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Jesus’ Counterculture Revolution, Part 1
Now, in our nation, the era of the 1960’s was an era of Cultural Revolution, and it’s amazing to me that the 60’s were now 40 to 45 years ago. It’s amazing because I lived through the 60’s. I just can’t believe it’s been that many years since that era in our country. But if you weren’t there during the 60’s, I will remind you that it was a time of counterculture revolution in America, and that effect, and that impact, that idea of revolution, even invaded the believing community. The believing community liked to talk about the “Jesus Revolution.” Also, for example, on June 21, 1971, the Time magazine came out with on its cover “The Jesus Revolution.” And so, as believers, we were talking a lot in that era about the ultimate revolution.
Now, there was a lot in the 60’s…if you were alive, you’ll know this…that was quite a bit off base, but one thing that was accurate about that time is that Jesus calls His followers to a counterculture revolution, and He is really doing that in the book of Philippians, in the second chapter. In fact, I have entitled the message today…Jesus’ Counterculture Revolution. Or we could subtitle it…To Toot or Not to Toot. Now, when I say that, the tooting I’m talking about is tooting our own horn. The culture says we are to toot our own horn. Jesus comes along, and He says to us, “No, you are not to toot your own horn.”
As we ended our study of chapter 1, we ended with this idea that as believers, as followers of Jesus, we are to live a life that is worthy of the gospel. As we come to chapter 2, he is going to unpack that idea further. What does it mean for us to live a life that is worthy of the gospel? If you have your Bibles open, I would like to read the first four verses of chapter 2. I invite you to follow along in your Bible as I read what Paul says here.
He says, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
We have entitled our study of Philippians Spiritual Essentials for a Joy-Full Life, and as we come to chapter 2, the essential he wants to bring up is an essential mindset we are to have as we follow Jesus. So, we want to talk about Jesus’ counterculture revolution, and we’re going to see three parts to this. Number one, we see the motivation for our involvement in this counterculture revolution; we see that in verse 1. Then we see in verses 2-4, the call to this counterculture revolution. And then we see the example of the counterculture revolution in verses 5 and following.
So, what we’re going to do today is really have part one of Jesus’ counterculture revolution. We’re going to look at the first two aspects…the motivation and the call…and then next week, Lord willing, we’ll look at the example in verses 5 and following.
So, we have Jesus’ counterculture revolution. What is the motivation though for me to participate in this? Well, we see it in verse 1, and you’ll notice verse 1 begins with the word, therefore. He is connecting it back to what he’d been talking about before previously…how we are to live a life worthy of the gospel. But I want you to see there is a fourfold motivation here, and you have four phrases that in the New American Standard begin with the word if…if, if, if, if.
In the original language, there are different ways to construct a conditional, or if clause. This is one that is called the first-class condition. That means…even though it looks like an if to us…it is assumed to be true. Or we could accurately translate it since. “Since there is encouragement in Christ, since there is consolation of love, since there is fellowship of the Spirit, since there is affection and compassion.” This is our motivation, and let’s look at it.
The first part is where he says, “Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ.” If there is any encouragement that has come to us by belonging to Christ, that becomes a motivation to be a part of the counterculture revolution. I really believe that what Paul is telling the believers here, and he is telling us this, is this: remember your spiritual story. Those in Philippi had a spiritual story. You remember the jailer. The guy was just doing his job, and guarding the prisoners in the cell, and there was this giant earthquake, and the walls came tumbling down, and the prisoners were released, and he was saying to them, “What must I do to be saved, to be delivered, from judgment?” And suddenly, the guy who was just doing his job comes to know the living God personally.
And then there was the story of course of the slave girl who had been possessed by demons and was being used to make money for individuals, and she was delivered from all of that, and that was her spiritual story. And really, what Paul is saying is if we’re going to participate in this counterculture revolution, we need to remember our encouragement from belonging to Christ. We need to remember our spiritual story, and that is a good thing to do from time to time.
I remember my spiritual story. I can still remember as a young man being very troubled about my future. I was very concerned about not only the future of the country, but my future beyond the door of death. And there was just this uncertainty, this, really, wall of uncertainty that was all around me. And then, hearing about Christ, I chose to turn to Him and to trust in Him, and you know what? I changed…my life changed because of that! I felt safe. I felt secure. There was a sense of certainty. No matter what happened to me, I knew what my ultimate destiny was going to be.
