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Feb 23, 2020

How Are Followers of Jesus Like Velcro?

Passage: Philippians 2:1-4

Preacher: Cisco Cotto

Series: Relentless Joy


The year was 1941 and a man named George de Mestral—someone most, if not all of us, have never heard of—went out for a walk with his dog. It was an enjoyable walk, but when he returned, he noticed something that was very annoying. He had burrs from some plants all over his coat and stuck in his dog’s fur. He slowly but surely pulled them out of his dog’s fur and off his coat, grumbling as he did so. George de Mestral was an engineer in Switzerland and his mind started processing, “What is going on with these little round burrs? Why are they so hard to get off?”

He put one of them under his microscope and was fascinated when he saw these burrs were covered in little sticks that had hooks on the end of them. When they came into contact with his dog’s fur and his coat, he realized why they stuck and were really difficult to get off.  As an engineer, he did not do what I would have done which is just be annoyed by them. He started thinking, “Wait. If these burrs can stick so well and all they need is a hook and something for the hook to go into, why can’t I reproduce that?” His brain just started working and working and working. He began working on a product that took him several years, a lot of trial, a lot of error and a lot of things that did not work before he found the thing that did work. And that thing that did work is the product that we know as Velcro.

This is fantastic stuff, isn’t it? It all started because a man got annoyed because of some burrs stuck to his dog’s fur and his coat. So he started working and came up with something called the hook and loop system which is why Velcro works. Let’s look at Velcro under a microscope so we can see this. One side of the strip has the hooks; the other side has the loops so that when you take these two separate strips and push them together, the hooks grab the loops, thousands and thousands at a time. That is what makes Velcro stick. That is what makes it so strong.

I don’t know if I believe it or not, but people who make this stuff say that a small piece is strong enough to hold my body weight up against the wall. Now I thought about testing this out this morning—that would have been memorable, wouldn’t it? But we’re not going to do that. We going to take their word for it. Velcro is really, really strong.  

Now you may not have ever thought of it this way, but we as followers of Jesus are each like a strip of Velcro. Have you ever considered yourself a strip of Velcro? We are. In at least two ways, if not more, every follower of Jesus is like a strip of Velcro. The first way a follower of Jesus is like Velcro is that we are and should be united just like Velcro strips are united. No strip of Velcro is all alone. It is made up of two strips, one with the hooks and one with the loops. If they are separate, they are worthless. Has anyone ever come up to you and asked, “Could I have just one side of that Velcro strip, please?” No, because it would be worthless. Unless these strips are put together and united, they are pointless.

Followers of Jesus should be united

Followers of Jesus are like a strip of Velcro in that they should be united. Let’s read about this in Philippians 2:2-4: 

2 [C]omplete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 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.

Of course Paul didn’t know anything about Velcro. This was written just a few years before Velcro was created, but the concepts Paul was trying to get across to that early church—and the concepts God is trying to get across to us—are very much real and very much like Velcro, beginning with the importance of unity. We as followers of Jesus should be united, connected, doing life together, on mission together. Christianity is not a solo sport and Paul understood this clearly. The apostle Paul, as we’ve been discussing over the last few weeks, was writing this letter from prison. He was scared and nervous; he was not supposed to be there. He didn’t know how this was going to end. Paul hoped he would get released from prison, but he also knew maybe he would be in prison for a very, very long time and that it may even result in his death. He didn’t know how this was going to end, so he sent this letter to this church at Philippi, to these early Christians. He was showering them with his love; he really cared about these people. He knew God was at work in this congregation and he wanted to thank them for everything they were doing. He really wanted to encourage them and let them know their work was not finished. There was more to do and some things they needed to continue doing. One of those was to be unified.

Paul says in Philippians 2:2, “…complete my joy…”  That is, “I’m already joyful because of what you’re doing, but complete my joy. Keep it going. Don’t end this.” He says, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Let’s pause here. He gives several ways to show they are unified.

Followers of Jesus should have the same priorities. 

The first way is by having the same priorities; by having the same focus in each and every one of their lives. Paul calls it being of the same mind. Later in that verse he emphasizes again that they are to be of one mind. What he’s getting at here is that they are to have the same priorities.

