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Harbor Presbyterian - Uptown

When Others See I'm Right

When Will I Be Happy with Myself?

When Others See I’m Right

Philippians 4:1-3 

INTRODUCTION

We’re starting a new series this week.  When will I be happy with Myself?  Paul has shown us how to be happy with our lives, with others, with God, and now—for the next three weeks—we’re going to look at When will I be happy with myself?   

Today, as we start this, we’re going to see that being happy with yourself begins with your relationships with others.  We’re tempted to think that we’ll be happy when in conflict others see that we’re right.  Paul stands this thinking upside down and shows us a much better way to live.   

In this passage, we’ll see four thoughts—four steps—that will change how you think about conflicts with others.  Four realities will make you happier, especially when you’re in conflict.  

I.   Remember who they really are (v1)  Love/Respect

II.   Identity Comes Before Command (v1-2)

III. Agree in the Lord:  Honor the Best in the Other (v3)

IV. Why it’s Important (v3) 

  1. Remember who they really are (v1)

Does verse 1 reflect your heart for the church?  Is this how you feel about your relationships when you have conflict?   

Paul is going to confront a problem.  But look at how he starts.  Paul affirms them and his relationship with them first. 

“My brothers”—we’re family.  Brothers and sisters.  We’re in this together.  This is easy to forget in conflict.   

“whom I love and long for”—Over arching everything I’m about to say, I love you.  That’s the banner over everything.  Love is going to over-ride all that I say.  And it’s not just love because I have to, but I long to be with you, I actually want to be with you.  

Do you know someone like this?  Even when they’ve got to tell you something hard, you know they love you?  Are you this way for others? 

“My joy and my crown”— You make me happy!  You are following Jesus and that makes me happy.  Jesus really does make a difference in their lives.  His resurrection is true because I see it in your lives. 

You show my ministry is from God. Seeing you follow Jesus—that’s my reward, my crown. 

Is this how you feel about the church?  Your friends? When they disagree with you? Are they your family, your love, your crown?  This is who God says they really are.   

When you get discouraged with people, remember this.  Oh yea, this is my brother or my sister.  I love this person.  They make me happy!  When I remember this, it fills me with love.   

Being happy with yourself starts not with how people feel about you, but how you feel about them.  You’ll be happy when you set your love on them. 

Paul’s heart shows that it’s not waiting for them to see you’re right, or you’re special.  It’s about how you think about them.  This makes us happy. 

  1. IDENTITY COMES BEFORE COMMAND (v1-2).  HONOR

We need Paul’s plan:  v1 comes before v2.  This is the gospel pattern.  We talk a lot about how the Gospel differs from religion.  Here’s a great example of how it applies.    

When someone is in error—religion tells them, “Well you’re obviously not really a Christian if you’re struggling with this.”

But the gospel does the opposite.  Instead of robbing people of their standing with God or their blessings because they’re struggling, the gospel affirms their blessings and the promises of God, especially when the promises of God are what we need to grow! 

A big part of Discipleship—helping someone grow spiritually—is learning this order—remind people of who they are before you tell them what they are supposed to do.   

If you act out of line with the gospel, Paul doesn’t say, “Well you must not be a real Christian.”  Instead Paul says, “Don’t you realize that you are a Christian?  Your identity is different than this. 

Paul doesn’t take away our hope or our blessings until after we clean up our life—he affirms our hope and our blessings so that we can grow.  The blessings are what we need to grow. 

v1—identity assured before v2—command:  agree in the Lord. 

My favorite place where Paul does this is Romans 6—Don’t you know you’re united to Jesus? 

When we do this right, we tell people that God is working in them, we paint the picture of Jesus and show how they’ve been swept up in the story of Jesus, and find themselves wanting to follow him, realizing that his story is their story.  When the command finally comes, the person says—oh yea!  Of course this is what I want to do! 

When we do this right, the commands actually teach us the gospel because they show the kind of person that the gospel makes you to be.   

