Saturday, August 29, 2020

Shine Christian, Shine! (or, “God’s Cure for Spiritual Myopia”) Philippians 2:14-18


Shine Christian, Shine!

(or, “God’s Cure for Spiritual Myopia”)

Philippians 2:14-18

Introduction: Our granddaughter just recently got glasses. For some time we had noticed her squinting to see things in the distance. She was hesitant about the idea of glasses at first, but when she put on her new glasses, she just couldn’t stop smiling! She said, “Everything looks so clear!” Myopia is a common eyesight problem, and figuratively speaking, it is common in the Christian life as well. We can get so distracted by the struggles of life in a fallen world that are right in front of us, that we can easily lose sight of the bigger picture. Paul used that imagery as he prayed for the Ephesians,

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,  17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,  19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might  20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places…

Paul is praying for God to cure the spiritual myopia of his readers, that they might see more clearly the greatness of the salvation they have in Christ. The ESV translation of our passage for today, Philippians 2:14-18, reads as follows:

14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

The Maine* Idea: As we recognize God’s work in us, and begin to grasp our part in His plan, it gives a perspective that allows us to have joy that goes beyond circumstances. That attitude will be noticed by the world. So…

I. Stop Whining: Do everything without complaining or arguing (2:14-15a)! These verses spell out some implications of how we can begin to work out our salvation with fear and trembling

14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning,  15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation…

       First what we shouldn’t do: murmur and question (v.14). Another translation says, “Do all things without complaining and disputing..”  In hearing that phrase, if you are familiar with the Old Testament, your mind may go immediately to Jews in the wilderness, Exodus 16:6 ff.

6 So Moses and Aaron said to all the people of Israel, "At evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt,  7 and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your grumbling against the LORD. For what are we, that you grumble against us?"  8 And Moses said, "When the LORD gives you in the evening meat to eat and in the morning bread to the full, because the LORD has heard your grumbling that you grumble against him- what are we? Your grumbling is not against us but against the LORD."  9 Then Moses said to Aaron, "Say to the whole congregation of the people of Israel, 'Come near before the LORD, for he has heard your grumbling.'"

I guess you get the idea: they grumbled! The Psalmist characterized the attitude of the people during the wilderness wandering in Psalm 78:40-41,   

40 How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert!  41 They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel.

We can think of the nation in the wilderness as an example of complaining against God, but we dare not stop there. Think about how easily we can fall into “complaint mode.” We too easily start complaining or grumbling about even little inconveniences we ourselves experience… I remember reading of a lady who walked into a major department store, and

…suddenly the lights started flashing, whistles were blowing and people came up to her with lights and cameras. She was the one millionth customer in the store! An interviewer explained what was happening, and asked her why she came to the store that day. With an embarrassed look, she said, “I was on my way to the complaint department!”

Oh well! As I read that I thought of how the Scripture says we are “living letters, seen and read of men…” Let’s not be a letter of complaint!

       Even in writing this letter, Paul is an example of not grumbling, of having joy that goes beyond his circumstances: remember, he is in prison!  Rather than grumbling and complaining about his situation or moaning about his adversaries, Paul is expressing his faith and urges the Philippians to live in the joy that can be theirs in Christ.  Remember he just pointed to Jesus as our example of humble service (2:3-8).  Jesus fulfilled to prophecies of Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth.” 

       Paul gives at least one reason to live differently: our life is a testimony “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault…” (15). Our conduct is a testimony to the world. How we react under pressure says something about the reality of our faith!  One translation captures the sense here when it says “That you may prove yourselves to be…” Our attitude under pressure speaks!

      “…in the midst  of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…”  The phrase “crooked and perverse generation” echoes the language of Deuteronomy 32:5 where God is describing the stubborn and sinful nation after 40 years in the wilderness,

3 For I will proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God!  4 "The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.  5 They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation.  6 Do you thus repay the LORD, you foolish and senseless people? Is not he your father, who created you, who made you and established you?

