We have seen the heart of a Gospel Partner in our opening sermon. Here, we learn about the mindset that motivates gospel partnership. Paul gives us the ultimate example – “the mind of Christ”, in which humility features centrally.
The mind of a gospel partner is the mind of Christ, who did not think selfishly, but humbly, which ultimately led to glory.
I was having a chat with my 6 year old godson, Kian earlier in the week. He asked me how the body works, how does our body parts know what to do? I told him it’s the brain that tells the body what to do. If you get a cut, the nerves send a message to your brain that you’re injured, and the brain will tell you to call for help. If you’re eating, the stomach will send a signal to your brain that you’re full and you’ll stop eating.
And he said, “So the brain is the leader, yes?” I said “something like that”. And he paused to consider it and then he followed up, “Godpa, is it the brain or the heart that is the leader?”
Which was I thought was pretty profound. And I said, “Well, sometimes the heart leads, and sometimes the head leads. But it should be the head. That is why I always tell you ‘think before you do things’, your heart is selfish, your heart tells you to snatch a toy from your sister, you think first, what should I do, what does Jesus want me to do, and then you act.”
And he said, “Oh I know why the brain is the leader. Because it’s the highest, it’s right on top. That’s why it’s the leader, yes?” I said, “Well, that’s one way to look at it”.
Paul uses the words “mind/think” no less than 10 times in this brief letter. For Paul, our head, our mindset, how we think is absolutely essential to way we live. Our way of thinking determines our way of living.
If you want to develop the heart of a gospel partner, if you want to prioritize gospel partnership in your life, if you want to live in a manner worthy of the gospel, then you must have the right kind of mind.
The Question before us today is: “What kind of Mindset does a Gospel Partner have?”
Here’s the short answer to the question: A mindset of humility
. The kind of mind that produces gospel partners is a humble mind. Humility is the mental disposition inherent in gospel partners.
Or to put it differently, without a mindset of humility, there cannot be gospel community. If Hermonites are not humble, then Hermon will not be a church of gospel partners. In fact, without humility, it remains to be seen if we’d even be a church at all.
I know humility is a character trait, but Paul would regard it first as a mental attitude. Our way of thinking determines our way of living.
And since this sermon is about humility, aren’t you lucky that you have just the right preacher for the job, given that humility really is one of the many outstanding qualities that I possess. Sometimes I worry that I am too humble, but then I remind myself, don’t be silly Luwin, you don’t make mistakes like that, you’re always just the right amount of humble.
I’m kidding of course. But what it demonstrated was that the man who thinks he’s humble is actually not humble. That’s what makes pride so sinister. With most sins, you can identify them within yourself. If you’re stealing, you know you’re stealing, if you’re a glutton, you can see you’re a glutton, it’s hard to avoid seeing those sins. But pride, pride is a different animal. It’s power lies in deceit. It takes a proud person to believe he’s humble. Whereas the humble person is all too aware of his pride within.
So, friends, are you proud? Do you need a lesson in humility? And the irony is that the people who are humble will be the ones who would say “yes” and listen to this message, most intently, whereas the ones who think they do not need it, are in fact the ones who need it most greatly.
Let us pray as we head into the text.
Father, we ask for your grace that we may put aside our pride, and humbly come to you with open hearts and open minds to receive your word for us this morning. Teach us, this we pray, in Jesus name, Amen.
We are going to explore mind of the gospel partner today, and we will see three ways in which humility is the defining characteristic of this mindset.
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
- Have a mind which, in humility, considers others above yourself. (2:1 – 4)
(I) The imperatives of gospel partnership
(II) The indicatives of gospel partnership
(III) The inherence of joy in gospel partnership.
(I) The imperatives of gospel partnership (2b-4)
Here we ask the question, “what does Paul want us to have and to do as gospel partners?”
Here’s what he wants us to have.
being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind
He wants us to have the following attributes:
- The same mind (φρονῆτε)
- The same love
- Full accord (Common soul)
- One mind (φρονῆτε)
Let me unpack these attributes a little.
The same mind
. The word for mind here derives from the Greek word “fron-eh’-o”, which we first encountered in 1:7, “it is right for me to (fron-eh-o) this way this way about you”. It is the same word in the Greek. Except it was translated “feel”. It is right for me to feel
this way about you. Which goes to show how closely related our heads and our hearts are. For the way we think is so influential in shaping way we feel.
. He wants us to have the same agape, which we saw in 1:9, how the nature of this agape love is organic and dynamic, and has the potential to abound more and more and to bear fruit. Paul wants us to be united in this agape love.
is the English translation. But the Greek literally means a joint psyche. Psyche, from which we derived the word “psychology”, has to do with the mind. Which is why when the word psyche first appears in 1:27, it is translated mind.
