We are God's symphony

Last week, we described how the things we do are done in Christ. We illustrated how baptism requires the Spirit of Jesus Christ to penetrate your heart. When your heart is immersed in Jesus Christ, then God is able to refine, prune, winnow, fertilise and retune you. With Christ in you, He is able to retune your heart, your conscience, your will and your works, so that the sound you produce is in tune with Him. So, when you hear His note sounding in your soul, you will respond in sympathy, producing a matching musical note.

Differing gifts

When Christ tunes me, He tunes me to a certain note. When Christ tunes you, He most likely tunes you to a different note.

“There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:4–12).

We are immersed in Christ; we are filled with the same Spirit; we are empowered by the same God—yet each of us is tuned produce a different note. 

Looking around this room today, I can see that we a differently gifted. If I’m filled with knowledge; Pastor Joseph is filled with discernment. Will is gifted with an ability for connection; and Tammy with compassion. I’ve seen Sonali’s kindness and generosity, Diego’s faithfulness, and we’ve all witnessed Sam’s fervency, to name a few. We are tuned by the one Lord, and we are tuned to different frequencies.

Making music

[Sitting down at a keyboard.]

And it is really good that we are tuned to make different notes. Because if I tried to make music with a single note, it’s pretty limiting. 

[Playing a single note.]

Sure, I can vary the intensity, vary the timing. But fundamentally, having a single note in one’s arsenal is quite limiting.

[Playing a sequence of individual notes.]

Playing multiple notes enables variety. For multiple notes to be hear, we must exhibit appropriate timing.

There is a time for knowledge; and another time for compassion. There is a time for connection, and time for fervency. There is a time for kindness, and another for justice.

So, when we come together, let us not fret about our differences, but celebrate them. For this is Christ’s will, that have different gifts, and that we know when to sound forth, and when to be silent.

[Play jarring notes together.]

For if we all sound forth all the time, that doesn’t create music, but chaos.

There are times when you need to sound, or times when I need to sound. And there are times when multiple of us need to sound forth.

[Play harmonic chord.]

This is called cooperation. There are times when we need to cooperate to get a job done. And while I play one note, Esperanza another, Roxana a third, by sounding forth the right notes together, we can get a job done that individual notes can’t achieve.

[Play sequence of chords.]

By varying notes, timing and cooperation, the Lord knits us together to create melody, harmony and ultimately, music. 

We serve the Lord to make music for the glory of His Name.

[Change voice on the keyboard. Play same sequence of chords.]

Nor should we look down on people from other congregations. It may be the timbre of the note differs, but they play the same song, with different effect. Each congregation is called to witness to God’s love, mercy and grace, God’s justice, holiness and righteousness, in different places, with different accents, with different voices, to serve different communities. So, we differ.

[Play different tune.]

And if we find some congregations playing a different tune, we shouldn’t doubt that if they’re preaching Jesus, that too is God’s will (Philippians 1:15–18).

[Put on drumbeat. Play tune.]

And as we look at congregations across this city, and see the different emphases and different voices, we can take heart knowing that we all belong to the same Lord and God.

We know that what emerges is God’s will, something that is greater and broader and deeper and wider than any one person, or any one congregation. For we all belong to the same body, serving the same Lord. And what emerges is something that no one individual, no one congregation, could produce by themselves.

[Play sophisticated, multi-tracked musical score.]

We are God’s symphony.

Humility in fellowship

So, with the idea that each of us are tuned differently, that we all have a role to play, that we are designed to cooperate, that there are times when we are intended to take centre stage, while at other times we fade into silence. It is in this context that we read about humility in fellowship.

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy, complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose. Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:1–5).

Let’s read through this passage carefully. 

If you are in Christ

“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort provided by love, any fellowship in the Spirit, any affection or mercy…” (Philippians 2:1).

This passage is saying, “If you are a follower of Christ.”

It is saying, “Do you feel Christ’s encouragement? Do you experience His comforting love? Do you have fellowship with the Spirit? Do you feel God’s affection or mercy? Are you reaping the benefits of a life with Christ?”

If you happen not to experience encouragement in Christ, or comfort provided by His love, or fellowship with the Spirit, or God’s affection or mercy, then I’d like you to come talk to me. Because these are the benefits all children of God experience. So, if you’re not experiencing them, I think you owe it to yourself to figure out why. If this describes you, then let me know, and we’ll organise to have a chat about it.

But if you are experiencing encouragement, comfort in love, fellowship in the Spirit and affection and mercy, then this passage is talking specifically to you.

