worby Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; Philippians 2:1-3 (NASB)
I was not very surprised recently when there arose some resentments against what some label as “Discernment Ministries.” Some of those who are trying to raise the alarm against these ministries are making themselves “former friends” with some of us who actually do the work of warning the flock of Christ about the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the false prophets, the false teachers, et cetera who Paul commanded us in his epistles to expose, for example, “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them” from Ephesians 5:11. In any case, those who do this work are also required to do it as unto the Lord with wisdom rooted in maturity in Christ. All of which means that those who are discerning are also mature and Christlike and so should represent His character in how they do this work. The Apostle Paul gave us a good example of Christian character in Philippians 2, which we must have if we are to be discerning and it must also apply to all those who are pastors and elders. Let us be honest. If church leaders followed what Paul taught in his epistles then there would be little if anything for us to do and that would be a good thing indeed.
1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:1-11 (NASB)
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 to our Lord and that was lived through the sacrificial love for each other.
12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. Philippians 2:12-18 (NASB)
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 relationship with God. God’s justice is indeed a cause for sober living. 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 Purpose Driven, New Evangelism or Young Restless and Reformed guys do with their “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 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition. 20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus. 22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. 23 Therefore I hope to send him immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that I myself also will be coming shortly. 25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; 26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you. 29 Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard; 30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. Philippians 2:19-30 (NASB)
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? 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? Perhaps a better way to ask this is this, “Is your pastor humbly teaching you God’s good doctrine or is he putting on a show?”
Soli Deo Gloria!