2 Corinthians 12:9
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly in my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
I have been preaching through the book of Philippians these past couple of months and this week I am going to pick up from last week and begin in verse 19 of chapter two and conclude to the end of the chapter. The book of Philippians has been a tremendously exciting journey to walk through with my congregation of whom I am deeply grateful for and love so much. I will probably be turning my sermons into blog post but today we are going to look at what it means to be a leader (2:19-30). This applies for everyone who is called to serve Christ in every context. If that means you are just in the pew and showing up on Sunday, or the man who cuts the grass for the Church, to the teacher, deacon, and even the pastor himself.
There are three qualities we see that every leader and servant of Christ ought to desire. For this blog we are only going to look at one of those. The first quality we see that every leader should have is a deep affection for other people. In Chapter one we learned that if you do not love the Church then you do not know the groom (1:1-11). Here Paul paints a clear picture of his love for this young Church at Philippi. Verse eight of chapter one reminds us that Paul loved these people in the same way that Christ loves them. Literally his, “bowls” are moved with the same affection, as Christ continues to love them. Paul concludes his introduction in verse nine where it describes his prayer for these believers that they would be like Christ. It is not clear in the English but the Greek makes it transparent that Paul is praying that this Church would literally be like Christ, which is indicated by this word love in the Greek agape.
It is significant to note the seriousness of this prayer. When was the last time you remember praying for someone else to be like Christ in those exact words? I remember very well many times when I have prayed that prayer about myself but Paul is not thinking about himself. Paul is praying that these other believers would be more like Christ because he knows that the Kingdom of God is coming for his bride that is made up of a body of believers. “So we, though many, are one body in Christ and individually members one of another (Rom. 12:5; cf. 1 Cor. 10:17; 12:26; Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:20-22).” Paul is not self-seeking and greedy and trying to make a name for himself because he knows that the entire structure that is built upon the chief cornerstone is dependent upon our relationship with one another in Christ (1 Peter 2:4-5).
If you do not love the Church then you do not know the groom. The Church is made up of a body of believers and if we cannot get along with each other and fight for unity then we obviously do not know who Christ is. Jesus did not just die for me. Jesus did not just die for you. He died for every single person. The Church is the precious bride that Christ died for. The Church is what Jesus gave his life up for. We as believers must love the Church as Christ loved the Church. If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus we no longer have a claim to our identity as we formally did that lead to death. No as Paul said “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no loner I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).”
The challenge is simple. And I have already made it earlier do you have a deep affection for other people? This comes from Philippians 2:19, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by new of you.” Paul is not only talking about his joy but also because he knows that Timothy will be cheered to see the Philippians in their work of advancing the Gospel. Furthermore, Paul says that he knows no one like Timothy who will be genuinely concerned for the welfare of these believers given his current circumstances (2:20). I know personally I am easily more genuinely concerned about my own welfare. When I am sick or get injured I do just about everything, and buy the best medication and physical therapy to get me well again. Yet Paul knows that like himself, Timothy is not self-seeking either. This has everything to do with the body of Christ. When my brother is sick, I’m sick. When my friend is hungry, I am hungry. When my neighbor is joyful I am joyful. We are all one in the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Timothy is going to do everything in his power and strength to meet the needs of the body because he knows his services builds up the body in which he himself is apart of as well. There is nothing more selfish we can do when we know a brother in Christ who is in need and we are too greedy to help him. Consequently this damages the very body that we seek to insure that it is healthy. You wouldn’t take a knife and stab your own leg would you? But that is exactly what we do when we refuse to serve another brother in Christ.
Timothy is able to do this because Christ is in him. This is exactly the theme that Paul is writing about earlier on in verse two about living a life that is worthy of the Gospel of Christ (1:19). We must first lay our lives out as a sacrifice to God and as a result we lay our lives out for other believers as well. In Paul’s beautiful hymn starting in verse 6 of chapter 2 it begins with God who had all the right and authority to claim his identity as God himself, but instead he did not count it as a thing to be “grasped.” That is Jesus did not use his identify as an advantage rather he humbled himself by “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (8).” Humility and giving up our identity is fully manifested in giving up our entire lives for other people even if it cost us our lives, our job, our money, our car, house, education, and even our textbooks.
