Be Like Christ

1. The Winning Attitude

Not long after Jean and I got married, the Chicago Bulls won their first NBA championship. They were led by Michael Jordon whose name often comes up in ‘Greatest Of All Time’ conversations. He subsequently led them to five more championships.

Not long after winning the first championship, Jordon starred in a sports drink commercial. The theme of the advert, underpinned by a catchy tune, was ‘Be like Mike’, like Mike, I want to be like Mike!.

If you’re an aspiring basketball player, there are worse things than being like Mike. But as great as he was, Michael Jordon was not known as a great team player. He was once asked if he understood that ‘There is no ‘I’ in team’. He responded, with a smile, But there is WIN!

Though he could be selfish with the ball, he understood that it takes a team to win basketball games. One of his teammates, Scottie Pippen, is ranked as one of the 50 greatest basketball players of all time. The point is simply that even with Jordan’s greatness, winning takes a team.

In Philippians 2.1-10, the apostle Paul points to Jesus and says, ‘Be Like Christ’. The winning attitude that marked Jesus was very simply: he was great because he made others great.

He begins by reminding them about rich promises they have in Christ, he points to practices he wants them to live out in Philippi, and he points to Jesus as the example of how to live.

2. The Promises: You are amazingly blessed

V1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy.

Paul is not questioning whether or not the Philippians have experienced these benefits; he is basically saying, because you have these benefits in Christ, I want you to do something. But first, reflect on these amazing benefits. The key thoughts are all confirmed in other great scriptures throughout the New Testament:

1) Encouragement/comfort
2 Corinthians 1.5: For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2) Comfort/solace from love
Romans 5.5: God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

3) Participation (sharing, fellowship) in the Spirit
2 Corinthians 13.14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

4) Affection/compassion and sympathy/mercies.
2 Corinthians 1.3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.

What amazing blessings we have through gospel! But since all of that is true, there is something Paul wants the Philippians to do.

3. The Practice: We’ll be better if we make each other great

Philippians 2.2-4: complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

At the heart of this encouragement is unity. It seems like Paul has detected some seeds of division, and he wants to deal with it head on before it grows and becomes unmanageable. He will engage this directly in Chapter 4 when he writes, ‘I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord’. He uses the same phrase, ‘being of the same mind’. Being of the same mind means to prioritise relational unity over petty difference.

Note the three ways that Paul wants them to walk in unity:

  • Thinking the same way – not necessarily agreeing on every point, but having the same mindset – the mindset of unity – able to discern the difference between what must be agreed and what can be flexible.
  • Loving the same way: sharing with each other the love God has shared with us.
  • Feeling the same way: a shared commitment to the family ethos.

There are some non-negotiable things that we must take a stand on. But most of the things that cause friction in churches are relational, not theological. The point: do everything you can in your local church to help create a loving local church ethos marked sense of unity.

4. The Pattern/Paradigm: Jesus was the greatest team player EVER.

Philippians 2.5-10 is one of the most profound bits of scripture in the Bible. Paul points to Jesus as the example of the necessary attitude to build unity in the local church.

First, Paul told the Philippians to THINK LIKE JESUS
v.5: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Second, he reminds them WHAT JESUS DID. Beginning with Christ’s pre-existence in eternity, considering his incarnation, life, death, resurrection and glorification, Paul points to Jesus as the example of what it looks like to embrace an attitude of humility. Note especially verse 6
v. 6: who, though he was in the form of God did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.

The phrase he was in the form of God means that Christ shared the very nature of God; he shared the essential qualities that make God God. But the point is that he did not use his God-ness for self preservation but for saving others.

Christ’s God-ness was not about grasping but giving; not about seizing but surrendering, not about preserving status but powerful serving.

Look what he wrote in verse 7:
v. 7: but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

Jesus was fully God before the incarnation; while remaining God, he became a man, and in so doing, took the position of a slave. This is the most extreme contrast possible: the one who had the highest glory as God serves as a humble and obedient servant to the point that he died for the sins of the world.

This section concludes by noting that Jesus was given the name above every name. Jesus achieved the highest honour by going the lowest to bring others into their destiny.

5. Conclusion: we can do this. 

Imagine being part of a church where everyone shows up looking to make someone else great. How good would be it be part of a church where we all show looking to be a blessing. That's the kind of church I want to be part of!

So what do we do? Ask God for the grace to live Philippians 2.3-4: In humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

If we do that, we’ll become the church wants us to be and fulfil the mission God has for us.

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