- Sermon Notes
The Way Up is Down
Illustration – Seeing the Sea
1)When it comes to faith, we all want to be able to say the equivalent of “I saw the sea!” We all want to be closer to God, to be blessed by obedience, to be lifted up.
2)How do we get there? How do we do that? Paul tells us that, rather than climbing to the peak of the mountain, which requires a great amount of effort, The Way Up is Down.
Context of Text
We come now to Paul’s letter to the church in the city of Philippi. Paul and Silas started this church on Paul’s second missionary journey. They had been traveling through the area of Asia minor, modern day Turkey, when Paul had a vision that a man from Macedonia was calling out to him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Paul concluded that God was directing them to Macedonia through that vision.
The area of Macedonia was the mainland just north of Greece. The city of Philippi was named after the father of Alexander the Great, Philip, who had wanted to unify Macedonia and Greece into one great nation, but it was his son Alexander the Great who accomplished that and conquered much of the known world.
After receiving that vision, Paul and his companions put out to sea from Troas and ran a straight course across the Mediterranean. Within a few days they reached Philippi, the leading city of that district and a Roman colony.
On the Sabbath they went out to the riverside supposing there would be a place of prayer and began speaking to those who had assembled there. A certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple fabrics, was listening and the Lord opened her heart to receive Christ. She and her household were baptized.
Some years later while Paul was waiting in Rome as a prisoner, he wrote this letter to the church in Philippi. The church had heard of his troubles and sent a financial gift to help him; they had great respect for Paul. He writes to thank them and to strengthen their faith and draw them to maturity.
I. Live in Unity Through Humility
* Jesus is God. - Verse 6: very nature - μορφῇ: the nature or character of something, with emphasis upon both the internal and external form. There is no difference or denying who Jesus is. This is a strong statement about the deity and divinity of Jesus as God.
* Vs. 2: one in spirit and of mind – σύμψυχοι: ψυχή can often be glossed over for simply translating to heart or spirit, but here it means the entire essence of life: thinking, willing, feeling – mind, thoughts, emotions, heart, one’s very being. It is meant as the deepest part of a person and can often be translated as one’s soul.
Here, in Philippians, Paul is calling for Christ-followers to be “one-souled” – completely united in totality.
* Vs. 3: vain conceit - κενοδοξίαν: “empty or cheap pride” - a state of pride which is without basis or justification
Illustration: Softball teams -wanted to win so bad that they were nasty to other team – major league dreams are behind them; Taking pride in your shoe closet – you only have two feet.
*Vs. 3: humility - ταπεινοφροσύνῃ: the disposition of valuing or assessing oneself appropriately, to have an accurate account of your value. – Not vain humility (I’m not as good as he or she is. I’m worthless).
We are meant to live in unity through humility.
II. People Who Are Empty of Glory Chase After Empty Glory
-Philippians 4:2: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.”
Illustration: I believeEuodia and Syntyche could have benefitted from a lesson from a guy named Jim Harbaugh. In 2017, Coach Jim Harbaugh took the football team….
* As for Euodia and Syntyche, this is the early church! How could they be struggling with division so soon after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? They lost the bigger picture of their purpose. How does that happen? Well, we have to go back to what Paul says in verse 3. Vain conceit. The Greek word Paul uses is a compound word – meaning two words are taken and made into one (ex.: snowball, mailbox, hotdog).
- Kenos – Empty
- Doxa – Glory
Empty glory. People who are empty of glory chase after empty glory.
* C.S. Lewis writes in his book Mere Christianity, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest.”
* The moment I recognize humility in myself, is the exact moment it goes away.
*If we work on being humble, how do we know that we are actually succeeding in being humble? We can only discover the answer to that through comparison. We compare ourselves to other people. And we can become conceited and begin to hold people in contempt or become condescending toward others.
* Pride…it’s tricky, it’s divisive and it’s dangerous. Again, C.S. Lewis writes, “If you think you are not conceited, it means that you are very conceited indeed.”
So, what do we do? We cannot earn a humility that will bring us closer to God. We cannot try harder to attain it. How do we possibly reach unto the heights of God? Thankfully, Paul does not leave us hanging on this
III. The Way Up is Down
* Remember back in verse 6 that Paul states that Jesus is God in every way, yet
* Vs. 6: grasped or something to be used to his own advantage – ἁρπαγμὸν: Paul isn’t saying that Jesus decided not to pursue or chase after equality. Jesus already had that. Paul is saying that Jesus chose not to hold onto it by way of force, he chose to let it go.
* What did Jesus do instead?
* Vs. 7: nothing - ἐκένωσεν – Root word is keno – empty. Jesus emptied himself. Not of his diety – remember, Jesus is in nature God. Jesus emptied himself of his glory. He forgot about his own place of glory.
* Vs. 8: humbled – Jesus humbled himself, even to death on a cross. Jesus emptied himself of glory and submitted himself to God the Father.
- Jesus knew that the way to be rich is to actually give away. The way to rule is to serve. The way to be find happiness is to not seek your own happiness, but to seek the happiness of others.
Illustration: Mark 10:35-45. John and James want to sit with Jesus when he comes into his glory. What they do not understand is that Jesus reached the pinnacle of his glory up on the cross, when he submitted everything…everything…everything to the Father. He served humanity even to the point of his death! And because of his obedience, Paul tells us that Jesus is lifted up by the Father - exalted – to the highest place of glory. And that Jesus is acknowledged as Lord.
In God’s Kingdom, the way up is down.
Application: How Should We Live?
* Humility happens when we forget about our need to be elevated.
* Verse 6-11 are a hymn. It is not known whether Paul is the author of this hymn or not, but in any case, Paul is quoting it here in this letter. Hymns are songs or messages of praise.
- We offer praise to those people or things that are deserving of attention. The only way that we can lose our pride, the only way we can truly be humble in forgetting ourselves, is to place our attention on something more worthy of praise than we are.
- It is in focusing on Christ, in living out lives of worship toward God and God’s goodness, that we will become self-forgetting.
* Are you empty of glory? Look to Christ and he will give you purpose and meaning. You are inherently and infinitely valuable enough for Him to let go of or release his own glory.
* Are you in need of emptying yourself or being more humble? Look at what Christ has done for you and you cannot help but to see a God is far more worthy of praise for anything else that you have done in life.
* If you are desiring to be closer to God, stop trying to use your personal achievements to reach God. Stop trying to prove yourself worthy of glory. Look to Christ, and, as you look and worship him, you will come to forget about yourself.