Parrots, Pandemic, and Purpose – 1 Peter 2:12

I have a three-year-old parrot that lives in my house. It’s actually quite entertaining. His hearing is impeccable, and his comprehension is impressive. On a regular basis, my wife and I will be talking about something random when we hear our phrases repeated – sometimes phrases that we never knew or intended to be heard by another and usually at the most inopportune time possible. More than that, our parrot doesn’t just repeat the words that we say, but he also repeats the attitude behind it as well! Whether we are at home or out and about, we have to be careful when our parrot is around because our household – like yours – can talk about things that just don’t need to be repeated outside of a family context.

As you’ve probably guessed by now, our little parrot doesn’t have feathers, a beak, or wings but has instead blonde hair, a contagious smile, and legs that carry him everywhere at a full sprint! And with all of that comes a set of ears that hear everything (though they don’t always listen…) and a mind that remembers everything (though he doesn’t always understand it). My son is hearing and repeating all sorts of things – some that make me laugh out loud and send up a silent prayer that the Lord will intervene with some kind of supernatural, situation-specific amnesia (parents of preschoolers know what I mean…)! 

“Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable…”

Every day my son is a witness to two adults who confess that Jesus is King of every area of their lives though he doesn’t understand what that means. He doesn’t understand that because, in New Testament theological terms, he is “Gentile” – a term that broadly describes those who are not God’s people.  What he sees and hears from us is something different than what he knows to believe and be. And what he sees and hears in us is forming an understanding of who Christ is and how to live for Him.

Now, if it weren’t for our God of grace (1 Peter 5:10), the pressure of that truth would be immense! But true it remains. What my son is learning right now from what he sees and hears is a lesson about God he will have with him for the rest of his life. After all, this may be (we hope!) the only pandemic he’ll ever encounter. Yet in a year where there are riots, injustice, racial tensions, Supreme Court decisions that are significant to Christian orthodoxy and orthopraxy, a presidential election, and a pandemic – the Whitney household is full of conversations that are teaching my son, whether I realize it or not, how Christians think, speak, and feel. What he hears me say about these things, what he sees me do with these ideas, and how he watches me feel during these conversations will echo in his mind in the days ahead: “This is how Christians conduct themselves”

In a nutshell: My son is watching my conduct and learning – either to reflect Christ as King or learning something else.

But this call on me as a dad is for a purpose – it is missional. My son does not yet know Jesus Christ. He knows me. And so, the reason God is calling me to keep my conduct honorable right now is simple:

“so that…they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

“… on the day of visitation” is a way of saying, “When they receive Jesus as well.” So Peter tells the people who are exiles and sojourners (2:11) as Christians, “Act honorably, so that when people who do not know God receive and believe the Gospel, they’ve seen Christ alive in someone already.” 

Right now, the little person in my house that doesn’t know Jesus Christ does know people who know Him, and he is watching to see the difference that Christ makes. One day (by the grace of God) salvation will be extended to my son. In that day, I hope he will find that the life he found in Christ he saw in us. I hope he’ll be able to say, “God is good! God has visited me and saved me, and I know what that looks like because I saw it in you.” 

There are really hard things happening all around us. Today, we get to live in a time where the difference Christ makes in the life of a believer should be obvious. Whether it’s those in your home or those outside of your home, God has a missionary purpose behind your conduct. Act honorably. Live in a way that loudly proclaims that you love Jesus most and love others more. And, perhaps, one day God will visit those around you. And in that day they will say, “God is good! I know what this is, because I saw it in you.”

How, today, can you live in a way that honors Jesus and others?

Jesus took the lead in our rescue

Jesus traded His life for death so that we might live through faith in Him. He offered His righteousness for our unrighteousness so that we might be fit for God’s family.

Who is Jesus?

The ancient church’s affirmation from the 4th century gives us an answer:

“We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.” (Nicene Creed)

Paul painted the picture of Jesus as glorious God and sovereign king from eternity to eternity, the suffering servant of God, and the Man of Sorrows.

“[Jesus] being in the form of God did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but He made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of man. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus took the lead in our rescue.

He humbled Himself in absolute obedience to God. He came to serve, not be served, even though He alone was worthy of service (Mark 10:45).

