. And really I think it’s been broken ever since.
What we need in our world, what we need in our families, what we need in our businesses, what we need in our churches is unity. Togetherness, because there is power when we are unified. The opposite of unity is division. Division brings conflict, husband and wife, you get divided, there’s going to be conflict. You know how this goes. She wants to go eat somewhere. I want to go eat somewhere. There’s division. Now, it’s not bad conflict, but there can be conflict. When children want to do something and mom or Dad says no. Well, there’s division, and that creates conflict and conflict can be good. Well, it’s never good I guess, but it can be bad and it can be really, really bad.
And so here’s what’s going. The church in Philippi has conflict, OK? There are two ladies, and you’ll read about them when we get to chapter four. They have come to blows over something. They are disagreeing over something and so the church has been divided. There are groups of people here taking this lady’s side. There’s groups taking this lady’s side. That upsets Paul because Paul knows the power in unity. He knows why we’re unified, and so here he’s in this section, remember? Living a life worthy of the Gospel, and he’s explaining that to us. So if we’re to live our lives worthy of the Gospel, we have to be unified. So Paul answers the question, can we find unity in this world? And can we maintain unity? The answer is yes, because unity is found or achieved through humility. Unity is achieved and maintained through humility.
Now what’s humility? Paul is going to explain it very clearly what humility is as we read these verses and then he’s going to show us the ultimate, extreme example of a humbled life. And so in Chapter 2 verse one Paul says “If, then, there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy.” Now these are four if statements, and it’s like a conditional clause; if-then statements you learn about them in English. These four if statements, we just need to understand. He’s not asking the question. You know a lot of times like if you do this, then do this. The way this really should read is, since you have these things. I mean, there’s no doubt in Paul’s mind that the church is already united. It would be if you have any encouragement in Christ and Paul would say, and I know you do. That’s what these four if statements made. Jennifer goes and works out a lot at the Y. I know most days she’s going to go to the Y. It would be like me going up to her and saying hey if you go to the Y, bring home some Zaxby’s for supper. I know she’s going so just bring home, or we’re in China Grove now, bring home some No Way Jose’s, right? That’s great stuff. That’s what he’s saying. Those are the conditional clauses that he already knows that the church has and so then it goes into the imperative.
Here’s the command verse. “make my joy complete by thinking the same way, having the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” Paul’s main command to the church is to make his joy complete, but that’s not the main point. The main point is how do you make his joy complete? By being unified. You can think of the last week I said that Paul was like a spiritual father to the church. I don’t know about other parents, but I love seeing my kids getting along. I love seeing them play together. I love seeing them, whether it’s on electronics or playing Legos, I just love seeing them together. You know what? I don’t love when they’re fighting with each other. ‘Cause then that just makes me angry. It makes me frustrated so you know, the parents gotta come in, we got to correct the problem. And it’s just not good, but when they’re together, it makes my joy complete.
We already know Paul is joyful. He’s got joy because the church is partnered with him in chapter One. He has joy because the Gospel is being advanced while he’s in prison, but here he says, make my joy complete. Make my cup overflow by being of a like mind. By being unified, and this is a call for the church to find unity amongst their diversity. Now you might think that like-minded means they have to think alike on everything, right? He said you just have to agree and you have to think and you have to just be exactly alike and all you do. That’s called uniformity. That’s called conformity. The Bible is very clear. Do not conform to this world. In fact, when we try to conform to each other, or when we demand people to conform to us, that usually causes more division. When we come in and say I want it my way, and the only way we’re going to be unified is if everybody agrees with me. Well, that’s not going to unify anybody because we’re different. We are diverse group of people. We have different ideas. We have different thoughts. We come from different backgrounds, and that’s OK because God wants it that way.
When you get to heaven, you’re going to be worshiping along all different kinds of people. They’re going to look different than you. They’re going to talk different than you. They’re going to have different languages than you. But in one voice, when you are in the throne room of God, you will be proclaiming the praises to God. That’s what unity is, not uniformity. We don’t have to dress alike. We don’t all have to wear the same types of clothes. We don’t have to talk alike. We don’t even have to like the same kind of music, because we all have different musical preferences. Unity is when we can take all of our differences and bring them together with common values with one purpose. Unity is when we say you know what I may not agree with that, but because it’s advancing the Gospel, I’m going to be unified in how we move forward. We’re not told what’s going on in the church. We don’t know what caused the disruption. But Paul says you gotta set aside your petty differences and be unified by advancing the Gospel together.
