When our Bible study group met last week, we went deep. We would discuss a concept and a quiet pause would follow. We wanted those truths to settle into our hearts and minds and change us. In the beginning of Philippians 2, Paul moves from talking about struggling in a conflict and finding encouragement and affection from other believers to a call to unity: same mind, same love, some purpose.
How unity exists
Unity is easily confused with uniformity. Uniformity means consistency; we’ve put on a Christian exterior and now we all match. Uniformity is cheap, short-lived, and not at all what God is after. God made the beautiful variety of skin colors, personalities, women and men, young and old. Unity means “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” We must have unity to live as the body of Christ: not the same, but joined to Christ as a whole. How do we find unity among so much diversity?
Paul tells us the effective but difficult route. Unity thrives where there is humility. He gives a description: “do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4).
If my motivation is selfish ambition or conceit, I will advance myself with no thought for you. A body, of course, will not work that way. It will not benefit my spine to keep injuring my knee. Eventually, my spine will suffer for that carelessness as well. We can do, even good things, with the motive of making ourselves look good or impressing others or to get ahead but that will stomp on the hearts of those around us.
There is no flourishing in the body of Christ for one group without everyone flourishing. True unity means that your heartbreak is my heartbreak, my pain is your pain. True unity means it does not matter how unlike one another we are, we are joined, inseparable.
But how on earth can we maintain that posture? How can we treat people we don’t like with honor? How can we remain in a posture of humility when life keeps knocking us over? We are not filled with humility because we consider ourselves to actually be nothing. It is not because Christ does not regard us that we are humble; but because He does. Because He is caring for us, we can care for others.
Humility is only possible when we know whose we are. We aren’t humble because of weakness or defect. We are humble because we have the mind of Christ.
How we maintain humility
Paul ends that sentence and starts a poem about Jesus. It begins with “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” The ESV says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,”
“Which is yours.” God gives us what we need. He’s not demanding impossible things or tapping His foot until we get our act together. He has given us what we need. He lives in us and we are in Him. We are being remade in His likeness (Ephesians 4:24). This mind of Christ that we need has been given to us.
We have two jobs in having this mind.
Renew our minds:
Romans 12:2 says, “Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.” Our minds are not naturally Christ’s minds. Part of transformation occurs as we get in the Word and discover the mind of God. We will not find it any place else.
God left us a book that tell us His story: who He is and how He’s working. But we will not know any of that if we don’t open the book and read the story. If we don’t study His story, we are making God in our own image because we answer our questions with our imaginations.
Leave no survivors:
2 Corinthians 10:3-5 says, “For although we live in the flesh, we do not wage war according to the flesh, since the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are powerful through God for the demolition of strongholds. We demolish arguments and every proud thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
We hear insidious lies every day. The enemy still slithers around whispering to us, not through a snake, but through marketing and our own thoughts and the words of others. When we’ve renewed our minds, we another job. We must actively identify our own thoughts and the words of others as truth or lies. When the thoughts are lies, we go after them. We call them what they are. We call them out for being against the knowledge of God. We take that thought captive. We talk to ourselves; we don’t just listen to ourselves.
There are three ways that we can respond to the lie/truth dichotomy. We can be deceived by the lie, as Eve was in the garden. We can hear a lie, that is just very-so-slightly off from the truth, and believe it. We can openly defy the truth, as Adam did, and choose to walk with a lie, knowing it for what it is. Or, we can follow the footsteps of Jesus, who resisted the lies of Satan in the wilderness with the truth of the Word. The Word is our defense and we have Christ’s mind by learning the mind of God in His Word.
How we explain humility
It’s tempting to present certain aspects of living like Jesus as a job for some other group of people. Love is for people who don’t have power. Humility is for people who don’t get to make the decisions. The Bible tells a different story. The Bible says that humility is modeled after Christ, who didn’t take advantage of being God but gave up everything to serve us. He became just as we are that we might become all that He is.
Jesus emptied Himself and acted in obedience. This is the path we must follow as we take up our own crosses. Paul described part of that looked like for Him in Philippians 3. He lists his pedigree, his resume, and then pronounces it nothing. He sets it all aside to know Christ. We cannot know Christ unless we are willing to let go of ourselves.
Our generous God never leaves us empty; instead He fills us with Himself. Ephesians 3:19 says, “and to know Christ’s love that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” We give up our fleeting possessions and status, and in return, God gives us Himself.
We hear the lie that we empty ourselves, if we don’t boast about our accomplishments, if we don’t conflate ourselves, then we are nothing. But our identity is not grounded in what we do. Our identity is found in whose we are. If we give up ourselves to follow Jesus, He fills us with immeasurably more. It is against everything our flesh would tell us and yet, it is reality.
We walk the path of humility here knowing that glory is coming. Just as Jesus went to the cross and rose again three days later, we know that our future is resurrection life. Romans 8:11 says, “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you.”
The Spirit lives in us. We can accept this call to humility because we have Christ’s mind and Christ’s example.