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About this series
I Choose Love
How to Build Lasting Relationships
One of Jesus' last commands, and one of God's greatest delights is that His children, those who call Christ Lord, would love one another. But we all know loving other people doesn't come naturally, and it's not always easy. In this series, Chip teaches us, from the book of Philippians, Chapter 2, how to choose love and build relationships that last.More from this series
“One of God’s greatest joys is to see His children love each other.” Isn’t that amazing? The God of heaven, the God that created the stars, the God who made us, the God who sent God the Son to die in our place – one of His greatest, greatest joys is when we love one another.
And I know as a parent, isn’t that true for those of you who are parents? I had twin boys. And Theresa and I have sons who are twins and Eric and Jason and they are five minutes apart. For the first eighteen years of their life, at times, they dressed the same, they had the same classes, the same room, the same everything. Did they fight. I mean, fought. I mean, to the point of physical.
And I’ll never forget the time we came home from a little getaway, a couple days. And, “Well, how did everything go?” “Oh, things were great, things were great.” And they were standing funny against a wall or something and I didn’t even notice it and we had a great time. And years later, you know when families get together and adult kids tell you what really happened? “Oh, Dad, we couldn’t believe you and Mom didn’t even notice that Eric and Jason got in a fight and Eric went to punch him and he ducked and he put his fist through the wall and we patched it and painted it. We were so afraid you would find out.”
And I remember Theresa saying once, because she grew up with two sisters. She said, “Do you think they’ll ever, ever love each other?” And I said, “Honey, this is normal stuff. Yes, we have to set boundaries and discipline,” but I just want you to get that God’s heart, it breaks His heart when we fight. It breaks His heart when we have feelings inside that are resentful and bitter and when you have an unresolved relationship with another believer, another brother, another sister.
Maybe you did business with them. Maybe you were in a small group with them. Maybe it was in another church, I don’t know. But I’m going to ask you, get your heart open. God wants to deal with, because it matters to God. Not just because it brings Him joy, but it’s so important, it’s such a priority to Him, if we could eavesdrop the very last night when Jesus was praying in John 17.
You read that prayer, “Father, Father, make them one even as We are One. You in Me and I in You and Us in them. Father, I pray that as I leave, that You would cause there to be a supernatural unity in order that the world would know.”
That’s a prayer that only you can answer in your home. Only I can answer in my relationships. And not only does God the Father find joy when we love one another, and God the Son prays passionately and commands us to love one another and says the gospel, it’s validity is based on whether the world sees us love each other. The apostle Paul commands it.
And our study in Philippians chapter 2, follow along, I’m reading in the Phillips Translation. He says, “Now, if you experience Christ, if there is any encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of His Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy,” and then here’s the command, “Make My best hope for you,” or, “My joy come true. Live together in harmony, live together in love, as though you only had one mind and one spirit before you.”
So just before you open those notes, I want you to think about: is there any relationship that you don’t have harmony, that is out of sorts? And I’m pushing a little bit because we tend to push these down. It could have been two months ago, two years ago, could be twenty years ago, could be an in-law situation or a brother or sister you haven’t seen in twenty years. God wants to get a hold of our hearts and our life. And Philippians chapter 2 is going to teach us how we can choose love and experience it.
Now, as you open your notes, I want you to see the structure of this passage. First of all, there is a very clear context. There is conflict without and there is conflict within. The conflict without, there was persecution, there was difficulty, there was pressure.
These Philippian Christians – just like Paul – they were getting intimidated, they were getting persecuted, they were having struggles and conflicts from the pagan world and even from some Jewish false teachers.
Not a lot different than what we see happening more and more and more today is that people are intimidating Christians. People are becoming more afraid as believers to stand up and stand strong because of external pressure.
But in this particular church, there is conflict within. We will learn more about it in chapter 4 when we meet a couple ladies that apparently had a real conflict that was causing a rift throughout the whole church. And you and I have both seen that happen in a small group or in a family or in a Sunday school class.