Paul writes this in 1 Corinthians 12:12 “For just as the body is one and has many parts, and all the parts of that body, though many, are one body—so also is Christ.” That is a powerful verse for the church. Think about it. You’ve got a hand. You’ve got a foot. You’ve got an ear. You’ve got a nose. They’re different. But together they make one body.
When Christ draws us into a church family. When Christ brings us to a place and makes us a part of this community, we’re different and we celebrate that diversity. We celebrate those differences, but we come together knowing that Christ is called us to bring glory to His name and to advance the Gospel together. A. W. Tozer says it like this. “Has it ever occurred to you that 100 pianos all tunes to the same tuning fork, are automatically tuned to each other? They are of 1 accord by being tuned not to each other but to another standard, to which each one must individually bow. So 100 worshippers meeting together each one of them looking to Christ are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be if they were to become unity-conscious and look away from Christ to find fellowship.” What Tozer means. When we will put our eyes on Christ, that’s when we’ll find unity. If we try to create unity by taking our eyes off of Christ, we will fail, because there’s only unity in the Gospel. The basis for our unity is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
And here’s what it is. Everybody in this room. Everybody in the world has one thing in fact in common. There might be more, but there’s one thing I know everybody in the world has in common. We’re all sinners. We all fall short of God’s grace and God’s glory. That’s what we have in common. We mess up. You mess up every single day. You can try as hard as you want to live a good life. Eventually you’re going to fail to live up to God’s standard. We all have that in common from the moment we’re born, we share that. For Christians, the moment we say yes to Jesus, we are forgiven of our sins and we are washed as clean and as white as snow. Whiter than the snow that’s out there on the ground. It’s a little muddy. The blood of Jesus makes us whiter than the whitest snow, and that’s what unifies the church. We all have that in common. We all have that moment where we said yes to Jesus.
And if you’re here and you’ve never made that decision, then you need to do it today. If you’re trying to fill your life and fill that God-size hole in your heart with drugs or alcohol or good works or whatever it is, it’s not going to last. It’s not going to sustain you. You have to say yes to Jesus. You have to turn away from the divisiveness and the rebellion of the world and turn and focus on our Lord and Savior and just follow Him. You wake up every day and say I’m just going to follow Jesus. That is where our unity comes from. That is why those four things in verse one. Those are blessings that we receive the moment we receive the Gospel. And when we just say, you know what, I’m not going to worry about the color of the carpet. I’m not going to worry about the walls. I’m not going to worry about the music. I’m not going to worry about anything. I’m just going to keep my eyes focused on Jesus. I’m going to love God and love people and we’re just going to get on board and we’re just going to go together and advance the Gospel. Nothing will stop a church that makes that decision. In a world that is so divided, you don’t think unity is going to get people’s attention? The world’s gonna say, look at all those people in that church. How do they get along so good? Because of Christ. You may say, how do you get along with someone who doesn’t believe this or that? You say, because we’re united by Christ and you get an opportunity to share the Gospel. There’s nowhere else, there’s no other organization like that anywhere on Earth that brings people together under that common idea.
The basis for our unity is the Gospel. But how is it lived out, ’cause this is important. It’s lived out, it’s expressed through humble service. This is so important for you to get because I don’t know about you, but I can be extremely prideful, right? I struggle with pride. Yeah, there are Sundays when I walk out of here like man, that was a great sermon. They just need to publish that in a book somewhere. That’s prideful. You’re laughing, I must not have preached one like that yet, that’s OK. You know what I do most Sundays? I’ll call Jennifer, because we drive separate, so I’ll call her first thing out of my mouth, “hey, how was the sermon?” What I want her to say is how awesome it was. But she tells me the truth, most times. That’s pride and pride can get in the way of unity.
