Saturday, May 06, 2006

Encouragement in Christ

Another old Release Time lesson!

Philippians 2:1-11

1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, 8 he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

After Jesus' death, resurrection and return to live at the right hand of God, the Holy Spirit of God filled the world on the day called Pentecost. On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit joined together followers of Jesus in a very powerful way, and they became the Church. God filled his particular people, the Church, with the Spirit so they could continue being his presence on earth in the same way as Jesus. As the present-day followers of Jesus, the Church, we also are filled with that same power of God's Holy Spirit.

Almost 2,000 years ago, when the Church of Jesus Christ still was brand new, people needed to learn how to follow Jesus. This meant they needed to learn the history of God's people and the story of Jesus' birth, life, death, and resurrection. It also meant they had to learn how to think and act as Christians.

In order to help the new Christians, God chose leaders. Some of these leaders traveled from one local church to another. When they were away from a particular church, the leaders sometimes wrote a letter, or epistle, to that church. Some of these letters are in the Bible. Today we read from the letter Paul wrote to the church at Philippi, or the Letter to the Philippians.

This section of Philippians talks about what our actions and attitudes should be as Christians. Attitude means the way we think of others and ourselves. Whatever our attitude is, it tends to show up in our actions. Here are some ways Paul says we should behave toward each other:

  • Be kind
  • Have compassion
  • Share love
  • Don't think you're better than others
  • Look out for each other's interests

  • Is it easy or difficult to act in those ways?
  • How do you feel when you treat someone else as if they were important?
  • How do you feel when someone else is kind and considerate to you?
  • How can all of us improve our attitudes and the way we act?
Paul tells us we can know how we should behave by looking at the way Jesus lived. While Jesus lived here on earth, he was always concerned about other people. He always did what was best for them. He was careful to learn how God would have him act. Jesus did this by knowing God's Word, by praying, by observing the needs in the world around him. Jesus is the example we look to in order to learn how to live.

Being kind, looking out for the other person, often is the last thing we want to do. Sometimes we even wonder how we'll survive that way. However, because in Jesus Christ God became human just like us and lived his life for others, we know loving kindness is God's way. God's promise to each one of us is that he is working in us through the Holy Spirit, making us able to live as Jesus showed and taught.

  • How can we know the way God wants us to live?
  • Think of a time when you felt like being mean or unkind to someone else. How did you end up treating them? How did you feel afterwards? How do you think they felt?

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