When you walk into a room full of people…how do you see it?  How do you view and interpret what is happening around you?  How do you see people as you walk through life?  What is shaping how you view and interpret what is going on, how people are acting, and what you are experiencing?  Have you ever really stopped and thought about that?  Maybe we could call it our perspective or world view, but one of the things I find fascinating is how one piece of information, a scripture, a statement, a comment or anything really can be seen and felt in so many unique ways.  We all have a way that we see things in life that is shaped by how we think, which is shaped by our experiences, our values, our upbringings, and pasts, to where we spend our time and energy, there are lots of things that play a role in that.  We may just feel like something is right, or we see things a certain way, but I wonder if you have ever stopped and thought about how your own personal view is shaped?  Now let’s take it a step farther…as unique and personal as your perspective or worldview is to you, there is something to add to that, and I will tell you, this next part is very difficult for us people to wrap our minds around.  We all have different thoughts, different perspectives, and while in your heart and mind yours is accurate and makes sense to you…you can be standing in a room full of people and everyone’s thoughts and perspectives are unique to them and actually different from yours.  Have you ever thought about that?  This makes life with people challenging.  This makes team building, and community challenging as well.  You wonder why life with people is so messy, well it’s because we can all be on the same team, we can put the same bumper stickers on the car and wear the same logos on our clothes and still struggle to be on the same page and I think that is what we are going to really dive into today as we continue our study of Philippians and our first series of 2022 entitled The Ultimate Guide to Life & Love.

Last week Ken closed out chapter one for us and he did so by opening our eyes to the reality of the cost it takes to be a Christian, sharing some startling statistics of what Christians around the world go through, and really challenging us in our faith and comfort to find the same passion for Christ that those who don’t live in the comforts of North America would have…it was such a good and challenging message for us to hear.  But before we move into Chapter 2, I want you to think about what Paul taught us so far.  We have been introduced to the joy he has for the Philippian church, and his prayer for them that they would continue to grow, and rally around their salvation, living their lives for Christ.  We have seen the victorious mindset that Paul has as he walked through life.  Remember that?  He let us know that everything that has happened to him is good.  He views every circumstance as an opportunity not an obstacle.  He chooses to celebrate others and build them up, not compete with them and run them down, and we saw that Paul lives every moment of his life with Christ first in his life, and views everything through that value system…and then he closed chapter one with what Ken walked us through last week.

Philippians 1:27 Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing side by side, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. 28 Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. 29 For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. 30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it. NLT

So today we kick off the second chapter of this study, and we are going to spend a lot of time in this first section of Chapter 2.  Paul starts pushing in on how we treat each other, and this will lead us into a three- or four-part series inside our series on relationships.  Today we will really be focusing on verse 2 which I think is really important especially in the challenging world we are living in today.

Philippians 2:1 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. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. NIV

As we start to break this section of Scripture down over the next three or four weeks, we are going to start today with looking at something that seems to be a theme over the first two verses.  In verse one we see the importance of being closely united with Jesus and walking in step with the Holy Spirit. Did you see that?

Philippians 2:1 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 NIV

We are to be united with Christ and walk in step with the Holy Spirit.  This sounds like something every Christian would agree with…this is important and a really good thing…and while we seem to live in a world pushing against us uniting with Christ (which we will talk about in detail in a little while)…I think it’s what he says in verse 2 that really becomes a major challenge in life and our culture and world today, so let’s read verse 2 again this time in the NLT.

Philippians 2:2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. NLT

So, we are to get along with each other, love each other, and to be united with one mind and one purpose.  This idea of being like-minded or having one mind is what just explodes off the page to me…I mean, seriously Paul?  You want us people, with all our differences, to be of one mind?  This sounds impossible in the world we live in today, doesn’t it?  Well, this isn’t the only place where this comes up in Scripture…Peter mirrors this statement here…

1 Peter 3:8 Finally, all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude. NLT

Paul doesn’t just bring this up in Philippians, here’s another example. There seems to be a theme building on unity here…and probably means there are some challenges when you bring a group of people together!