But this death was not merely a game of chess played in heaven’s courts or hell’s halls. This death was a very human humiliation for the rescue of sinners. Jesus willingly submitted Himself to death’s power, even though as God He was not subject to it. 

Jesus took the lead in our rescue.

He took upon Himself the cruelest form of death imaginable so that He might taste death for everyone. Why would the glorious God and sovereign, creating King of the universe become a man of such sorrows?

Jesus took the lead in our rescue.

He became a man and died upon a cross so that He might bring many to fellowship with God. 

“For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” (Hebrews 2:10)

Jesus took the lead in our rescue.

He died on the cross. The cross was the utter depth of Christ’s humanly humiliation. Through His death on the cross, Jesus brought rescue to sinners in need of salvation.

Jesus took the lead in our rescue

He, who owed no debt for sin, not only paid the debt He did not owe, but He also covered your debt forever. Jesus died in our place on the cross. 

Jesus took the lead for our rescue.

He took our place on the chopping block of sin as our substitute. Jesus came and died and rose again so that humanity might have the chance for a relationship with God.

Jesus took the lead in our rescue.

He traded His life for death so that we might live through faith in Him. He offered His righteousness for our unrighteousness so that we might be fit for God’s family (2 Corinthians 5:21).

If you have never traded your sins for Christ’s righteousness, isn’t it time?

Growing through Obedience

We taste the amazing love of God erupting in our soul when we relinquish our hold on comfort and delight in God’s commands.

Like a plant, there are necessary things that insure vitality and life. For a plant, sunshine, water, and good soil help a plant grow. For us, we grow through our obedience to God.

Jesus painted the picture of growth through His analogy of Himself as a vine and His followers as branches. He said that as long as the branches are connected to the vine, then the branches will grow and produce fruit (John 15:5). He then tells us that we abide in Him and abide in His love when we obey Him just as He obeyed His Father’s commands (John 15:10).

Jesus understood the necessity of obedience, and He sets the model for us to follow as His followers and as the church. 

“[Jesus], who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

Following the example of Jesus, we discover that we grow when we obey God.

God’s commands are more important than our comfort

One of the greatest enemies of obedience to God is our comfort. God’s commands become an inconvenience, like a young teenager delighting in the comfort of his bed on a Saturday morning more than doing what his mom or dad told him to do.

Jesus is and always has been God. But He willingly let go the glory of God’s throne in obedience to His Father’s mission. 

Jesus treasured God’s glory and purpose of salvation more than the rank and privilege of heaven’s glory. He gave up heaven’s comfort to bless us with salvation and joy. He gave up the reputation of glory for the garb of a man so that He might give us life and joy.

We taste the amazing love of God erupting in our soul when we relinquish our hold on comfort and delight in God’s commands.

No sacrifice is too great to fulfill God’s purposes

What is the line of obedience that we will not cross? For Jesus, there was no line that He would not cross to obey His Father.

Jesus, who is God, became a man.

His family, His childhood friends, and those who knew Him as an adult had no trouble understanding His humanity. They could see it with their own eyes. Although He is God, Jesus displayed the human qualities of emotion, thirst, struggle, pain, sorrow, and temptation.  

Jesus humbled Himself.

We can begin to understand Jesus Christ when we understand His humiliation. He took the lowest place as servant to God the Father and to humanity. He humbled Himself to die on the cross so that we might have life through Him.

Jesus obeyed to the point of death on a cross.

Jesus became obedient to the fullest measure possible. As a man, Jesus determined to take the lowest place in order to build the bridge between God and humanity. In obedience to God’s purpose, Jesus paid the supreme price for you and me. 

Jesus willingly submitted Himself to death’s power, even though as God He was not subject to it. He took upon Himself the cruelest form of death imaginable so that He might taste death for everyone. The cross was the utter depth of Christ’s humanly humiliation.  Through His death on the cross, Jesus brought rescue to sinners in need of salvation.

The cross is a call to give all that we are in service to God’s glory and honor every single day. The cross is sacrificial service for God and others. The cross is the picture, not of some little trouble that we have in this life, but a picture of Christ’s sacrificial death for sinners. The cross is the picture of our absolute surrender to obey God regardless the price. 

When we have this kind of obedience, we can’t help but grow!

Take the Plunge (by Lauren Bassett)

We must choose to take the plunge, and keep choosing every morning that Jesus is worth it, that the life He calls us to lead is of the greatest value because it brings Him honor.

