Counseling One Another

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Counseling One Another

May 5, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Nuggets [5/5/16]

Here are some articles to chew on.

My Son’s Autism Changed Everything–Even Our Church – Sandra Peoples writes, “Like in our small church that rallied around my son following his autism diagnosis, many churches will soon realize it doesn’t take as much work as they fear. It just takes the body of Christ working together to meet the needs of each family who walks through their doors.”

Trump or Hillary? How Can a Christian Vote – Fred Zaspel exhorts us to remember where we live.

10 Tips for Visiting New Parents in the Hospital – Brian Croft offers sound advice.

Four Ways to Comfort a Grieving Friend – Kelly Needham bares her soul about grieving multiple miscarriages. “Each time someone tried to cheer me up by minimizing what I had lost, my soul was screaming, ‘But it mattered to me! That life was precious to me!'”

The Danger of “Fast Food” Conversation – Julie Lowe of CCEF writes, “How many families coexist for long periods of time living on “fast food” interactions? These conversations are quick, easy, and immediate. We talk about what is necessary to keep the family going. We say enough to make decisions, get through the day’s busy routine, or to provide correction to a child’s behavior. But we rarely stop and offer something constructive or something that edifies or gives grace.”

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May 3, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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There Is a Fountain

This past Sunday, we closed our communion service by singing what has become known as the “redemption anthem” of the church. It was written in the late 1700’s by an Englishman named William Cowper, one of the most famous poets of his day.

Like others whom God has used in powerful ways, William suffered throughout his life with periods of deep depression, despair, and even insanity. At least one bout with despair was so severe he was committed to an asylum. It was there he came face to face with the Scriptures and was converted to Christ.

During his stay at the asylum, William found a Bible on a park bench and began to read it. Seeing the mercy of Jesus in the raising of Lazarus, Cowper’s heart began to soften. Being drawn to the Scriptures, again, he turned to Romans 3:25 and read of Jesus “whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

Later, he wrote, “Immediately I received the strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the atonement He had made, my pardon sealed in His blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His justification. In a moment I believed, and received the gospel.”

A few years later, God brought John Newton into William’s life. Newton was the author of Amazing Grace and 200 other hymns and, for 13 years, served as William’s pastor, faithfully walking with him through dark valleys of fear and despair. Complete deliverance from periods of intense mental suffering never became a reality for William, but God used those times to draw him closer and closer. And from the crucible of that mental suffering came some of the church’s richest, best-loved hymns. There Is a Fountain is one of them.

There is a fountain filled with blood,
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains:
Lose all their guilty stains,
Lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in His day;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away:
Washed all my sins away,
Washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its pow’r,
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more:
Are safe, to sin no more,
Are safe, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God
Are safe, to sin no more.

E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die:
And shall be till I die,
And shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme,
And shall be till I die.

When this poor, lisping, stamm’ring tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save:
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save;
Then in a nobler, sweeter song,
I’ll sing Thy pow’r to save

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May 2, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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The Horror of the Cross

We live in a culture that does not understand the symbol of the cross. Today, the cross has become a mere religious symbol. We do not see its horror. D.A. Carson writes,

[T]he cross has become for us such a domesticated symbol. Today many women and men dangle crosses from their ears. Our bishops hang crosses around their necks. Our church buildings have crosses on their spires, or stained wooden crosses are backlit with fluorescent lights. Some of our older church buildings are actually built in cruciform, and no one is shocked.

Suppose you were to place in a prominent position in your church building a fresco of the massed graves of Auschwitz. Wouldn’t everyone be horrified? But in the first century, the cross had something of that symbolic value. Scholars have gone through every instance of the word “cross” and related expressions that have come down to us about the time of Jesus and shown how “crucifixion” and “cross” invariably evoke horror….Crucifixion was considered too cruel—so shameful that the word itself was avoided in polite conversation.