1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. NLT

No divisions in the church…hmm, that is going to be interesting to discuss in the world we live in today isn’t it?  So, we are to work together, united, with one mind and one purpose…that phrasing really struck me as I started to build this talk today that we are to be of one mind, which means we would have the same desires and opinions…but can we just stop and talk for a moment?  It’s hard to even say that with a straight face in the world we live in today, isn’t it?  We can disagree on just about everything down to what temperature the thermostats would be, in here let alone bigger, deeper issues at hand!  I think the phrase herding cats comes to mind as we think through a community of people being of “one-mind.”  We started this talk thinking this all through, we walk into a room full of people and everyone has a different perspective or worldview that has been shaped by so many different things…not to mention the fact that we are all uniquely made by God, right?  Yes, Paul tells us that we have unique giftings, but even those differences have a greater context…that we will keep building on today…

Romans 12:4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. 6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. NLT

So, we are uniquely made, but if you notice it’s for a common purpose…so there is something building here.  Paul says be of one mind…working together towards one purpose…well maybe the key in that one purpose, so now I think we may be getting somewhere.

Let’s keep challenging this thought from Paul here.  We are to be of one mind, united and working towards one purpose…seriously is that even possible?  How can different people, with different agendas, different perspectives and worldviews come together, unite, and be of one mind…well this unity, this one-mindedness comes through rallying around common ground, and our common ground is Christ and living out God’s purpose for our lives.  Yes, we are uniquely made, with so many differences, but there is common ground!  This common ground becomes the rallying point which comes in God’s purpose and plans for our lives to serve Him!

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. NIV

We are called according to His purpose and to live out His plans!

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV

If we are going to be a united people, who get along with each other, we must be of one mind, rallying around God’s greater purposes and plan…that is the common ground that can lead to unity in our lives and communities…and quite frankly, unity is a real challenge these days isn’t it?  We live in a very divisive time, and it is very easy to get caught up and focus on our differences, from politics to religious beliefs, to health concerns, to just personal preferences, there is a lot of divisiveness right now, a lot of drama and a lot of stress.  It’s hard to unite with all these differences, and I haven’t even mentioned the power struggles, fights for titles and control, and all the envy, resentment, and jealousy we face in life…I know it’s not really a pretty picture, but it is accurate, isn’t it?  So with all these differences, and all the drama, and stress, and anxiety of life and culture and just the world we live in today it is easy to feel the strain and all this tension in our lives, and then begin to pull away, disengage from community and people and isolate ourselves because at some level it’s just hard to deal with and we seem to either dive into the fight over our differences or distance ourselves from the fight and the messiness of life with people, and something happens when we pull away from people and community.  We feel alone…because we are alone…we feel isolated and lonely because we have chosen to pull away.  Life is tough right now, but the answer isn’t to pull away, and I say that as a person who often feels the temptation to pull away…especially in the times we live today where we are not focusing on the common ground but seem to be all about our differences.

Can I tell you something?  As challenging as this is with people out in the world and in life, it is just as challenging at times for people in our churches and I think that fact takes a lot of people by surprise.  Some people use this fact as their excuse to disconnect from church community altogether…they come to church and see differences and disagreements, not a community of people getting along and say, “see…this is why I don’t or can’t go to church, everyone in there is supposed to be perfect and have it all together” …which is laughable really.  We are to get alone and rally around Christ, finding common ground in Him and His purpose and plan for our lives.  We are to be of one mind and spirit but it’s tough, because people show up so hurt and beat up from life to church on a Sunday and often are just trying to survive life.  They are broken and hurting, dazed and confused from life with people, relationships, and all the challenges life brings, and it makes it hard for them to come into church on a Sunday morning and worship or hear or receive God’s word in their hearts and mind and souls.  Because of this beat up spiritual condition we can walk into our churches on a Sunday morning and just like we do in life we can focus on our differences rather than worshiping Jesus which is our common ground on a Sunday morning and all through our days and we just can’t hear a message on Christ and what He has done and provides for us!  It’s brutal out there in life…it’s so tough to walk united with people…it seems so hard to process life through the common ground of Christ and His love and His plans and it can feel so much easier to process and view it through our differences…especially when we spend so much time dwelling on them.  Then we come in here on random Sunday morning on a winter day in February and read this Scripture that sounds literally impossible…but is so important for us to hear, receive, and live out.

