Go read Philippians 2:1-4. Reread and focus on vs. 3
Having just set up the passage with a dramatic emphasis on the importance of unity, Paul is ready to launch into one of the most beautiful, deep, and challenging passages ever written. He is about to describe how unity can be accomplished through humility. He is about to command and describe in detail what it looks like to humble ourselves in the same way Jesus did.
And right before he launches into his treatise on humility, he calls out humility’s enemies.
<> According to vs. 3 what are the two enemies of humility?
<> Do you know the difference in the two? Do you struggle with one more than the other?
I wish these two enemies were a little more complicated – a little bit harder to understand so I could feel like I had an excuse. They are not complicated at all. Selfish ambition is desiring and wanting gain, success, or advancement for the benefit of you alone. Whether it is in the area of your career, your position in some organization or just in daily motivations for your everyday activities, selfish ambition is when you want to “get yours” at the expense of anyone else.
<> Are there areas of your life where you selfishly want advancement no matter what it might cost someone else?
<> Does ambition get in the way and cloud your ability to obey God when He directs you somewhere other than where you want to go?
I think there are two main problems with selfish ambition. 1.) It kills our ability to humbly promote other’s interests ahead of our own. When our thoughts, motives and actions are obsessed with achieving our own glory, popularity or success, we become unable to see and serve others around us. 2.) It is like an addiction. Selfish ambition is almost like the ring in the Lord of the Rings. You think you have it and can hide it in your pocket, but truthfully, it takes over you and turns you into a person you never wanted to be.
The term vain conceit comes from the Greek word “kenodoxia”. It means empty, groundless, self-esteem or pride. This isn’t just being proud of some valid accomplishments or talents you have to offer. This is pride based on absolutely nothing -- puffed up estimation of yourself in complete denial of how empty the claim is. It is useless. It is ungrounded. It is me way too often.
<> If you analyzed your life, in what ways would you see this idea of vain conceit showing up?
<> What are indicators that you are allowing vain conceit to creep in and reign in your life?
These two ideas of selfish ambition and vain conceit are very overarching ideas. They are umbrellas with a lot of examples underneath. For instance if you find yourself looking in the mirror dozens of times a day or for very extended periods of time – at a surface level you are dealing with vain conceit. On a deeper level, if you are struggling to trust God in what He says is best, or find yourself feeling entitled, complaining to God for what He’s not doing well in your life – you are still dealing with vain conceit. Selfish ambition could show up when you want a promotion at work and are willing to step on people to get it. It could show up in a room full of people when you are trying to one up everyone to get all the attention in the room. On a deeper level, selfish ambition shows up when you try to barter with God for what you want or get mad at Him when He doesn’t bring the gain that you want to see in your life.
We’re going to talk about it in much more detail throughout the week, but for both of these issues the only way to fight them is going to be to wrestle with Jesus. Taking your selfish ambition and your vain conceit to the foot of the cross is the only way to really start to kill them. It’s going to take humility to do that, so you’re going to want to ask Him for help even in the initial stages. These are two very sneaky enemies to your joy and you probably won’t be able to see them on your own. You will probably need to ask a friend to help point out areas of your life where you struggle with either or both.