In this episode, we begin our series on The Book of Philippians. The beginning of Philippians is all about developing the right mindset. Paul calls the Philipians to task for being lazy and apathetic. In order to live well, we must have a true perspective and consistent faith. It is an incredible opportunity to live in the Kingdom of God, even in the midst of its challenges. The Book of Philippians invites us to listen to God, love others, and set aside unhealthy appetites. The key to all of it is the mindset we choose.
Joey: So Philippians is another epistle, a letter written by Paul, and just like all of Paul’s other letters, it’s unique. It’s written with a purpose, with intent. So what is it that is unique and special and interesting about the book of Philippians?
Tim: Well, Philippians is one of my favorite books of the Bible. I probably say that fairly often, but I really mean it. It’s an incredible book. One of the reasons I love it so much is because of the Yellow Balloons’ emphasis, which is to choose a true perspective. And we do our daily devotionals where the theme is, “Hey, today you have a chance to choose a true perspective, so grab it.” That’s kind of the theme of our devotional, and that’s based on an observation about reality, that there are only three things we can control. So everything that happens, we can’t control except these three things, but these three things are amazingly high leverage things for both us and reality. When we are faithful stewards of these three things, it changes the cosmic structure in a positive way. So we have this incredible capacity to be faithful with these three things, and it’s this: who we trust, how we look at things, and what we do. And this middle one, how we look at things, the perspective we choose, the attitude we adopt, the mindset that we choose to have, the mindset you choose about God, for example, affects your ability to trust God. The mindset you choose about reality affects your perception of what’s in your best interest, and God said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” which means you love yourself. That means you’re always going to pursue what’s in your own best interest, that’s just built in. And that’s a good thing, right? The question is what’s really in our best interest? And is our perception true? Philippians is about choosing a true perspective, that’s the main theme of it. And the Greek word that shows up 11 times in this very short four-chapter book is Phroneo. Phroneo means mindset. And so there’s a mindset you ought to choose, an example to follow, and a mindset you shouldn’t choose. That I would say is kind of the framework, the core, of this book. And that’s what I really wanna go through. Once you understand the core of the book, I think you can just read the rest and it’s fairly apparent what’s going on.
How to Have a Correct Mindset
Joey: So if Paul is trying to encourage people towards adopting a correct perspective, attitude, mindset, how does he go about that? What’s the sort of system or structure that he uses to make that clear?
Tim: Well, he actually just states that overtly: do this. That’s effective. So it starts in Philippians 2:2, this is not the first appearance of Phroneo but it’s the one that I think presents the ‘what to do,’ okay? He says, “Fulfill my joy.” Which is interesting in and of itself, this is what makes Paul happy, “being like-minded.” So that’s Phroneo. So in this case, it’s “choose to have the same attitude among yourselves.” This isn’t actually a corporate like-mindedness that he’s asking for. It’s having the same love. “So be like-minded in love, being of one accord.” So have unity about your purpose, “Of one mind.” That’s the same word again.
Joey: That’s Phroneo again.
Tim: It is. It’s a different tense, the same root word. And so that’s what Paul wants, have a mindset that is around what’s true and what’s true is that love is in your best interest and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s the core principle that Jesus gave us. If you love God with all your heart, what He mainly wants you to do is love other people like you love yourself. So whatever you think is good for you, do that. I mean, you kind of already know. Right? You know what’s good for you, so do that for other people. It’s good to study to get self-reflection and self-reality, but you kinda already know.
Joey: Is Paul writing to the Philippians specifically because they’re struggling with this? Do we have evidence that suggests that they have disparate mindsets?
Tim: It’s really interesting, that doesn’t seem to be the case. This raises an interesting question. Why would you exhort somebody that doesn’t seem to need exhortation? He actually says here in 2:12, “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not in my presence only…” So not just when I’m watching. “But now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” Again, when we see the word “salvation,” it means something’s being delivered from something. These Philippians have already been delivered from the penalty of sin, clearly. They’re born again. There’s no question about that. He states it overtly in the scripture. “You had fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. He’s begun a good work in you, he’ll complete it in Christ Jesus.” So they’re on this path. So what do they need to be delivered from? Their flesh and their selfishness. The perspective of the world. And so what he’s saying here is, “You’re doing great. You’re doing awesome.” But what does Paul know? Every day, you need to be saved from the wrong perspective and the wrong choices. And the world, every day, is trying to get you to make the wrong choices and give the wrong perspective. So he’s giving this admonition to people that are doing great, which tells you what?
Joey: That we shouldn’t coast when we’re doing great.
Walking vs. Coasting
Tim: Yeah, you always have to be investing in the spiritual life. If you ever start coasting, you’re sunk. This is work. Work out, keep investing in being delivered from the power of sin and walk in the resurrection and power. There’s a walk. Walking requires effort. He doesn’t say to coast your way to being completed in Christ. Walk. He’s admonishing them to not coast. Keep going.
