by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassions, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love, as ones joined in soul, in one mind, 3 doing nothing according to rivalry neither according to empty conceit but in humility, esteeming one another above self. (Philippians 2:1-3 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Over the last several years there has been a “movement” in the visible church that has been made up of group called “Young, Reformed, and Restless” or YRR. I have always been puzzled by the YRR group. Why? God’s truth, especially the Gospel, divides, but those who are truly in Christ are called continually in Sacred Scripture to come together, to unite in love and humility as exemplified by Christ himself. On the other hand, what I see in the YRR folks is a co-opting of a genuine restoration of Reformation Theology by those who are attempting to blend it with the seeker sensitive, cultural relevance, and gospel contextualization which are all corrupting influences that move the focus back to the mis-direction mainstream evangelicalism was going, but with the hope or desire of “getting a pass” because they proclaim themselves to “be reformed.” As those in the Seeker Sensitive paradigm have found though, emotionalism and getting people to work through motivations other than the genuine moving of the Holy Spirit will work only for a short period of time. Why? It’s all of this flesh and that means, of this world. That is not what Christians are called to do. I believe the recent tragic implosion of Mark Driscoll’s ministry is a prime example of what we are talking about.
1 Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassions, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, having the same love, as ones joined in soul, in one mind, 3 doing nothing according to rivalry neither according to empty conceit but in humility, esteeming one another above self. 4 Let each of you look not only to your own interests, but those of one other. 5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who though in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but he poured himself out, taking the form of a slave being born in the likeness of men, and having been found in appearance as a man, 8 he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death, and that death by a cross. 9 Wherefore also God exalted him and gave to him the name above every name 10 that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Here we have Paul’s exhortation for believers to live out their lives in Christ in the Spirit by living in unity. Who is our example? It is Christ! Christ’s humbling himself to become our Saviour is our example to serve one another. We are to consider other people’s interests first. Jesus did not come and set up a huge church or ministry to rival the Temple et cetera. He did not instruct his disciples to do that either. No, that sort of religiosity is not what we should be about. I hope you noticed that throughout this exhortation by Paul, that he focused on our worship and service of our Lord and that was lived through the sacrificial love for each other.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed in my presence, even much more so in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For God is the one working in you both to will and to work on behalf of his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumblings and arguments 15 that you may be blameless and pure children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the Day of Christ I may boast that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 But if indeed, I am poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice together with you all 18 and in the same way you should be glad and rejoice with me. (Philippians 2:12-18 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Paul was no antinomian. What does it mean for believers to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling? I confess that I have fallen into the mistake of becoming content with spiritual successes. We can’t do that, but instead, we need to demonstrate our faith each day as we nurture our relationships with God. God’s justice is indeed a cause for sober living, something the YRR need to learn. Also, Paul is not telling us that we can never be good enough to merit God’s favor. Instead, it is God’s love and enabling grace that will see us through our spiritual growth and maturing. We know this is so because it is God who works in us, not just for our benefit, but for His good pleasure. That is only terrifying to those who have no trust of our perfect God. Instead of trying to fit into this perverted culture as the YRR guys do with their ”hipster” or “coolness,” we are to shine as lights in it and we can’t do that if we look just like it does. Notice also, that if we do what is right, and are separate from the world, it is as if our lives are poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and priestly service of those whom we serve.
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon that I may be cheered up knowing the things concerning you. 20 For I have no one other than him who is likeminded, who will genuinely care about the things concerning you. 21 For most seek the things of themselves, not the things of Jesus Christ. 22 But his proven worth you know because he served with me as a child with a father in the gospel. 23 Therefore, I hope to send him immediately whenever I see how things concerning me will go, 24 but I have confidence in the Lord that I will shortly come myself. 25 I have considered it necessary to send you Epaphroditus my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier, and apostle and priestly minister to my need, 26 since he was yearning after you all and was homesick because you heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick, coming near to death, but God had mercy on him, not on him only, but also on me, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore, I sent him more eagerly that having seen him again, you may rejoice and I may be less sorrowful. 29 Therefore, receive him in the Lord with all joy and hold such ones in esteem 30 because of on account of the work of Christ he came near to death having risked his life that he might fill up your deficiency of service to me. (Philippians 2:19-30 translated from the NA28 Greek text)
Why is Timothy suitable for Paul to send him to Philippi? He is not concerned about himself, but for them. He is not self-centered. That is a true pastor’s heart. Epaphroditus was from Philippi and his concern was that the Philippians would be concerned about his health since he had been sick to the point of death. In v30 Paul alludes to the reason he became ill was in bringing Paul the gift from the Philippians for his support which we see in 4:10. This was in no way a complaint by Paul that they were not caring for him, but that it was difficult for Epaphroditus to get the funds to him.
Compare this exhortation by Paul to humble service with what we are witnessing in our time. Look at the “rock star preachers” with their skinny jeans full of holes. Their rat’s nest hair cuts. Their sloppy shirts and their sneakers. Look at their “church services” that are more of a “rock concert” event. Who is the center of attention? Is it Christ with every knee bowed because He is Lord. Is His Word the source of our Truth or are we placing the words of men and their special revelation above it? What I just described are just a few of the “evidences” I have seen in some the YRR elements that I have examined and I say take what they say and do and line those up with Sacred Scripture and look at their focus. Are they grabbing the attention or are they humbling themselves as drink offerings poured out on behalf of those they serve in the name of Christ?
Soli Deo Gloria!