A church filled with people who are not unified and living life with the same priorities is a church that is a mess. It is a church that is going to breakdown. It is a church that is going to be filled with fighting. It is a church that is not going to accomplish anything for the Lord because they don’t have one purpose, one goal, one set of priorities.  This is why Paul brings up the idea of having the same mind twice, being of one mind, being unified in their priorities.

Here at Village Bible Church, we talk about discovering, developing and deploying disciples of Jesus Christ. If we had to say what our priority at Village Bible Church is, I think we would say that each and every one of us should be working together to discover disciples of Jesusthat is sharing our faith with others, talking with them about what Jesus is doing in our lives and church, celebrating what God is doing in our lives. We’re sharing their need for Jesus; they need Him just like we do. We should be discovering disciples as we invite them into relationship with Him, then develop them just like we are being developed. This priority should be the growth pattern of every follower of Jesus. It’s not simply you acknowledging that you’re a sinner who needs a Savior, so you trust Christ for your salvation, then you just kind of rest and hang out until you get to heaven. Every single one of us is to be developing ourselves, growing, spending time in God's Word and prayer. We are also to be developing other Christians, helping them reflect on Who God is and what He wants them to do. Every single one of us is to be growing in our walk with Jesus and helping other people grow in their walk with Jesus as well. We discover and develop.

Then we also deploy. You see, our priority is not just to lead people to faith in Christ and then grow, grow, grow together for the rest of our lives. We understand that every single one of us has work to do. God wants each and every one of us to be part of His work in the world around us. All of us are deployed. Some of us are going to be deployed to other parts of the world. We have many people from Village Bible Church who have done that. Some of us are going to be deployed to other areas here in the United States or even around Chicagoland. Some will be deployed to other campuses of Village Bible Churchexisting campuses or Lord willing and directing, some day to get other campuses started by being deployed to do that.

Some of us are simply deployed in our church family or in our family at home, helping people discover Jesus and develop in their lives with Jesus, then to also be deployed themselves. There are churches that are not unified at all. Whether their mission is to discover, develop and deployor they state their priorities in a different waythey are unified. They argue and fight over all sorts of things, such as the color of the carpet, what the seats should be like, what music should be played, who should be on the stage, what the children’s ministries should look like, who should be pastors or who shouldn’t. They argue and create tension over all these things. They are not unified around the priority of being part of God’s work.

As I’ve been here over these past six months, I’ve been amazed and encouraged to see behind the scenes how the pastors, elders, other staff members and leaders are united. A lot of you don’t see things behind the scenes, but I have for six months and can tell you they are united in their priorities that everything is about discovering, developing and deploying disciples of Jesus Christ. No tension. No in-fighting. No back biting. It’s exactly what Paul is talking about here when he says we are all to be of the same mind. To be of one mind, we must have the same priorities as a church, otherwise the whole thing falls apart and we don’t get anything done of what God wants. Praise Him that He has created a united congregation here.

Followers of Jesus should love each other equally. 

Paul doesn’t just stop with the same priorities; he also says these believers should have the same love. This means followers of Jesus should love each other equally. This means we do not love someone more if they are more like us. This means we do not love someone more if they make a certain amount of money, work in a certain trade or live in a certain neighborhood. We don’t love someone more if they like the music or movies we like. Paul is encouraging us to love everyone equally. That doesn’t mean we’re going to love everyone the same. Obviously our family and friends are loved differently than strangers, but as we look around the room and see the people sitting to the left and right of us, we should be able to say we love each of these people equally because we are united in Jesus Christ.

All of us are sisters and brothers in Jesus Christ. All of us are on this life mission together, having these same priorities.  Every single one of us have the same gifts that Jesus offers, so the way we treat each other and look at each other should all be based on equality. There should be no, “I really like that person. I really hope they are in my small group; this one not so much.” Instead we should say, “I love you. I love you. And I love you. Yes, I’m closer to certain people than others, but we equally love each other no matter what because we are united in Jesus Christ. We have the same priorities. We have the same love.

