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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.”

What's Your Story? Are You Ready for Change?

Today Pastor Ed continued the new sermon series "What's Your Story?" by talking about Paul's story.

Paul tells his story in Galatians 1:11-24.

Paul's point is that the good news message he conveyed to them came from God, and they shouldn't let anyone add anything to it.

Paul's primary evidence is his own story.

That tells us a great deal about the power of our own stories.

Paul's story continues in Galatians 2:1-10.

Two critical features:

1)  God was the driving force in Paul's story.

1:12 -- Everything I taught you came by revelation of Jesus Christ.

2:2 -- God is the impulse behind Paul's significant decisions.

2:7 -- His life's work and teaching was entrusted to him by God.

The primary driving force in our lives should be our connection to God:  Every decision, mindset, relationship...

We get a glimpse of Peter recognizing this in John 6:68 -- "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life."

Paul sees his entire life in the context of God as the driving influence.

God was there all along.... "set me apart from birth."

Our entire story has God as the driving force.

Paul had come to realize that his story was a small but significant part of God's story.

When we recognize this it produces important qualities in our lives:

-- Humility

It's not primarily about me.  My story is about what God is doing in and through me.  (Galatians 2:5)  We can more fully do things for others.

Humility is a quality of a great leader, but we don't get that kind of humility without acknowledging God's part in our lives.

-- Freedom

It doesn't all depend on me!

I can let go.

God is the driving force in our story.

He's in, around, behind, and below us.

When we try to carry too much control over our lives, we're fooling ourselves and wiring ourselves for anxiety.

2)  A decision to turn means everything is affected.

Galatians 1:18-24.  Paul went from an opponent to the church's greatest advocate.

Paul's early life was a regimented self-salvation project.

He needed to be saved, not to save himself.  (Philippians 3:4-11)

At a certain point in time, Paul made a decision.

What's your story?

***

I'm going to add a personal note here and share a bit of my story.

At this point in the service, we shared Communion together.

While the cup was being passed, the Worship Team played over and over the tune of the hymn "Take My Life and Let It Be."  We sang this hymn at my wedding, so the words were playing over and over in my mind.

Several years ago, my marriage ended in divorce, which was not at all how I wanted my story to go.

But every time I hear this song, I have to remember that it's God's story.  I offered Him my life, my heart, my love.  So do I really have the right to protest when He does His own thing with those?

And God has truly been faithful.

Here are the words to the verses of the hymn that hit me the hardest.

Take my life and let it be

Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;

Take my moments and my days --

Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

 

Take my voice and let me sing

Always, only for my King;

Take my lips and let them be

Filled with messages from Thee.

 

Take my will and make it Thine --

It shall be no longer mine;

Take my heart -- it is Thine own,

It shall be Thy royal throne.

 

Take my love -- my Lord, I pour

At Thy feet its treasure store;

Take myself -- and I will be

Ever, only, all for Thee.

 

Amen.  It's your story, Lord.

***

So what's your story?