I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind (psyche) striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
Which reveals how greatly Paul is emphasising the mind in this text. Full accord means, like-minded, co-minded, united in mind.
. Paul bookends these attributes with the mind. Same mind, One mind. He’s repeating himself for the sake of emphasis, because he wants us to know that the way to encourage gospel partnership is to develop the mind of a gospel partner.
He wants us to have the same mind, the same love, a common mind and one mind. That is what he wants us to have. What does Paul want us to do?
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
The negative: do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit
The positive: count others more significant than yourselves.
The conversion: in humility.
And in these verses, we can extract a brilliant definition for humility. Namely, humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Or to put it another way. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking more for others.
It is counting others more significant than yourself. So that you consider their interests above your own interests.
Which is precisely what verse 4 means. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
I just want to point out that it’s not 50/50. Like it’s not look half the time to your own interest, and half the time to the interests of others. But that is not what Paul means at all. He means to give far greater weight to the interests of others, than we give to our own. Unless you get that, the letter to the Philippians won’t make sense to you. Verse 3 itself wouldn’t even make sense “count others more significant than yourselves”.
Paul is asking us to consider our interests minimally, and consider the interests of others maximally.
And what makes that happen is humility. Humility is key, and the mind is key. And we bring them together, and we see, that the way to be a gospel partner is to have a mindset of humility.
That’s how we fulfil the imperatives of gospel partnership.
(II) Next, the indicatives of gospel partnership (1)
Paul could very well have omitted the indicatives of verses 1 and retained the imperatives of verse 2-4. He could have said, “walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel”, and this means, verse 2-4.
But he doesn’t. He begins with “if”.
He is using “if” in the same way when we say:
“If you love me, you will marry me.”
“If you want to pass this class, you better complete these assignments.”
He is not talking about if
as in probability, he’s building is argument on sure and certain gospel realities of being in Christ.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy.
Why preface the imperatives of gospel partnership with the indicatives? Because the indicatives matter. It is because you receive encouragement in Christ, it is because you feel comfort from his love, it is when you experience fellowship in the Spirit, these gospel realities are what will compel you to adopt a mindset of gospel partner.
These indicatives matter. Without them, you will only be motivated to act from a sense of duty. You will feel you have to, but you would not feel like you want to. And that robs the gospel partner of his joy. But this letter is eminently about joy. The way to create joyful gospel partnership is by banking on Gospel indicatives to fuel gospel imperatives.
(III) And on this note, we come to our 3rd sub-point, The inherence of Joy (2a)
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Again, this is not about duty, it’s about joy. Paul, the gospel partner, is filled with thankful joy whenever he remembers his gospel partners. He makes it clear to them that there is joy inherent in gospel partnership. There is joy to be had, and that joy is completed by unity. And if unity requires humility, then we can assume humility joyfully. If this unity calls for sacrifice, it will be a joyful sacrifice.
There is an inherent joy in gospel koinonia.
Some of you would have heard of the Parable of the Long Spoons.
One day a man said to an Angel, “Show me a glimpse of Heaven and Hell.”
The Angel showed the man two doors. Inside the first one, in the middle of the room, was a large round table with a large pot of the most incredible smelling, delicious looking stew. It was full, but everyone sitting around the table were emaciated. Thin and sickly. Literally starving. Each of them were holding spoons with 6 foot long handles. Because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths, they could not feed themselves. And they were famished.
The Angel said, “You have seen Hell.”
Behind the second door, the room appeared exactly the same. There was the large round table with the large pot of wonderful stew in the middle. The people had the same 6 foot long spoons, but they were well nourished and they were healthy, and they were joyful.
The man said, “I don’t understand.”
And the angel replied. These men of heaven arrived at the table considering how to serve one another, and so everyone was able to eat. In hell, everyone was determined to only serve himself.
Imagine a church where everyone is more concerned for the other than themselves. Where everyone comes to church, and instead of asking: “What’s in it for me?”, they ask “how can I be of service to you?” What kind of church would that be? It’ll be a church where no one is starving, everyone is well-fed
, because everyone is looking to the welfare
of others. You would enjoy being in that church. You would rejoice to be in such a church. There is joy, you see, inherent in gospel partnership.
So have a mind which, in humility, considers others more significant than yourselves. And it will not only build unity, it will bring joy. For the sake of joy, then, have a mind, which, in humility, considers others more significant than yourselves.
- Have a mind which prefers humility as a servant over equality with God. (2:5 – 8)
Again, three subpoints under this heading.
(I) The echo of Adam.
(II) The example of Christ.
(III) The entailment of The Cross
And here we come to great hymn of Christ, known traditionally as the kenosis
hymn. Kenosis meaning, emptying. The emptying hymn of Christ.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Let me expand verse 5 for clarity. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
Have this mind in you, which is yours, because you are in Christ, and this mind is in Christ.