The early Christians would not have understood our fascination with the symbol of the cross. The cross as a piece of decorative jewelry would have been unthinkable, since the cross meant only one thing to them—DEATH. And not mere death, but horror, violence, shame, utter humiliation.

Crucifixion was the most humiliating, degrading death anyone could ever have imagined—conceived and invented in the depraved mind of man. This is why—when describing the humility of Jesus—the Apostle Paul does not merely say Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, but EVEN death on a cross (Phil. 2:8). The apostle’s point in using the word “even” in verse 8 is this: The humility of Jesus Christ is most vividly displayed by the kind of death that He endured. Here, Paul provides two adjectives to describe the death of Jesus. It was obedient and it was humiliating.

Jesus died an obedient death.

It was the Father’s will that the Son of God die for our sins. In eternity past, the Triune Godhead laid out the plan of redemption and the Son of God agreed to pay the price of that redemption. This submission of His mind was expressed many times by Himself, verbally (John 3:14-15; 8:28).

In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed, “O, My Father. If it is possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Luke 22:42). His earthly obedience was preceded by the surrender of his mind, heart, and will to the Father in heaven. Hebrews cites an Old Testament agreement of the Son to take on the body prepared for Him by the Father (Heb. 10:5-7).

The obedience of Jesus unto death brought glory to the Father. How is that? You ask.

  • The obedience of Jesus unto death testified of God’s truthfulness. The cross demonstrated that God is not a liar. From the moment Adam and Eve sinned, God promised to send a deliverer who was born of a woman and who would crush the Serpent’s head. But first, the Serpent would bruise His heel. From the time of Abraham, God had promised to send one from the line of Abraham to bring blessing to all the nations of the world. Through the prophets God promised to send one who would deliver His people from their sin. He would be a suffering Savior before He would be a victorious King.
  • The obedience of Jesus unto death is evidence of God’s justice. God is holy and God is love. But His love is not greater than His holiness. Therefore, He could not—out of love—simply choose to overlook our sin. That would be unjust. A just God and a righteous Judge cannot do that. If He had overlooked our sin without judging it, we should cry out “The judge is unjust!” So, He found a way to display both justice and love in the very same moment, in the same event.

Without the death of one who had never sinned, there would be no way for the righteous and holy God to allow us into His presence. But now, through the sacrificial blood of Jesus, we are brought near to God—we are accepted by God in Jesus.

Jesus died a humiliating death.

The phrase “even death on a cross” illustrates the extent of Jesus’ humility and the depth of His obedience to the Father. Christ, the Son of God, infinitely worthy of honor and worship, took His obedience to the ultimate display of humiliation—crucifixion, the most shameful, disgraceful form of execution. So high is the glory of Jesus, but so low was His death.

It is one thing for us, as sinful creatures, to be humiliated. It is another thing altogether for the sinless Son of God, who had previously dwelt in the fullness of glory, to lay aside that glory by veiling it in human flesh in the form of a slave. By using the phrase “even death on a cross,” Paul is drawing attention to the nature of crucifixion as the ultimate disgrace.

  • The cross was a disgraceful death. Crucifixion was practiced in public place for all to see. The Romans chose the busiest intersection to publicly humiliate their victims, which they believed also was a strong deterrent to other slaves who may steal or runaway.
  • The cross was a painful death. The suffering was intense. In addition to the sheer pain of being nailed or tied to a beam, the victim endured exposure to the elements of weather and insects. The stretching of the body as it hung led to intense pain in the wounds and sometimes caused severe headaches and convulsions. The ultimate cause of death was usually gradual suffocation.
  • The cross was a slave’s death. To the Romans, crucifixion was “the slave’s punishment.” Cicero, the famous Roman orator, said: “Let the very name of the cross be far away not only from the body of a Roman citizen, but even from his thoughts.”
  • The cross was a wretched death. Hundreds of years before the Romans perfected the torture of crucifixion, the Holy Spirit led David to describe his own suffering in terms that later would be fully understood. Psalm 22 prophesied “all my bones are out of joint” (v. 14), and “They pierced my hands and my feet” (v. 16).