So, part of the motivation of being involved in the counterculture revolution is that we are to remember our spiritual story, and that would be a good thing for you to do…just to let your mind to go back and remember how God has worked in your life.
Second part of our motivation, he says, “If there is any consolation of love…” The New Living Translation says, “If there is any comfort from His love…” And there is! He loves you unconditionally. That means warts and all! That means with all your shortcomings! That means with all of our mess-ups! There is incredible consolation and comfort from the love of Jesus Christ, the way He loves us.
And then, he says, “If there is any fellowship of the Spirit…” And there is. “If there is any partnership in the Spirit…” One amazing thing is…I hope you never get over it, and that is this…God Himself through the person of the Holy Spirit lives inside of you if you know Him personally. That, men and women, is awesomely amazing! He is there called as our Helper, present with us forever, empowering us and producing His spiritual fruit in our lives.
You see, if there is any encouragement from belonging to Christ, and any comfort from His love, and any fellowship from the Spirit, and the way He is working…and then he says as the fourth part of this, “If there is any affection…” the NIV says tenderness, “…and compassion.” And there is! When you look at God, that is what He is. He is a God of tenderness and compassion. Just think about His mercy. You and I do not receive what we deserve to receive. He extends mercy to us and His grace. We get far more than we ever deserve because we have a God who is tender and gracious to us.
Here is what Paul is saying…those are the incentives for action on our part. Those are the things that motivate us to respond to the call in verses 2 to 4. Now, here is what I want you to see. That call that is being given to you and to me has dual prongs to it. One is it’s a call to unity. We see that in verse 2. Secondly, it is a call to humility and unselfishness, and we see that in verses 3 and 4. So, when we’re talking about being involved in Jesus’ counterculture revolution, we’ve seen what the motivation is. Now, I want to see what the call is.
The first part is a call to unity. Look at verse 2. He says, “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Now, I want you to see what he is doing here. He is calling us as followers of Jesus to unity, but not to uniformity. There is a difference between the two. He is not calling us to be clones. He is not calling us to dress alike, and to think alike, and to sound alike.
He is not calling us all to be like me…especially the guys, you know, where your hair is gelled [use hair gel] back. Now, the world would be a better place if that were true for all of us males. Let me tell you, guys, you would be doubly debonair if your hair was gelled back! But that is not what he is calling us to. He is not calling us to uniformity. He is calling us to unity.
When we went to the Weekend to Remember [marriage conference], this time in Corpus Christi, my co-speaker who you pray for, but have never really had a chance to meet, was a guy by the name of Greg Speck. I’ve spoken with Greg before. To some of you, I have described Greg Speck this way…Greg Speck is Dave Robbins [Dave is funny and “crazy”] on steroids. Okay? If you know our youth pastor Dave Robbins, and that is Greg Speck.
See, I don’t like liver, and I absolutely do not like raw oysters. Now, we have a team dinner. We went out to the team dinner, and Greg Speck orders one-half dozen raw oysters on the half-shell as an appetizer, and I’m over there almost gagging at the other end of the table. You see, we’re very different. God doesn’t call us to uniformity, but He calls us to unity. Greg and I have different styles, but what we do throughout the weekend is we are affirming one another in our differences. That is what unity is all about. Here is the difference…uniformity is really an external thing. Unity is really an internal thing. Uniformity is based on outward appearance. Unity is based on an attitude of the heart.
Now, this becomes very, very, very practical because, you see, at Philippi, way back when Paul was writing this, and at Wildwood Community Church today, there were personality clashes. Yeah! There were strained relationships. There were frayed feelings people had between one another. There was even friction among friends. That was going on then, and it goes on now, because you see, we are different, but the call is not to uniformity; it’s a call to unity.
So, what should we do if all that is true…that we have these clashes and strains and frayed feelings and friction? Well, notice what he says. “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind.” I think really what he is saying here is that we need to be united in our core beliefs. Okay, some of us gel, some of us don’t gel, some of us have nothing to gel, but we need to be united in our core beliefs! God is the Creator. We didn’t show up here by accident. He created this world. That is a core belief.
We have a core belief about the Scriptures, about the Bible, that this is God’s truth. This is the Book that we follow. We have a core belief about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one can come to the heavenly Father except they come through the person of Christ. And we have a core belief that we need to be committed to about, the gospel of Jesus Christ, that is the key to changing hearts and changing lives.