Followers of Jesus should be like family. 

Paul also says that we should be in full accord. What he’s getting at here is the fact that followers of Jesus should be like family. The language that he uses here speaks of being souls that are united, intermingled, connected in a way that no one can break. That’s what Paul means by being in full accord. We are connected like family members where no matter what happens, even if there’s dysfunction or you’re not talking now or haven’t in a long time, you’re still family. There’s still a strong connection.

Paul is talking about the unity that every single one of us have from this point forward. You can’t even say like we do in wedding vows, “…’til death do us part.”  We’re going to be in heaven together, unified, connected at the soul level as a family of Christ followers living together, connected forever. We can pray for people on the other side of the world because we are family connected together forever. We can truly love each other here at Village Bible Church and care for each other because we are united in Christ forever and ever and ever. This is hard work that does not come easily.

Later on we will talk about how to make this happen in our lives. Every single one of us is a sinner who needs a Savior so we push back against this stuff. Unity is not something that is easy; unity is not something that we’re going to do on our own. It is something that is built up intentionally over a long period of time as we follow Jesus. I don’t want anyone to leave here thinking, “My goal is just to be more united and I’m going to work hard at it.” No, we’ll just mess that up.

Followers of Jesus are to be united.

Followers of Jesus should be others focused.

Another way that followers of Jesus are like Velcro is they are to be others focused. Followers of Jesus are not just to be about themselves; they are to be focused on others. Now, the purpose of Velcro is not just to exist in and of itself. If it is in your drawer at home, sitting there for five, ten, fifteen years, it’s useless. Let’s face  it, we have all have things that have been in our drawers that long. These things are not doing what they were designed to do, like hanging pictures, keeping shoes tied, keeping wires behind your TV wrapped together. And Velcro has specific purposes. If it’s just by itself, stuck in that drawer, it’s not fulfilling its purpose. It is worthless. We as followers of Jesus Christ are to be others focused.

Life is not just about us. Oh how easy it is to make life about us. Talk about coming naturally! It’s easy for us to make life about us. Paul though says I want you to be united and also turn your focus to other people in the world around you. If you’ll do that, you’ll fulfill the purpose God has for your life. Here is how Paul says this in verse three:  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

Let’s pause here. The first way we are others focused is by seeing others as more important than us. Now, Paul doesn’t say you have to consider yourself unimportant. Paul is not talking about a humility here in which we put ourselves down, thinking we are worms and everyone else in wonderful. He’s not devaluing any of us; he’s saying as we think about others and their needs in the world around us, we are to be humble and think highly of them, even more highly than we think of ourselves. Again, not putting ourselves down, but raising others up. We want to genuinely care about others, their needs, their wants, their desires. We’re to work hard to have harmony with the people around us. That takes being focused on others.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a book many years ago called Life Together in which he gave several examples of how we can be others focused, of how Christians can be genuinely concerned about other people, not putting themselves down but lifting others up. Here are some things that Bonhoeffer came up with:  “Christians should hold their tongues, refusing to speak uncharitably about a Christian brother or a Christian sister.” Hold your tongue; don’t speak uncharitably about another Christian.

Followers of Jesus should see others as more important.

When you are humble and not conceited, when you are boosting others up, when you’re concerned about them and viewing them as important in your life, you will not say a word that tears them down. This means no gossip, no slander—things that are untrue about someone. This means no mockery—teasing that is designed to break people down. If we consider others as more important than ourselves, then we will constantly want to build them up, but our tongues can be used to tear people down brutally. These things come so naturally to us. Students who are in class or hallways, you know how easy it is to tease and make fun of other students for any number of things—what they’re wearing, what their hair looks like, maybe they haven’t showered in a few days. It’s easy to tease other students, but Bonhoeffer, taking a cue from Paul, says do not mock, do not tear down. ”Did you see what she was wearing? Did you hear what he was saying?”

