A Unified Church
“Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel”
This morning we will continue our series in the book of Philippians. The Church in Philippi was a church that had a lot of good qualities about it. It was a church known to be full of joy filled Christians. As a matter of fact, when Pastor Tony was explaining to some of us who would assist him in preaching through the book of Philippians he mentioned that he felt GCF-Batangas was in many ways similar to the church in Philippi and therefore wanted us to study the book so as to bolster the joy that characterizes our church.
Sure, we as a church have our problems! I have even been told that in our early history we had some issues that could have destroyed the church. Yet by-and-large we do not currently have major problems that are tearing apart our church, and for this we should be thankful. We are a church where the body of believers can live out our Christian lives with a sense of normalcy and we find it easy to be joyous in our Christian faith. Let us not be proud because of this reality but rather let us praise God our savior.
This would have been very similar to the environment that the believers in Philippi were experiencing. In the book of Philippians Paul does not have to address specific sins that had a death grip on the church such as he had to address with the church in Corinth. Paul felt no sense of urgency regarding the salvation of the individuals within the church such as he felt with the churches in the Galatian region of Asia Minor or the church that was in Rome. The believers weren’t fearful of events such as those in Thessalonica. The situation was at ease for the church in Philippi. Yes, there was some persecution when the church was first founded; remember it was here where Paul was jailed, yet when an opportunity to escape presented itself he did not do so and this resulted in the salvation of the jailer and his family. The persecution did not continue and they became known as a giving church. They helped Paul in his ministry, they helped the church in Jerusalem, and they helped Paul a second time during his imprisonment. I would imagine that the biggest prayer requests they had were for the health concerns of their church members. Does this not sound similar to GCF Batangas? We are a church that wants to give, give ourselves and allow ourselves and this building to be a central leadership hub for the Southern Tagalog region.
With all of this said, when Paul ministered to the church in Philippi with this letter he had only two areas of concern that he wanted to address before any problems developed. One was the possibility of false doctrine creeping in and influencing the church, and we will look at this issue later this month and in November. The first area of concern is found in our passage of study this morning and that is the unity of the church. Though the church was unified at the time Paul wrote the letter he realized that disunity would destroy the effectiveness of the church. This Paul did not want to happen! So before any problems arose Paul brings the issues to light so as to equip the church to handle any possible pitfalls that they may encounter. Paul does so by admonishing the church to remain unified, and we will see this in Philippians 1:27-30. This is the “WHAT” of this morning’s passage. Then in Philippians 2:1-2 we will see Paul instructing the church both “WHY” they should respond to his letter as well as “HOW” they must respond corporately so as to remain unified. Then last of all we will look at Philippians 2:3-4 and discover “HOW” the Philippian believers must apply what Paul is admonishing them to do.
As we begin to look at our first point I want to set the stage for all three points that we will look at today. In Philippians 1:27 Paul tells us to “conduct your selves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Our unity is actually the outcome of the Gospel in our lives. Evangelist Bhoie spoke on this issue several weeks ago so I will not go very deep into it now but I do want to say that if you are a believer in Jesus Christ the outcome of your faith should be unity; for we are one body. Let us move on to our first point for this morning.
“You are standing firm in one spirit”
Contrary to what many people think this statement is not referring to the Holy Spirit but rather that we should have a common goal. The word “spirit” does often mean “spirit” or “wind.” You can even say “ghost” and be correct. But the word in the original language also means “an attitude or disposition reflecting the way in which a person thinks about or deals with some matter.” To simplify that pneuma can mean the way you think; and that is what it means here in this context. How do I know? Read the following statement found in the text: “with one mind.” We will look closer at this later this morning in the second point but for now let us discover what it means to be of one mind for us here at GCF Batangas. For GCF Batangas the common mindset, or the common goal, is to “Make Disciples” – evangelizing non-believers, teaching believers.
So when we stand firm as individual believers and corporately as a body we stand together in the process of “Making Disciples.” Now this may seem rather obvious as it is Jesus’ great commission to the Church yet many believers and many churches are not engaged in the disciple making process. There is a lot of confusion as to what it means to make disciples. Some churches feel that the commission was for the early church alone and that their church is not required to apply the commission. Others think that disciple making is a specific method or style of ministry and that they as an individual believer are not gifted to make disciples. Let’s say that ‘if I were’ to state that the best or only means to make disciples is for you to find one or two other people and teach them the teachings of Christ – how many of you would feel gifted in making disciples? Many of you may feel that the task is overwhelming and you are inadequate in the skills and abilities to actually make disciples. Let me now ask ‘what if’ I were to be dogmatic in my insistence that you must find one or two others and make disciples of them. If I press you hard enough it would likely produce disruption and disunity in the church. The outcome would actually be counterproductive to the desired outcome of this message.
