Articles

The Mind Set of Unity, by John Peden
 

 The Mind Set of Unity by John Peden 7/17/2007

I beg Euodia and Syntyche that they be of the same mind in the Lord.
And I also beg you, true yoke-fellow, help those women who labored in
the gospel with me and with Clement, and others of my fellow-laborers,
whose names are in the Book of Life. Philippians 4:2,3

When asked about Paul's letter to the Philippians, most students of
the Bible will say its major theme is joy. While the words "Rejoice"
and "Joy" are repeated many times in this letter, to apprehend and
appropriate the blessing of joy, one must have their minds thinking in
the right way. There is a Greek word, "phroneo", that is used 11 times
in this letter and it is translated many ways, but its meaning is
essentially mindset, or to exercise the mind, or thinking process. An
examination of the text in Philippians 4:2,3, will exemplify an
important concept Paul is trying to teach. Since none of Paul's
letters are complete compendiums on theology (with possibly the
exception of Romans), one should examine the letter looking for the
"task theology". In other words, was there a problem or set of
problems Paul is trying to address doctrinally. In Philippians 4:2,
we see Paul urging two women to be of the same mind or to agree, and
in 4:3 he urges someone else to help them. What was the issue? Was it
the color of the carpet in the sanctuary? The choice of Sunday School
Curriculum? The menu of the fellowship supper? We do not know, which
is good for us because we can apply it to a variety of disagreements
in our day. Before we look in detail at this text and this
letter ...

Why is Unity so important?
First of all Psalm 133 tells us "how good and pleasant it is for
brothers to dwell in unity" and
"there the Lord commanded His blessing". This is exemplified in Acts
1:14 & 2:1, where we find the disciples "were in one accord" prior to
the coming of the Holy Spirit with power on the day of Pentecost. We
also see how God was working mightily, adding to the number of
believers in Acts 2:42-47, as they attended to the apostles doctrine,
fellowship, the breaking of bread, and prayers (v.42) as well as
"continuing with one accord" (v.46). We also see later in Acts 4:31
that after praying that the disciples were " all filled with the Holy
Spirit, and they spoke the Word of God with boldness". What was the
prevailing attitude of these believers? Acts 4:32 says "And the
multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul."

Another reason unity is important is that it is critical in our
proclamation of Jesus as the Risen Christ sent by God. In Jesus'
prayer in John 17:20,21, He prays: "And I do not pray for these alone,
but for those also who shall believe on Me through their word, that
they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that
they also may be one in Us, so that the world may believe that You
have sent Me. Our Good News message and proclamation of the love of
God must be demonstrated tangibly to some by our love for on another.

What is the Mind Set of Unity Paul is Prescribing?
Is Paul asking these two ladies to be the same? Heavens no! We are
called to unity, not uniformity. Paul is urging them to end their
dispute and have the same thinking process ... "in the Lord". Just as
we just saw in John 17:20,21, Jesus prayed "that they also may be one
in Us." First of all, the focus is that we are in Christ and Christ is
in us. It starts with our position and relationship with God
established by Christ. It also is Him whom we belong to and serve.
These ladies, and us as well, need to make sure we have our priorities
right in order to be of the same mind. Let's look at how Paul develops
and illustrates this mindset earlier in the letter in his other uses
of the word "phroneo".

In Philipians 1:7, Paul says "It is right for me to think this way
about you." What way? Referring back to verse 1:6 Paul's attitude of
others is that they are God's "work in progress" that will eventually
be completed by His faithfulness. This should foster patience, now,
should it not?

In Philippians 2:2, the word is used twice (as "like minded" and "one
mind"), as he requests that they fulfill his joy by being like-minded,
having the same love, same accord, and same mind. He applies this in
verses 2:3,4 by then challenging them not to act out of selfish
ambition or conceit, but rather with humility thinking of others as
being better than ourselves. We are not to be concerned about our own
interests, but also the interest of others. Now there's a challenge!
He then points out for us the model for our mindset is that of Jesus
Christ (v.5), who being God, humbled Himself for "our best interest"
to the point death on a cross for us. So we must ask, is God calling
for something in us - an ambition, agenda, attitude to die to that the
best interest of some one else, something of eternal significance
could be realized?

