— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, praise the Lord! Good to see everybody this morning. This is the season when the world is focused, in some measure, upon what we’ve come to call Christmas. And, I know for many it’s just a holiday, it’s sentiment, it’s family, it’s gift giving and partying and all of that. I believe there’s a remnant of people though, that understand, in some measure, what it really is about.
And, I appreciate the Lord emphasizing this morning some of the truths respect to His coming. I found, as I’ve been thinking about the service today, my mind going to an unusual scripture, at least unusual to preach on an occasion like this, and that’s from Philippians chapter 2.
You know, Paul, when he talked about the coming of the Lord into the world, he didn’t spend his time talking about angels and shepherds and mangers and wise men and all those kinds of things, and I’m thankful that we have the record of all those events, but Paul was much more focused on the significance of it. And, one of the things you’ll find throughout his writings, in one form or another is Jesus being held up as our example. And so, Paul is exhorting the Philippian believers and he’s talking about what it means to be the church.
You know, we’ve talked about that lately. It’s not…we’ve made passing reference, I guess, many times to the fact God has not called us to a religion. It’s not a matter of learning how to do church and how to…this is how we do stuff. This is what we say, this is how we…and all those kinds of things. We can package what we think we know spiritually into a whole bunch of externals, and think we’ve got it.
And we can get to a point where we have nothing, because that’s not what it’s about! There is a living presence of Christ in His people! And there are changes that come, not from the outward, but from the inward. And so, Paul is talking about a real…what it means to be followers of Jesus, what His coming is meant to demonstrate to us. Thank God for what He accomplished, but there is a living demonstration that I pray that God will help me to understand in a deeper way.
And so, his exhortation to the believers that sets up this is, “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit…” (NIV). And that’s a fellowship based upon the Spirit. This is the fellowship of a shared life. This is you and me, as fellow believers in Christ, being literally connected as the parts of a tree are connected one to another. They don’t just have a common denominator, they share a life. Or as a body, my right hand and my left hand share the same life, and hopefully, the same intelligence behind them, and so it doesn’t make any sense for them to be at odds, does it?
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Okay, so if this exists, if this relationship exists with God and with us, okay, “…if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded....” Now there is a…this word…this ‘minded’…there’s a certain word in the original that occurs two or three times in this passage and you see it through the New Testament. And it has to do with a way of looking at life.
See, this is how we look at life, how do we see ourselves, how do we think about the world and about our place in it and who God is and who we are and what life is about? See, there has got to come, there’s got to be produced in us a like-mindedness, not just a collection of ideas we agree on, but a…something more fundamental than that.
What is it that really drives us? In other words, every one of us could profess to believe ‘this or that,’ in terms of our doctrine and ideas that we sort of ascribe to, but if that isn’t what literally drives our life and controls how we act and react…see, that happens on a deeper level, then what good is this out here and on this superficial level if something hasn’t happened here to change us so that we automatically, almost, act and react the way we’re supposed to?
You see the connection between this and what we’ve read so many times in Romans, chapter 12…that we’ve been called to present ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice. There’s a death that has died, there is a presentation, there is a submission to the Divine will, and for what purpose? How are we transformed?
( congregational response ).
There’s a renewing of the mind and it’s not simply, again, pouring new doctrines in the place of old ones, this has got to be…this is way down deep! Every one of us is driven and controlled in the way we act and react because of a body of ideas that have imbedded themselves in our psyche, and I’ll tell you, we need some deep healing!
( congregational amens ).
We need some things that are beyond just, hey, ‘go by the word.’ I’ve heard that expression. Well, Praise God, it takes more than just an acknowledgement of something that is true, if down in here it isn’t true to us. See, we need something that really happens down in the depths of our soul.
But what he’s talking about the…what is needed to truly represent Him and to truly follow His example, there has got to come a like-mindedness. It doesn’t make any sense for one to be pulling in one direction and another another, and is claimed to be having fellowship with Him. That’s not coming from Him, is it? Okay?
So, he’s saying, “…make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love….” Where’s that gonna come from? Huh? See, all of this has got to come from Him. And as we read this, it’s almost going to sound like Paul is saying this is how you’re supposed to be, go for it, do it…like, do it in your own strength.
But you have to see this in the context of what salvation is about in the rest of scripture. Nothing that God encourages us to do, instructs us to do is ever meant to be done in the strength of human nature. It’s impossible! Always there is this underlying sense that salvation is about giving ourselves to God as hopeless sinners who cannot fix ourselves, and God must do it, or it won’t be done.
So, get that. I mean, don’t anybody think of this as, oh, my God, I’ve got to be this, I’ve got to try to do this. This is not that at all! This is simply a description of what it means, where God is going with what He’s doing in us. Praise God!
All right, so, “…having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” And, if you go back to the original and some of the other translations, that word ‘mind’ occurs there again. You’re gonna have the same mind, okay? Being one in mind. Boy, that’s a tall order. I mean, there’s no way you can bring people together that way, in the natural. God has got to do this—God has got to do it. Okay?
