The Gospel and Relationships

April 15th, 2018 sermon
By John Maiden, Associate Pastor

 Philippians 2:1-13

How we pursue God in all of our earthly relationships, especially marriage, has been important since the creation of the world. Genesis 2 taught us that we were created for community (Adam and Eve), but then sin entered the world (Genesis 3) through the couple’s disobedience, and our relationships with all others then became no longer perfect, even difficult. Paul in Philippians 2:1-13 addresses how believers should handle all our present relationships in this imperfect world.

I. Be Selfless

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit… (Phil. 2:3)

 Gossip (Prime example of selfish ambition): talking bad around other people when they are not around, habitually revealing personal or sensational facts about others. Gossip carries with it the idea of “building yourself up by tearing others down”. As a relationship killer, it causes division, e.g.: in the work place, at home, with friends, in church. (Proverbs 16:28)

Pride:  Vain conceit or pride is another relationship killer when we hold our own self up before considering the needs and desires of others. (Phil. 2:4)  Pride drives people apart from each other, and especially from the Gospel, which shows us our own sin and our need for a Savior.

II. Be Humble

“..In humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3)  Humility is the opposite of selfish ambition and vain conceit. It is dying to ourselves so that we can relate with grace to others. In the process of dying to self, we find ourselves acting differently, building up others by: bearing one another’s burdens (Gal.6:2-3), forgiving one another (Colossians 3:13), helping others with love, kindness, humility, gentleness & patience (Col.3:12), and being open to being helped ourselves. We truly forgive when we do not dwell on the offense, do not talk about the incident to other people, and do not bring up the offense to the other person or use it against them.  We need to care about others with our full attention, our present prayers, and follow up with helpful works. We were always meant to live in community.

III. Be Jesus

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, perfectly modeled selflessness and humility by “becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross” (a death much ridiculed and shameful) so that all people could have forgiveness for who they are and what they do, and be welcome in God’s presence eternally (Phil. 2:5-11). Not only are we forgiven, but we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, as we “work out our salvation” in this world because “God…works in [us] to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2: 12,13).  As believers, we are not alone. We have help, encouragement, and hope every step of the way in this life.

Discussion Questions

  1. Take the time to read aloud Phil. 2:1-13, Prov. 16:28, Col. 3:12-13, Gal. 6:2-3.  How is God’s path for relationships different or similar to the world’s path for relationships?
  2. What would it look like for you to live a life without gossip? Is it possible?
  3. How does pride kill relationships…in marriage, in families, in the work place, in church?
  4. As a result of hearing this above teaching, can you describe in your own words what the Bible says “humility” is?
  5. What does it mean in your own life to “die to self” or to “carry someone’s burdens”?
  6. How are we supposed to live up to the perfect model of Jesus in our relationships when we are so very faulty?
  7. How are we to “Be Jesus”?

Introduction

Last week we started a new series on relationships. John did an amazing job kicking this series off,  and I am kinda nervous that I have to follow that sermon. He took us all the way back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis and gave us foundations for our family.

God said “It was not good for man to be alone.” We saw that we were created for community. Adam and Eve lived in perfect community with God and each other. Can you imagine how amazing this must have been! Relationships were perfect! Everything was perfect!

Then Chapter 3 happened. Sin entered the world. Adam and Eve selfishly, and in their pride, took a bite of the fruit that God told them not to eat. And at that moment all relationships changed. Marriage relationships, family relationships (parent to child, brother to sister, grandparents to grandkids), church relationships, work relationships, friend relationships – all were changed because of sin. All of them were no longer perfect  but became very difficult.

All of us have relationships. We can’t avoid it. Sometimes, they are just hard. So, is there hope for our relationships? Or are we stuck to them always being difficult and trying to figure them out?

For three amazing summers, I had the opportunity to work at a Christian camp out in Tyler, Texas. My time at this camp was very formative to the man of God I am today. One of my mentors at that camp was our camp director, who everyone called Dutch. Dutch was a man who I highly respected and admired. He was a wonderful man of God, a wonderful husband, father, and disciple of Jesus. When Dutch spoke, I listened. One of those summers, I had the opportunity to be a part of a guy’s Bible study that he led on marriage. So here I was, in college and single and longing to be married. I wanted to learn everything I could to prepare to be a good husband for many reasons, not the least being that if I can have the right skills on marriage, I will have a wife in no time. That’s how it works, right? Anyway, I am sure that probably was some of my motivation. I was so excited about this study. Here was my mentor, a man who I greatly admired, and he was about to tell me how to have a good marriage. He started our study by saying something like this: “I can give you the answer to having a good marriage in one word.” One word, the secret of all secrets. All I have to do is know one word and I will know how to have a great marriage. Then he said the word. He said “The one word to have a healthy marriage is “death”.” Death??! Of all the wisdom you could give me, that is what you said? Death?