There is another attitude, and that is a sign of maturity. Paul says
in Philippians 3:15 "Those of us who are mature should think this
way." What way? A look at the context of verse 12-14 reveals that it
is one that does not dwell on the past (either successes or failures),
realizes that presently we have not "arrived", and continues pressing
towards the future goal to win the prize of God's heavenly call in
Christ Jesus. This mindset truly understands that our lives are a
process under God's loving and sovereign control, who indeed works
all things for the good of those who love Him. Therefore we must keep
our focus on the prize. This way of thinking should govern our walk
or lifestyle, according to Philippians 3:16.

Paul uses this word in Philippians 4:10 to describe their concern for
Paul and how they expressed it to him. This is reminder that actions
do speak louder than words, and our attitude towards one another needs
to be expressed, leaving no doubts in the minds of anyone. Even if it
hurts to go the extra mile, this is what we are called to do.

In Philippians 3:18-19, Paul points out the tragic consequences of
shame and destruction that come upon those who are enemies of the
cross and whose mind set is on worldly things and the satisfaction of
their carnal desires. It is often helpful to learn by contrasts.
Peter, who at the time in Matthew 16:22, had human viewpoint ruling
his thinking, rebuked Jesus and suggested that Jesus need not go to
the cross, but perhaps he rather Jesus establish Israel as an earthly
Kingdom without the necessary redemptive work at the cross. Jesus
replied to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me.
For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the
things of man." So Peter's thinking was worldly at best, satanic at
worst. We need to check our motives and thinking. Is it God's agenda
and means or is it the schemes of men? Do we have the eternal in view
or are we settling for the temporal and immediate?

How do we attain the mind set of Unity?
First of all, as previously stated, the "same mind" we are looking for
is "in the Lord". Therefore, it is centered on God Himself, as
revealed in the scriptures, through His Son Jesus Christ, by the
working of the Holy Spirit. Those who trust in Christ each have the
Holy Spirit, therefore it is Him that brings unity. However, we are
called to preserve this unity, which requires a humble and servants
attitude, modeled by Jesus himself, as discussed by Paul in Chapter
Two of this letter. This can only happen if we are submitted to Him,
and willing to love and serve not only the Lord, but one another.
When we yield our minds and will to Him, we give opportunity for Him
to work in us and in all our relationships by His Spirit.

Second, note that Paul does not harp on the dispute, but rather
reminds the reader of the two women's past service and purpose. In
Philippians 4:3 he says that they "have labored side by side with me
in the Gospel." Their struggle in the past was in laboring and
contending for the Gospel, and not against one another. It is vitally
important that believers don't lose sight of our mission and purpose
here on earth. The making disciples of Jesus Christ is still our God-
given mission and vision. There is a danger when we lose sight of
God's purpose and plans as Proverbs 29:18 tells us "Where there is no
prophetic vision the people cast off restraint." If we get off track,
we may be bound to bicker. Paul asked "True Companion" to help these
women. It is important that we speak the truth in love, and help one
another refocus and regain an eternal perspective. Paul said in
Colossians 3:2 (another mindset verse) "Set your mind on things above,
not the things on earth". May we help each other maintain this
attitude.

This leads to a third point, as Paul reminds them of their eternal
position in Philippians 4:3 when he says "whose names are in the book
of life." Heaven is our real home . Christ has secured it. When some
feel they have to strive for what Christ has secured, they are not
truly at peace with God or themselves, which may cause strife with
others. Others or they themselves never seem to measure up. Well, in
ourselves, none of us ever will, but in Christ, He will finish the
work, because He is the author and finisher of our faith. There is no
need to be anxious about anything when we have prayer and the promise
of the God's peace to guard our hearts and minds. Additionally, Paul
gives us a list of things to think about that help us maintain a
positive attitude (4:8).

Conclusion
All of us should want to see the power of God working through our
church and in our lives. We are at a crisis time, where we see "good
being called evil, and evil good." Laws that oppose the laws of God
are on the books. We could go on and on listing the ills of our
nation and communities, but that would be fruitless. The only hope is
the redemptive message of the Good News in Jesus Christ and a move of
God. May we as a church body be careful and alert to put aside any
petty differences, prepare our hearts and minds for a moving of God's
Spirit. May we align our priorities and our thinking to God's. Is
the Great Commission at the forefront of our thinking? It is in God's.
Let's make sure we are on the same page with Him and one another and
witness the power of His redemptive work.


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