For us to remain unified we need to understand that the common goal for us as a church is to Make Disciples. It is as simple as that. It is not the way or method or even the ministry style that is important but rather the task.
Now in Philippians 1:27 Paul includes the notion that we need to be “striving together.” The word that Paul uses, and that our translators translate as “striving” in the NASB or “contending” in the NIV, is a very intense word that carries the idea of fighting. We are not fighting each other but rather fighting together against a common enemy.
An example of intensely fighting together against a common enemy can be seen in terrorism and organized crime that is devastating our world today. Crime and terrorism is on the increase and when people or organizations are not unified it is easy for terrorists to attack. All we need to do is look at pictures of the New York skyline and see what is missing to recall how the intelligence community prior to the 9/11 attacks of 2001 were not communicating with each other and be reminded as to how easy it is to be attacked. Enough intelligence was gathered prior to the attacks that the US government should have understood that something was going to happen. The government was not unified, the terrorists attacked, and the world trade center buildings collapsed. But since then governments have started working together trying to disrupt the evil activities of others. Some terrorists’ strikes have been successful, but many more have been disrupted because of the unified and intense efforts of governments and law enforcement agencies.
Several weeks ago the US Embassy in Manila issued a Warning of Possible Attacks on Americans in Manila. When the embassy issued the warning I told Gloria my wife that this is good news because it demonstrates that the governments know about the pending attack and are working towards disrupting it. As of now no attacks have occurred and this is possibly because of the fact that law enforcement agencies are working hard and together in unity to thwart the attack. Apparently it was to be a kidnapping, and the kidnappers may still succeed, but I personally feel comfortable that they will not. Yet the government must remain diligent. If the governments were to downplay the situation bad things will likely happen. About a month ago an American Embassy in Libya was attacked and prior to the attack the outpost was requesting additional security as they sensed a real and present threat. The politicians in the US decided not to increase the security and as a result when the embassy was attacked the ambassador was killed and his body drug through the streets.
Coming back to our text, when we engage in discipleship as a church we need to be of one goal, and then with this one goal we need to strive to make a wholehearted effort to engage in discipleship. Now if you note in the text (Philippians 1:28-29) when we engage in discipleship as a local church, so as to be unified, we will be opposed in what we are doing. This opposition comes from various sources and will attack us on different fronts. The more common and obvious forms of opposition will be when we engage in evangelism we will often be rejected; rejected by our family members and friends, rejected in business and our place of work, and sometimes even rejected by our own Christian brethren who may feel uncomfortable with evangelism. Then in our process of teaching believers the truths of scriptures we will be opposed by the wisdom of the world and political correctness. If you want to test what I just mentioned then you only need to tell the science community that you believe that the universe is only six to eight thousand years old; if you do so, you will learn ridicule. We will also be opposed by church growth experts who are advocating styles of worship that deemphasize truth and doctrine and who elevate entertainment in worship. Another group that possibly may oppose you are elements within the church who may agree with the purpose but disagree with the means by which we strive to achieve our end.
The passage mentions that when we are opposed it is a sign of the proof of our salvation and also a sign of destruction for those who oppose us. Yet I just mentioned that we may receive opposition in both our evangelism and teaching ministries from within the church. So does this mean that Christians will be destroyed? Let us recall what the judgments will be like. Non-Christians will be judged for their sins and punished accordingly. As for Christians we will not be judged for our sins as Christ already took on that form of judgment at the Cross. Nevertheless our works will be judged and then we will be rewarded accordingly. Whatever works that we do for Christ that is not of gold, silver and precious stone will be tested by fire and likely burn up. The opposition, or the works of the oppressor, is what will be destroyed in the case of Christians.
Now how do we know if we are the persecutor or the persecuted ones with in the church? That is, if we are the ones inside the church that are breeding disunity by opposing the works of others? A number of years ago I was a member of a Baptist church that was led by a senior Pastor, and the senior Pastor alone. At a business meeting I asked the question “shouldn’t we be applying Church Discipline.” It created an awkward situation for the Pastor and he answered that the church did practice Church Discipline in the past but that it did not work therefore we do not practice it now. To be sure at the time I was a cocky young man and my question was seen as a form of opposition, and it did as well amplify a rift that existed in the church. I was naive and did not intend to reinforce a dis-unified situation. I now ask you GCF Batangas to be the judge! Who was the oppressor and who was the oppressed in that scenario? If you are unsure how to answer then hopefully point number two will help you out!