And so, then, there’s a very, very interesting command. I gave the words: live in authentic, Christ-empowered unity. Now, the way he says it is, “Make my joy complete.” He said, “You have brought me great joy, you came to Christ. Remember? I was in that Philippian jail and we had fellowship and you all came to know the Lord and there’s this tremendous movement happening in this church.” He said, “So I have received joy. Now, make my joy complete,” because since Paul is now in Rome, some things have happened, like happen in lots of churches and lots of families and lots of small groups.
This person thinks it ought to be this way and this person says, “No,” and, “Well, you said this to my daughter,” “Well, this is how you treated my son,” “Well, every time you come, you think you’re the hottest stuff and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” and there it goes.
And so Paul says, “Make my joy complete.” And he says, “I want there to be authentic, Christ-empowered unity.” In other words, he says, “I don’t want just you to put up with each other. I don’t want it to just be superficial. From the heart. I want you to love one another, resolve the conflicts, forgive one another, care for one another in a way that Christ has cared for you.”
Look at this very, very interesting structure. The structure here, he says, notice it says – there is an “if/then.” In Greek, and I won’t get too detailed here, but there’s called “conditional clauses” and we have them in English as well. But what I love about the Greek language, it’s so clear, there are three or four types of conditional clauses.
So when it says, “If/then; if/then,” you know for sure what they are talking about. This is called a “first class condition,” and the idea is it’s assumed to be true. And, so, notice what he says. He goes, “If there is any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,” and you could translate all that – “since you have encouragement in Christ, since you have comfort, since you have fellowship, since you have tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by,” notice after these four incentives, “be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in Spirit, intent on one purpose.”
It’s interesting here – he is going to tell us that unlike the golden rule, which is: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” his premise goes a little bit differently.
I call it the “platinum rule.” Do unto others as God has already done unto you.” In other words, the entire premise, what happens in conflicts and struggles and relationships is we think just horizontal and, “They did that,” and, “they don’t deserve that,” and, “when she apologizes,” or, “when he does that,” or, “when one of my kids comes back and really says, ‘Dad, I’m really sorry and I understood this or I understood that,’” or, “what they said at that last Thanksgiving or that family reunion, I’ll never talk to them again unless what they need to do,” he said, “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.” He said, “Here’s what I want you to get: the basis of loving people isn’t how they have treated you – good or bad. The basis of our love is a choice. I choose love.”
And here’s the basis of the choice. The basis of the choice is: this is how God has loved you. He has encouraged you. He has come alongside you. He has forgiven you. He has been tender. You now have the fellowship. He has come to take up residence in you. He has sealed you with His Spirit. He has adopted you. He has given you spiritual gifts.
Tenderness and compassion. The word “tenderness” here is splagchnon. It has the idea, it’s rooted in the idea of something deep within the bowels. There’s something tender, deep in the character of God that you are His treasure. And then the compassion is an outward, external evidence of an action that you so matter that He did something. And what He did was He chose to go to the cross. He chose to love you and me when we were His enemies.
“While we were yet enemies, Christ died in our place,” Paul tells us in Romans 5:8. And, so, the basis, the incentives, all four of these incentives – this is how you have been authentically, deeply, unconditionally loved. Now, make my joy complete and be unified authentically, from the heart.
And now he is going to show us exactly what biblical unity looks like. Number one, he says, “Be like-minded,” or, “of one spirit.” Literally, it means: think the same things. And the focus here is on truth. See, genuine unity is built on truth.
It’s thinking, it’s content, it’s doctrine. “These things are true.” So often, and I see it more and more today, it’s unity is sort of like, “Oh, let’s just love everyone. Don’t judge anyone.” It’s pseudo-unity. “Who are we to say anything? Let’s just let this slide.” Real unity demands truth. It demands truth about what the Scripture says about morality, it demands truth about what the Scripture says about sexuality, it demands truth about doctrine when it talks about the very narrow way to go to heaven and by what Christ has done in Him alone.
