Now that we understand the background of the Philippian congregation and Paul has laid out the basics of the Christian life, we can dig a little deeper into what is expected of us as followers of Christ. This week in week 3 of Nettie’s Book Club/Bible Study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians with Matt Chandler’s book To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain, Paul goes after the heart by assaulting our pride and shaking us out of our comfort zone.
Reading for the week
Luke 1: 39-55
Chapter 3 – The One God Exalts
Chapter 4 – What the Humble Seek
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant as yourselves.Philippians 2:3
The One God Exalts
“Philippians 2 is mean.” This is how Matt Chandler opens his discussion of Philippians 2. There is nowhere to hide in this chapter as Paul “violently goes after the heart of our faith.” When we fear God with awe and wonder, we are humbled by his majesty which makes us receptive to his mercy and exaltation.
Humility is not trendy. More than ever, we live in a culture of self-improvement, self-branding and selfies. Our timelines are filled with fake people trying to prove how much better they are than all the other fake people through “selfish ambition or conceit.” But Paul warns us to do nothing motivated by these two forbidden motivating factors.
Selfish ambition can be compared to living up to the Joneses, or as Matt Chandler puts it “In your face, Joneses!” This type of heart posture is a competitive comparison with others motivating us to outdo and outperform all the time.
“Some translations render selfish ambition as “rivalry“. It is living as if Christ hasn’t settled the score. As if we have not already been given the vicotry of Christ. As if we haven’t already received the infinite riches of the eternal Christ.”Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
If we lose the competition implied by selfish ambition, then we become sore losers bathing in conceit and overflowing with pretentious pride. This can lead to despising other people whose lives look different than ours and judging who’s worthy and who’s not.
The original sin the serpent tempted Adam and Eve by in the Garden of Eden was “You will be like God.” Selfish ambition and conceit are evidence of an idolatrous belief that “we are due more than we have received and that we’re worthy of more honor than we’re getting” (Matt Chandler). Every time we act out of selfish ambition or conceit and see ourselves as better than others, we are proclaiming that “I am God.”
Godly Fear Receives Mercy
Matt Chandler uses a few powerful examples of how God showed mercy to the humble in Scripture. Zacchaeus (Luke 19), the Canaanite women (Matt. 15:21-28), the bleeding woman who touched Jesus’ robe (Mark 5) and the thief who was hanging next to Jesus on Golgotha (Luke 23) all show us how God’s grace saves those who humble themselves before Christ, no matter what they have done.
Those who fear Christ receive the mercy of salvation precisely because the perfect submission of Christ to the Father is credited to them.Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
Godly Fear Receives Exaltation
This godly fear is not a nervous timid state, but rather a state of awe when worshipping the grandeur of God. This fear fills us with power and grounded confidence. The Bible is filled with examples of God uplifting the humble (see Matt. 23:12, Luke 18:14, James 4:10, 1 Peter 5:6). Matt Chandler puts it so eloquently: “Let Me find the most obscure moron I can and fill that person with My power.” This gives me hope that God can use even me. If God can use people like David the harp-playing Shepherd boy, Moses the murderer and Peter the stubborn, imperfect apostle, he can people like me and you.
God achieves great things with humble people by forgiving our sins and rescuing us from death. On top of that, he helps us by giving us his Spirit which is our Comforter and Counselor and is our guarantee of exaltation (2 Corinthians 1:22, 25).
Who does God exalt? He exalts those who fear His name. God exalts those who approach Him with reverence, self-emptiness, and ownership of their spiritual bankruptcy. and when godly fear humbles us, God in His mercy will exalt us.Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, to Die is Gain
Because we are covering two chapters this week, you can find the reflection questions for Chapter 3 here:
In case you missed the discussion questions of the last two weeks, you can download the full study guide here:
Here is Matt Chandler taking us through Chapter 3 – The One God Exalts