Paul deliberately uses the same pair of words that were used to describe the Jewish nation. He is not describing the Philippians with that language, but now, as a part of His church, a mixed church composed of Jews and Gentiles, he is describing the hard hearts they are encountering in the world around them. This is no news flash that will shock you: The world is a bad place.  You can try to hide from it or deny it or ignore it, but we are living in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation…”  Violence, war, suffering,  sickness, injustice and immorality… it never seems to end.   There was once an understanding of eschatology that has almost died out today called postmillennialism.  The idea was that the influence of the church would gradually increase until finally a “golden age” was ushered in, which would continue for a thousand years until Christ returned to inaugurate the eternal state.  I don’t know of any theologians who hold that view today.  History has shown us and Scripture confirms that things are getting worse, not better.  In the last days, perilous times will come… God has us in the world because He has given us a mission.  We are to be salt and light, living like children of the King, citizens of heaven. We are to look for every opportunity to proclaim the Good News of salvation by Grace alone through Faith alone, in Christ alone. As we recognize God’s work in us, and begin to grasp our part in His plan, it gives a perspective that allows us to have joy that goes beyond circumstances. That will be noticed by the world. So, stop whining, and...

II. Start Shining: Jesus said you are the light of the world (15b-16a)!

“…among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life…”

       In our position we are called to “…shine as lights in the world…”  Jesus used similar imagery in the Sermon on the Mount when He said in Matthew 5:14-16,  

14 "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

God gets the glory when we hold fast to His word, and when we hold it forth to the nations. Light dispels darkness. Light exposes what was hidden in the shadows.  Light leads the way. We shine as lights to the degree that we point people to JESUS, the One who is THE Light of the world (John 8:12, cf. 9:5). If He is the light, how can we be described as “shining lights”? The moon shines in the night sky because it reflects the light of the sun.  Without that reflected light the moon would become lost against the darkness of space.  The believer in Christ shines as light in the world only because of the reflection of Christ’s light.  Without that reflected light, the believer becomes lost in the darkness of the world and sin.

       “…holding fast the word of life …” Some translations say, “holding forth the word of life…” Both ideas are true: we hold it fast, and we should hold it forth, since it is the Word of Life. By the way, it seems in the context that Paul intends us to understand the participle, “holding” in the instrumental sense. We shine in the world “BY holding fast/forth the Word…” Perhaps you have memorized Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Paul said in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ…” It is the Word of Life because it brings life, as we read in 1 Peter 1:23, “…for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God.” God has spoken life by His word! And through the Word we recognize God’s work in us, and begin to grasp our part in His plan. So, it gives a perspective that allows us to have joy that goes beyond circumstances. That attitude will be noticed by the world. So 1) stop whining, 2) start shining, and 3…

III. Try Aligning your perspective with God’s: And so find “Big Picture” Joy (16b-18)!

…so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.  17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

       Notice how our passage today started in v.14 talking about not complaining, and it ends in these verses, referring once again to rejoicing in the Lord. He begins here by alluding to a future joy (2:16) “…so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain…” Paul points ahead to a future joy that will be his ‘in the day of Christ…” because of the perseverance of the Philippians.  Remember the reference back in 1:6, “I am confident… that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion in the day of Christ…” They are his crown!  What greater joy could there be than to see one you have loved and encouraged and discipled in the faith standing firm and growing in their relationship with Christ.  John said in v.4 of his third Epistle, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” The promise that God has a plan of which are a part, and that this story is moving to a climax should encourage us who know Him. Yes, the world closes its eyes, but the truth is that Jesus is coming back. For us, that is Good News!

       Because we live in the light of the Word of God, we live in the sure hope of the return of Christ. Peter warned that mockers will ask "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation" (2 Pet 3:4).  For our part he goes on to say: “…what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,  12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God…” (2 Pet 3:11-12).  Believe it or not, ready or not, He is coming!  The sure future that we have in Christ is something that can encourage us and give us strength to persevere and yes, even be joyful in the midst of difficult times. Now, we weep, but our sorry will be turned to joy! Jesus wins! But Paul’s faith was not simply based on the future hope of new life in the new heavens and the new earth.  For us the future is present, we have, now… already… eternal life.