So you see, there is going to be some differences, and there is going to be some frictions, but we need to be united in our core beliefs. And not only that, but unity means we are maintaining the same love. His love…this is an amazing thing that we get to have a part of…His love flows through us to other people. We need to maintain that, and we need to be…he goes on to say…”united in spirit.” The New Living Translation says, “Working together with one heart.” We need to have that all-for-one-and-one-for-all mentality. That we have one another’s backs [protect one another]! That is what unity means. It’s not uniformity; it’s unity.
Then he says, lastly there in verse 2, we are to be “intent on one purpose.” Now, what is the one purpose every person in this room is to have? Well, it is, I think, unveiled for us later on in chapter 2, in verse 11, in the very last number of words of that verse, where it says, “to the glory of God the Father.” That is the one purpose we are to have, to glorify God! That He would be honored.
You want to talk about revolution, men and women…listen, if we are all focused and united on core beliefs, and we have His love flowing through each of us, and we are all for one and one for all, and we have one another’s backs, and our whole aim is to glorify God and to make Him look good, that is revolutionary! Do you know that a united church family is a formidable force in the culture of this world?
So, let me just ask you a personal question that you can ponder…How on board [do you agree] with this are you? How in line [consistent] with this are you? Are you focused on being united in our core beliefs, and allowing His love to flow through us, being all for one and one for all, and just have the whole aim of everything that goes on in your life to glorify God and make Him look good? I wonder if that would make a difference.
I read this week about a church in Dallas, Texas, a pretty large community in our country, and this church in Dallas had a very public and very bitter rift. What happened is the church was virtually splitting right down the middle. Two different sides each filed a lawsuit to dispossess the other group from the church facilities. So, you see what is going on here. You have this huge church split. This side filed lawsuit that this side would not have any access to the church facilities anymore, and this side did exactly the same thing.
And of course, eventually, through some legal decisions, one side lost. So, they all packed up, left, and of course, went, and started another church. Now, here is what is interesting about that. Some people who were investigating the situation said they wanted to trace back to where this all had begun. How did this happen that a church would split in half like this, and file lawsuit against one another, and throw the other group out?
You know what they found out? They traced it back to a church fellowship meal where one elder received a smaller slice of ham than the child who was next to him in the line. And, men and women, that is how it all started! Now, let me ask you the question…Would it have ended differently if that church family had been united and focused on their core beliefs, that they had been allowing His love to flow through them to other people, that they had been all for one and one for all, and their whole aim was to glorify God and to make Him look good? Yeah, that whole story wouldn’t have even happened.
By the way, I want to say this. Heavens to Betsy [my goodness], when we have a newcomer lunch afterwards, could we be very careful about the size of the servings? We don’t want anything like that going on here. You can have more than me, alright, if you’re coming.
So, we have a call here as part of this counterculture revolution; it’s a call to unity, but it also is a call to humility and unselfishness. Notice verses 3 and 4. It’s part of the counterculture revolution. He says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”
Now, I think we can all agree and recognize the selfishness in our culture. Right? We all recognize there is selfishness in our culture. It’s the me-myself-and-I syndrome. It’s the thing that Toby Keith sings about when he says, “I want to talk about me…me, me, me.” There is selfishness in our culture. The culture is saying, “You have to look out for number one. It’s dog-eat-dog [everyone looks out for himself only] out there. You claw your way to the front. You go get the biggest piece of ham.” That is the culture that tells us that. “Grab for all the gusto you can get. Not what anyone else can get, but what you can get.” There is selfishness in our culture, and I think we recognize that.
But we also need to recognize the selfishness that is in our flesh. It was in 2002, in the beginning of the year, when we first came into this facility, and I was just recovering from very significant surgery in my life, so I wasn’t a part of the picture we took, but we gathered everybody together as best we could. We took this giant picture.
Now, let’s just imagine we were going to do the same thing today. We were going to just time out on the service. Let’s get everybody gathered together, and stand here, and we’ll take a picture of everybody. Now, if we did that, and then we showed you the picture, who is the first person you would look for? Yourself, right? Because we’re selfish! We like things our way. Have you ever noticed that in your life?
I think it would just be therapeutic for all of us just to go ahead and admit it right now that I am selfish. Let’s just say that out loud together. We’re going to say, “I am selfish.” Are you ready? Here we go…I am selfish. Let’s do it one more time…I am selfish. Don’t you just feel better now? Confession is good for the soul. We recognize selfishness in our culture. We need to recognize selfishness in our flesh.
