CULTIVATING SERVICE

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PHILIPPIANS 2.3–5 NIV

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:”

We have been hearing about cultivating certain characteristics in our spiritual lives to help us grow our faith.  We’ve covered life, faith, and goals.  Today we look at service.  What does it means to cultivate Christian service?

The text this morning lets us in on what Paul was hoping for when he addressed the people in Philippi.  To gain context, the Roman mindset was driven by dominance.  The Empire thrived on competition and rivalry.  Philippi was a city with great honor and prestige, being situated in the gold-producing area of Macedonia.  There was a temptation to neglect the larger good and look only to oneself.  Paul’s words, if followed, would secure within the heart and life of the Philippian believers a faith that would glorify God and serve the world around them.

Paul is cultivating within these people a Christ-like attitude and viewpoint, that pushes the people to interact with the world just as Jesus would.  But in order to do this, the mind and mindset of Jesus is required.  And therein lies the challenge.  We are immediately faced with the contrast of how the world sees things and how God sees things.

The starting point for having the mind of Jesus and cultivating service is in understanding that the world is broken.  The world knows that it has needs and that it needs to be fixed in some way, but it fails to understand that it can’t fix itself.  And when posed with the reality that Jesus is the answer, it bemoans God’s solution because that would force the world to sacrifice aspects it deems important or necessary.

Jesus and His work on the cross invite change that rarely ever sits well with the world.  And that is the point.  The change that God seeks in the heart of the world is a conformity to the heart and mind of God, something that brings glory to God, rather than the world.  Change from a worldly mind to a Godly mind is painful because we have lived for far too long on an ungodly diet.  It is the difference between living off of fast food and fresh-from-the-garden meals.

The change that God is making in us can be seen in three things Paul mentions in today’s text.  We’ll simplify them like this: think outside of yourself, value others and their needs, and have a Jesus-mind.  Each of these are godly characteristics that cultivate true Christian service.

THINK OUTSIDE OF YOURSELF

First, to think outside of yourself is an internal challenge.  We prayerfully seek change from God in the way we see ourselves and the world around us.  This kind of change will mean that we see ourselves as part of something bigger and that we have a part to play within that bigger picture and plan.  When we do that, we develop a desire to know our strengths and gifts and then use them for the benefit of others.

VALUE OTHERS AND THEIR NEEDS

Second, how we see people is important.  But, just how do we see other people in our minds?  Do we see them through a worldly lens, with all the categories and stereotypes that are placed on them?  Or do we see them as God sees them—created in His image and in need of loving redemption through Jesus?  If we value others as God does, we will be easily moved to care for their needs and serve them with a loving heart.  Seeing the world as God does begins prayerfully, asking that the Holy Spirit would change our hearts to be more like His.

HAVE A JESUS-MIND

And third, to have the mindset of Jesus means to live with the first two points in unison.  If the Holy Spirit can bring about the necessary change of looking outside ourselves and valuing others to the point of meeting their needs, then we will have a Jesus-mind.  The mind of Jesus is a Holy Spirit-led way of living, being mission-focused in all places and at all times.  It means to live sacrificially, knowing that life is geared toward loving other people to the heart of God.  A Jesus-mind looks for ways to get involved and share its gifts.  A Jesus-mind desires to grow, cultivating new gifts and ministries as it expands.  God desires that we have this mind within us and Paul challenges us to cultivate such a mind by growing in our love for Jesus.

As your go throughout the week, my hope is that you’ll assess your spiritual service.  Are you thinking outside yourself?  Do you value others and their needs?  Do you have a Jesus-mind, a mindset led by the Holy Spirit that desires to bring the world Jesus and His love?  These are important questions to ask because the answers will tell you whether or not you are really serving as God would have us serve.  Do you need to cultivate service?  Let’s ask the Lord to do that work in our lives now.

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