       So, we have a sure joy in the future, and because it is sure, we have joy here and now (2:17,18). Listen to Paul’s words again, “…Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.  18 For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.” Remember Paul’s perspective: “To live is Christ, to die is gain…”!

       It is not only then and there that Paul will have joy.  He is in Christ, here and now. “Rejoice with you” is a compound form of the work “rejoice” that keeps appearing in this letter. This compound form speaks of “a deep mutuality of purpose and feeling.” Rejoicing together! The same word was used by Luke in describing the relatives of Elizabeth “rejoicing” with her over the birth of John the Baptist (Lk 1:58). Jesus used it of the one who “rejoiced” with friends over finding his sheep (Lk 15:6).

       God’s perspective gives joy, as we align our perspective with the big picture, we start thinking more like Jesus, God’s thoughts stir our love for Him, causing it to well up in our hearts and to overflow. That seems to be the perspective in Psalm 63:1-7,

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.  2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.  3 Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.  4 So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands.  5 My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,  6 when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night;  7 for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

Joy that goes beyond the moment. Paul uses the language of Scripture to refer to his experience of sacrifice as a priest pouring out the drink offering (Num 15:1-10). From Paul’s perspective the larger, more significant sacrifice is “their faith.” If his life is to be given, it is a small thing in the light of eternity compared to his joy in the Lord.

What is God saying to me in this passage? What’s the Maine* Idea? I) Stop whining, let the trials of life remind you this is why Jesus came! Instead rejoice in what God has done for you in Jesus. Stop whining, and II) Start shining, holding fast the Word of life, and holding forth the Word which is a light to our path, and a lamp to our feet, and dare we say, a lighthouse to the nations! Stop whining, start shining, and III) Try aligning your perspective with God’s. As we recognize God’s work in us, and begin to grasp our part in His plan, it gives a perspective that allows us to have joy that goes beyond circumstances. The world will notice.  Do you see clearly now?

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? Joy in serving Jesus, a joy that goes beyond the circumstances of the moment is at the heart of this letter. The Jews in the wilderness complained against God… and so have we, haven’t we? It may have been in the form of complaining about politics, or restrictions, but did any of this surprise God?  If we question His providence, if we complain about the circumstances that we are facing in this fallen world, it can sound like we are headed to the complaint department. Against whom are we complaining? Whatever you are facing, God has got this, you can trust Him. He will use it for our good, and for His glory. Let’s let the hard things of life remind us that this is why Jesus came. Let them cause you to press in close to God, and to trust Him. Rejoice in the Lord always!  Amen.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Willing, Working, and the Sovereignty of God (or, “How should we then live?”) Philippians 2:12-13


Willing, Working, and the Sovereignty of God

(or, “How should we then live?”)

Philippians 2:12-13

Introduction: There is a famous story about Earl Weaver when he managed the Baltimore Orioles… Outfielder Pat Kelley had come to faith in Christ and told Weaver that he had learned to walk with God.  Weaver replied, “I’d rather have you walk with the bases loaded!”  The Christian life is incomprehensible to those who don’t know the Lord (1 Cor 2:14). What does it mean to walk with God? It’s a lifelong process of learning and growth for we who strive to do that!  For Paul theology is always practical – it should make a difference in how we live. What we have in our head, has to make its way to our heart, and then to our hands and our feet. In our context in Philippians, Paul has just pointed to Jesus in his self-humiliation and exaltation as our example: “Have this attitude in yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Jesus, the sinless, perfect Son of God, is our example of a humble spirit and the attitude of a servant, C.S. Lewis well said that “humility is not thinking less of yourself, it Is thinking of yourself less.” Jesus is our “model” of looking out not only for your own interests, but also for the interests of others. But there is no way that we are going to come close to his level of obedience.  The Christian life is not difficult, it is impossible if we are trying to live it in our own strength!  The good news: God is working in us!  We can “work out” our salvation, with fear and trembling, because God is at work “in” us, giving us the will, and the ability, to live a life that is pleasing to Him. We work it out – God works in us. If the question is, as I had it in the alternative sermon title which I borrowed from the book written by Francis Schaffer, How shall we then  live?  The answer Paul gives us, under God’s inspiration is…