The Jewish historian, Josephus, who witnessed many crucifixions during the siege of Jerusalem, called it “the most wretched of deaths.” The essence of crucifixion was its slowness of torture. As horrible and humiliating as crucifixion was, the death of Jesus pleased the Father because it paid the price that His holiness and justice required in order to pardon and purchase sinners (Isa. 53:10).

What about you? What is your response to this truth? Scripture commands every one of us to turn to Christ, to look to him with eyes of faith. Romans 3:23-25 makes this clear: “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.”

First John 5:11-13 makes it crystal clear there are only two options before each one of us. There is life in Jesus or there is death outside of Jesus. “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.”

If you’ve never turned from your sin to Jesus, do so today. Today is the day of salvation.

[These thoughts are from yesterday’s sermon, Even Death on a Cross.]

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April 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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9 Marks of a Christian Family

family at crossWhat makes a Christian family distinct from a non-Christian one? Is it the number of times those in it attend church each week, or are there many more fundamental differences? Recently, at a parenting workshop at our church, I passed on the following outline that I had developed about fifteen years ago and have taught numerous times. You may want to use it for personal Bible study or work through it in your small group.

Many years ago, Jay Adams provided this simple definition: “A truly Christian home is a place where sinners live; but it is also a place where the members of that home admit the fact and understand the problem, know what to do about it, and as a result grow by grace…The Christian home, then, is a place where sinful persons face the problems of a sinful world. Yet, they face them together with God and His resources, which are all centered in Christ (Cf. Col. 2:3). Sinners live in the Christian home, but the sinless Savior lives there too. That is what makes the difference!” (Christian Living in the Home, pp. 11, 13).

Surveying the Scriptures, here are nine marks of a Christian family. A Christian family is…

1 – A family that submits to the Bible as the final authority for all they believe and how they live.

When this is true the following convictions become reality in the home:

  • The Bible is God’s Word (2 Tim. 3:14-17).
  • The Bible is absolute Truth (Jn. 17:17; Prov. 30:5-6).
  • The Bible is sufficient to deal with any and every soul-related problem our family will ever experience (2 Tim. 3:17; 2 Pet. 1:3).
  • The Bible is to be obeyed (Josh. 1:8).
  • The Bible is our daily bread (Mt. 4:4; 1 Pet. 2:2).

2 – A family that embraces and confesses Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

  • Family members are trusting, or being taught to trust, in Jesus alone for salvation (Acts 4:12; Rom. 10:9-10);
  • Born again family members are encouraged to progressively grow in submission to Christ as Lord (Luke 6:46);
  • Born again family members view themselves as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:18-20);

3 – A family that loves God above all else—even itself (Matt. 22:37-39; Jn. 14:15).

4 – A family that loves its neighbors as it naturally loves itself (Mt. 22:39; Phil. 2:3).  Note: There is no need to be concerned about your child’s self-esteem; he has more than enough already. Instead, train him to esteem Christ worthy of obedience, and others as worthy of service.

5 – A family that lives out the gospel…

6 – A family whose Spirit-filled living creates an atmosphere where love and holiness grow (1 Pet. 4:8; Eph. 4:24). Note: the verse that precedes all of the marriage, family, and work-related commands in Ephesians 5 is: “Do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ” (Eph. 5:18-21). To resist the order of the Christian life presented in Ephesians 5 is to resist the Spirit of God and his work in your family.

7 – A family that keeps membership and involvement in their local church a high priority.

