Philippians 2:1-11

Sunday Morning Bible Study

December 22, 2002

Making this Christmas different

Sometimes Christmas isn’t all that fun …


Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, except me and my spouse

The stockings were empty, no presents were wrapped

We were way behind schedule and our resources tapped


The children were nestled all snug in the beds,

While the horrors of assembling danced in our heads

Dad armed with a screwdriver, ready and poised,

To build a red trike for one of our boys.


When off in the hall there arose a strange noise,

We dove over boxes to hide all the toys

The thud, it turned out, was our dumb puppy Paul,

Who was chasing the cat and ran into the wall


Back to his task, Dad cursed at his mess,

I suspect he was lost, but he'd never confess

He wrestled with parts and fumbled with tools,

E-mailed the manufacturer and called them all fools


After hours of struggle, the bike finally took shape,

With a few cuts and bruises and the aid of duct tape

He stood back and gaped at the bike he just built,

It weaved and it wobbled and rolled with a tilt


His frustration grew; his voice shook as he spoke,

“The directions are Greek, it’s all a sick joke”

At this point he snapped, his thinking unclear,

He'll do something stupid; this was my big fear.


He grabbed each toy’s instructions, oh why won’t he learn,

He lit up the fireplace, chanting “burn baby burn”

“Burn Disney, burn Huffy, to blazes with you,

Burn Fisher Price, Playskool and Hasbro, too”


As smoke filled the room, this was his first clue ,

That in a moment of haste, he had neglected the flue

To the top of the mantle, to the top of the wall,

A black cloud developed and ash settled on all


Soot landed on stockings and covered the tree,

And gave a look of charcoal to all we could see

The firemen came, dressed in yellow, like sun,

Seems the neighbors saw smoke and dialed 9-1-1


Out came the axe, out came the hoses,

Out came a Dalmatian who trampled my roses.

“There’s no trouble here,” I swore up and down,

Realizing this faux pas would soon be 'round town


“My husband’s a good man,” I tried to explain,

“The instructions weren’t clear. It drove him insane!”

The fire chief nodded and gathered his crew,

Hopped onto their truck and away they all flew


But I heard them converse as they drove out of sight

“Her husband’s the third jerk who’s done that tonight!”

- Author unknown

Probably one of the things about Christmas that can cause the greatest tension has to do with families getting together.  It seems to me that for a few families, this isn’t a pleasant thing.  This week we’ve read about a family that has experienced the ultimate of bad family relationships.


This week we heard that the mother of Dr. Laura Schlessinger had been found dead in her condominium.  Yolanda Schlessinger was 77 years old, and apparently had been murdered about a month ago.  Her body wasn’t discovered until a neighbor called the police because they hadn’t seen her in a couple of weeks.

Dr. Laura had been estranged from her mother because her mother had apparently been successful at cutting herself off from her entire family.  Dr. Laura made this statement:

“And I guess one of the reasons I am so clearly committed to the sanctity of the family and protection of children and the welfare of children in my books and on this radio program is quite frankly because I was not fortunate enough to grow up in a loving, close-knit family myself.
“My dad’s dead, my mother ... they were divorced, and my mother and I have had a long estrangement, which was her choice, as it was her choice to be estranged from all the family.
“And I deeply regret that despite any attempts I made to make contact or stay connected she died without that ever being accomplished.”
Signing off, she said: “I just want to remind you as I do all the time, hold your family very tight, very close and very dear and don’t sweat the petty stuff—the bad stuff is bad enough.”

Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians that he loved very dearly, but who seemed to have some trouble in getting along with each other.

The things I want to talk about don’t guarantee that things will be smooth in our relationships with other people, but they are the steps we are to take.

We can’t control how people will treat us or react to us.  But we can do our part in trying to get along with others.

:1-4 How to get along

:1  If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,  :2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

(Phil 2:1-2 NIV)  If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, {2} then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Paul makes a list of “if” statements or questions.  In the Greek, the way Paul phrases these questions all requires that we understand that the answer to each question is “yes”.

Have you found any encouragement from being united with Christ?  Of course you have … so learn to get along with each other…


Your relationship with Jesus affects your relationships with others

Though you can’t completely guarantee how people will react to you, your relationship with Jesus will affect your relationships with others.
We learn to love others because we’ve tasted His love for us.
(1 John 4:7-11 KJV)  Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. {8} He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. {9} In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. {10} Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. {11} Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

God loved us by giving everything for us, allowing His only Son to die on a cross to pay for our sins.

If God has truly touched our lives with His love, then we will begin to have a clue as to how to love others.  We will learn to love others with the same kind of sacrificial love that God has for us.

We learn to forgive others because He has forgiven us.
(Mat 18:23-35 KJV)  Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. {24} And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. {25} But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. {26} The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. {27} Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. {28} But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. {29} And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. {30} And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. {31} So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. {32} Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: {33} Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee? {34} And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. {35} So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
God’s desire is that you come to experience His forgiveness that He has for you.

(Micah 7:18-19 KJV)  Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. {19} He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

God expects His forgiveness to spill over into your other relationships so that you would forgive others like He has forgiven you.

I heard a good lesson on forgiveness this week.  A pastor was talking about how sometimes we tell “really good grievance stories” so people will feel sorry for us and the tough time that some other person has put us through.  But what’s actually happening is that we’re asking people to allow us to not forgive some other person.  Don’t do it.  Forgive.

:3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

strife eritheia – electioneering or intriguing for office; a desire to put one’s self forward, trying to separate people and not letting anything stop you from getting people to take your side of things. Strife is when you are having an argument with someone, that you start seeking to sway others to your side of the argument.

vainglory kenodoxia (“empty” + “glory”) – empty glory, empty pride.  It’s being proud about the wrong things.  The wrong thing to be proud about is your self.