The root of all of that kind of talk—gossip, slanderous lies about people, mockery where we’re just tearing them apart—is ultimately designed to puff ourselves up and make us feel better than others. To make us feel superior, we think, “Well, at least I’m not that person.” Instead we need to flip that and only speak words that are kind, affirming and building people up. At the first sign of gossip, when we hear it in a conversation, we need to move to another room or shut that talk down. When we hear mockery, instead of thinking it sounds fun, we need to shut it down or get out of the room and not be part of it. End it by saying something kind about the other person. “I know what you’re getting at, but do you know they are really helpful in this area, they’re really kind.” Or it could be a flat out, “We probably should not be talking about them in this way.”

Bonhoeffer and Paul say, no, if we’re going to be others focused, if we’re going to see others as more important than ourselves, we’re going to do what God is calling us to do here in the book of Philippians—consider others as more important than ourselves. Build them up. When others are our priority, when we want to build them up instead of tearing them down, we will watch our words.

Another thing that Bonhoeffer says is that when we’re others focused, when others are more important than us, we should refuse to consider our time and calling so valuable that we cannot be interrupted to help with unexpected needs no matter how small or menial. If we are others focused, if we are considering other people as more important than ourselves, then we will not always refuse to answer the cell phone when we see the caller ID. Everyone one of us have been in that situation, I don’t care who you are. We’re at dinner or watching a show we don’t want interrupted or reading a book or getting ready for a nap. The phone vibrates, we look at the caller ID and think, “Ah, that’s going to be a long conversation.” Now if none of you have ever had that experience, it’s probably because other people are having that experience when you call. I’m a big talker, so I’m afraid of what others think when they see it’s me on their caller ID. “Oh no, this is not going to be quick. Cisco is calling.” Now this doesn’t mean we can’t say that we’ve at dinner with the family or we’re enjoying time with our loved ones so we’re not answering the phone. I’m not saying we always have to be picking that thing up.

What is our heart attitude toward other people? Are we saying, “My time is more valuable; I want to spend it the way I want to spend it; I don’t want to be interrupted by anything; my calendar is so tight I just don’t have any extra time”? Is that always our attitude or instead are we willing to say, “Yeah, I’m eating dinner now but I’ll call that person back later. I’ll hear what they have to say. I can’t meet with you for lunch today because I’m busy, but let’s get something on the calendar and make this a priority. What about next Tuesday?” That’s what we do when we as followers of Jesus make others our priority. We are focused on them and see them as more important than ourselves.

Followers of Jesus should consider others’ needs, not just their own. 

Paul goes on though, not only are we to do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, being puffed up and thinking we are more important than others. Paul says in verses three and four don’t do that, but “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Followers of Jesus should consider others’ needs, not just their own.

I love that Paul does not say, “Don’t ever be concerned with your needs; just be concerned with the needs of other people.” We should not live as though that’s what this verse says. Paul says, “…look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We have needs, things we have to get done around the house and in our lives. We have things we want to do with our family, friends, classmates. Paul does not say put all that aside. Everything is about the people around you. Paul is not saying that you never get to pick the movie. You never get to pick the restaurant. You have no say over the paint color in the living room. Paul is not saying we’re supposed to go completely into the background and act as though we don’t exist. Instead, he is saying, “Yes, look to your needs, but also to the needs of others. Be others focused; don’t be self-centered. Think about the people around you.”

All of this is really though because my natural bent is to be focused on myself. From the moment I wake up in the morning until I go to bed at night, my tendency is to think about myself. What do I want? What is my desire? How do I want to spend the day? Now, I have a wife and three kids. Those of you who have been in that situation quickly realize it is no longer about you, but that’s a good thing because the fact is it was never really about you or me. As a follower of Jesus, it was always about others. How can I serve and care for them? How can I show them Christ’s love?

Think about our small groups. If you’re not in a small group, I hope you get connected to one soon. They are great. We just started a new small group and the people are just fantastic. We love praying, studying God's Word together and encouraging one another. Get in a small group if you are not yet.  Then come to the small group knowing that time can be about other people. It’s not that you won’t be able to have others pray for you; it’s not that you won’t be able to share what’s going on in your life. No, it’s not that you’re supposed to be totally silent. Come to the group, not thinking, “Man this is where I get to unload everything that’s going on.” It’s not only about you; it’s also about the others. We all get to share; we all get to encourage; we all get to grow together as we focus, not just on ourselves, but also on others.