I like to be number one. I want to be the best. But that’s the opposite of unity. Let’s look at what Paul says again in verse three. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others more important than yourself.” There was a guy many, many years ago named Nicolaus Copernicus. Anybody ever heard of Copernicus? Students you should be learning about Nicolas Copernicus in science or philosophy. Nicolas Copernicus is the guy who stood up and said, “we revolve around the sun. The Earth and all the other planets revolve around the sun.” Before he showed up and said that everybody in the world thought everything revolves around the earth. The sun revolves around the earth. The other planets revolve around the earth. Copernicus stands up and says nope, we are not the center of the universe. That made some people very upset. Because for hundreds of centuries, hundreds of years, Earth, the humanity on Earth were the center of the universe.
I want to tell you something. Some of us need to have a Copernicus moment, don’t we? We need to realize the Earth does not revolve around us. Children, I mean children and students, you need to realize as early as possible the world does not revolve around you. Like Jennifer says to me all the time. It really is not my world that people are living in. I mean that she’ll come up to me and say “it’s just Trent’s little world and we’re living in it.” No, that’s not it. We have to have that Copernicus moment where it’s like, no, the world does not revolve around us I’m just one of many. This is what Paul saying, do nothing out of selfish conceit. Selfish ambition is wanting to achieve for your own good. Oh, by the way, there’s two things he says. Don’t do selfish ambition and don’t have vain conceit. Those were two things that got Satan kicked out of heaven.
When you show selfish ambition and vain conceit, you are never more like Satan than you are in those moments. Isaiah 14:13-14 says that Satan wanted to ascend the heavens. “I will set my throne above the stars of God. “I will ascend to the heavens; I will set up my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of the gods’ assembly, in the remotest parts of the North. I will ascend above the highest clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” And God said, nope, kick him out of heaven, ’cause he was prideful. He had selfish ambition. He was conceited. These two things, selfish ambition and conceit, are more like Satan than they are like Christ. And I know it’s good for us to have ambition. I want my kids to have ambition. I want them to set goals in life. I want them to achieve those goals. Selfish ambition says I will do whatever it takes to get my way. I will be a cutthroat businessman to get my way. I will stab people in the back to get my way. I don’t care who I hurt or what I do, or what I say to reach the highest levels. That’s selfish ambition.
Vain conceit is an exaggerated view of yourself. It’s the view like I said earlier, we walk around, we exaggerate stories about ourselves because we want people to know how awesome we are. Now I’m 37. It’s been almost 20 years since I graduated high school. And I know other adults are like this. The stories and the things that happened in high school that make me look good, they’re so exaggerated by this point in my life, I don’t really know what happened. I mean, my football skills made all of a sudden I was like the King of football in high school. No, I wasn’t. I wasn’t. But you know, those stories have just grown and grown and grown. That’s vain conceit. I want people to think better of me than I really am.
Paul addresses that in Romans 12:3 he says, “I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” Don’t think of yourself mightier than you really are. Listen, you’ve been blessed. But it’s not about vain glory or vain conceit. It’s about just accepting the gifts that God has given you and using those gifts not to glorify yourself, but to glorify Him.
Pride is the most damaging thing to any organization, especially at church. Pride will destroy. Selfish ambition, conceit and pride will destroy even the greatest unity. It was pride that destroyed the unity after 9/11, among other things. Proverbs 13:10 says “Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.” Proverbs 16:18 says “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” I struggle with it. I’m not going to stand up here and lie to you. I struggle with pride. Talk to Jennifer about when we first met how prideful and arrogant I was. Something that I battle with every day. But I’ve also seen how pride comes before a fall.
I’ve seen it in families. I’ve seen it in my life. I’ve seen it in others lives. I’ve seen it in churches. But those are two things we don’t do to accomplish unity through humility. But then he says to do one thing, put others first. He says at the end of three, and then into four. Just put others first. Live humbly, others are better than you. Now that’s not virtuous in our world, it wasn’t a virtue in the Greek world. The Greeks took great pride that they as a society were better than everybody else. Humility was seen as a weakness. Pride was seen as a strength. Same thing today. Watch any commercial and it’s all about self. Look at any modern-day philosophy and it’s all about self. This is so counter to our culture. Put others first.