Complete my joy

“…complete my joy and be of the same mind, by having the same love, being united in spirit, and having one purpose” (Philippians 2:2).

When Paul was speaking to the Philippians, it was their partnership in the good news of Jesus Christ that brought Paul joy (Philippians 1:4). Paul had a calling in the gospel (Acts 26:16; Romans 1:1). And so too, these Philippians have a calling in the gospel. No doubt the Philippians’ call was different from Paul’s, yet Paul describes the role as a partnership. 

Just as the Philippians were called to a partnership, so are you. For we are all called to be witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). We are called to be priests:

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We are called to participate in the one gospel, empowered by the one Spirit, while gifted individually in order to build up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12).

The work of the Lord is not done by an individual, but by all brothers and sisters. We are all holy in the Lord. We all have a calling from the Lord (2 Timothy 1:9). We all have responsibility in the Lord (Matthew 25:14–30). We all belong to a partnership. And being a fruitful member of this partnership brings joy to us all.

We are to be united in mind in three ways. 

Firstly, we are to have the same love. The transforming love that came from God and embraced us in our sinfulness, is to be in your heart and mine, embracing each other in the plurality of our unity. 

Secondly, “being united in Spirit,” or “participating in the Spirit,” or “having fellowship in the Spirit” describes the relationship by which God guarantees that we are sons or daughters of the King (Romans 8:14–17). But more than that, having fellowship in the Spirit unites us because God’s Spirit is actively working in our lives to re-tune us, to recalibrate our hearts. As we are all subjects of this workmanship, we are all being brought into harmony with each other. 

Thirdly, our purpose is to be the same as the Lord’s purpose, which is to be vessels of glory that pour forth springs of living water that flows to everyone around us, which testify to the compassion and mercy of the Lord (Romans 9:23; John 7:38, 39; James 5:11). Through observing us the entire universe beholds the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). We are to be enrolled in this purpose.

Be humble

“Instead of being motivated by selfish ambition or vanity, each of you should, in humility, be moved to treat one another as more important than yourself. Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well” (Philippians 2:3).

Unity is destroyed by self ambition, rivalry or conceit. If we consider our wants, our goals, our aims as being most important, we will fall out of harmony with each other.

You know, the wisdom of the world often says, “Look after yourself first. After all, if you don’t love yourself, and look out for number one, no one else will.” Yet this wisdom of the world is shown as foolishness in light of the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:20). For by looking out for number one, we are led to a self-focus that leads us down a path away from the one the Lord has trod for us.

Instead, we are called to put others’ needs first. We are called to consider others more significant than ourselves. What would our marriages look like, if each partner strove to respect and love and delight the other? What would our church look like if everyone strove to ensure that each others’ needs were met?

We would be focused on building up and ennobling each other.

But there’s sometimes this fear within us, that says, “What if I pour myself out for my husband, or my wife, or my brother or sister in Christ, and they don’t return it? Won’t this result in me suffering?” I’d have to agree with you, there is that risk, and that very well may result in you suffering. 

Our calling is not only to enter into the joy of the Lord, but also to enter into suffering for His sake (Romans 8:17; Philippians 1:29). Now, you might say, “But this makes no sense. Nothing is gained by my suffering.” Yet, this is not so. Christ suffered on our behalf, and we are called to take up Christ’s suffering.

Did you know that in suffering for Christ, you are glorified?

“If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14).

“If anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name” (1 Peter 4:16).

“After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10).

If we all look after each others’ interests, then love is made manifest in fellowship. And if we find ourselves poured out on behalf of someone, but our interests not cared for, then we have shown the love of God in Christ for that person, and the universe is a witness to the transforming power of love of God being shown by you.

“As we reflect the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, we are becoming more like Him with ever-increasing glory by the Lord’s Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).

The self-emptying Son is exalted by the Father

We will conclude by reading this magnificent poem. 

It describes how Christ Jesus emptied Himself, and became a servant even unto death. Because He was willing to empty Himself, God exalted Him to the utmost. He is to be our Example. We are to be self-emptying, even unto death. And we trust that the Living God will exalt us along with Christ Jesus,

“who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped,
but emptied himself
by taking on the form of a slave,
by looking like other men,
and by sharing in human nature.
He humbled himself,
by becoming obedient to the point of death
—even death on a cross!
As a result God highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee will bow
—in heaven and on earth and under the earth—
and every tongue confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord
to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6–11, NET).

 

References:

This message based on 1 Corinthians 12:4–12 and Philippians 2:1–11.