My daughter is learning to swim this summer. We are slowly introducing her to the water in a whole new way, teaching her how to move her arms like leaping dolphins or little penguin wings, encouraging her to blow bubbles and kick as hard as she can.

But her favorite activity by far is diving for treasure. As a toddler, diving for treasure looks like putting a rock on the second or third pool step and encouraging her to reach down, necessitating a few moments where her breath is held and her face is in the water. She comes up sputtering, elated, and thoroughly aware that she just did something uncomfortable and intimidating.

We exclaim with pride how well she is doing, how brave she is. She has taken to it really quickly, and I hope that as she matures these moments of triumph over hard things plants a seed of determination and focus that produces fruit in other areas of her life. 

This past Sunday, Pastor Eric reminded us that Jesus is our greatest treasure. Immediately, my mind pictured that piece of granite on a plastic pool step. How true that image is for us grown ups, too.

In order to be with our greatest treasure, we are often called to a place of discomfort first. In Colossians 2, Paul speaks of the struggle he has, the desire that the church would grow and thrive even as he cannot be with them.

The priorities in his mind as he writes to them? Encouragement, hearts knit together in love, a destination of understanding all the Christ has for those who follow Him. Don’t you need those things today?

They sound so great, but all of them require us to put ourselves second.

We want so badly for someone to come alongside and encourage us that we hold our breath and don’t encourage others.

We want our hearts to be knit to others but we have to jump in and be vulnerable first.

We want to understand, but we have to put in the work and devote real time to Him, at the expense of something else. (Side note: join a LIFEgroup, y’all – that is where all of this happens.)

Trust, faith, hope, love for our neighbor above ourselves, all of these are unnatural to our flesh. We must choose to take the plunge, and keep choosing every morning that Jesus is worth it, that the life He calls us to lead is of the greatest value because it brings Him honor.

Take a deep breath, blow some bubbles, and reach with me for the treasure of His presence today.

Bring others to the Bridge

May we as children of the Father be constrained by His heart to reach our world with Christ’s love.

Our community is crisscrossed by bridges spanning the waters around us. These bridges join communities that are separated. For me and my wife, the bridge that spans the waters separated us from our daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter is a beautiful thing. 

The bridge that Jesus built to bring sinners to God is a beautiful thing. Because I have walked this bridge, believing on Jesus, I am now part of God’s family. I’m no longer separated from Him.

Those of us who have been brought near to God through faith in Jesus have been commissioned to bring others who are far from God to this bridge that Jesus has built. As followers of Jesus, we must do all that we can to help those who are separated from God draw near to Him through faith in Jesus.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

The term that is translated “let this mind” points to more than intellect or wisdom. It is a term in this context that points to purpose and intention. It is the way we live informed by the purpose of Christ Himself.

We must let go

As Jesus let go the throne of heaven to become a man, we must let go our own ambitions and embrace God’s ambition. 

If all we do is live for our own benefit, then we don’t have the mind of Christ. We must pursue God’s mission of love to perishing people. We live as the servant of God in service of His mission to perishing people.

We must humble ourselves

Just as Jesus humbled Himself in obedience to God’s mission, we must humble ourselves in obedience. 

We must live to serve God, not ourselves. Our obedience to God must be radical. Jesus called it out for us:

“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)

With a heart humbled before God, we obey Christ’s call to help those who are far from God find life through faith in Him.

We must cross the distance

God calls us to intersect with people who are living in the dungeon of life apart from Him. Jesus crossed the distance of heaven to earth so that earth-bound sinners might find heaven through Him. 

We just have to cross the street or the room. God refused to live in icy isolation from us. The infinite mobility of His love through Jesus calls us to cross the distance to those who are far from God.

Share the message.

In the end, we are not the bridge. We point people to the bridge, Jesus Christ. Our church exists to glorify God by intersecting with real people in real need for a real Savior.

So, we share the message of rescue. We share the good news.

This is the attitude that we must have that is the same as Christ Jesus. As the Shepherd searches for the one lost sheep, as the woman searches for the one lost coin, as the Father waits and prays for the return of the lost son, may we as children of the Father be constrained by His heart to reach our world with Christ’s love.