Philippians 2:1 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. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. NIV

So, let’s talk.  How could we ever live this out with all our differences?  With all our unique perspectives, emotions, and world views?  How could we ever unite as a people and be of one mind?  We live in a world that wants us divided and continues to show us our differences fueling the fire of divisiveness in our lives, and I want you to start to understand and see just how intentional that is.  The TV is so loud these days, social media, and Facebook just seem to take hours of our day and are also so loud.  Politics are getting crazier and more volatile by the day and are so loud in our lives.  Our hurts and the adversity we walk through in our lives are so painful and so loud as well and all of these things push us to see through pain, and view hurts and differences…and I want you to understand why that is.  It’s because you have an enemy that wants you viewing life and people this way.  This is the spiritual battle that wages intentionally against you, and I want you to understand something about your enemy.

Evil’s ultimate goal is to divide us and separate us from God and each other.

You were created to walk in relationship with God and with people and your enemy knows that and is doing his best to separate you from God and from people.  Think about that for a moment and just how easy and tempting it is in this world today to pull away from each other, and isolate ourselves from each other…when we do, the enemy has us where he wants us…because we weren’t meant to do life alone!  Think about how easy it is right now to pull away from church and from God…we are seeing over a 40% drop in church attendance across the country right now.  We are seeing God pulled out of every aspect of life and culture right now…so is it any coincidence that we are seeing such divisive and volatile times in life and culture as we distance ourselves from God.  No!  The enemy’s goal is to divide us from God and each other and what we are seeing in life, this is the result.  Evil’s ultimate goal is to divide us and separate us from God and each other, and it will use whatever it can to make that happen.  I was thinking a lot about this state of our culture today and just how anxious we all can feel and found something pretty fascinating.  Did you know that the word anxious literally means divided?

So, let’s think about that for a moment, would it be any coincidence then that when we feel anxious, we are most likely experiencing separation from God and from people?  So, we are seeing more anxiety in the world than ever before while we pull away from God and from people…do you catch what I’m saying here today?  We can go all the way back to the Garden of Eden and see what the enemy is up to on this whole idea of closeness and separation from God.  Remember they were walking in step with God sometimes literally, in this perfect garden, and closeness with God, walking in intimacy with God until they ate the fruit, and sinned…then they ran and hid.  I always loved the way the Message states this idea of God strolling in the Garden in the evening breeze, it just shows how close and intimate the relationship was…until they sin…check this out…

Genesis 3:8 When they heard the sound of God strolling in the garden in the evening breeze, the Man and his Wife hid in the trees of the garden, hid from God. MSG

Sin, our selfishness, these are the things that separate us from God, and isolate us.  Adam and Eve sin and feel shame, and guilt and instead of running to God they compound the problem by running away from Him and hiding…and I imagine Satan felt very good as he watched that unfold.  Have you ever done that?  Messed up, as we all do, then feel so bad about it that instead of running to our Heavenly Father we run from Him just overwhelmed with guilt, shame, and maybe even anger over what we have done?  When we run away from God rather than running to Him we experience this separation from God which leads to anxiety, fear, stress, and the problems just keep growing in our lives…it’s a vicious cycle that all comes from that separation…but here is what we need to remember, what happened in the Garden wasn’t the end of the story, just like when we sin and fall short of God’s glorious standard thankfully that isn’t the end of our story either…thankfully the remedy to the sin problem is found in Jesus Christ, the one thing we all have in common and need to focus and rally around.  Jesus Christ is our common ground.  In a world full of divisiveness, with differences all around us…we all have one thing in common and that is Jesus.