While that does sound strange, as he began to unpack what he meant, it all made sense and a truth that I have learned and am continuing to learn to be true. This is not only true for marriage, it is a truth for every single one of our relationships. This is a truth that is seen clearly in our main passage today.

This sermon is going to be a little different from normal sermons at Perry Creek. Our main passage will be from Philippians 2, so turn your Bibles there. But we will also jump around a little bit this morning, so I hope you have your bibles ready. It says this:

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature[a] God,

   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

   by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

   being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

   he humbled himself

   by becoming obedient to death—

       even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

   and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

   to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

– Philippians 2:1-13

Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

– Philippians 2:1-2

The “ifs” here is this passage are not to be looked at as possibilities but as certainties. The “ifs” here are like Paul saying “since” or “because.” Because these things are true, we are to live in good relationship with others. We are to have unity. We are to be at peace with others.

While in these verses Paul is specifically talking about believers, I believe these principles we are going to learn today can be practiced in all of our relationships.

Since you have Jesus and the fruits of his Spirit, then he tells us two ways to have good relationships. The theme of today is going to be “two”. In the first point, we are going to have two  relationships killers to avoid. In the second point, we are going to see two relationship builders. And in the third point, we are going to see two relationship helpers.

Our three main points and two ways to have good relationships are:

  1. Be Selfless
  2. Be Humble
  3. Be Jesus

Be Selfless

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit”

– Philippians 2:3

If we say that is the positive, it simply says “Be selfless.” Let’s break down these two relationship killers – selfish ambition and vain conceit.

Selfish Ambition: The word used here for selfish ambition carries with it the idea of building yourself up, no matter how it affects others. Or another way of saying this “Building yourself up by tearing others down.” The Bible just gets straight to the point here, doesn’t it? What is a way that we build ourselves up? By tearing others down?

Gossip is a form of selfish ambition today. Gossip destroys relationships. Webster says gossip is: “A person who habitually reveals personal or sensational facts about others.” Gossip: Talking bad about other people when they are not around. When talking to Sarah about this sermon, she made the comment that she sees this as the biggest sin struggle for women. Maybe so, but I can also say that it is a huge struggle for men, as well. But why? Why do we gossip? We desire to make ourselves feel and look better by bringing other people down. This is a relationship killer in the work place, with friends, and at home.  

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.

– Proverbs 16:28

A church killer: Nothing will disunity a church quicker than gossip. It will cause division like no other. If you hear someone speaking gossip, put an end to it. Stop talking badly about the people of this church.

Did you know that there is such thing as “Christian Gossip”? I put parenthesis there because there really isn’t such a thing. I remember being in a small group, and we were giving prayer request. One person raised their hand and started talking bad about a member of our small group who wasn’t even present that night. He disguised his gossip as a prayer request! Someone might say  “Well, you know so and so’s marriage is not good. They were yelling at each other the other night and, well, they need prayer.” This is gossip.

A family killer: One thing that Sarah and I talked about early in our marriage is that we want to lift up each other to other people, not tear each other down, and to be each other’s biggest fans. Speak highly of each other to other people. It is so tempting to talk bad about your spouse to others. Don’t do it. It will wreak havoc in your home.

Gossip is Relationship Killer #1. I promise this sermon this sermon is going to get better and better as we go.

Relationship Killer #2 is Vain Conceit: Someone who is being conceited over nothing. They think they are a big deal, but they really are not. A high view of yourself. Someone who is very prideful and thinks they are better than everyone. Vain Concept equals Pride.

Pride is another relationship killer. I am a big sports guy. I love sports, but one thing that really aggravates me about sports, especially in professional sports, is the pride. I can’t stand it when running back or a receiver scores a touchdown and does this number. (Look at me motions). He is saying “Look at me, I am so awesome.” There is something very repulsive about pride and people thinking they are so much better than everyone else. That is why Paul commands the church not to live this way. He says that if you want to have unity, if you want to have good relationships, stop being prideful. That hurts our relationships when we do that.

Can you imagine if we lived life that way? If all you did was look out for yourself and had no regard for anyone else? You would destroy every relationship you have!