Kylie: We did the video on what does it mean by “flesh versus Spirit.” And that’s what it sounds like you’re saying here. You’re doing a great job walking in the Spirit, but continue to walk in the Spirit. Don’t listen to the flesh as you continue on your daily journey, but instead continue to choose the spirit and have a perspective that these are the things you should do if you’re choosing the Spirit.
Tim: Now he’s writing this from prison. And so, to some extent his prize pupil here, he’s not gonna be able to coach them anymore. And so to some extent, he says, “Hey, this turns out great, here. I’m under house arrest here and the whole palace guard has gotten to hear the Gospel. So it’s working out great for me. But I’m concerned about you, my prized pupils. Keep going, keep working. I’m gonna try to send you some help now. I’m gonna send Timothy to you before long, but you make good choices. Don’t rely on us. You make good choices. You’re capable now. Keep going. This is on you now to mature and do great.”
Joey: So he’s talking here about like-mindedness, unity, and togetherness. What are other elements that he introduces with Phroneo that make up a true perspective?
An Unnatural Bend
Tim: So this is convicting if you’re a human. He says, “Do everything without complaining.” That hits us all, doesn’t it?
Joey: It sure does.
Tim: So he says work on that. Be delivered every day from the self-orientation of thinking that you can alter the circumstances around you by griping about it. That’s working out your salvation. It takes effort not to complain because your natural bend is to say, “If I will gripe, then circumstances will harmonize with me.”
Kylie: People will do what I want.
Tim: People will do what I want them to do. Good luck with that. And he says, “Well, why don’t you live in reality instead and do everything without complaining?” Our moment of truth tool that we use with Servant Leadership is actually about that. Why don’t you get facts and unity with people instead of complaining to each other to try to contend for control?
Joey: So when he’s talking about choosing a true perspective or having the right mindset, I just realized that even inherent in the last question I asked, it’s not like one phrase or a one-liner, that’s the true mindset. He’s talking about working through the truth and the complicated nature of it, and continuing to orient your mind towards God. Is that right?
For the Glory of God
Tim: That’s right. And I would say this is a daily battle. It’s not like a one-time thing that you do, it’s a work in progress. Every day it requires a new choice, a new focus, that’s why we do the daily devotional. Every day you’ve got to reset your mind and keep working. Because gravity is to choose the world’s way and fall into self. So you’ve got to keep working. Then he gives an example. So he gives this thing. Here’s this basic thing you want to do: love other people and don’t complain. That’s enough to tell you it’s not normal. Right? There are other things he says, but then he says, Okay, here do this. He says, “Let this mind, this Phroneo, this mindset, this attitude, this perspective be in you, which was also in Christ.” So now he’s going to explain to us the mindset that Jesus chose. Now, let me just skip ahead to the thing not to do real quick, and then we’ll go into the mindset that Jesus chose. In 3:19 is the mindset not to do. So let me just start in 3:17, “Brethren, join and follow in my example.” Interesting here, he’s Jewish, he’s talking to a bunch of Gentiles, but he’s brethren with them. This is a unity that’s happened in the church. “Brethren, join and follow in my example, and note those who so walk as you have us for a pattern.” So he’s actually saying here “I have chosen this mindset that Jesus has. Follow me. Follow Jesus and follow me.” Pretty bold. He’s in prison for his faith, he’s got the proof. And then he gives you the contrast, “For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, they’re the enemies of the cross of Christ.” Now, you can ask the question, does that mean that they never were born again? Or does it mean that they were born again and then they stopped fighting the fight and working out their daily salvation from the world and being delivered from the world and walking in the kingdom of God? Which one? It doesn’t really matter which one it is, right? It could be either. We have the capacity to walk in the flesh, so it could be either. He’s not parsing that out, he’s not giving us a thing to judge other people. There’s never anything in the Bible that says, “Figure out what God ought to do for other people.” It’s always “Figure out what you should do in your own life.” There’s protection, like false teaching and stuff that you intervene for. And if someone will listen to you, and you can turn them from sin, you’ve saved them. What have you saved them from? The negative consequences of sin. So here he says, “Their end is destruction.” And think about it, if we’re a believer and we’re walking and then we decide to walk away and start walking in the ways of the world–I decide to leave my wife and leave my kids, start stealing money at work, you name it–everything I’ve worked for at this point is destroyed. That’s what sin does. It destroys. Death is separation, its destruction. And here’s how they got there, “Their God is their belly,” so appetite. They started serving their appetite. This means, who are they trusting? Their own feelings. So they’ve changed from, “I trust God” to “I trust my own feelings.” “Whose glory is in their shame.” So glory is something’s essence being observed. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul says, “the moon has a glory, the stars have a glory, the earth has a glory,” because each and every one of them is a thing that you can look at and say, “its essence is this.” And they’re all different, they all have different glories. When we say God is glorified, we just mean you saw his essence somehow. And actually, God is glorified in everything. Even the things that are twisted apart from Him glorify Him. Because it shows the nature of God in that it was twisted, it still shows. Everything points to the nature of God, He is glorified. In this case, this person, their true nature is their appetite. Their focus is on themselves. And when you focus on your own appetites and that’s all you serve, that’s shameful. Okay? So that’s the mindset not to have.