Now, with that in mind, did you realize how radical the revolution is that Jesus is calling us to here? Look again at what it says in verses 3 and 4. He says, “Do nothing from selfishness.” Nothing! “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.” What does he mean by empty conceit? Well, I think it’s illustrated well by the Irish playwright Oscar Wilde. One time, he was crossing a border, and he was asked, “Do you have anything to declare?” And he said, “Only my genius.” That really, men and women, is empty conceit, where we’re just sort of pumped by our own vanity.
Many of you have heard about onomatopoeic words. They’re words that sound like what they describe, and there is an onomatopoeic word Paul uses a lot in the book of 1 Corinthians. In fact, it’s six times in the book of 1 Corinthians, and it’s the word physioo. And it really is translated most frequently puffed up. It’s a word that…like if you took a balloon and you go phfft, you almost hear that physioo going on.
The idea of empty conceit is this, that as you take something like this balloon and you blow it up bigger, the emptiness on the inside just keeps getting bigger because that is all that is in here. See, someone is pumped up with their own vanity. What he is really saying is, and when we live out our lives, we do nothing from selfishness or from empty conceit.
But notice verse 3. He says, “But…” rather “…with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves.” Humility is something that ought to mark your life and mine as a follower of Jesus Christ. In fact, in 1 Peter 5:5, Peter writes to those believers, and he says, “Clothe yourselves with humility…” put on those clothes “…toward one another.” Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.
Now, humility is often misconstrued. Humility, biblically, doesn’t mean we have a worthless mindset about ourselves. “I’m just nothing! I’m dirt, I’m trash, I’m like a worm that should be groveling all the time.” That is not what humility means. Humility does not mean we think less of ourselves; it means we think of ourselves less. Humility is not self-hate. Humility, biblically, is self-forgetfulness.
Humility is not where I say, “Hey, I’m the MVP of the Humble Bowl, baby. Yeah, you’d better believe it, and I’m proud to say that I’ve always managed to maintain my humility very well.” That is not what it means. And so, you say, “Well, what does it really look like? What does humility look like?”
Well, we have right here in these verses the practical outworking of what humility looks like. It’s right here. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind…” here it comes, look at it, don’t miss it, “…regard one another as more important than yourselves.” That is what humility does. “Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” The New Living Translation says, “Don’t only think about your own affairs, but also the interests of others.”
You might jot down Romans, chapter 12, verse 10. Very, very interesting statement he writes to the believers there. He says this: “Give preference to one another in honor.” Now, that is a counterculture revolutionary statement. “Give preference to one another in honor.” Jesus said it this way, “If you lose your life, you’ll find it.”
There was a Scottish pastor who described an amazing thing that he noticed that happened during the era of World War II. He said he knew sanitariums both in England and in Scotland that during the era of World War II had to close because of a lack of people in them, a lack of patients in them. What had happened to many of those patients is that opportunities to help others, like during air raids, virtually cured them.
In fact, at one time, he pointed out a woman who was down in the third basement of a church which was serving as an air raid shelter and a Red Cross depot, and he said, “Look at that woman over there.” She was wearing the uniform of a volunteer nurse. He said, “Two years ago, that woman was an invalid and a problem to herself and to everyone else.” He said, “You ought to watch her now when the siren sounds, and instantly she goes on the job, often working all night long caring for the injured and the dying.” And he said, “Everyone loves her now.” She began to immerse herself in a cause, and she found life. She got outside of herself. She became oriented to serving others. She became focused on the interests and the needs of others, and it changed her life.
I want you to think about it for just a moment. Can you imagine for a moment the revolution that would happen in our culture and in our town and the far-reaching impact it would have if people started to do this? This is radical cultural revolution! If people began to regard one another as more important than themselves, and not just looking out for their own interests, but also for the interests of others, would that make a difference? Oh, you’d better believe it!
Think about the business world for a moment. Would that have a far-reaching impact in the business world if business leaders were not looking out for their own personal interests, but also for the interests of others? If they were regarding the people they were working with as more important than themselves, would that make a difference? We all know a lot of what has been going on in the culture. Just imagine the revolutionary change that would bring.