Do you see, the affection (heart) that we need to be a gospel partner, Christ supplies (1:8)
Similarly, the mind (head) that we need to be a gospel partner, Christ likewise supplies (2:5)
Have this mind, because it is ours. It ours in Christ. What is the mindset of Christ like? It is characterized, as the name of the hymn suggests, by a humble emptying of oneself. We’ll get into that, but first, I want us to see how the hymn is crafted to bring up a contrast between Adam and Christ, between the fallen nature in us, and our new nature in Christ.
Let’s see the contrast in this Chart.
(I) The echo of Adam
|Form of God
||Image of God
|Did not grasp hold of what belongs to him
||Grasped hold of what did not belong to him
|Sought solidarity with Man
||Sought equality with God
|Obedience to the point of death
||Disobedience leading to death
|Exalted by God
||Banished by God
The main point of the Adam-Christ contrast in the hymn is this: Adam, in pride, thought to become like God; Christ, in humility became human.”
Adam, being created in human form, grasped at equality with the God; Christ ‘though he was in the form of God’, stooped to accept equality with the human race.
The significant implication is that in his humility, through his Incarnation, Christ has reversed the conduct and consequences of Adam. Whereas Eden sank to grief at Adam’s Fall, now Creation rises to rejoices at Jesus’s Exaltation.
And this came to pass, the hymn teaches, because of the mind of Christ, because of the way God thought. Have this mind amongst you, which is yours in Christ.
Let’s delve now into the mind of Christ.
(II) The example of Christ
Now, Christians must recognize that while Jesus is a lot more than a mere moral example, but he is never less than that. Imitate me, Paul says, as I imitate Christ.
Friends, whom are you imitating in your life today? Who is your example for life?
You see, it’s common, as human beings, to come across someone whom we either idolize, or envy. You say, I want to be where he is, or I want to have what she has. And we ask, how did he get there, how did she get them? And sub-consciously or otherwise, we follow in their footsteps, we think their thoughts after them, in the hopes of becoming like them.
The problem is that in this fallen world, in this rat-race, the winners are often the biggest, fastest, strongest rats. But they are, in the end, still rats. Watch the reality TV show Survivor, observe how politicians maintain power, see how people climb the corporate ladder. They don’t get there by being meek you realise, you don’t rise up in this world by being humble and preferring the interests of others above yourselves. You rise by looking out for number one, by keeping tabs on your rivals, you rise by climbing over the corpses of their fallen enemies, and the bigger the pile, the higher you go.
Only in the gospel, only the story of Jesus Christ, do we see an alternate reality. Which is ultimate reality. Only in the gospel, do we see that the path to glory is paved with humility.
Which means this, to have the mind of Christ, is not an addition to our way of thinking, it’s complete replacement of our way of thinking. To have the mind of Christ, we must first reject the mind of Adam.Be careful who you imitate. Chose to imitate Christ. Choose to have his mind. The mind of Christ is mind which preferred humility as a servant over the glories of equality with God.
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Christ did not count equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied himself. You see, Christ let go of his rights. He divested himself of his entitlements, he gave up his divine privileges. As very god of very god, was Christ not entitled to enjoy the eternal glories of heaven? Did he not have the right to remain in heaven to receive the unceasing praise of angels, is the Son not entitled to an unbroken relationship with the Father? Of course, Christ is absolutely entitled to these things, he had legitimate right to them.
But he could not hold on to them and be our incarnate atonement for sin at the same time. And he chose to be our Saviour. Suffering loss and grief, experiencing humiliation and anguish, enduring the wrath of his Father, in our place.
Christ gave up his rights, to make us right. He emptied himself to make us complete. Christ let go of his glory to take hold of us. He humbled himself to the extent of death, that he might bring us life. That is agape. A love which sacrifices oneself for the sake of others. It is a selfless love, it is humble love.
The mind of Christ “characterized not by selfish close-fisted grabbing, but by self-less, open-handed giving.”
So friends, you are not within your rights to always insist on your rights. There is a point where fighting for your rights, becomes wrong. Because it is unbecoming of a Christian, because that is not like Christ.
So many of us feel aggrieved and offended, and feel justified in our anger and resentment, for the reason that our rights in that particular situation were not upheld, that your rights were not respected, that they were violated. In such situations, I am angry and I am justified in my anger.
This way of thinking is universally understood and regarded as sacred in our world today. But what if Jesus thought that way? How could you possibly nail God to a cross without violating his divine rights? How can atonement be made for our sins if Jesus had a mindset of my life, my rights? How could humanity be made right, if Christ did not think it right to give up his rights?
I know, you have rights, I am not saying you don’t. But if all insisted on our rights, what will be left of humility? I am not saying that rights are a bad thing either. They are good things. But they are not the best thing. Christ is the best thing. I convinced that unless we are willing to sacrifice ourselves, and even our rights, for the sake of loving others, then we cannot be the gospel partners Christ calls us to be. It calls for humility, it requires a humble mind, and thanks be to God, we have this mind in Christ.