  • The priority of corporate worship (Jn 4:23; Heb. 10:24-25).
  • The priority of service [serve together as a family when it is reasonable] (MMk 10:45; Gal. 5:13).
  • The priority of biblical fellowship/care (Acts 4:34-35).
  • The priority of financial stewardship and hospitality (Prov. 3:9-10; Rom. 12:13). For help, see HELP! I’m Drowning in Debt.
  • Note: If a Christian family allows its involvement in outside activities to take priority over faithful attendance and involvement in its local church, it is settling for second best. This careless example will affect the generations to come.

8 – A family that understands and submits to God’s authority structures and how each member is called to serve within them.

Tedd Tripp rightly observes: “God calls His creatures to live under authority.  He is our authority and has vested authority in people within the institutions he has established (home, church, state, business).  You must not be embarrassed to be authorities for your children. You exercise authority as God’s agent. You may not direct your children for your own agenda or convenience. You must direct your children in God’s behalf for their good. Our culture tends toward the poles on a continuum. In authority, we tend toward a crass kind of John Wayne authoritarianism or toward being a wimp. God calls you by his Word and His example to be authorities who are truly kind. God calls you to exercise authority, not in making your children do what you want, but in being true servants—authorities that lay down your lives. The purpose for your authority in the lives of your children is not to hold them under your power, but to empower them to self-controlled people living freely under the authority of God. (Shepherding a Child’s Heart, p. 13, 14)”

Submission to God’s authority is demonstrated by:

  • A husband who cheerfully accepts his God-given role as the chief servant and head of household who loves and leads his wife (Eph. 5:25-29); Col. 3:19).
  • A father who nurtures and disciplines his children (Eph. 6:4; Col. 3:21).
  • A wife who cheerfully accepts her God-given role as submissive helper, and who respects, honors, and follows her husband’s leadership (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18).
  • A mother who nurtures and disciplines her children (Titus 2:3-5).
  • Parents who desire to please God more than be accepted by their children (1 Sam. 2:27-30).
  • Children who honor and obey their parents (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20). For help see HELP! My Toddler Rules the House and HELP! My Teen Is Rebellious.
  • Citizens who obey civil government (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-15).
  • Church members who honor and obey their shepherds (Heb. 13:17).
  • Employees who work diligently and obey their employers (Eph. 6:5-8; Col. 3:22-24).

9 – A family that fears the Lord and is, therefore, blessed by Him (Ps. 128:1-4).

 

[Note: The audio files from the seminar “Engaging the Hearts of Our Kids” are available at no charge here.]

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April 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Nuggets [4/29/16]

Who’s In Charge? – “Requiring exact, immediate, pleasant obedience is a huge blessing.  This establishes the parent’s God-given authority and helps children to see the value of honoring God’s authority.”

The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans – “To struggle financially is a source of shame, a daily humiliation—even a form of social suicide. Silence is the only protection.” This is a long read, but well worth it.

Financial Peace Testimonies – If the above article describes your situation, take some encouragement from some of these testimonies. Find a FPU class in your area.

How I Discovered True Masculinity – “While my male peers were crushing on girls, I was crushing on them.” Here’s a really good article from Matt Moore.

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April 27, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 4 Misconceptions about Worship

4 Misconceptions about Worship

The past few days, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Bob Kauflin’s newest book True Worshipers: Seeking what Matters to God. Having loved his first book, Worship Matters, I was excited when this one was released last year.

In the second chapter, Worship and Our Inability, Kauflin demonstrates that worship is always initiated by God: “The Bible opens with the words ‘In the beginning, God.’ Not ‘In the beginning, Adam.” Without the initiating grace of God, we are utterly unable to worship him in an acceptable manner. “The ability and desire to worship God is something that God himself gives us.”

In this chapter, Bob also exposes four common misconceptions.

Misconception #1: Worship is more about emotions than words. Though worship involves our whole being—including our emotions—that is not the fullness of worship. “Knowing our Bibles well doesn’t deaden our worship of God but rather informs and enflames it. God will always be much better than anything we could imagine him to be on our own. If we want to grow as true worshipers of God, we won’t simply listen to more music—we’ll seek to encounter him in our Bibles.

