Considering Others

Last week, Pastor Jonathan exhorted us about how we should approach collective decision-making. This is obviously important in light of the possible merger before us, but the principles involved are applicable in all kinds of situations. When we make decisions, we can think in terms of process and result, journey and destination. And the best way to get to the right destination is to focus on taking the next step rightly. We rarely know all of the ins and outs that will come. Thus, wisdom tells us to focus on the next step. In our present situation, that means we need to focus on how we make this decision. 

 

This morning I wanted to pick up on something he said at the end and press it a little farther. He concluded his exhortation by quoting Philippians 2:1-2: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” And then he said, “The important thing is not that we all think the same, but that we’re thinking from the same place, from the same perspective, for the same goal.”

 

In other words, being of one mind doesn’t mean that everyone thinks the exact same thing; it’s not uniformity of thought. So what does it mean? Fundamentally, it means that we have the same mindset. Our minds must be set and oriented by the same glorious realities. It means we have the same love. We love God supremely, and then we love what God loves in the way that he loves it. Our hearts beat to the same gospel rhythm.

 

Paul goes on to describe this single-mindedness in more detail. The mindset that we’re striving for together is one of humility. We must not be animated by rivalry, or vain conceit, or selfish ambition. Instead, we must count others as more significant than ourselves. We must not look only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others, like Jesus did when he left heaven to become a man and die on the cross.

Again, these principles apply to all forms of collective decision-making. But in our present situation, we can make this concrete by asking ourselves some difficult questions. Are we flattered that First Baptist approached us about this merger? Does that puff us up and appeal to our vanity? Does the big, beautiful building and the downtown location appeal to selfish ambition, rivalry, and conceit? As we decide whether to do this, are we thinking about our interests—our preferences, desires, how this will affect each of us individually? Paul implies that that’s okay; he assumes that we look to our own interests. But he won’t let that rule us. We must also think about what’s best for the other members of this church. Are we looking to their interests even more than our own? Are we looking to the interests of the members of First Baptist, counting them as more significant than ourselves? Is the mind of the humble, obedient, crucified and risen Jesus alive and moving among us?

Again, none of this answers the question of what we should do. We need God’s help and wisdom to make the decision. We need more detail about the merger itself and how it will affect each of us, and in the coming weeks we hope to bring that detail so that we can collectively consider it. But in the meantime, we can all be challenged to have the mind of Christ formed among us. So let me close by making Paul’s exhortation personal.

 

Cities Church, are you encouraged in Christ here? Do you feel the comfort of his love in our worship, in our Community Groups, in our Life Groups? Do we have fellowship in the Holy Spirit? Is he moving in our midst? Do we have heartfelt affection and deep compassion for one another? If so, then let us complete our joy by setting our minds on things above, where Christ is. Let us have the same supreme love and desire for Christ’s glory and God’s kingdom. May our worship shape our steps so that our manner of life is worthy of his gospel. And may God free us from rivalry, conceit, selfish ambition, and work in us his humility and his concern for the interests of others and the glory of his name.

This reminds us of our need to confess our sins, so let us go before him together now.

Confession of Sin

Our Father and God, you have called us to consider others more significant than ourselves, and yet we are constantly putting ourselves first. We excel at looking to our own interests. We know how to look after ourselves. We also are prone to rivalry, strife, and the ugly kind of ambition. We grasp for more glory, and try to make something of ourselves so that we can boast. And these sins blind us as we try to walk in a manner worth of your gospel. We confess that these are great evils. Forgive us, we pray, for setting our minds on things below, and for allowing pride and fear and anxiety to cloud our thinking. Restore to us the mind of Christ, that we might walk before you in wisdom and uprightness. 

We know, Father, that if we in the Church regard sin in our own midst, our prayers will be ineffectual. And so we confess our individual sins to you now. . . .

 

Father, we thank you for the shed blood of Jesus. He is the propitiation for our sins. Because of him, we have an everlasting advocate before your throne. We ask that you would pour out your Spirit upon your church so that we might hallow your name together and be changed from one degree of glory to another. Through Christ we pray, Amen.

Assurance of Pardon

Christ did not cling to his own interests, but laid them aside in obedience to his Father. He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross. And now he is exalted above every name for your good. You have confessed your sins. You have acknowledged your iniquity. Therefore, by the authority of Jesus Christ, and as a minister of his gospel, I declare to you the entire forgiveness of all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Congregation: Thanks be to God!