The Bridge

We could not reach God, so God in love determined to reach us. He sent Jesus to create the intersection, to build the bridge, between holy God and sinful humanity.

A bridge is the creation of an intersection between two separate points. It is a structure built to span across a previously uncrossable chasm.

There is a great chasm between holy God and sinful humanity. God is holy and righteous. We are people perishing in our sin. We can’t reach God, so Jesus came to build the bridge to God. The tools in His hand were the holiness of His heart and actions and the blood that He would spill.

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

We cannot reach God, so God determined to reach us.

Here is the scenario of our human dilemma. God is holy and sinless and perfect. He is God, above all and creator of all.

And we are encased in the death of our sin. We are corrupt and contaminated beyond our own repair. And the distance between God, who demands righteousness, and us, who are unrighteous, cannot be spanned through our efforts.

We strive to escape the emptiness of our soul and the chains that grip our heart because of sin. We work to build a bridge to God. The tools in our hand are the good works and religious duty that we embrace. Yet, try as we might, we fall short.

Paul was a person who sought to reach God through his own efforts. His life was a model of living in religious devotion and dedication. If anyone could reach God through morality or religious duty, Paul could have done it (Phil 3:4-7).

But he, and we, fall short.

We could not reach God, so God in love determined to reach us. He sent Jesus to create the intersection, to build the bridge, between holy God and sinful humanity.

Jesus became the bridge to God through the cross.

Jesus Christ left the throne room of heaven to intersect personally with humanity so that He might fulfill God’s mission. He is and always has been God.

The King of glory let go the glory of God’s throne to bridge the distance between God and humanity. He emptied Himself to become a servant, even though He remained the King of creation. Jesus, who is and always has been God, chose to become a real, physical man.

In obedience to God’s purpose, Jesus paid the supreme price for you and me. That’s the powerful scope of God’s love. He took your place on the chopping block of sin. He is our substitute.

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

The bridge between God and sinners was built by the wood of a cross and the blood of Jesus, the perfect sacrifice. If we believe on Jesus and repent our sin, then we can walk across the bridge into God’s family.

God Bless America

God’s blessing flows when the church lives for God’s fame!

Kate Smith is a name that younger generations do not know and older generations may have forgotten. But in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s she was one of the most well-known female personalities in radio and television. She broke barriers and entered the world of radio with a show bearing her name in 1931. In 1938 our nation was climbing out of the Great Depression and facing the rise of Hitler in Europe. In that same year, 1938, Kate Smith introduced a song written by Irving Berling, and it has become one of America’s most popular songs. 

“God bless America, land that we love. Stand beside her and guide her through the night with the light from above. From the mountains to the prairies, to the oceans white with foam. God bless America, our home, sweet home!”

We want God to bless America! I guess that’s what every follower of Jesus wants for the nation in which they live.

We desperately need the blessings of God in our world and in our nation. So, what can we do to preserve and perpetuate the blessings of God?

Peter helps us answer that question today.

“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation. Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:11-17)

Peter is talking to the church under pressure and persecution. Nero was in power and using the bodies of tortured Christians to light the streets of Rome. He gives us God’s truth about how the church should respond to a system of government hostile toward her.

Blessing flows when the church lives for God’s fame.

Higher than the towering Washington monument. Nobler than the highest office in the land. More majestic than the snow-capped peak of Mount McKinley. More powerful than the combined forces of executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government. Followers of Jesus Christ have the highest calling to live for God’s fame.  

I love the summary of commands in verse 17 because it gives us a handle on “right now” steps we can take to invite God’s blessing.

1. Honor all people.

The systems of injustice that were so dominant under Nero’s Roman rule are systems of injustice that can be seen throughout the history of the world. America is not immune to these unjust systems, especially in terms of racism.

The cry of African-Americans in our world today — “Black Lives Matter” — reflects the years of injustice that they have experienced. 

One antidote to injustice is honor. We should show proper respect for all people. This isn’t something that is optional for the church. This is a command from God through His Word!

Blessing flows when the church honors all people.

2. Love one another.

Loving one another shows our family ties. Those who are connected to God through faith in Jesus Christ will receive His nature. His nature demands that we love one another. 

As Jesus gave Himself without reservation to bless us with life, we must also give ourselves to bless one another. That is how to love the way He has loved us. By this, the world will know that we are His followers.

