Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Philippians 2 - Christian Joy's Thought-life

Philippians 2:1-5 "Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is anyfellowship 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."

Introduction and Review
In yesterday's post we considered the Book of Philippians as the "Book of Joy", citing Philippians 3:1 as the key verse.  We looked specifically at chapter 1 and considered how it is Christian joy supplies confidence in three areas:
1. Living 1:1-6
2. Suffering 1:18-19
3. The Gospel 1:12,127-30

In today's post we get to the heart of the Epistle, being that Paul portrays one of the most significant texts in the entire New Testament on the Person and work of Jesus Christ. As we study Philippians 2 today, we will discover that Christian joy's thought-life is cultivated in the following ways:

1. Formed by Christ's humility 2:1-5
2. Flourishes under Christ centered doctrine 2:6-11
3. Functions to live for Christ 2:12-18

Formed by Christ's humility 2:1-5
The theological significance of Christ's incarnation is brought to bear on the thought-life and attitudes of the Christian as being governed by humility. John MacArthur has said that we are never more Christ-like than when we are humble. In wedding humility to our thought lives, we are exhibiting what the Bible calls the "mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16). 

Certainly surrendering our thought-lives to the scriptures is how we begin and maintain Christian joy in the thought-life. Whatever we think will inevitably lead to the decisions we make and the actions we perform. Far beyond a profound theological lesson on how God the Son came to be a man, Philippians 2 seeks to show us how we can cultivate the Christian though-life through the joy found in Christ-like humility. 

Whenever our thought-life is being formed by Christ-like humility, we experience a "sameness" and "soundness" not only individually, but when we are with other Christians.  Notice where we see the idea of "sameness" in Philippians 2:1-5: "same mind" (2:2); "same love" (2:2); "united in spirit" (2:2); "one purpose" (2:2) and then in eseence, having "this attitude (or mindset" in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. Quite literally, we can exhibit the soundness and sameness that Christ had in full measure in His life. Joy will be the natural by-product of all this, since it is after-all a fruit borne by the Spirit of God. (Galatians 5:22) Notice how else Christian joy's thought-life is cultivated, namely it.....

Flourishes under Christ centered doctrine. 2:6-11
This section of scripture, perhaps like no other, gives us the summary of Christ's entire life from eternity, to earth, back up to eternity. Meditating on the key points is like exposing the mind to the warm sun of Christ's presence and the soft gentle rains of His grace:

1. Pre-existence. 2:6a
Jesus as the Son, sharing in full Deity with the Father and Spirit, reminds us of how lofty of heights He came. Compare John 1:13, 8:58, 17:5; Colossians 1:16-17; Ephesians 1:13-15. 

2. Incarnation. 2:6b
Jesus as the Son, the Word, has planned already to come to earth to take upon Himself a human nature - literally becoming God in human flesh. Compare John 1:1-18

3. Humiliation. 2:7-8a
The descent of Christ from heaven to earth is what theologians call His "humiliation". Remarkably humility is not a trait the Son began having once taking upon Himself human flesh, but a trait He possessed along with the Father and Spirit from all eternity. 

4. Passion. 2:8b
Christ's passion speaks of His sufferings.  How low would Holy Christ go to accomplish the Father's plan.  The cross represents all at once the low point and high point of eternity and history. The penduluum of redemption swung to the cross and from thence on would swing up from the resurrection to His ascension.

5. Resurrection, Ascension, Exaltation. 2:9
These three events function as the mirror opposites of His incarnation, humiliation and passion. The cross is at the center of the passage, and it is there where the joy of the Christian mind finds its source and end.

6. His session (current activity as Prophet, Priest and King)
What happened after Jesus dissappeared into the sky in Acts 1:9-11. Numerous scriptures tell us that He went into Heaven to sit down at the Father's right hand.  It is from there He began to reign over His church as King. From His thrown as King He speaks to His church through the scriptures - thus in the role as Prophet. (Hebrews 1:1-4) It is there He intercedes as our Eternal High Priest. (Hebrews 7:24-25). All three offices are occupied by Jesus Christ as he presides, sits in session, over His church, awating the time to return to earth in His second coming. 

Just meditating on the awesomeness of Jesus Christ ought to set your mind at ease and the joy of knowing Him.  Humbling ourselves under such doctrinal truths gains us access to a limitless fountain of joy.  Doctrine's function is not just to fill our heads with knowledge, but also our hearts with joy in being known by this Jesus of Whom it points. So Christian joy's thought-life is formed by Christ's humility and flourishes on Christ-centered doctrine but notice lastly....

Functions to live for Christ. 2:12-30
Truly if humility and joy are ever to be brought home to roost in our hearts, we need examples.  Paul first of all states in summary what a thought-life, cultivated in Christian joy, ought to look-like by commanding us to it in 2:12-18. Philippians 2:12-14 states for instance - "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."

Next Paul offers up two examples of men living out the reality of Christ-like humility in a joyful mindset: Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). Both men represent the full spectrum of the Christian life - with Timothy being the young upstart and Epaphroditus being the seasoned saint.  Both exhibit joy, both have Christ-like humility and both are being put forward by Paul as proof that what He is challenging this church and us to be - i.e Christ-like - is not some abstract ideal, but a true reality. 

Closing thoughts
Christian joy's thought-life finds its joy in Jesus Christ. We discovered that Christian joy's thought-life is cultivated in the following ways:

1. Formed by Christ's humility 2:1-5
2. Flourishes under Christ centered doctrine 2:6-11
3. Functions to live for Christ 2:12-18

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