The Maine* Idea: God is pleased as we obediently work out the implications of our salvation in our Christian lives, trusting in His plan and empowered by His presence even as He works in us.  

I. Human Responsibility: Recognize the Powerful Presence of God as you strive to live your life in humble, reverent recognition of His sovereign hand (2:12). Before talking about God working salvation “in” us, Paul implores the Philippians to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. How many of you like to “work out”? As we look at these two verses, let’s think of the Christian life as a spiritual “work out.”

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…”

       With the word “therefore” Paul again draws a logical connection with what he has already said… Remember the context, “So then…”  In light of what has come before: In view of the fact that God has given us abundant reason to trust him, in light of the example of Jesus in humbling himself and obediently carrying out the Fathers plan 2:5-8), and in view of his exaltation to the throne at the Father’s right hand (9-11), and even back to 1:27 when Paul said, “…Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ…” In fact, if you take a pencil and start in 1:27 right down to 2:11, just underline the imperatives, the commands, that Paul gives… Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel (1:27); complete my joy by being of the same mind (2:2); Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit; in humility count others more significant than yourself (3); look out not only for your own interests, but for the interests of others (4); have the attitude of Jesus, who took the form of a servant (5). We are called to “Work out our salvation with fear and trembling…” Is this “working out” of our salvation a contradiction to the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone?

       Before we look at the admonition Paul is making, let me mention again the way Paul addresses the church… “Therefore my beloved…” The heart of Paul for his people is evident, is it not? He is speaking to brothers and sisters in Christ who he knew and loved. Remember that this is, at its core, a letter of friendship, and the love of the brethren that he urges the Philippians to excel in is also modeled in Paul’s life. Remember the words of Jesus, and how they are reflected so often in the apostolic writing… “By this men will know you are my disciples, if you love one another.” And so, he is not ordering the Philippians in his apostolic authority, but urging them to obedience, to working out their salvation, as a beloved brother in Christ. This then, is how to live!

       You might think, “Wait a minute, I thought salvation was by grace, God’s unmerited favor, what’s all this about work?” Aren’t we undercutting the Gospel? Know that Paul is not saying that we should work for our salvation.  The Bible is very clear that there is nothing we can do to earn eternal life.  We can’t work our way into heaven.  Eternal life is a free gift from God. For example, Paul said in Rom 6:23…

The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord… (NASB).

       That is crystal clear. Eternal life is not earned or deserved, it is a free gift.  Likewise, he wrote in Ephesians 2:8,9…

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourself, it is a gift of God, not as a result of works, that no one may boast…

       So, we certainly do not work “for” our salvation! Rather, we are to “work out our salvation” in the sense that we are to live out the implications of being a saved person, God’s child, forgiven, not yet perfect, but changed, carrying out our part in Christ’s mission in the world. We see the interplay between God working in us, and our responsibility to live our lives in obedience to Him. “How’s your workout going?”

In other words, we are saved “unto” obedience.  I Peter 1:2 says, “…who are chosen  2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood…”  Paul writes in Eph 2:10 that “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God ordained beforehand that we should walk in them…” A changed, transformed life is characteristic of biblical Christianity.  James 2:17 says that “…faith, if it has no works, is dead being by itself…”  A changed life, conduct that is characterized by a growing obedience to Jesus is normal, healthy Christianity. This kind of change comes from the inside out, it results from God giving us a new heart.  I like the way John Ortberg put it: "Spiritual growth doesn't mean a life of doing what I should do instead of what I want to do. It means coming to want to do what I should do." We start to think more like Jesus.