Now, he describes, a little bit what that means. He says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit….” I don’t have it in front of me. I think the NLT says something like, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others.” I think that’s a pretty good way to put it. Is that right, Carl? Hey, I actually remembered something. This is scary. Praise God!
But is that not a description of human nature? I mean, we are, fundamentally, all about self and we tend to bring that self-centeredness into our Christian life. It just kind of comes along for the ride! And that’s why we need to be transformed by the renewing of our mind, ‘cause it ain’t natural!
( congregational amens ).
I have got to have some major help! And you see it everywhere in religion how people are bringing ego and self and self-seeking into the church, and right into what they call the church, at least.
And God is wanting us to get to a point where it’s just not about that at all! It’s not about who I am. I don’t have to impress anybody. I don’t have to do anything of that nature. I mean…we are all about our self-image. How do people see me?
I mean, you think about the battles that kids fight, and we all fought when we were in school. I mean, what is your life about at that point? Oh, I want to be ‘accepted.’ Well, what is the price of acceptance? It’s going along with the crowd. Well, where’s the crowd going?
( congregation response ).
Yeah! It’s not a good place. My God, we are gonna have to get our sense of identity from someplace other than the crowd. I mean, and we’re gonna have to be willing to stand against the spirit of the world. We don’t have to do it in a bad spirited way, but we’re gonna have to stand for something that’s different.
And we’re gonna have to get our sense of self-value and worth…I mean, how many people are just consumed with me and my place? In a way, I’m getting ahead of myself here, but this will become a little more plain in a minute because of how he develops this. But my God, don’t we just try so hard to put on a front and try to cause people to think of us in a certain way—a certain favorable way.
You know, I was thinking about…there are cultures in the world…I was thinking about this particularly in the Orient, and almost the highest cultural value is ‘saving face.’ How many of you’ve ever heard of that? Yeah, it’s like my image before everybody else. My sense of identity, my sense of worth in the eyes of others is the highest value and my God, if I get caught…I mean, how many people have been caught in something shameful and have lost face and the result is so critical to them, they take their own life over it?
But we’re not so free from that here! This is so intrinsic to human nature that we need a Divine Savior to set us free from self-seeking in any form. I mean, I don’t care if you’re up here or out there or wherever you are, my God, it’s how did I look today? How do people think of me? God, I can’t be who I really am because then they’ll think bad of me. And God wants to get us down to where there’s a freedom to be ourselves and to look to Him.
But you know, even in that, you can be so obsessed with self in a different way that you’re still…it’s all about you! Me and how I feel and how I look. I mean, you can almost make a prideful thing out of being humble. You know, am I projecting the right humbleness here? And where’s the focus when we’re doing any of that? It’s on us!
I’ll tell you, God has a way of bringing us to a place where we have an identity in Him, that is not founded upon who we are in human society. It’s completely free from that. And that’s where God…where Paul is actually going with some of this.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…” (NIV). And this is again…we’re thinking something of ourselves that doesn’t make any sense in the light of eternity. We have an opinion about who we are and what we’re about and our worth and our value and all of that. My God! If we could see and understand and see our place in the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t be about that—it wouldn’t be about that. Praise God!
But anyway, but in humility…now what do we do in contrast to that? “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” So, there is a focus in the purpose and plan of God where our focus shifts from me to you.
Somehow, as inconceivable as it seems, the focus of God’s nature is not on God. Now, yes, it’s appropriate that we should worship Him and praise Him and fall at His feet and give Him glory and all of that, but for us, we would tend to think of someone who would feel that that’s the right thing to do as, oh, that’s an ego trip! But it ain’t an ego trip with God. It’s the reality of who He is and we would…and we need to glory in Him because of the expression of His nature, which is entirely focused on our welfare!
( congregational amens ).
The spirit of love…excuse me, my voice is going away here. I guess I’m gonna have to not shout at you today, and that’s probably a good thing. But anyway, His nature is so other-centered that that’s all that matters to Him and that’s what He seeks to impart to us so that we get our highest joy out of giving to somebody else and lifting them up and seeing them be blessed and strengthened.
( congregational amens ).
My God! Does that come naturally to anybody here? Oh my, do we need help and we need deliverance and we need strength. So, “Each of you…” in light of that, “…should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Now, he comes back to the same Greek word in this next verse. He says, “Your attitude…” And, like-minded, the purpose, one in purpose, the attitude, they’re all the same original word, and they all have to do with the same thing. This is the way I see myself. This is the way I see my world. This is how I fit in it. This is my purpose. And so, this governs how I react and how I relate to people and to life, itself.
And I’ll tell you, what we are going to see, in Paul’s words, is how does Divine nature live in a broken world? Because, is that not what we’re called to do? We’re called to be transformed so that our nature is that of Him and not of us, but we’re called to live it out in a broken world. How do you do that?