[So when you need to confront someone, instead of saying, “How can you call yourself a Christian when you’re doing this?  Learn Paul’s pattern and say, “Don’t you remember that you are a Christian?  Don’t you remember that Jesus is in you?  That means you’re not under the power of this sin anymore!] 

When you approach someone, you need to assure them of your love and Christ’s love before you confront them. 

  1. Agree in the Lord (v2-3).  Honor the best in the other

In v2-3 Paul deals with the conflict that existed in the church between Euodia and Synteche.  He doesn’t take sides, he entreats both.   

What does he tell them?  Not who’s right and who’s wrong.  But “agree in the Lord.” 

It’s so easy for us to malign people who disagree with us.  It’s so easy to paint them in the worst possible light.  We do this in politics, we do this in theology, and in ideas about what the church should do and be. 

We do this in the church.  In ministry.  Leaders are tempted to think this way about others in the church. 

You want to reach out?  But we’re not caring for the people we already have in the church!  You’re just interested in numbers so you can say you’re part of a big church! 

Other side—you don’t want to reach out to non-Christians?  You just want to be a holy huddle!  You don’t care about the world! 

We don’t know what the conflict was exactly between these two women leaders.  With leaders, the temptation is really strong.  Leaders have strong opinions, they are busy so they often make quick judgments. 

Are you in disagreement with anyone in the church?  When you hear Paul’s letter say, “Euodia and Synteche,” do you hear him saying your name and someone else’s? 

Wouldn’t that be scary?  They read this letter in the church.  It would be like me saying,  

    DT “Candace, Jackie—you need to agree in the Lord.”  “David, Mark—you need to agree in the Lord.” 

    UT “Michele, Cynthia—you need to agree in the Lord.”  “Chad, Chris—you need to agree in the Lord.” 

But this is exactly the point.  This is how God’s Spirit uses the word of God when it’s preached.  Are you feeling like you have conflict that you need to deal with? 

To name Euodia and Synteche shows that God cares about you and your conflict.  God is calling you right now.  Happiness for you personally won’t happen when you’re in conflict and you know someone thinks you’re wrong.  You lash out, you have to justify yourself.  You have to prove to them that you’re right.  If they won’t listen, if they won’t agree that you’re right, you have to find enough people to agree with you so you can feel better. 

But it still sticks in your craw.  You see the other person and you’re reminded of your conflict.  You know they think you’re wrong, you can’t live with that… Because you’re right! 

And if you don’t feel this way, if you get to the point where you don’t need to be reconciled, then you’ve hardened your heart, you’ve settled for some much less than the best.  You can’t live in verse 1 toward that person.   

You’ve resigned yourself to live with relationships that drain and sap your happiness instead of relationships that are wonderful contributions to your happiness.  

So what’s the road out of this?  It’s v2:  agree in the Lord. 

  1.  
    1.  
      1. IDENTITY:  Remember v1—they are your love, long for, joy and crown.  They are “in the Lord.”

 

  1.  
    1.  
      1. MOTIVATION:  Agree that the other person isn’t evil and trying to destroy the church or you or the country or themselves. 

 

If we’re not careful, this is how we treat other people—as though they are evil and want to ruin the world. 

This doesn’t mean that their opinions or actions won’t cause harm.  To agree in the Lord means simply that you acknowledge and believe that their motivation isn’t evil.  They are “in the Lord” trying to follow Jesus.  This takes some humility, because you might not be able to imagine it, but you have to at least entertain the possibility that they might have a reason that you haven’t considered. 

  1.  
    1.  
      1. CONVERSATION:  Ask the person what they think.  Not, “How in the world can you justify your stupid position?”

 

But, “Can you help me?  I’m trying to better understand your position, your reasons, your opinions on this matter.  Why do you think this is the right thing to do?” 

  1.  
    1.  
      1. PERSPECTIVE—this is the hardest part.  You need to enter into their perspective and see it well enough so that you could explain, not just to yourself, but to others how the person you disagreed with is honoring God and needed in the church. 