So, remember how I said earlier that evil’s ultimate goal is to divide us and separate us from God and each other…well guess what Jesus does?  Jesus came to this Earth, lived, led, and gave up His life, defeated sin and death on The Cross to unite!  This is the common ground for all of us, yes, we are unique individuals, but what we have in common is Jesus.  Jesus came to unite and restore what sin divided and destroyed in the Garden.  Take that context, and listen to Paul’s words here in Romans 8…

Romans 8:38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.  NLT

Isn’t that awesome!  Divided we fall, but together we are victorious…and because of Jesus’ loving sacrifice and victory over sin, which is the one thing that could keep us distant from God, nothing can ever separate us from God and His love!  So, how do we unite and walk in relationship with God?  We accept Jesus into our lives as our Lord and Savior, then spend time with Him each day, in prayer, through worship and meditation on Him, and reading Scripture.  How do we unite and walk in relationship with other people?  We do that out of the overflow of our relationship with God and by loving, serving, and through patience, kindness, and humility which are all products of our walk and unity with God.

We do live in divisive times and while it sounds like a daunting task, we can live out what Paul asks us to live out here in Philippians…

Philippians 2:1 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 NIV                            

Philippians 2:2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. NLT

We unite with God through our relationship with Him, and we use that relationship with Him to fill up our hearts overflowing with tenderness and compassion which flows out into our relationship with others, allowing us to see the common ground we have with each other, rather than focusing on the differences.  We rally around this common ground in Christ Jesus.  Yes, we do have differences and while the world and our enemy want us focusing on those differences and using them to separate us from God and people we must focus on the common ground which is found in Christ Jesus…and leads us to a life of love…the very life a disciple is called to live, it’s this love that unites us.

1 Peter 1:22 Now that you’ve cleaned up your lives by following the truth, love one another as if your lives depended on it. MSG

We do have a lot of differences.  We are all unique, and we walk in here with different thoughts, feelings, perspectives, hurts, and world views.  We have different tastes, motives, and personalities, and different talents and skill sets that we bring to the table…but the common ground far outweighs all the differences…and we need to focus and rally around our common ground, which is Jesus Christ, His love, and our deep need for Him.   We have more in common than we think…here’s a few examples…

  1. We all struggle with sin; some may hide it better than others but we all sin.
  2. We all struggle with life, and face and deal with challenges, pain, and adversity.
  3. We all have pasts, hurts, wounds, and experiences shaping our reality and world view.
  4. Most importantly we all need Jesus in our lives.

The common ground, the rallying point for us all is Jesus and I think that we must get to a place where we view people through that lens, rather than focusing on and viewing each other and this world through our differences.  So, as we close today, let’s start to personalize this section of Scripture and this concept we are looking at today…let’s slow down and look at our Scripture one more time and then ask some personal questions.

  • What is the primary focus of your life?  Would you say it is Jesus?  If it is not Jesus, what is it?
  • When you come to church on a Sunday morning what is your mindset?  How is your heart condition?  Is your heart prepared for worship and open to God’s word or are you blocked by so much going on in life?
  • How do you view people?  What are you focused on with others?  Do you feel you view people through the lens of God’s grace?
  • Are you able to view them from the stance of the common ground we all share in Jesus or are you focused on our differences?  One way leads to peace and us walking in one heart and one mind, and the other just doesn’t.
  • When you look at your life right now would you say you are separated from God or walking closely with God?  When you look at your relationships with people right now, are you separated or united?
  • When you mess up, when you sin and fall short do you run to God, or do you run from Him?
  • When you mess up, hurt someone, or get into a mess with people do you tend to isolate or try to make things right even if that means initiating forgiveness?
  • When you look at your life do you see love, tenderness and compassion or do you see anxiety, stress, and anger?  This says so much about where you are at with God and life.
  • Do you view life and people from the common ground of Jesus Christ or is your focus on our differences?  Remember separation and division kill, and unity through Jesus Christ brings life.

Listen we love you so much, and we want to see you living free and victorious lives…and as we step into these first few verses of Chapter 2, this feels important for the times we are living in today.  You have an enemy who is so evil and wants to tear you away from God and others because your enemy know that separated from God and others is all he needs to destroy us as people and take ground from the Kingdom…and thankfully because of Jesus we can unite with God and walk in relationship with our Heavenly Father and each other.  We unite and rally around the common ground, and the common ground is Jesus!

Philippians 2:1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. NLT

We started the day looking at our unique perspectives and differences, and the challenge of living out what Paul asks of us here today…the rallying point, the common ground we should walk through life and view people from is Jesus Christ…this is how we can live together in unity with one mind and purpose.