Christians are like Velcro in that they are united. If Velcro is not united, it is pointless. Christians are like Velcro in that they are others focused. If Velcro is not being put to other purposes, if it’s just sitting in your drawer, it is worthless. We are united and focused on other if we are going to be like Velcro.

Now the question we have is how do we get this? We already saw the microscopic image of Velcro and know how it works with hundreds and thousands of hooks and loops. But how do Christians get unity? How do followers of Jesus begin to shift so they are focused on others? Here’s why it’s important to ask these questions and address them. If we don’t and just leave here this morning thinking, “I need to be unified with other Christians and think about other people more,” then we will begin pushing forward, trying to work harder and doing it in our own power. It will be like a New Year’s resolution:  “I’m going to the gym. I’m not going to eat sweets. I’m going to…. I’m going to…”  If you’re like me, the resolution is usually gone by the second week of January. We do not get unity and focus on others by just trying harder. By leaving here, getting in the car and thinking, “I’m going to do this.” That’s not how we get it and Paul know that’s not how we get it.

You may have noticed that we began this message with verse two rather than verse one, but now we turn to verse one to find out how we get unity.

Followers of Jesus need to reflect on what Jesus gives them.

How do we begin to be focused on others? How does this work? It’s not just striving. It’s not just trying harder. It’s not just accountability. It’s not, “At the end of the day, I know I’ve failed so I’m going to work harder tomorrow.” That’s not the way we get it.  They way get it is by reflecting on what Jesus gives us. We see this in Paul’s words here. By intentionally thinking about all we have in Jesus Christ, we are transformed—heart, soul, mind, desires and emotions—then unity and being focused on others flows from us. When we realize everything we have in Jesus, we are changed and live differently. We can’t help but be different people.

Jesus gives us encouragement. 

This series of verses is really an if-then statement. Paul reminds the Philippians  of what they have in Jesus Christ and it’s a reminder for each of us, too. He says in verse one, So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, [then] complete my joy…”—be unified, be others focused. He’s reminding them there is power and rhythm to what he is saying. I can imagine his enthusiasm building here as he’s speaking this out loud as his words are being written down.

Jesus gives us comfort from His love. 

If you have encouragement in Christ, if you have any comfort from love, if have any participation in the Spirit, if you have any affection and sympathy, then complete my joy, be unified and be others focused. In light of everything you have from Jesus Christ, you should then be united together and focused on the people around you.

How does it happen? Not just by trying harder. We do that and just get tired and frustrated. We are unified and focused on others when we spend time thinking about all the things we have in Jesus Christ. I’m telling you, the more we think about these things, the more we feel the weight of His love, acceptance, power and His goodness, the more we are changed. All of this changes us so we want to serve others; we don’t want to fight anymore. We don’t want the tension. We don’t always have to win. This doesn’t happen by working harder; it happens by realizing what Jesus Christ has done for us.

The first thing Paul says is “any encouragement in Christ…”  Jesus gives us encouragement. Once we become a follower of Jesus Christ, we have encouragement from the fact that He is there with us each and every day. There’s a variety of ways we get encouraged by Christ, but one of them is the fact that He is here with us each and every day. This is a one-on-one relationship that we are in with Jesus. Nothing breaks if off anymore; no one keeps us from Jesus anymore—unless we choose to avoid Him. This encouragement comes from the fact that any moment we can go to the Lord in prayer. Any moment we can lean on Jesus. Any moment, we can feel the love He has for us. We’ll talk about love more in just a moment.

Anytime day or night, I can be confident and encouraged by the fact that in Jesus Christ I have the forgiveness of my sins. They are washed clean forever. I may dwell on them, but God sees me as a dearly loved son. He sees me as forgiven all because of Jesus—and it’s the same for each and every one of you. That’s encouraging and it only comes about because of what Christ has done for us. The only way it really changes our thoughts and actions in the everyday is if we spend time reflecting on what we have in Christ. That is encouraging. He has done great things for each and every one of us. He’s with us each and every day; we are never alone. We have comfort from Christ’s love.