And since we’re on the subject of rights, let’s talk about our rights in the light of the Cross.
(III) The Entailment of the Cross
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
The Cross in Roman times wasn’t a fashion accessory. It was a torture instrument. Roman law reserved the cross for the worst and most violent criminals, and only those who were slaves or foreigners. A Roman citizen cannot, whatever his crime may be, be executed by crucifixion. It was that bad. Cicero called death on a cross “a most cruel and disgusting punishment.”
And the cross is nothing less than we deserve for our crimes against the king of kings.
Make no mistake. The cross is ours. The cross is the instrument of the death that we rightly deserve. The cross is the punishment for our sins. There is no cross, but our cross.
The Cross of Christ was first our cross, he bore it on our behalf. He hung upon it in our place. In our stead he stood condemned.
The cross is a reminder that we deserve nothing apart from hell. We are entitled to nothing except a one-way ticket to damnation.
The cross stands in opposition to our pride. It stands as a demolisher of our rights. No one can trumpet their rights at the foot of Calvary. At the Cross, our only standing place is grace. If we want to have this mind of Christ, we would do well to dwell on the Cross, and remember that is our Cross.
- Finally, have a mind which remembers that humility is the path to glory. (2:9 – 11)
Again, three sub-points here:
(I) The Exaltation of Christ
(II) The Submission of Humanity
(III) The Glorification of God
(I) The exaltation of Christ
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What we see in operation here is the immutable law of God’s kingdom that self-humbling leads to exaltation. In the divine order of things, pride inevitably comes before a fall, but humility will inexorably lead to glory.
The crucified Christ is the exalted Lord. The humble one is given the name above all names. Every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
This is the regnal name of the Lord of the Roman Empire at the time:
NERÓ CLAVDIVS CAESAR AVGVSTVS GERMÁNICVS
- Nero is his birth name.
- Claudius is the name of the previous emperor.
- Caesar means Lord
- Augustus means Majestic
- Germanicus signifies the glory of Caesar over the realm of Germania.
In the ideology of the Roman world, Jupiter and the gods granted divine authority and divine names to the Roman Caesar. In the theology of Christianity, God granted the divine name to Jesus so that everyone everywhere, not merely in Rome, not merely in Germania, but in heaven and on earth and under the earth, will proclaim Jesus as “Lord.”
By quoting this hymn, Paul presents the exaltation of Jesus as Lord in language that reflects and subverts the Roman imperial cult. It is a reminder that the Roman Cross did not ultimately humble Jesus. Jesus through the Cross ultimate humbled Rome. Remember, humility is the path to ultimately glory.
(II) The subjection of Humanity
Second, observe here the posture of humanity before the Lord Jesus Christ.
Bowing the knee subjection before one in authority. Slaves bowed before their lords to show their subjection and willingness to obey.
That is the rightful posture of humanity before the hyper-exalted Lord Jesus Christ. When the church worships Jesus by bowing before him and proclaiming with one voice that he is Lord, the church offers a preview of the future submission of all creation to the Lord Jesus. And another thing happens. Ever felt proud whilst on your knees? Every felt full of yourself when you are confessing that Jesus Christ, not you, is Lord?
The remedy to pride is to bear in mind that the humbled Christ is now the exalted Lord, before whom we all must and will bow the knee. There is no room for pride in his presence.
(III) The glorification of God
Verses 9-11 of the hymn make perfect sense; what they celebrate is consistent with the glory of God.
But notice how verses 6-8 go in another direction; they contradict any reasonable expectations for the celebration of the glory of God. The opening three verses do not lift up our eyes to the glories of heavens; they do not even lift up our hearts by showing us the miracles of Christ; they take us down, down to the deepest, darkest depths of human history to see the horrific torture, the unspeakable abuse; the utter humiliation and the cruel execution of a slave on a cross.
We would think that inconsistent with the glory of God. But not so. All that Jesus did in his self-emptying, self-humbling, and Father-obeying death on the cross led to the glory of God the Father because the humility of Jesus expressed the very nature of God, and the revelation of the nature of God is the glory of God.
The God whom we worship is the God of sacrificial love. The King to whom we bow the knee is the Servant King. The life of Christ is characterized not by selfish close-fisted grasping, but by self-less, open-handed giving.
So, the hymn comes full circle. Who is equal with God, now assumes his rightful place as God. The Kenosis hymn is a Christ-centred, God-glorifying and Pride-nullifying.
Have this mind among yourself, which is yours in Christ Jesus –
A mind which, in humility, considers others above yourself.
A mind which prefers humility as a servant over equality with God.
A mind which remembers that humility is the path to glory.
That is how you become a gospel partner.