“Make my joy complete”
In order for us to be of the same mind having common goals that we work towards and which do aid us in overcoming opposition we now need to understand the “why” and the “corporate how” that Paul is prescribing. In Philippians 2:1-2 we discover that there is a responsibility on the part of the leadership of the church to create an intellectual environment that is conducive towards achieving the goals of the church. As well there are corporate responsibilities that apply to us all. Remember GCF, for us in a broad sense, our goal is to “Make Disciples.”
The process of Making Disciples here at GCF begins with the leadership of the church and we can glean this from the statement “being of the same mind.” This is an intellectual issue! The leadership of GCF needs to think through the process of how we as a local church actually make disciples. Not only do we need to think through the process, but we also need to evaluate the process to ensure what we are doing is actually effective. Now I say the church “leadership.” The New Testament patter for local church leadership is that there is a senior Pastor who surrounds himself with Elders so as to aid him in the work of spiritually leading the congregation. Proverbs 11:14 states: “Where there is no guidance the people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is victory.” There is a third element to leadership and that is the Deacons who implement the tasks assigned by the Elders and Pastor. This is the exact pattern of leadership that we here at GCF have installed. So here at GCF Pastor Tony, Pastor Froilan, Elder Michael, Elder Chito, Elder Boyet, Elder Noel, Elder Dave, and myself all must think through the Disciple Making process evaluating what we are currently doing and adjusting our activities so as to improve the process. But the process does not end here! Once we understand the process we then need to communicate the process to you the church body. This will entail more than an announcement from the pulpit and flashing an ad on the overhead screen between services. Philippians 2:2 teaches that we need to all be at the same level of understanding, or the same mind. From the Elders perspective it is easier to think through how we would want the church to Make Disciples than it is to get the whole body to understand the process. If I were to ask ‘who can come up here to the pulpit and explain in a simple manner how we as a church Make Disciples?’, if not everyone of you were able to do so, then we as the Elders have not completed the task.
Being of the same mind is an intellectual issue that requires the Elders thinking through how we Make Disciples and then effectively communicating our ideas to the body. It also requires you the body thinking trough the issue and understanding what the Elders are communicating to you. This process requires the mind; but what about the heart? Generally when we don’t embrace or “like” an item we will not be wholeheartedly behind it. That is why Paul includes in Philippians 2:2 the statement “maintaining the same love.” We need to be emotionally committed to the task as well. If you do the hard work of thinking through what the Elders are trying to communicate, when it comes to GCF and our Disciple Making process, I believe that you will find it easy to embrace from your heart the task before us; and here is why.
We are a body! We have been uniquely organized by Jesus Christ Himself. None of us are sitting here by accident. He has brought us together. Not only has he brought us together but through His Spirit He has given us gifts that we are to utilize within the context of our church for the greater good of the Church. And once you engage in the process you will actually find that you enjoy playing your part. There will be a mutual love that flows between us within GCF. We will have love for one another. When we are of the same mind and striving together towards the same goal there will be a mutual love. It is this love that we need to work on “maintaining.” When we strive to maintain this love we will be united in spirit; and that what Paul is admonishing in Philippians 2:2.
Again I want to stress that the Holy Spirit in this passage of scripture is not underscoring that we need to be united in Him, as that would be a salvation issue, but rather that we need to have one common goal as a local church. Salvation is a prerequisite! Unification is the intent of this passage!
We are one in mind! We are one in heart! We have one common goal! And all of this energizes us onward in one direction. All of our energies and all of our efforts should be moving us foreword in the process of Making Disciples. That is our purpose and that is why we are gathered here. We all have gifts that can be applied towards our goal of Making Disciples. We all have differing styles and likes in ministry and as a result there will be differing styles that must be applied to make us into a disciple. There will also be differing ways that we must engage ourselves to help make disciples of others. The key is being involved in the process. One truth that will help free some of you from the fears that surround “Making Disciples” is to acknowledge that not all are called to be teachers. As a matter of fact the Bible instructs that not all should be teachers! But all of us can help in the process of supporting the making of disciples here at GCF by being involved in the ministries.