 

"Each side must learn to represent the other's argument in its strongest and most positive form.”  (Tim Keller, Reason for God, xviii-xix). 

  1.  
    1.  
      1. REVELATION:  The church is a body, not a field of grass.  Not everyone is the same, with the same opinions or callings or functions.  We need diversity if we’re going to be used by God reach the whole city. 

 

God in 1Cor 12 that the church is to be as diverse in function as a body.  The purpose is the same—create, maintain, and restore healthy living, but the functions of the parts are radically different.   

The mouth and the colon are don’t have much in common.  They probably aren’t excited about what the other does.  The mouth doesn’t really want to see the colon or what is in the colon.  But they’re both really thankful for each other because both are needed for life.   

There are people in the church who have radically different ideas about how the church should be, or how to best serve the city. The REVELATION comes that in a diversity of approaches, you have the wisdom to reach the entire city.   

When you disagree with someone and gain their PERSPECTIVE, you’ll probably think their reason doesn’t care enough about your concern.  That’s okay.  That’s good.  It’s probably true that you don’t care enough about their concern. 

The key is to agree in the Lord, because then you can communicate in a way that will promote real understanding and growth. #*# 

And Paul knows this is really difficult.  They’ll need help.  V3—True companion is supposed to help them.  This is probably Epaphroditus, the one carried the letter from Paul.  Often times we need someone to come and help us through conflict like this. 

  1. WHY IT’S IMPORTANT v3

Why even bother?  Why go to all this trouble?  Because there’s this book.  It has names in it.  It’s called the book of life.  The names are the people who are citizens of heaven.  Remember what Bill said last week about citizenship in the Roman empire? 

In Philippi, and in every city in Rome, there was a book that listed all its citizens.  In that book, you could see which people in a city had the privilege and honor of Rome bestowed on them.  If you were new to the empire you could get from this book a list of people who would show you what Rome was all about.  What it meant to be Roman, to follow Caesar. 

If you wanted to know how to make the Roman Empire flourish, this list would tell you who to watch.  And these Roman citizens by their words and conduct would show you the good life, the blessed life of living in relationship to Lord Caesar. 

Paul says the same is true for us.  Heaven’s citizens are listed in the book of life.  It has a list of names to see what it means to be God’s family, to follow Jesus as Lord.  They’d show by their words and conduct God’s best life, the blessed life of living in relationship to Lord Jesus. 

To be in this book of life means that you are going to live forever in real, unending happiness in a perfected city in a perfected world.   

To be in this book of life, then, also means that today you live in a way that shows what your future will hold. 

There may be no more powerful way to demonstrate this today than in this area of how we respond to conflict.  What if we were a community where when people had problems, they would respect each other, listen and learn from each other, and come out championing the good in the other person’s perspective—even if they still disagreed? 

We are all dying to be understood, but also challenged in ways that are safe, loving, and understanding.   

When this happens with us, it also teaches us to do it with people outside the church.  This becomes an amazing contribution—an amazing blessing that we can make in the city.  If hundreds of people were released into the city with this approach to relationships, it would make a significant and growing impact.   

And again, is it hard?   Yes.  Is it frustrating?  Oh yes.  But it leads to great joy when you do it.   

When you try to put this into practice, it also brings you back to Jesus.  The true companion—Epaphroditus—points to Jesus, the truer and closer companion. 

You can do this when you see that Jesus has done this for you.  He gives you a new identity.  He understands your motivations.  He has entered your perspective.  In all of this, he has loved you, he has longed to be with you so much that he left heaven, he died and rose again, so he could come and be with you.  You are his beloved, his family, his joy and crown.   

Jesus is YOUR support if you have a relationship with him.  He fills you, so much that he has actually put his own Spirit within you.   

It’s his love for you that enables you to love others this way.  1John 4:19—we love, because he first loved us. 

    AMEN.

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