Timothy is a true marine. He is not afraid to be at the front lines for the Church if that means he loses his life in saving other believers. The same way Christ went out before all of us by himself and defeated death so that we would be victorious. However that does not mean we have no more struggles in our lives with our flesh everyday. It means that we have one who is in us that is greater then the one in the world who is our helper to pick up our crosses to die to self every single day.
It is really a matter of the flesh. Our flesh tells us that the world is all about us. The flesh feeds our selfish ego and promises elation but it always returns empty. There is no filling for those who are after the applause of the world. I hear, “but if I have this car, or this girlfriend, or this kind of house, or this kind of intelligence, or this kind of life then I will be happy.” The world never promises us happiness and when we finally have what we want something else takes its place. There is no satisfaction in the world and wisdom is found in those who know this. At the end there is no gold medal, or silver medal, not even a piece of paper, there is nothing at the end of the worlds pursuits just more emptiness. Jesus Christ promises us fulfillment but we must seek his filling in his time and be obedient even if it hurts.
I find with many believers that they really do not want to be with Christ if it is going to hurt. “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29).” Some of us do not want Christ more then we want sleep. Some of us do not want Christ more then we want time on the computer. Some of us do not want Christ more then we want to do what we want to do. Some of us would rather have our own space alone, and our own time then they want Christ. Jesus carried a cross all the way to Golgotha. Jesus lived to die. How should this effect the way we live for Christ? Many Christians may pick up the cross beam in the beginning of the day and loss their way before they fully complete their journey as a living sacrifice first to God and then to others.
Here is a list of how we kill the flesh daily in a very practical way. The first three are absolutely essential. It goes without saying that we must genuinely have a relationship with God and love him as our highest treasure.
1.) We must read our Bibles everyday: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples (John 8:31) (Romans 1:16-17)
2.) We must serve others in love and die to self: (Philippians 1:27-2:11); “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
a. We have literally a millions of ways to serve like Christ did every single day. Ninety-nine percent of it goes unnoticed and over our heads but if my brother is thirsty I can get him a drink. If my brother in Christ needs a little snack then I give him my best snacks. If my brother in Christ needs me to drive him to the Wal-Mart for food and he caught me at a bad time while studying for a test, I sacrifice my time to serve his need until he gets food.
3.) We must depend on God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9); Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing (Matthew 6:25-32); But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you (33).”
a. This is a little harder because many of us know where our next meal is going to come from but do we really? Do you depend upon God that your shower is going to work that morning? Do you depend on God that even if you loose something it maybe to your benefit? Is your washing machine going to work?
4.) Evangelize; Share the Gospel with everyone you meet: (Matthew 28:16-20)
a. Nothing kills the flesh more then putting yourself in an uncomfortable position in line at Chipotle and turning around to share the gospel with people who hate Jesus. Remember, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16) “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, (John 1:14a)” If Jesus is the Word, then speaking the Words directly out of the Bible can call out any obstacle and lead someone to belief (Mark 1:28; 5:8; John 11:43-44).
For brevity sake I am just going to say whatever causes weakness seek those out and do them. Do the things that make you hurt to serve other people. Do the things that people tell you to do, and although you feel in your gut that you do not want to do it, without compromising the Gospel do it! For some people that may mean opening the door for other people. This is not a works based Salvation I know! We are saved by grace, and grace should lead us to works of service to those who Christ served to the point of death on the cross. Our faith and not our works only justify us but we must desire to give everything to God for his glory.
God did not have to wash the disciples feet. Jesus had all the rights in the world not to stoop down as a servant to wash the filthy feet of the disciples but he did it anyways. We must always seek weakness because the world despises weakness and applauds the strong because it crucified Jesus who loved weakness and not the applause of the world. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in your weaknesses.” When we are at our weakest physically and spiritually that should not lead us away from Christ, but we need to seek Christ in our weakest because that is when his strength is made perfect in us, not in our strength. Please I beg you to serve Christ and love Christ the way he has served and loved you not for the rewards on this earth but the awards in heaven.