Participation in the Spirit

Philippians 2:1-2 ESV

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”

This word “encouragement” is much more involved than what we might commonly think. It also means exhortation, entreaty, joy, and comfort. The word means a call (urging). It is a personal exhortation (appeal), an intimate call that someone personally gives to deliver God’s verdict. It is a holy urging, and it is used of the Lord directly motivating and inspiring believers to carry out his plan, such as in delivering a message to someone else. And it can be a warning, too (

So, if we have any encouragement in Christ, it is not all going to be feel-good stuff. For Jesus gives us warnings and instructions and cautions and counsel, as well as words to comfort us and to give us hope and healing. And all are necessary! We need these “holy urgings” when we have gotten off the path even slightly, to encourage us to get back on the right path and to keep going, or when doubts and fears arise. And these “holy urgings” are all throughout the writings of the New Testament, too.

And this word “comfort” also means exhortation, encouragement, and persuasion, as well as it means to console. And our Lord uses all aspects of this word, too, in his comforting us with his love. For sometimes that means “tough love,” where he has to speak the truth in love to us about things going on in our lives, or about our attitudes, or about pride, or about lifestyle changes we need to make for the better. Like for me he is driving home the importance of me changing my eating habits.

And this word “participation” is the same as the word “fellowship” (koinonia). And it means partnership, contributory help, sharing in, and spiritual fellowship. So when we believe in Jesus with God-given faith, and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, that is not the end of the story. We are to be in full partnership with the Spirit, meaning we are participating with him in his work of grace in our lives, in living holy lives pleasing to God. We are walking (in conduct, in practice) according to the Spirit and no longer according to our flesh, and we are walking in obedience to our Lord.

And if we have the capacity to feel deep emotions of sympathy, empathy, and compassion, we should. But not everyone does. Not everyone who professes faith in Jesus Christ feels deeply the pain and suffering of others, and not everyone has compassion for others who are going through times of suffering. And some people, even professing Christians, are deliberately and habitually sinning against God and against other humans, and they have absolutely no compassion or empathy at all for those they are hurting.

So, when this says, “If you..,” it is not presuming that you have these qualities at all. It is not assuming that you are in genuine relationship with Jesus Christ or that you know the comfort of his love, in truth, or that you are participating with the Spirit in walking according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh. And it is not presuming that you have any genuine feelings for anyone else at all, and that you are not totally all about you.

But if these things are true about your life, which should be evidenced by how you live your life, then you should be of the same mind as others who are also of genuine faith in Christ. But that mind is the mind of Christ. We are all to have the mind of Christ, and to walk according to that mindset. We are to all think like Jesus, as much as is possible, and to have his viewpoint about life. We are not to all be likeminded with other humans, though, who are not likeminded with Christ. Many pastors want you to unite with them, but it is with their business and marketing goals.

And if we all have the same love, it is agape love which comes from God, and God is love. And this love prefers Christ, and it prefers what Christ prefers, and it prefers to live through Christ and to do his will in his power. And this love does no deliberate harm to another. This love will not willfully sin against others. This love will be morally pure, upright, godly, honest and faithful, and it will do for others what is for their good.

Philippians 2:3-4 ESV

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

If we are people who make it our practice to do what stems from selfish ambition and/or conceit, then we are not in tune with the Spirit of God. We are not sensitized to the Spirit’s voice, and we aren’t following our Lord wherever he leads us. It doesn’t mean necessarily that we are not true believers in Christ, for it is possible for a true believer in Christ to get off target and need to be brought back to a right relationship with the Lord. But we should not be people who live for selfish ambition and conceit.

Instead, we are to be people who are humble, and who consider the legitimate needs of others as more important than any selfish ambitions. We are not to be selfish people, always only thinking of ourselves, without regard for the legitimate needs of others, in other words. And we are not to look only to our own interests or concerns, but we are to be people who care about the needs and concerns of others. And if you find yourself in a moment where you are being selfish, then repent, and then do the right thing. Love other people, and consider what is best for them.

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

Words by Adelaide A. Pollard, 1907
Music by George C. Stebbins, 1907

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Thou art the potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and make me after Thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master, today!
Whiter than snow, Lord, wash me just now,
As in Thy presence humbly I bow.

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power, surely is Thine!
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway.
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see
Christ only, always, living in me!

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