Fear and trembling are almost always used together in the New Testament in contexts that speak of God’s sovereignty, or of his holiness and power.  It does not mean that we are to be “fearful” of God, rather it implies a deep reverence and respect for the majesty and holiness of God. So, we are not to live out our Christian life arrogantly or presumptuously, but rather with a “humble reverence.”  Why? V. 13 goes on to give the reason, God is working in us! Remember the Maine* Idea: God is pleased as we obediently work out the implications of our salvation in our Christian lives, trusting in His plan and empowered by His presence as He works in us. So we see human responsibility, connected amazingly, interwoven in these two verses, with…

II. Divine Sovereignty: We live the Christian life in humble reverence of God, recognizing His work in us, as we strive to live out His good purpose for our lives (13).  “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure…” 

       Why should our striving to live the Christian life, learning and growing in our walk of faith be “with fear and trembling…”? For [that is, “for this reason”] it is God who works in you… How great is our God!  We need to live our lives in humble, reverent recognition of the sovereign hand of God. Here Paul gave the explanation of why our striving to grow in faith and faithfulness is carried out with “fear and trembling,” we recognize that our mighty God, the majestic Creator of the universe, is working in us to shape our will, and to energize and equip us to do His work.

       Think of it, the One who shook the mountain with His presence when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the One who parted the Red Sea, who sent fire to consume the sacrifice of Elijah on Mount Carmel. The One who hurled a storm after Jonah when He thought he could run from God’s presence, and then sent a great fish to swallow him alive and give him a three day “sea-taxi” ride back to the beach. He is the God who raised up kings and kingdoms and who brought them down, who spoke through the prophets and in these last days has spoken in the Son, THIS God, the One true God, knows you, and is with you, and is working in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure! Does that stir some fear and trembling in you? What a mighty God we serve! I thought of the story of David and his men, carrying the arc back to Jerusalem. Do you remember this scene in 2 Samuel 6:2-9,  

2 And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale-judah to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who sits enthroned on the cherubim.  3 And they carried the ark of God on a new cart and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill. And Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart,  4 with the ark of God, and Ahio went before the ark.  5 And David and all the house of Israel were making merry before the LORD, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals. [A big celebration! What could possibly go wrong?] 6 And when they came to the threshing floor of Nacon, Uzzah put out his hand to the ark of God and took hold of it, for the oxen stumbled.  7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah, and God struck him down there because of his error, and he died there beside the ark of God.  8 And David was angry because the LORD had burst forth against Uzzah. And that place is called Perez-uzzah, to this day.  9 And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?"

God is that holy, that transcendent, that awesome. He could only be approached in the ways He ordained and allowed. That same God, because of Jesus, is present, working in us. Paul admonished the Corinthians to live differently when he said “Don’t you know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  The presence of the holy, all powerful, creator of the universe should cause us to tremble!   Here he goes even further; God is not only with us and in us, he is purposefully working in us, “…both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” Does that astound you, that God finds pleasure in us, as he is working in us? As he sees us responding to Jesus’ example, loving Him and loving others, striving to learn and grow in obedience, putting off our old self with its passions and desires, and more and more conforming our attitude to the mind of Christ, He finds pleasure in us!

       The miracle is that as God is working in us, he will also work through us!  As his plan is unfolding on the stage of human history, he has chosen to include us in his story!  God has worked salvation in us, now “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…

What is God saying to me in this passage? The Maine* Idea in these two verses is that God is pleased as we obediently work out the implications of our salvation in our Christian lives, trusting in His plan and empowered by His presence even as He works in us.  