You will read in the bulletin my thoughts on us having what I called a toolbox approach to doing ministry. I believe that there is no one right way to both evangelize and teach God’s truths as derived from scriptures. There is only one Gospel that can effect salvation and there is absolute truth that must be discovered in the Bible, but there are numerous ways by which we can deliver the Gospel and teach God’s truth. Here at GCF Batangas we often schedule evangelism training seminars, seminars that teach us how to use the “Bridge Illustration” or equip us in evangelizing children. Over the years we have had a host of different seminars. This is good! There is an added benefit in you knowing more gospel presentations and that is you will begin to see the common thread that weaves itself through all of these presentations. Once you understand the core of the Gospel then you will discover that you can develop your own presentation. A presentation is simply an outer packaging that wraps itself around what is important, and that is the Gospel. Strive to KNOW THE GOSPEL! We as a church support the ministry functions of the Evangelist. Currently we are in the process of defining the role of the Evangelist as it relates to GCF Batangas, but nevertheless we are supporting the ministry function of Evangelists. We do this intentionally so as to role model for you the church body “evangelism.” Evangelism is frontline spiritual warfare and we as the leaders of the church want GCF to role model evangelism for you. Evangelists Bhoie and Marlon are highly active in taking the Gospel to the people of Batangas City. Sisters Ruby and Mitch are taking the Gospel onto the college and high school campuses near our church. Yes, we want to evangelize the lost, but at the same time we want our Evangelists to be an encouragement to you our church body – emboldening you unto personal evangelism.
We also employ a toolbox approach to teaching the truths of scripture in our attempt as a church to Make Disciples. Obviously one of the primary ways by which we as a church teach the truths of scriptures is from here the pulpit. It is our desire to teach God’s Word, and it is also our desire that you who come to our Sunday Worship services desire to come so as to be taught the Word of God. Not only are we teaching the truths of scriptures here in our worship service but our Sunday School program for the kids and youth are an attempt to Make Disciples. Also outside of Sunday morning we have our Growth Groups, some of which meet here in the church, and many meet outside. “Daughters of the King” and “Saved by the Master’s Blood” are channels by which we strive to Make Disciples. There are also pockets in the church that have one-on-one meetings solely for the purpose of Making Disciples. We as a church need to employ all of these strategies, and more. Our Prayer Meetings, discipleship seminars, the Foundations for Christian Leadership training that we held last year and the first part of this year are all a part of Making Disciples. Yet to be effective in Making Disciples we as a church need you as the body to engage in the process. You need to exercise your spiritual gift.
Last Thursday night the SMB had a gathering where the guys simply shared a meal together. For those who cooked, brought food, and simply enjoyed a time of Fellowship, they lent towards helping create an atmosphere that is enjoyable. This encourages the guys to keep coming back so that when the teaching of God’s Word does take place thy will find themselves in an environment where they enjoy growing. This is Making Disciples. Now did they teach God’s Word last Thursday night? I do not know!!! Now you may be wondering to yourself “how can you not know, you are a Pastor at the church?” I do not know because though I was there a little at the beginning and a little at the end, for the most part, I was not there. Why? “Thursday Night Growth Group!” It is at the Thursday Night Growth Group where the Lord is molding me into a disciple of His. I am very blessed to be a part of the Growth Group and I look forward to our weekly meetings. It is my desire that we can meet for many years to come.
I would like to at this time speak directly to my fellow Elders for just a moment. As we continually reevaluate our efforts to Make Disciples I want to encourage you with a comment that was made in the Growth Group as we were discussing the revamping of the SMB ministries. We were reflecting on the history of SMB and a member commented that one of the difficulties that they have had in the past was they did not go deep enough. Wow!!! This is great! We live in a world where everyone does not want to go deep. Many people tell us not to teach doctrine but rather keep it simple with relevant topics. But we as a church are here to teach believers, and believers want to be feed. Let us, as a congregation, desire to move from the “milk” of God’s Word to the “meat” of God’s Word. As a congregation, do not be fearful of the process as right now most of you are not the teachers but the learners. It is the teachers who are tasked with helping you understand. You only need to be willing to learn.
As we are one in mind, and as we are one in heart, and as we have one common goal, and as we are actively moving in one direction, this all in turn will bring great joy to the leadership of the church. As I was reflecting on Philippians 2:1 I was perplexed somewhat at Paul asking the church to make his joy complete. I thought that this seemed a little odd as Paul is always focused on others rather than himself. As a matter of fact, when we look at point three here in a few minutes we will see Paul instructing us not to focus on ourselves. So why would he be so focused on himself right now in verse one? Then it hit me; Paul, in his maturity, had the mind of Christ and it is not Paul who is saying make my joy complete but more so it is our Lord Jesus Christ who is telling us to make His joy complete. The outcome of working through the process of Making Disciples for us at GCF Batangas will be great joy for our Lord and savior Jesus Christ.