But it’s truth, it’s held in agreeable, winsome, non-defensive – and it’s not a way of pushing it on other people and it’s never argumentative. But it’s unwavering. Steadfast, striving, battling for the truth, standing firm, lovingly, kindly, winsomely. But refusing to move off. He says, “Unity is rooted in truth.”
Second, he says, “Maintaining the same love.” He says, “It’s not just about the truth.” This phrase here is, “Have the same love,” mutually love one another the way God has loved you – honestly, sacrificially.
We talk a lot about Romans 12 here as the profile of what it is to be a disciple. And in Romans chapter 12, there’s a section in the middle about loving one another and it says, “Outdo one another in honor. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.” This is the idea. This isn’t like some, “Yes, well, you know, she’s not as spiritual as I am and I guess they made a mistake and so I’ll treat them and I’ll forgive them because I am superior.”
And he said, “No, this has got to come from the heart.” Biblical unity has to do with a genuine spiritual transformation that flows from an internal passion and concern that God gives you because you have received it, now you give it.
Third, notice, it has the idea of: united in spirit. Literally, the phrase is: like souled. It means to have a common heart. Not just that you care. A common heart. That you’re real, that you’re authentic, no superficiality.
And then the last one here is: intent on one purpose. It’s a unity that you say, “We are in it together. We are going to resolve our issues. What God has done for me, I am commanded to pass on to you. Paul, we are going to make your joy complete. And here’s how we are going to do it: we are going to be one mind – truth; we are going to be one heart, care for one another; we are going to have one soul, we are going to connect; and we have a common purpose: the gospel going forward.”
People being loved, the poor being fed, people with HIV knowing someone cares, the people that are struggling with sexual identity issues know there is a church somewhere that cares, that wants to help, that doesn’t condemn, that doesn’t bend on the truth, but actually wants to help people that are marginalized and struggling.
This is what he is talking about. And it’s that kind of love that turned the world upside down, and continues to turn the world upside down family by family, small group by small group, church by church, community by community.
God has called this church, at this time, when it appears that the world is falling apart and that America is so divided – God is calling you and He is calling me! “Make my joy complete, my children. I want you to choose to love.”
And when you cross your arms and say, “Not after what they have done to me,” or, “I think those people are crazy and why are those people doing this and why are they tweeting that and I am so ticked off!”
Can you imagine, honestly, honestly, can you imagine the God of heaven looking down upon the creation that He has made and then looking closely at His people, the Church. I don’t mean buildings. People within the Spirit of God, He’s living. You talk about someone that ought to be ticked off. And, yet, He is patient and kind and gracious and He is saying to you and He is saying to me, “This is a priority. This is a non-negotiable. I am commanding you to choose to love one another.”
Not the golden rule. The platinum rule! I want you to love other people the way that I have loved you. Now, I hope at this point you’re saying, Okay, I get it. And those of you that are a little more honest with yourself, could be saying, I can’t do that. And you know what? You’d be right. I can’t either.
In fact, God doesn’t expect you to be able to do it. But He is going to tell us exactly how. So I want you to go back to that former business associate, that ex-mate, a dad, a mom, a son, a nephew, an in-law, a current reality at work, a current – maybe it’s not a huge conflict, but something that keeps rubbing you the wrong way with a roommate or in your marriage.
And then I want to open the text and what we are going to learn from God’s Word, if you’re willing, is that we can choose love and we can learn how.
And the question is: how to become a more loving person. “Choose to declare war on,” write the word, “selfishness.” Choose to declare war on selfishness.
Turn to Philippians chapter 2, if you’re not already there. And let me, let me read for you this command. Philippians chapter 2, we have looked at verses 1 and 2. Follow along here in chapter 2 as we read verses 3 and 4. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but in humility of mind, consider others more important than yourself.” Verse 4, “Let each of you look not only on your own interest, but also on the interest of others.”
You may be looking at this and saying, “Declare war – aren’t you getting a little radical here?” No. No. We are born with this innate ability to be selfish. In fact, let me define selfish ambition, here. Four words: “I want my way.” That’s selfish ambition. I want my way.