Misconception #2: People just argue about the Bible. “[I]t’s misinformed to think that if we just worship God, everything else is unimportant or will work itself out. Unless we read our Bibles well, we won’t know the God we’re worshiping. When we fail to be specific about who God is and what he’s done, we’re really saying we want our own God.”

Misconception #3: Worship is more about the Spirit than about the Word. “Every church or individual Christian who claims to be Spirit-led must be Word-fed. If we want to know more of the Spirit’s power in our lives, we would be wise to fill ourselves with the riches of his Word.”

Misconception #4: The Bible is too hard to understand. “When we take time to read and reflect upon God as the object of our worship, we’re expending energy toward having a real knowledge of the most glorious and valuable being in the universe. That knowledge is a gift from God that enables us to love him more passionately, obey him more consistently, serve him more joyfully, and trust him for more confidently.”

God has called us to worship him in spirit and truth (Jn 4:24). In Jesus Christ this has been made possible. Let us never tire growing in the grace and knowledge of the Savior in order that we may worship him as he truly deserves!

Note: Bob’s passion to maintain the marriage of the Spirit to the Word echoes a long-held conviction of mine. In that vein, you may be interested in two sermons that I preached last fall. Both are found in the sermon archives.

  • Word-Filled Worship (9/20/15)
  • Spirit-Filled Worship (9/27/15)

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April 26, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Dr. Tom Zempel – Model of Grace and Truth

Dr. Tom Zempel – Model of Grace and Truth

This past Lord’s Day, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, co-laborer in calling the church back to biblical discipleship, and new friend entered the glorious reward of faith. Though I cannot say I’ve known Tom for a long time, the conversations we had together the past few years left me with a vivid impression: Tom loved Christ and others. His was a rare combination of grace and truth, kindness and commitment to Scripture. Tom was a pastor and seminary professor who dedicated his life to equipping others to minister the Word faithfully. It is an honor to have called him my brother and friend.

Tom and I resonated with each other in at least three ways.

  • First, we both believe that pastoring includes counseling. In other words, you can be a counselor without being a pastor, but you cannot be a pastor without also being a counselor. The best counseling easily and naturally flows in the river of shepherding God’s people.
  • Second, we both believe counseling is not primarily a specialized ministry, but is part of the discipleship strategy of the local church.
  • Third, we both believe the best seminaries are those which intentionally and ruthlessly remain deeply connected to the life of a local church where a man may be tested outside of the classroom and his gifts may be confirmed by the members.

For these reasons, Tom’s ministry heartbeat was a blessing to all and he will be missed.

P.S. I was really blessed by Doug Bookman’s tribute, Goodbye for Now.

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April 26, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 2 New Reviews of “Counseling One Another”

2 New Reviews of “Counseling One Another”

Yesterday, the publisher passed on to me two new reviews of Counseling One Another: A theology of inter-personal discipleship. I’m thankful for these words of encouragement.

  • Longing 4 Truth – “Though there have been many great books on the subject, and more are still coming out, there is one new book that I want you to know about that enters into the debate in a clear and compelling way, with a bit of a twist.”
  • Sojourner Between Worlds – “The sufficiency of God’s Word for discipling and counseling one another is the key theme throughout this excellent, well-written book. Written at a lay level, throughout the book we are pointed back to the Bible for help in coming alongside our fellow believers to encourage growth in sanctification.”

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April 22, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Nuggets [4/23/16]

Nuggets [4/23/16]

Yesterday, my laptop crashed. So, today, while I was on speaker phone with tech support for several hours, I waded through several piles on my desktop (the top of my literal desk). As a result, I finally got around to reading some articles that others had passed on to me or I had collected over the past few months. Here’s a few I enjoyed.

7 Steps to a Sustainable Schedule – Mark Dance writes, “Most pastors I talk to are aspiring for some sanity in their schedules.”