Blessing flows when the church loves one another.

3. Fear God.

Consumed by his own place in God’s plan, amazed by the miracle of God’s grace that changed him from the inside-out, Peter shared this powerful, identity-shaping truth. God has chosen us!

We once lived as nameless mass of men and women walking a wasteland wilderness. But Christ has given us His name. He has given us our identity in His family.

Now, part of God’s family, we live in the fear of the Lord. We live in supreme submission to God. He rules over our lives and our church in perfect love and righteousness. We adjust our lives to His will revealed in His Word.

Blessing flows when the church fears God.

4. Honor the king.

The king in Peter’s day was the despotic, neurotic rule of Nero. We shine as citizens when we honor government authority. Remember, our first allegiance is to Christ’s service. Yet, in service to Jesus, we show the proper respect to the government.

Our royal role is to represent the King. To show the world how good Jesus is by living and breathing for His honor. To share with the world that Jesus makes a difference in your life. To live openly and publicly for God’s good life that He has planted in our heart. And, as His royal representative on earth, we also honor governing authorities.

Blessing flows when the church honors the king.

The church has existed under many forms of government through history. Domitian in the 80s called for emperor worship, executing or exiling Christians when they didn’t worship the emperor. Septimus Severus in 202 forbade conversion to Christianity. In 250, Decius orders universal sacrifice and persecutes Christians who won’t participate. In 252, Callus does it again. In the 270s, Aurelian establishes the government religion, cult of the Unconquerable Sun. In 303, Diocletian begins the great persecution, ordering the destruction of church buildings and sacred texts, loss of the rights of Christians, forced to sacrifice to Roman gods or die.

Regardless the context in which we live, you and I have the royal role to represent Jesus Christ in our world. And it means that we must do no harm to His name. Do nothing to show the world that He is something other than great, good, gracious, and holy. 

Right now, would you begin killing conduct that demeans the praise of Jesus Christ?

Through the virtuous and proper behavior, the church will put a muzzle on those who are irrational in their vitriol against Christ and His followers. Our royal role is to represent the Jesus our King. To show the world how good Jesus is by living and breathing for His glory. To live openly and publicly for God’s good life that He has planted in our heart. To demonstrate and defend the absolute truth that God’s way is the only way to blessing.

God’s blessing flows when the church lives for God’s fame!

A Picture of Jesus

Before people read the Bible to get to know God, they’re going to read about Him in the pages of our daily lives. Before they see the true picture of Jesus in Scripture, they see the picture of Jesus portrayed in our lives.

Have you ever seen portraits of historical figures like George Washington or Galileo? Obviously, these portraits were painted by an artist long before digital photography. I wonder if the portraits look like the real-life George Washington or Galileo.

There are lots of different types of pictures that have been painted of Jesus throughout history. Of course, none were painted during His life, at least none that we know. But the most reliable portrait of Jesus that we see should be His followers living in the world every day. 

Are we living life so that people recognize Jesus through us? Do they see His love and holiness and righteousness? Do they hear His compassion? When people see us, do they see Jesus in us?

That’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote,

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)

If we’re going to represent Jesus faithfully, then we need to get our minds right. Our attitude toward God and life and people around us needs to match the attitude of Jesus. 

Like Jesus, our attitude toward God is obedience and worship.

Like Jesus, our attitude toward life is the theater for God’s glory.

Like Jesus, our attitude toward people is selfless service filled with love.

Someone has said that before people read the Bible to get to know God, they’re going to read about Him in the pages of our daily lives. For many, before they see the true picture of Jesus in Scripture, they see the picture of Jesus portrayed in our lives.

Let’s paint a beautifully true picture of Jesus for others to see today!

The Special Sauce in our Relationships

Serving others is the special sauce of authentic relationships.

When I was a little boy, I loved a burger that you could get at a restaurant that had a “special sauce.” No doubt, many family recipes of special dishes call for a secret ingredient as well. 

When it comes to relationships, God tells us that there is a special sauce that causes them to flourish. We hear it in Paul’s words in his letter to the church in Philippi.

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

Serving others is the special sauce of authentic relationships.

Let go selfish ambition and conceit

We can get caught in the vicious grip of self-centered thinking and living.

