This morning we continued our meditations on Philippians, looking at Phil 2:1-11, and verses 1-4 in particular. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘You become what you think about all day long’ and it’s vital that we think about good things (Phil 4:8) and allow God’s Word to shape our lives, rather than being overwhelmed by negative influences. Focussing on Christ is essential if we are to keep strong and stand firm (see Col 1:1-3).
Encouragement From Being United With Christ (Phil 2:1)
Before we can ever talk about unity with each other, we have to dwell on the fact that we are united with Christ. Jesus prayed for us to be one as He and the Father are one (John 17:21-22) and Paul used the phrase ‘in Christ’ so many times to describe our relationship with Him. Left to our own devices, we would be a people to be pitied, a people without hope, but because we are united in Christ, in a union that nothing at all can ever shatter, we can be encouraged. It’s because of this relationship that we can rejoice, since Christ’s Spirit dwells in us and we have the same power in us that raised Christ from the dead. (Eph 1:19-21, Eph 13-14). When we understand that we individually are united with Christ and that we collectively are united with Christ, we are guarded against the isolation and loneliness so many have been feeling, and we realise we are on the winning team. (1 John 4:4)
The Comfort of God’s Love
Knowing we are loved totally and unconditionally by God is the most encouraging thing we can ponder on! Nothing at all can separate us from God’s love (Rom 8:35-39), a love that is both everlasting and unfailing (Jer 31:3, Ps 26:3). We often feel a failure and that God would not love us if He really knew us, but Ps 139 reminds us that God knows everything about us and still loves us! God is love (1 Jn 4:4, 8) and lavishes us His love on us (1 John 3:1), so no matter what is happening to us, we know that we are loved.
Partnership With God’s Spirit
Paul says we have fellowship with God’s Holy Spirit; we participate in Him or partner with Him. Rom 8:5-9 shows us the blessings which are available to us through our partnership with the Spirit are ‘life and peace’, Paul says. We are brought into fellowship with God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and His Spirit confirms in our hearts that we are children of God. Again, these are the truths which need to occupy our thoughts and reflections, for these truths have the power to transform how we live – not in anxiety, fear, dread and condemnation, but in freedom, peace, joy and life.
Tenderness & Compassion
Many of us struggle to show tenderness and compassion, often because we have not really experienced these in our own lives. Maybe we’ve lived by strict rules; maybe we only think of God as the Father who punishes His children when they step out of line. The Bible shows us a God who is ultimately full of tenderness and compassion, however. Isaiah likens God to a mother: ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!’ (Is 49:15) Over and over again, He is described as compassionate: ‘As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.’ (Ps 103:13-14) We see a God who cares; it says in Matthew 9 of Jesus, ‘When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (Matt 9:36) Later, as He entered Jerusalem, he wept over it (Luke 19:41); He cared passionately for people. Matthew tells us that He fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy, ‘A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out.’ (Is 43:3, Matt 12:20) That’s the kind of God we have.