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? I know that one erroneous conclusion that people sometimes draw from the doctrine of grace is that we don’t really have anything we need to “do” once we believe, as though we are just along for the ride. Sometimes we hear the expression, “let go and let God.” I am quite sure that early in my Christian life, I probably led some people astray when they started talking about their favorite sin, with the proviso, “I am not going to give up x-y-z…” I think I told more than one person, “Just believe in Jesus, he’ll take care of changing what needs to change.” What that person was really saying is, “I don’t want to repent, my sin is too important to me.” And I gave them permission, as though believing and repenting were not really two sides of the same coin! If you believe, really, you will repent. I should have said, “Do you really believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be? Don’t you think He gets to make the rules?” Listen to what Paul will say in chapter 3:8-14…

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ  9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-  10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,  11 that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.  12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

That doesn’t sound like coasting does it? The New Testament clearly teaches the doctrine of Grace. Yet the recognition of God’s sovereign, gracious work demands a response. Listen to John 3:36, in the NASB translation, "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." Some English translations are ambiguous, but two different Greek words are used. Belief is not contrasted with unbelief, but rather belief is contrasted with not obeying! The implication is that if we truly believe, we will obey, and if we are not obeying, we may not be truly believing! And so, the Bible is full of commands, imperatives. And they are frequently connected: in view of what you have in Christ, considering what God has done for you based on no merit of your own, walk worthy of the calling with which you have been called. In other words, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling…” Or, as Paul told the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God. Not as a result of works that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them…” Beloved, as you have always obeyed God’s word, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure…   You may never walk with the bases loaded, but because God is in you, you can learn to walk with God, AMEN.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

“All Hail King Jesus!” - Philippians 2:9-11


“All Hail King Jesus!”

Philippians 2:9-11

Introduction: The most important question we must all answer is “What will you do with Jesus?” Psalm 2 begins with a question that has echoed throughout the course of human history:

Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing?  2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together Against the LORD and against His Anointed…”

Resistance against the rule of God and His Anointed is the essence of sin.  Contrast the scene that is pictured in Isaiah’s vision, recorded in Isaiah 6:1-4… 

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"  4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke…"

Seraphim covering their faces and feet in humility, worshipping the exalted Lord! Where are we on the continuum this morning as we come together? Are our hearts set on worship?  Our text today stands almost as a doxology at this point in the letter.  There is no more important subject than that which it addresses: the worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Jesus himself rebuked the superficial worship of many of the religious leaders of his day when he said in Matt 15:7-9,


He told the Samaritan woman at the well, in John 4:23, "But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.”  The word “worship” in both Greek and Hebrew has the idea of prostrating oneself before another in reverence…  We are at a worship service, right? Did you come here to worship the exalted Christ?  John had a vision of the exalted Lord, we have it described in Revelation 1:12-17…

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,  13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.  14 The hairs of his head were white like wool, as white as snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire,  15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters.  16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.  17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, "Fear not, I am the first and the last,  18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

That is the One who took on a human nature and went to the Cross. That is the super-exalted One, worthy of all praise, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Maine* Idea:  Because of Jesus’ obedience in carrying out the Father’s plan He has been exalted to the Father’s right hand.  As we worship the Son, which is our only fitting response to Him, the Father is glorified.  One day all will bow, either in worship or in defeat. Is Jesus your Lord?  Then worship Him today, and every day!

I. WHY Jesus was exalted by the Father and deserves our worship: "Therefore God has highly exalted him…."

       When you see a “therefore” ask what its “there for.” The NASB translates: “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him….”   Why has God highly exalted Jesus? Because, as we read in Philippians 2:6-8,

"…though he was in the form of God, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross…”

The Son of God, God the Son, became a man, the Holy One came to die as our substitute, bearing our sins in His body on the Cross… “Therefore [because he did that, carrying out the plan conceived in the Godhead in eternity past] God has highly exalted him..." He exalted Jesus because of who He truly is, and because of what he freely did.  The Father loves the Son, the Father has an infinite delight in the Son, because the Son esteemed the Father so highly that he chose to die the worst of deaths to carry out the eternal plan of the Godhead to redeem humans.