Students. Put others first. Adults put others first. Children put others first. I wonder how our schools would look if every student who went to that school said I’m going to put the needs of that person above my own needs. I think it would look a lot different. Be less fights would be less bullying for sure. How would social media look? If we put others needs before our own. Talk about a place to pump up ourselves. What would it look like if we said, “nope, I’m going to put them before I type anything before I say anything before I do anything. What does that person need?” That is where you find unity. And here’s the cool thing. When everybody does it. When everybody does it, everybody’s needs get. Right? When everybody is putting someone else’s need above their own, then your need will be met by somebody else. It’s a beautiful thing to see.
You know, C.S. Lewis says it like this. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.” Jesus puts it like this. “The last shall be first, and the first shall be last.” Jesus models this when He washes the feet of his disciples, doesn’t He? Jesus set at the lowest position of the table at the Lord’s Supper. And then He washed the feet of His disciples. He took the form of a servant. You know who was in the room when He was doing that? The guy that was going to betray Him. The guy who was going to sell Him out for 30 pieces of silver was sitting there. Jesus got on His hands and knees, washed his feet.
The Apostle Paul uses Jesus as an example as he closes up. We’re not going to read 5 through 11 today, but I would encourage you to read it this afternoon. Verses 5 through 11 is a hymn. We don’t know if Paul wrote the hymn. We don’t know if somebody else wrote the hymn. But what we do know is that churches in the 1st century would sing this hymn to remind themselves about Christ. Christ was the ultimate example of a humble servant. Jesus, who had all the power and authority that came with being God, and you know that right? I mean, we’re going to dive into this tonight. Jesus was the Son of God, but He was fully God. There was nothing about Him that was not God. He was perfect in every way. He lived a perfect, sinless life. He didn’t deserve to be put on that cross. He didn’t deserve it one bit, because He didn’t do anything wrong. He never did. And yet, there He hangs. For hours in your place and in my place. That is an example of putting the needs of others first.
Jesus, who had all the rights in the world to be a bragging, to be prideful, because He was God walking around on Earth, chose to be humble, humble to the point of death on an old rugged cross because He put the needs of the world ahead of His own needs. What did He pray in the garden? Take this Cup from Me. He didn’t want to do it, but then He said not My will, Your will be done. Focused on you and me as He hangs there on that cross beaten and bloody.
Now we don’t have to go to those extremes, but that demonstrates to us how we need to put the needs of others before our own needs. Jesus emptied Himself, taking the form of a lowly servant. Let me ask you, how would your life be different, if tomorrow or this afternoon you said “you know what? From here on out, it’s others before me.” How would our church, how would other churches look if it was no longer about what I want, what I need, what I think is best? What does God want us to do? How can I serve others? That’s where you find unity. Unity is achieved through humility. But listen, the ultimate unity that you have to receive is Salvation. You have to become united with Christ. You have to say “I’m going to follow Jesus.” Sin divides us from our Heavenly Father. And if you feel Him speaking to you today, your hearts just beating and you know you gotta respond. That gap of division is closed by the victory of Christ on a cross. And then He got up and He walked out of that tomb three days later. That is how you can be united with Christ. And then the unity you have with God will overflow into the rest of your life. So today if you need to make that decision to follow Him, I want you to come down here and do it. You where you’re at. Pray where you’re at. Pray down here you just pray to receive Christ.
Maybe you’re new to China Grove First Baptist Church and you feel the Lord calling you to be unified with us as a body to join our community. I would invite you to come today. Just walk down here and we’ll talk and then we’ll accept you into this family as members. What is God calling you to do? How is God asking you to change your life for the good of others?
Let’s pray together.
Father, we are so grateful for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We’re grateful that through that event we can have unity with God an eternal, lasting unity that will never be separated, no matter what happens. When we say yes to Jesus, we are assured of our eternal destination to be heaven. Father help that attitude of Christ, help that humility to overflow into our lives help us to put the needs of others first. Help us to ask the question “what do they need, before we say what do I need.” And through the Spirit of God, we know that there is power to find unity. We ask all this in Jesus’ Name Amen and Amen.