Attitude of Unity

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November 29, 2020

Philippians 2:1-11

Allen Burns

Attitude of Unity

Our attitude is the collective outworking of our emotions, thinking, and beliefs about someone or something. Our attitude is a response to life that carries over.

Attitudes have three components: knowledge, feelings, and behavior. Knowledge informs our attitude.

If a child is taught that winning is the most important thing in life, when they lose, their attitude will reflect the loss. The knowledge of losing will result in bad feelings and emotions. The child may be in despair, or they might get angry. Their emotions will lead to bad behavior.

If a child is taught that games are only games, and it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, they will have a positive attitude when they lose. They will not have negative emotions which leads to negative behavior. Their attitude toward playing games is the right attitude to have.

We have both long and short-term history. We analyze our history and choose to have a positive or negative attitude. We can have a poor night's sleep and it may give us a bad attitude for the entire day. Or, we can decide that no matter what, we will have a good attitude for the day.

We can have the wrong attitude about the church. We might think that the church is a place of reward. When the reward doesn’t come, poor attitudes will result. We will be disappointed with one another.

Did some arrive today with a negative attitude? Did some of us get here with a great attitude? If we decide to have a positive attitude we will see the good. A negative attitude will see all that is wrong.

Scripture teaches us that with the right attitude, an attitude of unity, our souls will find rest and joy. An attitude of unity will give us comfort despite our circumstances. With an attitude of unity, can be fruitful as a church.

Does rest for your soul sound appealing? Do you want to always see the church as a good place?

How we view church comes from within. Our attitude determines if the church is a good place full of good people, or if the church is a place where we become unhappy.

Let’s be willing to learn from God how to have an attitude of unity.

Motivation: salvation (Philippians 2 v.1)

Knowledge informs our attitude. It provides our motivation for being in unity. The Apostle Paul informs the Philippians why they should have a favorable attitude toward unity. The information is their motivation.

Paul strings together four truths to inform our motivation to seek an attitude of unity. If these things are true, then we should do this.

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, or any affection and compassion.” There is no doubt in Paul’s mind that all of these statements are true. He may as well say, “if there is any water in the ocean, if the sun is hot, and if you need oxygen to breathe, then you should do this.” If these things are not true, don’t bother listening.

He is using affirmations to make his point. Of course, we have encouragement in Christ. The salvation given to us by Jesus and the hope of living in His kingdom gives us great encouragement. The forgiveness of sins is wonderful encouragement. The same is true for all of these statements. Our love for one another is a great consolation when times are tough. The Holy Spirit of God gives us great fellowship with one another.

The last statement is about how the church in Philippi feels about Paul. Do they have any affection or compassion for Paul? Of course, they do. He founded the church. He endured prison on their behalf. They love the Apostle Paul and have compassion for him.

We also need to think about the importance of these statements. For example, saying, “If good tasting coffee is important, then use good water” is far different than, “if living without getting shot in the head is important, wear your helmet on the battlefield.” There is a level of importance between these two examples. Coffee is one thing, and not getting shot in the head is something far more important.

Paul is placing having an attitude of unity on par with the encouragement we have in Christ.

Paul’s list of affirmations belongs to one another. Water and coffee belong together. Wearing a helmet belongs to battlefield safety. If you have one, you ought to have the other.

Encouragement in Christ and the fellowship of the Spirit are essential. These truths belong together. If we have one, we should have the other. In the same way, unity belongs to the blessings we experience when we are in Christ. It should not be missing from our list. Therefore, if we have encouragement in Christ, we need to seek an attitude of unity. Our salvation in Christ is to motivate us to seek unity. It’s only natural.

Goal: oneness (Philippians 2 v. 2)

The goal of unity is to have oneness. In our vernacular, we call it being “on the same page.”

Paul’s joy will be made complete if he has news of them striving for the same things and not be divisive in their goal for the church.

The gospel is too glorious for the church to lay it aside and be content with the status quo. Paul urges us to press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14). We need to be of the same mind, maintain the same love, be united in spirit, and intent on one purpose (Philippians 2:2).

The word used to describe being united in spirit is not used anywhere else in the New Testament, and it is worth mentioning. In Greek, it speaks of being of one soul. We are to live as though our souls are connected.

We may ask, “what is the soul of the church?” In asking that question, we are seeking to know the identity. It’s like saying, what motivates us or what drives us to do the things they do? When we have one soul, we all work together for the same thing. The soul of our church needs to be identified as seeking unity.

Paul doesn’t want the church to splinter on those things that are unimportant. For example, let’s put aside our political differences and concentrate on the one purpose of declaring the gospel to the Upper Valley. Let’s be united in spirit and put aside trivial matters and focus on what is essential. Paul is seeking to unify the church for the glory of Christ.

Another way to say this is, let’s keep the main thing the main thing. The main thing is the gospel. Everything else is secondary. Let’s have the goal of having oneness with what we do.

How: humility (Philippians 2 v. 3-4)

The way we accomplish oneness and unity is not man’s way, but God’s way. God’s way for us to achieve unity is by humility. Humility seeks the well-being of others.

Paul is a student of the Old Testament. All who read the Old Testament know that God hates pride. Young children in a Jewish home are taught from the Proverbs. Here are a few Proverbs which speak of how God hates pride.

