Reader: “You must have the same attitude”
Response: “that Christ Jesus had. “
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-11
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Reader: This is the word of the Lord.
Response: Thanks be to God.
Hundreds of thousands of words, a plethora of articles and books and not a few doctoral dissertations and master’s theses have been written dealing with this passage of Scripture for it is one of the richest and most profound in the New Testament. And most scholars believe it contains one of the early church hymn texts. What do we have to add? Probably almost nothing, but then that is not our purpose. The idea of these devotionals is to remind ourselves each time we read the Scriptures, “Lord, show me what you want me to see today.”
Here goes. Paul opens this section of his letter with four rhetorical questions, all expecting a positive response. Encouragement in Christ? Yes. Comfort in his love? Yes. Fellowship together in the Spirit? Yes. Tender hearts and compassion? Yes. “Then do it! Live it!” were Paul’s impassioned words.
Something is staring at me in these questions. All of them point to physical presence. While notes and calls and zooming (Is this a new verb?) are nice, there is nothing like encouragement from someone in person. Comfort expressed with flowers or Hallmark cards can help in rough times, but there is nothing like comforting words or a hug in person. Again, watching a live stream worship service may seem like fellowship on a Sunday morning, but it is sadly lacking compared to being in the physical presence with other believers. “Virtual tender hearts” pales in contrast to the real thing.
Now we’ll get very close to meddling! Granted there are those people in this Coronavirus era, with serious health issues due to age or physical circumstances that make attending an in person worship service an unwise risk. We are not addressing you! Understand, my complaint is not about live stream worship, but about spiritual slothfulness. A comment I have heard all too frequently goes something like this. “I kind of like watching church in my PJ’s with a scone and a cup of coffee. I can even watch in bed. I don’t have to get up and get dressed or do makeup or shave. We don’t have a hassle with getting everyone ready and out the door. Everyone’s happy; a stress free morning! Plus we’re all safer.” The same people have no problem going to the grocery store, Home Depot, Marshall’s, or restaurants, etc.
Meanwhile, I’m aware of a group of persecuted Christians in another part of the world who meet in boats in the middle of a huge lake in the dark of night to worship silently, mouthing together words of hymns so they will not be heard or found out. There are those in Africa who walk hours to get to a worship service. The body of Christ needs each other physically. Your missing worship, deprives the body of Christ of its wholeness. If you are of the PJ and scone crowd, get to church.
Parents, by your lazy attitude about attending worship in person, you are teaching your children worship isn’t that important; it’s optional. Do not be surprised when they get older if they don’t always attend worship. You’ve trained them well. (Ouch!) Those of you who are past having children at home, worship is not about you, it’s about the body of Christ proclaiming together and enacting the story of the gospel. I’ve made my point.
End of prod, moving on! Paul then, in a very clear challenge to the Philippians and to us, writes flat out, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” And what was that attitude? One of humility and servanthood.Paul’s next sentence is “Don’t be selfish . . . don’t look out only for your own interests.” Granted, this section of Scripture is drawing our attention to the humility of Jesus and servanthood, but one of the central messages of the whole book has to do with fellowship, unity, being of one mind, not being centered on yourself and your own convenience. Attending worship is a personal discipline. Having been in ministry over forty years, I figured I’ve personally been in well over 6,000 worship services. Some days I didn’t feel like it! I know, it was my job, but more significantly, it was my own time of fellowship with the body of Christ I belonged to.
We’ll conclude today’s devotional with one thought from the hymn and then tomorrow seek to address this hymn in more detail. “Though he was God, [Jesus] did not think of equality with God as something to cling to.” How did this play out in Jesus’ earthly life? Jesus never took advantage of being God. He never said, “I don’t have to do that, I’m God” (“I always do what pleases him.” John 8:29) or “I don’t have to pay taxes, I’m God.” (“ . . . we don’t want to offend them, so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.”Mt. 17:27, ) or “Since I’m God, I can do anything I want.” (“I do nothing on my own but say only what the Father has taught me.” Jn. 8:28) or “I can say anything I want, I’m God.” (“I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” Jn. 12:49) With these few examples, you see how clearly and practically Jesus gave up his equality with God as something he clung to. Like Jesus, let each of us today lay aside ourselves and serve those around us. The world needs servants and the church needs bodies.
Music: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior” Jake Armerding
Prayer: O God, I crave Thy blessing upon this day of rest and refreshment. Let me rejoice today in Thy worship and find gladness in the singing of Thy praises. Forbid, I beseech thee, that only my body should be refreshed today and not my spirit. Give me grace for such an act of self-recollection as may again bring together the scattered forces of my soul. Enable me to step aside for a little while from the busy life of common days and take thought about its meaning and its end. May Jesus Christ be today the companion of my thoughts so that His divine manhood may more and more take root within my soul. May He be in me and I in Him, even as Thou wert in Him and through Him mayest be in me and I at rest in Thee. I pray for all human hearts that today are lifted up to Thee in earnest desire, and for every group of men and women who are met together to praise and magnify Thy name. Whatever be their mode of worship, be graciously pleased to accept their humble offices of prayer and praise, and lead them into life eternal through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. ―A Diary of Private Prayer, p.133