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit”
The good news is that we are almost out of time; the bad news is I saved the worst for last; which is technically not true as I am following the outline as was set forth by the context of this passage of scripture. Our third point is very difficult to deal with in that it addresses us at the most basic element of our nature; that is our “sin nature.” The point is simple: Don’t Be Selfish! The point is simple, yet the application is very difficult.
Throughout the course of this message I have woven into it today’s application, and that being in order for us to be unified we should be focused on an end goal, and that is to Make Disciples. Yet I am sure many of you who are following along in your Bibles have observed that Paul does not specifically mention making disciples. That is my application! The text can apply to numerous situations! I could easily substitute “feeding the hungry” in place of “Make Disciples.” The principle is broader than my application. This is certainly true of point number three of us not being selfish. This point actually blossoms out to being half of the Greatest Commandment, the half that speaks of loving our neighbors as ourselves. To focus on others rather than focusing on ourselves does not come easy as it touches every relationship that we have here on earth. To focus on ourselves comes natural. How often do you hear a child proclaim “mine?” To tell the truth we actually encourage our kids to be selfish many times. Every time they claim something as theirs and we do not correct the selfishness behind the statement we enable the selfishness to continue. If Timi Louise is playing with some Play-Doh and she proclaims “mine” I usually say “Okay, you can have it” while thinking to myself “I don’t want to play with it.” When I do this I reinforce her sin nature. So how do we correct this mindset and also how do we apply this corrected mindset to the focused application of this message?
“With humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” We need to first humble ourselves and admit that we are self-centered. This is not easy! We may not even consider ourselves to be self-centered. I often wonder when I am sitting in traffic and a person behind me falls out of line and then goes around me nudging themselves back into line “what are they thinking?” In the past I would ask myself “do they not realize that what they did was wrong?” Is it truly wrong I wonder? I ask you to be the judge; did they do unto others as they would want done unto themselves? One day I finally realized that the other drivers do not think of their actions as being self-centered. I see it as self-centered but they do not think of it as being self-centered. Therefore the only thing that I can do is admit that I to am self-centered and then strive to apply Biblical truth. We cannot change everyone else but we can change ourselves, and this will begin with us acknowledging that we are selfish by nature. Next we need to consider others as more important than ourselves.
In order for there to be unity and team work in reaching our common goal of Making Disciples we need to see the importance of other peoples tasks, and consider them as being equally important. The DOK is a strong ministry and one reason is that some members in the group exercise their gift of giving and serving and therefore weekly bring food for the ladies to enjoy. This in turn creates an atmosphere that reinforces committed attendance. We do not want to create environments where people come solely for the food, but in turn we do want to create environments where people look forward to returning to the group. This allows discipleship to take place. The ladies who bring the food are just as important as the ladies who are teaching. Here in our worship service the ushers who help others find seats and who greet our visitors are just important as the worship team and teachers. Consider others’ gifts as important and encourage others to exercise their gift.
Last we need to “not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” Simply put, exercise your gift. What is your spiritual gift? How does it assist us in Making Disciples? Can your gifting compliment the DOK or SMB? Can your gifting elevate this worship service? How about in the Growth Groups? How can your gifting enhance the group? You need to consider your gift as being important and then you need to exercise it!
Earlier in the message when I shared the story of how I challenged the Pastor with the question of “Church Discipline” I asked who was the oppressor was and who was the oppressed? Both the Pastor and I were oppressing the church. The Pastor did not have a team of Elders! The Pastor did not effectively communicate to the body its central goal and objective! I had my own agenda when I asked the question regarding Church Discipline. I had my own concept of what the church should be like. The church was not of one mind or one heart. We did not consider where we are going as a body. We knew not the gifts of others nor how to encourage them in the use of their gifts. We were not unified!
How about us GCF Batangas? We are of one mind when we realize that our goal is to Make Disciples. Can you embrace that with all of your heart? Are you willing to acknowledge your spiritual gift and work together with us towards our goal of Making Disciples? Are you willing to see the gifts in others and encourage them to join along? Which ministry of GCF does your gift compliment? Think about it!
To God be the glory!