by Liz Shaw
Philippians 2 v 5 – 18
While Paul was in prison, he wanted to encourage The Church in Philippi to persevere and continue to be obedient to the teachings of Jesus. He was encouraging them to carry on without him there. Paul fulfilled many of the roles of a leader, but ultimately he wasn’t their leader. That was Jesus and Paul was pointing them in His direction.
To me, this sounds very much like us in the Rivers Team and other Churches across the country where we have no ordained minister having oversight. We are needing to be more self sufficient by taking on more decisions, more responsibilities and continuing to make disciples. This all sounds and feels like a mammoth task but Paul says later in Philippians 4 v 13 ‘I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul is effectively saying, don’t look to me but to Jesus Christ. Many people are searching for meaning and direction in their lives and look up to leaders in different places. Status, wealth and power are important to these leaders. Are these important to Jesus? No they are not! If Jesus was here today he would be found on the streets, in homeless shelters, in prisons, in hospitals, refugee camps and anywhere there was a need. Jesus humbled himself. He didn’t abuse his equal status with God, He became human and took the ultimate punishment of dying on the cross.
Paul is telling the Church to have the mind of Christ. To do so a person must first have the holy spirit within them. This comes with a saving faith in Jesus. If we say we follow Jesus, we must also say we want to live as he lived. We need to view the world through Christ centered lens. Everyone is created in God’s image so we need to see them how God made them. Regardless of what they have done, who they are, every person should be treated with love, respect, dignity, care and attention just like Jesus would.
There is so much hatred, evil, pain and suffering in this world. We know that the solution to this is for people to become to know Jesus as their Lord and Saviour. How amazing would that be if every single knee in the whole world should bow
down and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord!
People need to hear this message but if no one tells them about it, they won’t know about it and receive the benefit! To do this is to go out into the world but Paul gives the warning first to do everything without grumbling or arguing. As Church families we do not always agree on what we should do, how we do it and get stuck on the same issues and never resolve them. The wider Church also has divisions and differences of opinions such as the ordination of women Bishops.
To be united in our thoughts and actions we all need to be reading scripture, praying together and listening to God speak. God will give us the guidance and direction we need as a Church. Our minds need to be renewed consistently. We need to be moving closer to God and further away from the body.
Having attitudes and behaviours that turn people’s attention to God’s truth and grace will according to Paul make us shine like stars in the sky. Verse 15 says “Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life” Stars are not just beautiful objects in the sky, they are used for navigation and show us direction just like when the wise men were searching for the baby Jesus. As stars ourselves we can lead people or illuminate the path towards Jesus. We can do this through our words and actions.
Paul’s aim of his letter was to encourage the Church, to have the mind of Christ, to focus on Jesus and be united in what they do. This spiritual unity is
what we also need to focus on especially in these turbulent times.
I pray that these words from the hymn by Arthur Barnham–Gould are a prayer we can all truthfully live out together
May the mind of Christ my Saviour, Live in me from day to day, By his love and power controlling, All I say and do.
Love and Blessings from Liz Shaw