Cereal Is Too Much Trouble for Millennials – A great article from the Washington Post, and an excellent illustration of the sluggard King Solomon wrote of, the one who puts his hand in the dish and is too lazy to bring food to his mouth  (Prov. 19:24).  Also an important article for parents to read. Let’s not forget to teach our kids how to do the dishes.

Songs and Thoughts from T4G – I love thinking about worship and so appreciate Bob Kauflin’s philosophy! Here are his thoughts from this month’s mega-conference in Louisville. “I had the joy of leading the music again this year. It’s a unique experience. A guy at a piano joined by ten thousand voices singing theologically rich, gospel-centered hymns, old and new.”

The Introvert’s Guide to Surviving the Church Greeting Time – The “paradise of introversion is not an option—Christianity is meant to be lived and experienced in community.”

How the Hillsong Cool Factor Changed Worship for Good and for Ill – A well-balanced and necessary critique: “Christians have made worship so individualistic and consumeristic, the church now looks more like a “concert hall,” where churchgoers operate as passive observers and critics, rather than a “banquet hall,” where they participate and commune together.”

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April 19, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Two-Part Epoxy of Humility and Love

The Two-Part Epoxy of Humility and Love

Psalm 133 testifies, Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! When believers live together in unity it is an experience that brings blessing to them and glory to God. According to the Scriptures, there is unity that exists among genuine Christians that is founded upon a mutual love for Christ which results in love for one another. Therefore, Scripture also contains warnings against disunity, most pointed are those which warn against pride and love-less-ness. When warning us about conflict between believers, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that the most common causes are the presence of pride and the absence of love. For example, where there is strife, there has first been pride and hatred.

  • Proverbs 13:10 – By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is
  • Proverbs10:12 – Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses (Cf. 29:22).
  • James 4:1-2 – What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel.

If pride, anger, and hatred produce conflict then what it needed is humility and love. Consequently, Ephesians 4:1-3 compels us to walk in a manner worthy of the calling of God in Christ, which includes all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Without humility and love, it is impossible to know the bond of peace. Let me illustrate.

When I want to repair something that is broken, I often go to the hardware store to buy 2-part epoxy. The two resins do nothing when they remain separate, but when you snip the tip of the dispenser and mix the chemical agents you have a glue that quickly cures and forms a permanent bond. Like that 2-part epoxy, which produces an unbreakable bond, so humility and love combine to form a unity that cannot be easily destroyed. Divisions among believes thrive in an environment where spiritual pride is rampant and love is absent. Therefore, God repeatedly calls us to a life of humility and love, which maintains biblical unity. One such call is found in Philippians 2:1-2.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

The Experience in Christ

In verse one, Paul repeatedly uses the little word “if.” However, he does not use it in order to present a condition they must fulfill but to encourage his reader to remember what is already true of their experience. It is an intensive “if” which means “since.” In other words, verse one describes mutual experiences of those who know Christ in a saving way.

  • Encouragement – The word means “to come alongside to help or counsel.” Jesus used the same word in the Gospel of John when speaking of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-26). There is help and encouragement that comes from knowing Christ. He will never leave us as orphans (John 14:18-19).
  • Comfort from love – “Comfort” is a gentle word. It pictures Christ coming close and whispering words of cheer or tender counsel, such as “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27-28). There is comfort that comes from knowing the love of God in Jesus Christ (Meditate on Rom. 5:8; 1 Jn 3:16; 4:16).
  • Participation in the Spirit – “Participation” means fellowship. All true believers share in the Holy Spirit. There are no “haves” and “have nots” among believers, 1 Corinthians 12:13 makes this crystal clear. “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” The baptism of the Spirit is not a second experience of grace that some Christians receive and others don’t. Every believer—at the moment of conversion—is baptized—place into, immersed—into the body of Christ, the family of God. In the baptism of the Spirit, we receive the abundance of blessings that are ours by virtue of being united with Christ by faith. Every believer is indwelt by the Spirit of God and, as a result, together, we make up the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16). Our fellowship comes through the Holy Spirit. Each and every believer possesses the same Spirit. This is all to God’s glory (Eph. 1:13-14).
  • Affection and sympathy – These two words are very much related. They refer to “tender affection” and “compassion.” What Paul is speaking of here is the tender affection of God toward us, which results in acts of compassion toward us.

