A fresh new start rooted in love (Philippians 2)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Philippians 2:1-5
– with Geoffrey (the old and the new!)

As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, spending Sunday morning at church – in worship, listening to God’s good word proclaimed, taking communion together – is/was the best possible way to launch this New Year in the appropriate trajectory.

The scripture Pastor Mac preached from is one of my lifelong favorites. I have loved the first few verses in Philippians 2 ever since a small group I was part of memorized the passage together. The text talks about mutual encouragement, the character of Jesus, and how important it is that we follow the Master in humility and selfless love.

During that time, playing around with some chords on my guitar, I wrote this simple song:

Love one another, so they'll know you are mine;
Act in humility, serving all the time.
Have this mind among yourselves, which we have in Christ Jesus;
Love one another all the time...
– here is a rough version (I haven’t played much in the past year)

As per usual, Mac’s sermon was full with truth, inspiration, good news, authenticity, and solid reformed theology! Two particular things stood out:

  • First, the counterpoint Jesus represents in relation to The First Adam (Genesis). Where Adam was tempted to be like God, Jesus did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped; where Adam yearned to elevate himself, Jesus humbled himself, emptied himself; where Adam was disobedient, Jesus was exactly the opposite – even to the extent cost him his life. There is more, but you will have to listen to the message.
  • Then, and this caught my attention, Mac made a helpful distinction between the idea that Jesus dwells within us as individuals (adding a kind of divine authority to our ego, a tacit endorsement of our way of seeing the world) and – alternatively – an understanding that we are in Christ (meaning that we, our agenda, our ego is subsumed into the will and the purposes of Jesus). It may sound like an academic distinction, but the more I think about it the more impact this observation must have on my approach going forward.

The bottom line here is that God wants us to have the mind of Christ, to be humble, to empty ourselves, to think of others as more important.

The message of Philippians 2 is that we are invited to follow Jesus; and, as John the Baptist put it so clearly, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). Or, as translated in the NLT, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”

In looking ahead into 2023, I recommend living into that ideal, alongside yesterday’s “Day by Day, dear Lord…

January 2. Setting the course for an epic year – DEREK

2 comments

  1. Derek, Philippians is a precious and important book in my Walk with God. When I was 27, Dr Ben Lacy, retired president Of Union Seminary, held a revival at WMPC.
    Every morning he taught the book of Philippians to the women of church. In afternoons he visited in the community. Dr Lacy began his ministry in Jo Co. My Preschooler n I drove him visiting. He was lively, did magic tricks, and when we visited the retired teacher who was his roommate those many years before, Dr Lacy at 75 seemed 40. He was very very inspiring. On the final day of the Bible Study I asked him privately for advice dealing with fear and anxiety. He told me to read Phil 4:4-7 every day of my life. I did. Soon I knew it by heart I have shared that scripture and personal story ever since, with students, friends, and of course family. I claim it as MINE. 🙏Ann

    Liked by 1 person

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