Now this is hypothetical (remember that as I tell this story): Let’s say Sarah has had a rough day at home with the kids. At one point during the day, it gets so bad that all three of them are on the floor crying. Again, hypothetical. It is freezing, so she can’t go outside. She is just trying to get through the day. Later that evening she is making dinner as the kids continue to scream, while fitting in some laundry. I come home we eat dinner, do bath, and bedtime routine, and then Sarah finally has a moment to just sit. She goes downstairs turns on American Idol and begins to enjoy her show. After a few minutes, I walk down grab the remote, in the middle of her show, in the middle of her one minute of Sarah time, and turn it to ESPN. I mean why not, I mean that’s what I want to watch. How do you think that scenario would turn out for me? If you are looking out for only you in relationships, then it kills relationships.

That’s a funny story, but let me get real practical for a minute. What about how we look at sin? We can be very conceited when it comes to sin. How easy is it to look at others people’s sin  (spouse, friend, coworker, child, classmate) and think more highly of yourself than you ought. You might say “My wife is a terrible sinner! My husband treats me so badly.” But what about you! Remember, Jesus says to take the plank out of your eye before you address the speck in the other person’s eye. You can’t affect your spouse or your friend, or your coworker, but you can affect how you. Remember what Paul said. He said “I am the chief of sinners.” Paul the writer of half the New Testament. See your own sin and your own need for a savior. So that is point #1. Be Selfless. Two relationship killers. Point #2 is two relationship builders.

Be Humble

We next see in our passage the way to have healthy, good relationships is, in one word, humility.

Rather (instead of living for yourself), in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

– Philippians 3b-4

The opposite of selfish ambition and vain concept is humility. What does humility look like in our relationships? To put others before you? Death. Or another way of saying it: what does dying to yourself look like in your relationships?

There are so many different way that we can die to ourselves in relationships. Scripture is full of examples. I wrestled through where to go from here this week. We have just looked at two relationship killers in selfish ambition and vain conceit. But now, let’s look at two relationship builders, two ways that we see in Scripture to humble ourselves and serve others:

  1. Bear one another’s burdens
  2. Forgive one another

If we do these two things, it will help us be Jesus in all of our relationships with others.

  1. Bearing one another’s burdens

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.

– Galatians 6:2-3

Again, we see pride versus humility at work in these verses. This is the ultimate “looking out for the interest of other.” There are things in life that we can’t go through alone. In fact, we are not intended to go through them alone. We are commanded to help each other deal with things that are too big for us to handle. Helping someone carry burdens in a completely selfless act of dying to yourself. Where in our flesh we are tempted to only concern ourselves with our problems, God tells us that the way to live is to help others as well.

A beautiful picture of this is given by Tolkien in his book series “Lord of the Rings.” In this series, Frodo is tasked with destroying a ring that if placed in the wrong hands, evil will reign. In the finale book, “Return of the King,” Frodo has finally reached the place to destroy the ring in the fire of Mount Doom. But after his incredibly long journey that plays out over three books, he is too exhausted to make it to the top of the mountain to destroy this evil ring. But his faithful friend Sam says to him “Come, Mr. Frodo. I can’t carry it (the ring) for you, but I can carry you.” Sam then picks up Frodo and carries him up the mountain to destroy the ring.

We need each other! We were made for community and created not to walk this Christian life alone! We need each other when life is too big for us to handle, when we are going through a trial that is too great – a sickness, a death of a loved one, the stresses of life. We need each other to fight sin and hold each other accountable as we live a faithful life for Jesus. You don’t have to do it alone! Look around you today. You are not alone!

Don’t be to prideful and not reach out for help! Don’t be to prideful and not help others with life’s difficulties! Not caring about other people is saying that you think more highly of yourself that you do of other people.

Someone who was seen as very prideful was a guy you probably have heard of, Mohammad Ali. There is story about him that supposedly took place on an airplane. The stewardess asked Ali to buckle up before they plane took off. Ali responded by saying “Superman don’t need no seat-belt.” She them responded to him by saying “Superman don’t need no airplane. Buckle up!” As one commentator said: may be might think of ourselves as spiritual superman. Humble yourselves and care for others.

Do we really care about others? Or are we to occupied with our own lives to see those around us? Instead of what I like to call surface level care, we need to have personal care about others. This is what I mean: Say that someone is church is really struggling. They come to me and say “I have this going on and I really need help.” A surface level reaction would be for me to say “Man, I am so sorry, I will be praying for you,” and that’s it. I walk off and continue with my day. What if instead I stopped what I was doing, gave them my full attention, gave them eye contact, showing them I care with my body language, really listening to their hurts, and instead of saying I will pray for you, stop and do it right then.” Then later on that week, just follow up with them and see how they are doing.” That is the difference in surface level care and personal and intimate care. That is looking out for the interest of others.