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate. (Proverbs 8:13)

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 16:5)

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin. (Proverbs 21:4)

Pride is the greatest enemy of unity. It is the sin of pride which casts Satan from heaven.

“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, you who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, and I will sit on the mount of assembly in the recesses of the north. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit.” (Isaiah 14:12-15)

It is pride that brings the downfall of Adam and Eve. Their sin is summarized in John’s first epistle. He writes:

“For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world (1 John 2:16).”

If we are to have unity, we must do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit. When we put ourselves above others, we are in big trouble.

Think back to last week’s message from 1 Corinthians 12. Pride will have us not feel the need to identify with the body but be a lone ranger Christian. Pride causes us to think we are very important and all of our talents and resources are to be used for our agenda. Pride will have us believe we do not need others in the body. We complain when we are prideful. We get angry when people don’t take our advice. We talk too much about ourselves. We disrespect authority.

To be full of pride is not loving. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant (1 Corinthians 13:4)

Pride is the Christian’s greatest enemy because pride is the primary source of disunity.

The way we kill pride is to regard one another as more important than ourselves. We need the interests of other people to become our focus. Our desire becomes that others bear fruit in their walk with the Lord.

Example: Jesus (Philippians 2 v. 5-8)

The perfect example for us to follow is Jesus. Count the number of ways Jesus humbles Himself in this passage (Philippians 2:5-8)

First, Jesus empties Himself. What that means is that He put aside all His rights and privileges of divinity. He set aside His rights as King and steps off the throne.

Second, Jesus takes on the form of a man. He steps down from being the Creator to become a created being. We cannot fathom the depth of His laying aside His rights and privileges as the Creator to become a created being. It is no wonder when Jesus is on the earth that the Jews call Jesus a blasphemer when He makes Himself equal with God the Father. If we read the Old Testament and what it says about God, it should be challenging for us to believe Jesus is God. (I am not saying Jesus is not God, but the truth of Him being God is unimaginable if the Scriptures did not verify it to be true.)

Third, Jesus becomes a bond-servant. He washes the feet of His disciples. He tells people that the Son of Man came to serve and not to be served.

Fourth, Jesus is obedient. He receives orders when He ought to be giving orders. Jesus is entirely within His rights if He were to say, “I give the commands.” But, He does not. He becomes obedient to the point of death.

Fifth, Jesus does not die in a way fitting for a King. He dies in a disgraceful manner. His death is not noble because there is no dignity in being crucified. It is very humbling to hang on a cross in front of the entire city of Jerusalem as people mock and curse at His feet.

The depth of Jesus’ humility is mind-boggling. We need to contemplate the weight of Jesus' supreme demonstration of humility.

It is overwhelming that the Scripture says that He is our example. We often try to imitate Jesus with our love and serving others. But we need to ask ourselves, how often do we wake up thinking about imitating the humility of Christ? The intensity of humbling Jesus goes through is the measure of humility that we are to seek to imitate.

The goal is that we are of the same mind, maintain the same love, be united in spirit, and intent on one purpose. The way we achieve the goal of unity is by our being humble. The example of how humble we need to be is found by imitating the humility of Jesus.

God’s eyes travel back and forth upon the earth. Nothing escapes His notice. He sees everything. What is amazing is what catches God’s eyes and has Him stop and look.

But to this one I will look, To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word. (Isaiah 66:2)

We can be great students of the Bible, give money to the church, teach Sunday School, and work in the nursery. All those things are good. But if we want to get God’s attention, we need to be humble.

Humility is pleasing to God because it promotes unity.  We have seen over the course of these studies on unity that God’s character and work are demonstrations of perfect unity. We are to seek unity because God is unity.

Result: exaltation (Philippians 2 v. 9-11)

God rewards those who are humble. It is because of Jesus’ humility that God exalts Him.

For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:9-11)

We cannot remove from these verses that Jesus is the Messiah. God plans to exalt the Messiah before the foundation of the world. However, let’s learn from this that the pathway to Jesus’ exaltation is His willingness to be humble.

We are not the Messiah. We will not have every knee bow or every tongue confess that we are Lord, but we can expect that God will reward our humility.

Listen to these promises of Scripture:

The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life. (Proverbs 22:4)

One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor. (Proverbs 29:23)

“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, (1 Peter 5:6)

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 14:11)

Find unity and rest in the humility of Christ

Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Has this phrase ever troubled you because you don’t always find rest in being a Christian? Do you find that sometimes the burden of the church is not easy and light, but hard and heavy?

Perhaps we’ve been reading this verse without listening to what Jesus is saying. Jesus says, learn from Me. He wants us to learn gentleness and lowliness of heart. He wants us to serve. Oxen serve.

When we are full of pride, life is hard. When we have expectations of others in the church, we do not find rest. Our soul is not satisfied when we seek our own good. When we want others to serve us, instead of serving others, we do not find rest for our souls.

We need to consider that the yoke we are wearing is a yoke of pride and self-centeredness. As long as we wear the yoke of pride, we will always find life to be hard. But, if we learn from Jesus, and we humble ourselves and seek to be gentle and serve others, our soul will find rest. Our church will be in unity.

If our church becomes full of people who are humble, gentle and serving, the church will be a place where our soul finds rest. God will exalt us. We will find honor in the eyes of God.

Let’s find unity and rest in the humility of Christ.