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Spiritual Growth: What It Is, How It Happens, and Why It Matters: Philippians 2:1-11

February 11, 2018

 

This morning we marched boldly into the rich second chapter of Philippians, where Paul challenges us to move away from a casual understanding of spirituality and urges us to strive for a God-honoring, Christ –promoting, sharply focused, gospel-declaring culture of growth. Philippians 2: 1-11 urges us to participate more in the Body of Christ, described in the Greek language as Koinonia. Whatever you are doing, Paul intimates, do more. Paul urged the Philippians to make his joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one spirit, all infused with genuine humility (verses 1-4). (Ed suggested using the English Standard Version for this passage as a method of gaining new understanding.)

If you miss everything else, don’t miss this: Being connected to one another is a really big deal, and one of the most important keys to successful relationships- connection- is humility.

CS Lewis said, “To even get near [humility], even for a moment, is like a drink of cold water to a man in a desert.”

Ed painted the backdrop for Paul’s explanation of the profound humility of Jesus by touching on 3 titanic concepts:

  1. The mystery of the Trinity.
  2. The nature of Jesus- fully God, yet fully man (think of the story of Jesus calming the storm, and the disciples being terrified, asking: What sort of man is this?”)
  3. The ultimate glorification of Jesus. We understand that there will one day come a time when everyone and everything will worship Jesus Christ.

The passage goes on from here to explain how Jesus, this Jesus who was part of the Trinity, fully God and fully Man, did not consider for a moment that equality with God was possible, and humbled Himself even to death on the cross. Humility could be perhaps explained as the complete absence of the rights of the self. (How would you define humility based on this passage?)

After giving us an overview of these verses, Ed took a step aside from scripture and described an illustration from the world of business. Author Jim Collins wrote a book called “Good to Great.” His research team searched for specific patterns in companies that had sky-rocketed in the market and asked, “What conditions were present that could have caused this incredible success?” Collins’ research went on to identify 7 features which these companies had in common:

  1. They put the right people in the right places.
  2. They confronted facts, even when those facts were brutally honest.
  3. They employed the hedgehog concept. In other words, find your one big thing and become very, very good at it. (In his famous essay, “The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin divided the world into hedgehogs and foxes based upon an ancient Greek parable: “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”)
  4. They practiced a culture of discipline.
  5. These companies used technology accelerators.
  6. They incorporated the Flywheel Concept: There is no quick fix; rather, these great companies relentlessly pushed a big wheel up a hill until they pushed it over the top.
  7. And then there’s Level 5 Leadership: This is the point we need to focus on for our discussion today. A level 5 leader “builds enduring greatness through a paradoxical combination of personal humility and professional will.” Example: Kimberly Clark, led by Darwin Smith. His humility was such that hardly anyone knew who he was, yet everyone has heard of the great health-care products giant that is Kimberly Clark.

Collins’ conclusion about level 5 leadership is strikingly similar to Paul’s explanation of Christ’s humility in Philippians Chapter 2. Collins said that level 5 leadership is counter-intuitive—even counter-cultural! And yet this combination of humility and will makes for a universal combination which results in great leadership.

Based on this idea of level 5 leadership, Ed challenges us to think about 6 principles to employ in order to move toward greater personal humility and purpose.

  1. Speak less. Ed’s twist: Answer fewer questions.
  2. Mind your own business. Don’t try to manage others; rather, manage yourself.
  3. Listen to your critics.
  4. Bless those who insult you, slight you, forget you and dislike you.
  5. Own your strengths, and let them speak for themselves.
  6. Accept your limits.

For a group exercise, we discussed which one of these points did we feel we needed to work on and why? (My answer? I definitely need to work on accepting my limits. But probably all of them need to be addressed. It was a motivating discussion.)

Let’s end on another C.S. Lewis quote:

“If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And it is a biggish step, too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed.”

Spiritual Growth: Faith and Suffering

Today Pastor Ed Allen continued his sermon series in Philippians on "Spiritual Growth:  What it is, how it happens, and why it matters."  Today we looked at Philippians 1:27-30.

He began the message with the Don't-Miss-This point of the day:

God graciously gives his people faith and suffering so that they can enjoy fearlessly working in radical community to tell others the great news about Jesus.

In verse 29, Paul says that it has been "granted" to the Philippians to believe, but also to suffer for him.  Our faith is a gift from God.

The foundation of our connection to God is God Himself moving in our lives.  God steers our whole experience.

But our suffering is also a gift from God.

A frank conversation about suffering is critical for us because:

-- Suffering is inevitable, but we have tried to sanitize our lives in an effort to eliminate it.

We're undone when it comes, but it will come.

-- Our culture is growing increasingly antagonistic to Christian thought and values.

We will be opposed.

-- God uses our response to suffering to convince others that His story is true and powerful and unconquerable.

God graciously gives his people faith in suffering.

"Conduct yourselves" has the idea of living as good citizens.  We're in a new culture, the culture of Jesus. 

We were made for community.  In John 17, when Jesus prayed for us, he prayed that we would be one.

We exist to be used by God to draw others into authentic Christian community.

This is a challenge to us.  Into that, we're called to stand firm in the one spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.  We mustn't stay unconnected!

We need to invest in this and choose it.

Our church has together built a new building for our community.  Now we're getting ready for our next assignment.  We are to contend for the faith of the gospel, and there's nothing casual about this.  It's all in, or not at all.

Challenge:

Think about where you are today.  Maybe you're

-- Unconvinced, and you know it.

We're glad you're here!  God's inviting you into a life-changing adventure.

-- Unconvinced, but you don't know it.

We hope you're unsettled by God's assault on casual faith.

-- Convinced and looking for your next assignment.

You're not looking for a good church, but you're looking for your next assignment.  We'll be happy if it's here with us.

-- Convinced and you've been sitting awhile.

You're not yet connected and invested.  You may have legitimate reasons for this.  One caution is not to let it be an excuse too long.

-- Convinced and you're all in.

Pastor Ed mentioned that he loves working with you.

Let's pray that this next season will be the most fruitful we've ever seen in ministry.

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