************ Sermon on Philippians 2:4 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on February 5, 2006
"Look Not Only to Your Interests"
I Everyone Looks Out for His Own Interests
A It is clear that we are all too busy to bother too much with each other. I am too busy for you and you are too busy for me. We all have our excuses: a career, a dairy, meetings, bowling, wife or husband, kids.
Our text for this evening says, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). A little bit further on in Philippians we read about Timothy:
(Phil 2:20-21) I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. (21) For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.All of us should find this mildly disturbing. Don't I need to seek my own interests? After all, no one else will. There are only so many demands I can allow on my time. There are only so many thoughts that can crowd my brain. And, doesn't the Lord command us to provide for our own households?
B "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). You have heard the expression, "going postal." It was first used about twenty years ago when a postal employee killed twenty or so of his fellow workers. There have been repeated incidents since then, the latest this past week. I am sure you saw or heard the news item:
A former postal worker who had been put on medical leave for psychological problems shot 6 people to death at a huge mail-processing center and then killed herself in what was believed to be the nation's deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out by a woman.Would this incident have been prevented if someone, anyone, had paid her some attention? Would this incident have been prevented if someone had made it their business to look not only to their own interests but also to her interests?
Investigators said the assailant also killed a former neighbor just before the attack, bringing the death toll to eight.
A former postal worker said the attacker had made racist comments in the past, and six of the victims were minorities.
We have had suicide attempts in our church family. What would have happened if someone had made it their business to look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of others?
We have members suffering from depression and other mental illnesses. Will their situation improve if someone makes it their business to look not only to their own interests but also to the interests of these others?
C "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). Notice, we are commanded, not requested, to look after each other's interests. In fact, the Greek word for "look" means we are to observe and contemplate each other's interests.
Paul is telling us to do two things. First, we are not to be exclusively preoccupied with our own concerns and cares. We are not to think and act as if the whole universe revolves around us. We are not to be self-centered. Second, we are to be genuinely concerned about the life and interests of those around us. We are to be other-centered.
I wonder, are we being told to do something we are unable or unwilling to do in our culture? Most of our relationships today tend to be shallow, on the surface, superficial. We visit with each other at church. We visit each other in the hospital. We visit with each other at church functions. But do we really take an interest in each other? Are we concerned about each other? Do we look not only to our own interests but also to the interests of others? Do we constantly remember the other person and their needs in prayer? Do we mind only our own business or do we mind the other person's business as well? Are we interested in the welfare, the well-being of the other person? Are we willing to be a brother, a sister, a friend, to someone who needs us and our concern?
D "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). It should be obvious by now that I take the approach that most of our culture is totally self-centered. That most people we come across are totally wrapped up in self. That there are very few caring and concerned individuals out there. That most people cannot look beyond themselves. Why else do employees go postal? Why else is there road rage over being cut off on the freeway or at the stop-light? Why else are so many people so rude? All we can think about is ourselves.
Topic: GenerosityDr. Menninger correctly realized that when you help solve someone else's problem, your own problem is going to disappear. Because, you are no longer thinking internally. You are no longer letting things gnaw at your stomach. You are no longer getting disturbed about yourself because you are not thinking about yourself. You are thinking about others.
Years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked, "If someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what would you suggest that he do?"
"If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I would urge you to find somebody else with a problem -- a serious one -- and get involved with that individual, helping him solve his problem."
Our opening song tonight tells us what else to do. It says, "Let's forget about ourselves and magnify His name and worship Him." Most of us have problems forgetting about ourselves, don't we?! Yet, this is exactly what is required of us sometimes in order to look after the interests of others.
II Two Examples
A "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). What does this look like? Who does this look like?
Paul offers us two examples in Philippians 2. I already mentioned Timothy as the first example. About him Paul writes:
(Phil 2:20-21) I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. (21) For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.Timothy takes a genuine interest in the welfare of others. He takes an interest in others' physical well-being, mental well-being, emotional well-being, spiritual well-being. He takes an interest in their walk with the Lord. He takes an interest in their relationships. He takes an interest in their spiritual growth. He made time for people and made them a high priority in his life. Timothy actually devoted himself to caring for others.
Paul experienced Timothy's care and concern first-hand. It was Timothy who accompanied Paul for the remainder of his missionary journey after the painful breakup with Barnabas (Acts 15:36-16:5). It was Timothy who joined Paul behind the bars of a Roman prison (Phil 1:1; Col 1:1).
Notice, Timothy's attitude is in contrast to everyone else. We aren't talking about the world here. We aren't talking about society and culture in general. We are talking about people in the church. Isn't that sad? Isn't that dismaying? Isn't that disheartening? I don't know how many church members there were in Philippi and Ephesus and Corinth. But, according to Paul, only Timothy took a genuine interest in the welfare of others.
Are we any better? That's what I want you to ask yourself this evening. Are we any better than the church at Philippi in showing concern for one another? In reaching out to one another? In including one another? In being involved in each other's lives?
B "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). What does this look like? Who does this look like?
The second example is the Lord Jesus. Paul describes Jesus' example in verses 6-11. He starts this section off by saying, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus" (Phil 2:5). Like Jesus, says Paul, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil 2:4). We are being called upon to imitate the giving and sharing attitude of the Lord.