So many times in elementary school, there were people who pushed to get to the front of the line. We see it played out in the adult world as well. There was a person who jumped in front of everyone else to get their coffee, ignoring those who had been standing there waiting patiently. 

That’s “selfish ambition.” It is the desire to put yourself first.

To serve others and have authentic relationships, we have to jettison selfish ambition. This isn’t optional for followers of Jesus. It is essential!

Consider serving others more important than serving self. 

When people in the uniform of United States military enter a room they often get immediate respect. People want to shake hands. They smile. They thank them. It happens at church. It happens in restaurants. It happens wherever they go. 

While in uniform, these men and women get instant respect because everyone knows that they are serving. They have given up many personal freedoms so that they can serve their country. These men and women sacrifice for the benefit of others, most of whom they do not even know.

God calls us to that kind of sacrifice in relationships with others. We must exhibit a servant’s disposition as we love one another and serve one another for the sake of God’s gospel. We must seek to live in accordance to humility’s demands and seek to serve others.

Be humble. 

Joyful discipleship means that we humble ourselves. We put on the apron of humility, one of the primary virtues in Christ’s Kingdom.

Jesus saves us through His sacrificial work of love upon the cross, an act of humility. Christ’s model of humility demands humility from us toward others, so that we serve others the way Christ has served us.

Give up your place. 

With a humbled heart, we focus our energies on what will serve others and bless others. We determine to honor others in preference to ourselves. This is not momentary politeness, but it is a daily discipline to fix our eyes upon others rather than only upon ourselves. We find joy in our relationships when we give up our place in line simply to bless another.

In the climate of our culture today, so often we see people (even in the church) crying out, “What about my rights, my place, my privilege?” The special sauce in relationships that Jesus models and Paul commends here is different. 

Followers of Jesus, give up the supremacy of what is in my best interest for “how can I be a blessing to others?” Set aside making ourselves the priority by making the blessing of others a priority. And this makes all the difference!

Recipe for Relationships (Philippians 2:1-2)

Because Jesus is our model in relationships, we should love others the way He’s loved us.

If we want the best cookies, we need to follow the recipe that makes the best cookies. If we want the best relationships, we need to follow the recipe that Jesus gave us. Paul highlights for us the recipe for relationships modeled by Jesus and commanded to His followers.

“Therefore, if there is any consolation in Christ, any comfort of love, any fellowship of the Spirit, any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2)

Biblical relationships are built on the principle that we seek to serve others with the sacrificial love of Jesus.

My grandparents had that kind of attitude. For decades, they gave up time, resources, energy, vacations to serve Rosie, Lizzie, Millie, Agnes, and others. They would take these ladies to the doctor, the grocery store, and any other appointments. Each day, they would make a journey down the road to check on them to see if they needed anything. My grandparents served others with the sacrificial love of Jesus.

What are the ingredients that lead us to serve others the way Jesus models?

We have encouragement in Christ

Jesus inspires and encourages us to live with love toward others. After all, His love led Him to lay down His life in service to others, even sinners (Rom 5:8).

Because Jesus is our model in relationships, we should love others the way He’s loved us. Think about it. The loudest voice in our heads and hearts must be Jesus! And Jesus encourages us to love others passionately and sacrificially.

We have the comfort of love

The longing of every human heart is to love and to be loved. That yearning has been fulfilled for those who belong to God through faith in Jesus. His love surrounds our soul with the comfort of His goodness and faithfulness. His love is a “true north” for the hurting heart and longing soul.

This is the love that fills our hearts. This is the love that flows from God through us toward others. Just as God’s love comforts us, our love becomes a source of comfort for others. Is that a picture of your love toward others? 

We have fellowship of the Spirit

There’s no competition between two people who are controlled by the same Spirit. When two believers are surrendered to Christ’s Spirit, they connect with one another. There is community and belonging. This is the supernatural union and partnership by which the Spirit moves us forward in a common bond. It is the fellowship that brings our hearts together.

We have God’s compassion and mercy

God has poured out His compassion and mercy to rescue us from our sin through Christ. The compassion that bled from the heart of Christ runs through the hearts of His people toward one another.

When it comes to our relationships, are we known for compassion and mercy? Friends, Jesus has changed our lives with His glorious love. He has given us the ingredients for flourishing relationships. The way we relate to others must reflect that changed life!