I will never forget the wisdom one of my pastors gave me in college. He said when people come to talk to me I try to make a point to give them my full attention. The way I do this is by making eye contact with them. Give people your time and care for their interest. Bearing one another’s burdens is relationship builder #1.

  1. Forgive others even when they don’t deserve it

Colossians speaks about how we are to be in our relationships:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

– Colossians 3:12-13

Lack of forgiveness is one is one of the biggest relationships killers. When we don’t forgive, it goes against God, it hurts us, and it hurts those around us. Again, will we chose pride and hold grudges against others and not forgive or will we choose humility and forgive those who sin against us?

Forgiveness can be one of the hardest things to do in relationships. When people hurt you, say mean things to you or about you, it is hurtful. But in all of our relationships (marriages, family, friends, co-workers), we are commanded to live a life of forgiveness. And to live a life of forgiveness takes great humility. You feel entitled! That person hurt you! But here again, we are called to die to ourselves and forgive.

The Auca 5 were a group of men that longed to make Jesus known to an unreached people group called the Aucas. The problem was the Aucas were a very dangerous group of people who were known to act violently towards people. They started by periodically flying over the Aucas and dropping gifts. After several months of doing this, they landed their plane. Steve Saint, whose father was murdered on the beaches of Equator several years ago, was part of a group that went back to that same people and ended up making friends with them. He led to Christ the man that murdered his father. He baptized the very man who killed his father, Mincaye, and adopted him as his kids’ grandfather. Even in the most difficult circumstances, we are to forgive others.  Whether it be enemies, neighbors, coworkers, or spouses. What does forgiveness look like?

  1. It means that you will not dwell on the offense. When the offense comes to mind, how easy is it to stew on it, and get angry, upset, and become bitter. True forgiveness is that when that thing comes to your mind, you stop thinking about it. Look this is true freedom right. Don’t allow bitterness to rule your heart.
  1. You don’t talk about the incident to other people. This is big. “Can you believe what my wife did, yada yada yada.” In that moment, you are not looking out for the interest of that person. This goes back to gossip.
  1. You do not bring up the offense again to the other person or use it against them.

How do we do this? So two killers, two builders, now lastly, two helps.

Be Jesus

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus

Philippians 2:5

Look to Jesus! Paul then goes on to tell us what Jesus did.

Who, being in very nature[a] God,

   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

   by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

   being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

   he humbled himself

   by becoming obedient to death—

       even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

   and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

   in heaven and on earth and under the earth,”

– Philippians 2:6-10

Look what Jesus did for you! What Jesus did gives us an example to follow and empowers us to live in good relationships with others He came to give us life and help by his Spirit.

Look to Jesus as our example. Jesus, who was God himself, God, creator of the universe by the Word of his mouth, who was reigning in heaven in perfect community with the Father. Jesus left all of that! All of the privileges that entailed and “became a servant.” He became “human,” like me and you. What humility is that! The creator of you, of me, came to serve me.  Not only did he become a man, leaving all the privileges of being in heaven to serve us, but he came to die for us, on a cross. The eternal Jesus came to taste the curse of death for us. And died in the most brutal, shameful way possible. The Jews believed that anyone who was crucified was cursed. He died in the most shameful and ridiculed of any way possible. And on that cross, he took all of our guilt, all of our shame, all of the wrath of God for us. Every sin that we would ever commit! All that we deserved he came and paid it all! Jesus did all that, so that we could have a way to be saved and forgiven of our sin! Jesus is our perfect example to follow. You don’t feel like serving your spouse. Look how Jesus served you! You don’t feel like forgiving your coworker? Look how Christ forgave you!

While teaching at a retirement community, I finished on the Prodigal Son and opened it up for questions. The question was startling in a bible study, but a man asked “How can someone who has sinned over and over be forgiven. You would think they would run out of chances. It just doesn’t make sense.” It doesn’t make sense, but that is God’s amazing grace.

Be empowered by Jesus: Jesus lived a selfless life, perfectly. Jesus live a life of humility, perfectly. He perfectly lived his life dying to himself and serving others. We do not always live selflessly. We do not always life a life of humility. We find ourselves looking out for our own interest before others. We find ourselves living with the mindset of looking of for me. We live selfishly. We live a life of pride.

But there is hope! Come to the cross. Jesus came for you and lived perfectly where we fail. Jesus died for you, where we deserve to die. By putting our trust in him and giving him our lives we are forgiven. And not only that, we are given a new life, empowered to live by his Spirit in us.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

– Galatians 6:12-13

If you don’t know Jesus, may you see what he has done for you today and believe! May today you come to salvation in Him. Only he gave save you from your sins. He came for you. Believer, go and live free and empowered by His Spirit.