So, what did Jesus do? How did He show His interest in others?
Our Bible reading tells us Jesus humbled Himself by doing three things: first, He emptied Himself; second, He was obedient; third, He died on a cross.
The first thing Christ did has to do with what theologians call the "kenosis" theory. "Kenosis" is the Greek word that verse 7 translates as "made himself nothing." It means "to empty." Christ emptied Himself; He made Himself nothing. We are not told of what Christ emptied Himself; but we are told how He emptied Himself. Christ emptied Himself by "taking the very nature of a servant" and by "being made in human likeness."
Christ emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant. Christ emptied Himself by accepting a weak human nature. Imagine that! Christ did not give up any part of His divinity. He did not stop being God. He remained "in very nature God." He remained Lord and Ruler over all. Yet, He accepted the nature of a human servant. He did not come as an earthly Ruler or King, with the pomp and glory of royalty. He did not occupy a place of honor, authority, and prestige among men. From the manger to the cross He emptied Himself. From the manger to the cross His was a servant nature. From the manger to the cross He came to serve rather than to be served.
C.S. Lewis, in thinking about this, says this humiliation of Christ is like you and I becoming slugs or worms or maggots.
As I mentioned, we are not told of what Christ emptied Himself; but, based upon Scripture, we can take some guesses. We know He did not empty Himself of His divinity – He always was and is and will be part of the triune Godhead. We are told He "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped." Most theologians think this is a reference to God's glory. In other words, Jesus put aside – for a while – the glory that was and is His as part of the Godhead. In the Gospels Jesus took great pains to hide or disguise this glory but it could no more remain hidden than can a city set on a hill. More than once Jesus asked the disciples to remain quiet about the wonders they had seen or heard. He asked those He healed to remain silent about the miracle. Though He was and is God, He was not grasping or displaying His glory as God. Yet, we are allowed many glimpses of this glory anyway: at His birth the angels sang, at His baptism there was a voice from heaven, at His transfiguration His clothing and appearance were changed, at the cross the heavens became dark and the dead were raised, and in His miracles we see His glorious power at work. In all of this we have glimpses of glory – the glory He emptied Himself of, the glory He did not grasp, the glory that was fully displayed in His life again after the cross and the grave.
The second thing Christ did has to do with His obedience. Our Bible reading says He "became obedient to death." A servant or a slave at the time of Jesus had only one duty – to obey his master. He had no choice in the matter; regardless of the circumstance, his calling was to obey. Often a servant had to take unjust punishment; sometimes he even had to suffer death; yet, he was still expected to obey.
Jesus "became obedient to death." He was a true servant or slave. He did not rebel. He did not resist. "My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work" (John 4:34). Without back talk or questions He accepted the will of God for His life – even though that will included death. Though He was and is and always will be one with the Father, Jesus gave to Him total and complete obedience.
The third thing done by Christ has to do with the cross. The cross is not a pretty sight. And a crucifixion is a most gruesome and horrifying sight.
The Romans generally reserved crucifixion for slaves, robbers, assassins, murderers, and the like. By law, Romans citizens rarely were crucified. In fact, the Romans regarded the cross with horror and disgust.
The Jewish nation, unlike the Romans, did not crucify living persons. Rather, they took the bodies of the dead and hung them until sunset. This meant the victim was outside of Israel, separate from the covenant, excommunicated by God and cursed by Him (Deut 21:22,23).
Christ emptied Himself, He was obedient to death, He died on a cross. What is amazing is that Christ did this to Himself. "He humbled himself," says Scripture. Scripture doesn't say, "He was humbled" as if it was something others brought upon Him. No, He humbled Himself. It was Jesus' decision. For instance, Jesus knew that if He went to Jerusalem He would be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law; He knew He would suffer many things and be killed (Lk 9:22). Yet, He deliberately set out for Jerusalem anyway (Lk 9:51). From beginning to end, Jesus remained in control.
Why did Jesus do this? He was not looking after His own interests. He was looking after the interests of others. He did all of this for you and me and everyone else who is saved.
Congregation, the secret to looking after the interests of others is to be like Jesus. We are to self-sacrificially put others first. We are to devote ourselves to the care and concern of others.
Alan Loy McGinnis relates the following:
In my hometown an obscure nurseryman died recently. His name was Hubert Bales, and he was the shyest man I ever met. When he talked, he squirmed, blinked his eyes rapidly, and smiled nervously.
Hubert never ran in influential circles. He grew shrubs and trees, working with his hands the plot of land left by his father. He was anything but an extrovert.
Yet when Hubert died, his funeral was the largest in the history of our little town. There were so many people that they filled even the balcony of the church.
Why did such a shy man win the hearts of so many people? Simply because, for all his shyness, Hubert knew how to make friends. He had mastered the principles of caring, and for more than 60 years he had put people first. Perhaps because they recognized that his generosity of spirit was an extra effort for someone so retiring, people loved him back. By the hundreds.
In our self-centered culture, Hubert shows us what it takes to look to the interests of others. It means we throw off all self-protection and err on the side of love of neighbor. It means we forget about self and concentrate on others. It means we look after the interests of Jesus Himself.
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