Would it make a difference in the political arena? Would it make a difference in the political arena if the leaders of the political arena regarded other people as more important than themselves? And if they were looking out not for their own personal interests, but also for the interests of others, my goodness, we wouldn’t recognize the place.
Would it make a difference and have a far-reaching impact in your neighborhood if everybody in your neighborhood regarded everyone else as more important than themselves? And if they were looking out not only for their own interests, but also for the interests of their neighbors, would that make any kind of a difference?
Would it make a difference in our marriages and in our families if we had children saying their brothers and sisters were more important than themselves, and they were more interested in the interests and the needs of their brothers and sisters? What about husbands and wives? Would that make a difference if we were regarding one another as more important than ourselves, and we were looking out for their interests rather than our own interests?
Would it make any difference in the Church of Jesus Christ if we were committed to regard one another as more important than me, and looking out for your interests rather than my interests? Would that make a difference? Could it keep a church from a massive church split? Absolutely…absolutely. Can you imagine the revolution and the far-reaching impact?
I want to share with you something that came to me second hand [it wasn’t said directly to me]. I don’t know who said this, and so, by the way, if you said this, this is just between you and the Lord. You know and He knows, but I don’t really know who said this. This was said from this person to another person who then just told me they’d heard this. And this is what came to me second hand. We’ve been involved in trying to mobilize, to develop, a children’s ministry facility that would allow us to double our ministry to young families. This first person said this. “You know what? Our kids are already grown, and we’re really not benefiting from a new children’s ministry facility, so we’re really not interested in participating in the process.”
And when this other person told me that they’d heard this, I’m thinking to myself…Wait a minute now! So are my children grown. My children aren’t going to be getting personally benefited by that, but that wasn’t the motivation! The motivation wasn’t my own interests; it was the interests of other people. We wanted to reach young families. We want to reach young hearts and see them confronted and responsive to the gospel message of Jesus Christ.
And just to be as frank with you as I could be, that kind of thinking is very out-of-step [out of sync] with Jesus’ counterculture revolution that he is talking about in these verses. You see, we are aware of our own flesh tendencies, and we are aware of what our current culture is, and here is what Jesus is doing, men and women: He is calling us up. He is calling us up from where our culture is, and from where our flesh tends to focus, and He is calling us to unity, and He is calling us to humility and unselfishness.
And the motivation of all of that is the encouragement we get from belonging to Christ, and the motivation for unity and humility and unselfishness is the comfort we get from His unconditional love for us, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the presence of God living inside of our lives, and the tenderness, and the compassion, and the mercy, and the grace that He gives to us. That is our motivation to being called up to unity and humility and unselfishness. That is Jesus’ counterculture revolution, and it is a revolution for sure.
Now, as we conclude today, I want to talk about some life response we can all have right now. That involves, number one…set your sights, and number two…set aside. That is what we can all do. What do we mean by that?
1. Set your sights on our great Example. If you don’t believe me that this is what we’re being called to, we want you to take some time this week to look at our great Example in verses 5 to 11 of chapter 2. In fact, I want to encourage you, five times this next week to read those verses, to go and read verses 5 to 11, and set your sights on our great Example. If this is what our King did, why should the subjects of the King be any different.
Second life response…
2. Set aside your agenda this week to care for at least one other person. Now, we’re not being called to just put the interests of one person over ourselves, but it has to start somewhere. So, set aside your agenda this week to care for at least one other person…to compassionately meet their needs. Now, that could mean a lot of different things. That might mean for someone that you just listen to them. It might mean you do what they want to do rather than what you want to do. It might mean you give preference to them in honor. It might mean that someone has a very special need you can meet. Maybe you can babysit for a single parent who never gets a break, and set aside your agenda to care for at least one other person.
Let’s pray together: Father, we thank You for the truth of Your Word that occasionally rattles our cages [surprises and shocks us]. And, Father, we know what the motivation is. The motivation is really what You’ve done for us: the encouragement that we belong to You, and the comfort we get from Your love, and the presence of the Spirit in our life, and the compassion, and the mercy, and the grace, and the tenderness You show us, and that motivates us to want to be committed as individuals in a church family to unity and to humility and to unselfishness.
Father, we would pray that You’d call each one of us up this week, and that we would be a part of the revolution that Jesus Christ started and He wants to continue on, and it indeed is counterculture, but it leads to incredible glory and honor that comes to our heavenly Father when we operate this, and we want to honor Him, and we want Him to look good. And we pray these things in His name, Amen.