Jesus gives us a connection through the Holy Spirit. 

Piggy backing on what Christ has done for us and how it is encouraging, we see the depth of His love for each and every one of us. We’re going to talk about this more next week, but we can’t lose sight of this today and every day. Jesus Christ loved us enough to die for us. He came to earth, became human, lived a sinless life and was then nailed to a cross that He did not deserve at all. We deserved it. But because of His love for you, because He wants to spend eternity with you, He loves you enough to die in your place so you can be with Him forever.

Do you see what I mean by the importance of reflecting on this? Spend time thinking about Who Christ is, what He has done, what we have because of what He has done for us? This changes everything. This moves us from always having to have our way to people who say, “I want to live in community and unity with others. I don’t want to fight anymore. What do you need? How can I serve you? Jesus Christ has served me amazingly, so now how can I serve you? How can I show His love to you?” Feel His love. Think about His love. Get to a point where we believe it’s true. There are times I can’t believe God loves me this much. Now that changes me so I can be unified and others focused.

Paul talks about participating in the Holy Spirit. This means followers of Jesus are connected to Him through the Holy Spirit. This is how it works with our Triune God—God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Every single one of us as a follower of Jesus as the Holy Spirit inside of us, living and active, guiding and comforting us. In the power of the Holy Spirit, because of our connection to Him, we are abiding in Jesus, connected to Jesus, each and every day—every moment of every day. Again, we’re never alone; this connection doesn’t get broken off. It’s not that we earn it. “Okay, today you’ve been good enough so I think I’ll let you be connected to Jesus.” Then tomorrow, “Oh, I know what you did last night so that connection is messed up today.” No, we’re always connected to Christ. We can walk away when we feel shame or like we’re not worthy, but Jesus is always there. We’re always connected to Him through the Holy Spirit.

Because of what we have in Christ, we have access to God the Father. We can pray and get comfort from Him every single day, whenever we want. This is beautiful. Keep in mind, you don’t have to earn this. You can’t; I can’t. Once you have this, you can’t stumble and let it fall away. We are united with Christ forever and ever. Because of all Jesus has done, we can reflect on His encouragement and comfort. This connection with the Holy Spirit allows us to not only be connected to God but to be connected to each other. This is where unity comes from, so we all realize we are connected in Christ.

Jesus gives us affection and sympathy. 

Jesus also gives us affection and sympathy which comes from His love. God cares about each and every one of us. Let me say that again because some of us inevitably don’t believe this. God cares and about each and every one of us. We reflect on it; we spend time thinking about it; when we start to believe it, it changes us. The sympathy we have from Christ is what we’re specifically going to talk about next  week, seeing that in His coming to earth and in His dying, He connects with us in a new way. He understands us in a new way. He humbles Himself in a new way. Because of all that, He can sympathize with us no matter what we’re dealing with. The book of Hebrews says He has been tempted in every way only without sin. Whatever you’re tempted to do, whatever sin you’re struggling with, whatever problem you find yourself having, Jesus encourages us by saying, “Yes, I had that one too. Yes, that one too. I got through this; let Me help you through it.”

In light of what we have in Christ, be united and focused on others.

We’re never alone when we are in Christ. If we spend time reflecting on what we have in Jesus—this encouragement, comfort, connection with the Holy Spirit, affection and sympathy that Paul talks about here—then we can be unified and others focused. It’s not by working harder; it’s not by trying; it’s not by coming up with a new method. It’s by thinking about everything we have in our Lord Jesus that we can say, “Now I can be truly focused on all of you, my sisters and brothers. Now I can stop just wanting what I want. Now I can look to your best interest.” But it can only happen if we are willing to stop for a moment and think about what we have in Christ, Who He is and what He’s done for us. It’s only when we let that sink in that we can truly be unified with others and truly focused on them.



Village Bible Church  |  847 North State Route 47, Sugar Grove, IL 60554  |  (630) 466-7198  |

All Scriptures quoted directly from the English Standard Version unless otherwise noted.                                                                              

Note: This transcription has been provided by Sermon Transcribers (