I think it’s interesting to compare this word with a word used in verse 7 about Jesus:

(Phil 2:7 KJV)  But made himself of no reputation …
The word used in verse 7 is the first half of this word “vain glory” or “empty glory”.  It’s the “empty” part.  Jesus “emptied” Himself of His glory and as a result God ended up exalting Jesus.
If you put the attention on yourself, then the attention you receive is “empty”.
If you “empty” yourself like Jesus did, then the attention you receive will be the right stuff.

Jesus told a story that gives us an idea of one way this can work:

(Luke 14:7-11 ICB)  Then Jesus noticed that some of the guests were choosing the best places to sit. So Jesus told this story: {8} "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, don't take the most important seat. The host may have invited someone more important than you. {9} And if you are sitting in the most important seat, the host will come to you and say, 'Give this man your seat.' Then you will begin to move down to the last place. And you will be very embarrassed. {10} So when you are invited, go sit in a seat that is not important. Then the host will come to you and say, 'Friend, move up here to a more important place!' Then all the other guests will respect you. {11} Everyone who makes himself great will be made humble. But the person who makes himself humble will be made great."
If we are doing things to try and move ourselves up the ladder and get more attention, we might find ourselves landing down at the bottom of the ladder.  Let God do the exalting.

(Phil 2:3 NLT)  Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself.

:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

(Phil 2:4 NASB)  do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.


Put others ahead of you.

Think of others first.
It goes against our nature to think of others.  We all tend to be by nature very selfish people.  We tend to be mostly concerned about one person – “me”.
They say that if you want to be successful in learning to carry on a conversation with another person, just learn to get them to talk about themselves.  Ask them to tell you all about themselves.
Yet doing this is pretty hard, especially when you want to be talking about yourself!
God wants us to be concerned for the other person and not just thinking about what we’re going to get out of a relationship.
A story is told of Jesus and His disciples walking one day along a stony road.  Jesus asked each of them to choose a stone to carry for Him.  John, it is said, chose a large one while Peter chose the smallest.  Jesus led them then to the top of a mountain and commanded that the stones be made bread.  Each disciple, by this time tired and hungry, was allowed to eat the bread he held in his hand, but of course Peter’s was not sufficient to satisfy his hunger.  John gave him some of his.
Some time later Jesus again asked the disciples to pick up a stone to carry.  This time Peter chose the largest of all. Taking them to a river, Jesus told them to cast the stones into the water.  They did so, but looked at one another in bewilderment.
“For whom,” asked Jesus, “did you carry the stone?”

One of the scary things about selfishness is to think that others are watching me and copying me.

There’s a story told of a pastor who was officiating at a funeral. When he was done, he was asked to lead the funeral procession as it made its way to the cemetery. So he got into his car, and he started driving at the head of the funeral procession. He flipped on his radio and became preoccupied, lost in thought; he forgot where he was going. About that time, he passed a K-Mart and thought about something he needed to pick up.
So he turned into the parking lot. As he was looking for a parking space, he just happened to glance into the rear-view mirror—and saw a string of cars following, all with their lights on! So self-absorbed, and then so humbled.

-- Mary Graves, "Getting Sober for Christmas," Preaching Today, Tape No. 135.

Are there people following your example?  Jesus gave us the example that we ought to follow.

:5-9 The Example

:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Paul is going to give us an example that we can follow.  The example is Jesus.

:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

Jesus has existed since eternity past with God in heaven.  He has existed in the very form of God.

(John 1:1-4 KJV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. {2} The same was in the beginning with God. {3} All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. {4} In him was life; and the life was the light of men.

Yet Jesus didn’t feel that He had to hold on to His rights in heaven.  When it came to making the choice between staying in heaven in the form of God or laying down His life to die for us, He didn’t say, “I have my rights!  I deserve to stay in the form of God!”

:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  :8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Jesus emptied Himself.  This doesn’t mean that He stopped being God, but that He covered up His glory and took on the additional nature of being a man.

This is what Christmas is all about.  We celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, yet His birth was the ultimate example to us of being a humble servant.


Humble servant

I think that sometimes we can have the idea that humility means that we sit around and talk bad about ourselves.  We might tell people, “Oh I am just a worthless person who can’t do a single thing”.
Jesus’ humility was shown by being a servant to others.
(John 13:1-5 KJV)  Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. {2} And supper being ended, the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him; {3} Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; {4} He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. {5} After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded.
On the very last night of His human life on earth, Jesus laid aside His robes and performed the work of a slave.  His disciples didn’t quite know what to think of all this.  Some of them seemed embarrassed that Jesus would serve them. But serve them He did.
Besides all the gifts we might be giving people for Christmas, I have this idea that God would want us to learn better how to serve those we are with.
Do you really love the people that you’ll be with this Christmas?  How will you serve them?  What practical ways will you demonstrate your love for them?

:9-11 The Reward

:9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  :10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  :11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Every single person in this room today will one day bow their knee to Jesus.

Even if you choose to reject Jesus as your Savior, you will one day realize that you’ve made a horrible mistake.

What God desires is that you make the right choice, and that you make it today.


Open the gift

Jesus died on the cross for a reason.  He planned to die.  He had to die.
He died in order to pay the penalty for your sins and my sins.
He died so that we could be forgiven. He died so that we could find God.
He offers us the free gift of forgiveness and salvation, but we must choose to receive that gift.
(John 1:12 KJV)  But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

This is the time of year when we understand what it means to receive a gift.  The gift isn’t any fun while it’s just sitting under the Christmas Tree.  You can’t enjoy the gift until you take the box, remove the wrapping paper, and make the present yours.