All right, this is where the example comes in. This is where we have to have the same…he calls upon us to have the same attitude, the same way of looking at everything that Jesus did. Now, “Who, being in very nature God….” And how easy is it to just blow right over that? I mean, here we’re talking about somebody who is the Son of God. We’re talking about somebody who is the highest! Under the Father Himself, but apart from that, He is the highest and it just talks about His deity as though, okay, we just blow right on by that because we believe that, that’s a doctrine we accept. It’s wonderful. He was up there.
Do you ever really stop to meditate on who He really was? My God! Because, the measure of what He did, is really defined by who He is. You remember what He prayed, in John chapter 17? Part of His prayer was this, “…Father, glorify me…” With what? “…The glory I had with you before the world began.”
Now, I don’t know how to explain this, and I’m not even gonna try, but there was a time, for lack of a better word, before the world…he says it that way, anyway, when there was just the Father and the Son. I mean, this was a glorious, powerful, unimaginably great Being! Do you know…do you ever stop to realize who He was? How did God create the world?
( congregational response ).
Yeah! Who was the One who actually did it?
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It was the Son of God! Now this One we’re talking about coming as a babe in a manger was back out there speaking out galaxies! The stuff that the scientists…their minds are blown with the incredible vastness of the universe, here’s somebody who was there who made it happen! That’s incredible! Everything was made by Him! Nothing was made without Him!
And we see that in several places. When you talk about the Creator, He’s the Creator. He’s the One who was there. He was the One who was glorious! I mean, even the devils that Jesus encountered in His earthly journey, recognized this. They would speak up and say, I know who You are. You’re the Holy One of God! He said, be quiet. Are you come, “…to torment us before the time?” (KJV).
I mean, they recognized who He was. This is the One who created me. Oh, my God! He may be in flesh right now, He may be in a humble place, but I know who He is! You know, there are several places in the Old Testament where we see visual revelations, if you will, of God. Now, we talk about the time when Isaiah was caught up and saw the Lord, “…high and lifted up.” Who did he see?
( congregational response ).
Yeah. How do you know that? Because no one has ever seen God, no one ever will see God. I mean, it’s plain in the teaching of the New Testament. God is a Spirit who inhabits Eternity. He is…there’s no place where He is not, is a simple way to put it. He’s not a being. He’s not an old man sitting in a chair somewhere, hurling thunderbolts and doing this and playing games, like they show on the cartoons. My God, He is a Spirit that inhabits Eternity.
So how does He make Himself known to a creation where we are individual beings in His image? There’s enough likeness to Him that He can call us being created in His image. But how does He relate to somebody like that? When He’s some…we’ll never see Him, like seeing some figure somewhere, because it’s the Son of God who has made Him known!
He is the exact image, the exact representation, in this translation here in one place, of His being. He is God, focused in an individual, to where we can see all of the Divine power and the Divine attributes in this one being. That’s how I know that the One Isaiah saw is the One who later came to be known as Jesus.
What about when the seventy elders of Israel, at Sinai, were called to go up into the mountain, and they were called to see the God of Israel? And they saw a visual representation. I don’t know what in the world it was, but it was visual. It says they saw the God of Israel, And there was something like clear pavement under His feet. I don’t know what they saw or how…anyway, God revealed Himself. Who was that? See, that was Jesus!
What about when Moses said Lord, “…Show me your glory.” (NIV). I’ll tell you, the representation of glory was so great on that occasion that Jesus said…that God said you can’t see my face and live, but I’ll show you my back parts. I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock. You know, the line on the hymn comes from that. I’ll cover you there with my hand and then when I get to a certain point I’ll let you see the back parts. You’re gonna see some of My glory, but I can’t…you just can’t take it.
I mean, you talk about somebody who ‘is’ somebody, doesn’t have to try to pretend, doesn’t have to lord it over anybody, because He is something great! I mean, isn’t that the problem with human nature? If you get somebody who is great, how do they use their greatness? They tend to use it selfishly! They tend to acquire power and then use it in a corrupt way to oppress others and impress others. This is the world we’ve been called out of.
But you know, when we think about Him coming into the world, think about who He was. Think about how people reacted when they saw Him. Every time there was this incredible…when they saw anything of the Divine, there was this incredible sense of, oh, my God! He is so beyond anything I could ever imagine. This is not just like some great human being. This is oh, wow!
And in the light of that, suddenly we begin to get a sense of our place in the scheme of things and realize who this One is. So this is somebody who didn’t have to toot His own horn, didn’t have to impress everybody. And yet, you think about how He was willing to leave that behind and to come into this broken world.
At one point, He was a single cell in His mother’s body. The One who spoke galaxies into existence and there He was. He just willingly came down to that level. And then grew as an embryo and came to the point where, yes, He was born, and obviously He wasn’t born in a palace, was He? But all of that was just meant to demonstrate Divine nature in a broken world.