Tenderness and compassion are found in Christ. The Gospel of Luke provides an example when it tells us of a time when Jesus came into the town of Nain. “As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’”

In verse one, the apostle’s logic is this: If you have experienced the riches that come with the experience of knowing Christ as Lord and Savior then there is a certain kind of conduct that is now expected from you.

The Expectation for Unity

Before we go any further in thinking about what this kind of unity looks like, we need to understand that unity does not equal uniformity. Unity flows from within, but uniformity is imposed upon people from the outside.

Unity says, “Since you know and love the same Savior, and are seeking to submit your life to the authority of His Word, we can and should live in unity—and I will lovingly pursue it.” Uniformity says, “If you do things exactly the way I do them then we can be close, but if not then we cannot have fellowship. Unless you are like me, we cannot have a relationship. Unless you listen to the same music, or dress in the same clothes, or school your children in exactly the same way I do then we cannot live in unity with one another.”

In unity there is grace, but uniformity reveals the absence of grace. Unity says, “I love you in Christ and appreciate what God is doing in your life.” Uniformity says, “I will not love you or appreciate you unless you conform to my mold.”

The apostle is not calling us to uniformity (like the Pharisees demanded), but to biblical unity. As he did earlier, he calls us to stand “firm with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). The gospel is the center around which biblical unity revolves. Paul is saying, “Since you have experienced this kind of love and compassion and encouragement and comfort in Christ, and the Holy Spirit has knit you together into one family…then make my joy complete.”

Satan uses conflict to attack and destroy the joy of the believer. As a pastor this was significant in Paul’s mind. When believers are living in unity with one another, under the leadership of their shepherds, it produces joy. Hebrews 13:17 teaches this, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Nothing destroys a pastor’s joy like hidden or open divisions in the church.

Since the Philippian believers had had the mutual experience of love and grace in Christ there were expectations they were to pursue and practice, habitually. This call is to us, too, and includes:

  • Same mind – Paul calls us to “think the same way.” Later in the book, after Paul testified that he chose to forget the past and press forward toward the goal of becoming like Christ, he urged, “Let those of us who are mature think this way” (3:15). And then he urged two women who were in conflict, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord” (4:2). Other Scriptures call us to this kind of like-mindedness, too (1 Pet. 3:8-9; Rom. 15:5).
  • Same love – This refers to an impartial love; it means loving without favoritism. It means to love others in the church equally. The early church experienced this kind of love from the beginning (Acts 2:32). James 2:1 exhorts us, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
  • In full accord – Literally, this means to be “one souled.” It describes people who are knit together in harmony and love. When believers have the same passion and goal to see Christ magnified and the gospel taken to the ends of the earth there are so many petty differences that may easily be set aside. We are each called to do our part in the church. A local church is a body that will never function to its full capacity until every member does his part (Eph 4).

This is what God expects from us and it begins with humility (verses 3-4).

One of the devil’s most powerful weapons in his effort to destroy churches which faithfully hold forth the truth of Scripture is disunity. And the means by which he empowers his weapon includes pride, anger, hatred, unresolved conflict, bitterness, destructive speech, and a lack of like-mindedness. As believers, we need to listen up. We need to listen to God’s exhortations, repent, and always be in pursuit of peace and unity among one another (1 Cor. 1:10; Rom. 14:19). Pride wears different faces, but surely each of us needs to repent of some form. More than anything else, we need the humility of Christ (Phil. 2:5).

You may listen to last Sunday’s sermon, Foundations for Unity.

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