       The Father loves to exalt the humble. "For though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly" (Psalm 138:6). "Thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: 'I dwell in a high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit'" (Isaiah 57:15).

       This is a divine principle which Jesus repeatedly taught His disciples: "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted" (Matthew 23:11). And it is fitting that the one who humbled himself most deeply, the one whose obedience cost the most, the one who was without sin, being made sin for us, that He should be most highly exalted. The word “highly-exalted” is a compound word that appears only here in the New Testament – “super-exalted” or “raised to the loftiest degree.” He humbled himself in the incarnation, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross… He became “…a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief…

         Therefore, God has highly exalted himHave this mind in you… there is a mandate for us to follow the Master, to take up our cross and follow Jesus. For most of us, that will mean taking the attitude of Christ, and serving others in His name right where we are. Do you think it is just by chance that you are where you are right now? Your home, your family, your workplace or school? The sovereign Lord of the universe has strategically placed you exactly where he intended you to be. For a few, he may redeploy you in ministry or in missions. The pioneer missionaries invested their lives for the sake of the nations, that those who had not heard might hear the glorious truth of the gospel. Imagine Hudson Taylor saying, after a lifetime of toil and suffering in China, "I never made a sacrifice"! Because he understood the "therefore" of Philippians 2:9. Or as Paul said in Romans 8:17, "If we suffer with him, we shall be glorified with him"! All of us have a part in His plan.

       Whether there or here, the word “therefore…” in this text evokes the power to serve quietly behind the scenes, avoiding the limelight, often seemingly unnoticed or unappreciated, but consistently serving because you do it for Him.  What a privilege to be called a child of God, a servant of the King!  After all, its not about us, He is Lord! And know this: One day all will bow, either in worship or in defeat. Is He your Lord?  He alone is worthy of our worship!

II. HOW Jesus was exalted by the Father: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him a name which is above every name…" This statement describes how Jesus has been exalted by the Father in the past.

       In Acts 2:36 Peter says, "Let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." It was his lordship and Messiahship—his messianic lordship—that was bestowed on him at his exaltation. Not that he wasn't Messiah and Lord before his resurrection. He was. But he had not yet fulfilled the mission of Messiah until he had died for our sin and risen again. And therefore, before his death and resurrection, the lordship of Christ over the world had not been brought to full actuality. The rebel forces were not yet defeated, and the power of darkness held the world in its grip. In order to be acclaimed Messiah and Lord, the Son of God had to come into human history, defeat the enemy, and lead his people out of bondage in triumph over sin and Satan and death. And that he did on the Cross, and in His resurrection. Writers point out at least four aspects of the exaltation of Jesus:

    1. The resurrection – Paul spoke of the exaltation of Christ when in the opening of Romans he said of Him, “…who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord…” (Rom 1:4).

     2. The ascension  In John 20:17, after the resurrection Jesus said, "Stop clinging to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to My brethren and say to them,  I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.'"

     3. His honored position as High Priest, interceding for believers (Rom 8:34, cf. v.26; Heb 7:25,26). The writer to Hebrews said it clearly,

25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.  26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens… (Heb 7:25-26).

     4. His coronation, seated at the Father’s right hand  Jesus himself said “All authority is given unto me in heaven and on earth…” (Matt 28:18); I think that is an allusion back to Psalm 2 when Yahweh says to his Anointed, “Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance, the ends of the earth for you possession…” Paul also wrote in Ephesians:

“He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,  21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.  22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church…” (Eph 1:21,22);

The writer of Hebrews said in 1:3 of that epistle,

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high

Peter said in Acts 5:30,31, "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross.  31 "He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”

       Jesus took the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men. He became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Did Satan actually think he had the upper hand? When Jesus died on the cross, making atonement by his blood for our sins, Satan was defeated. Christ disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in the cross (Colossians 2:15). The sting of death was removed, the power of sin was broken, and the triumph of the Church was secured. We know how this story ends: Jesus wins! And so, His is the Name above all names, worthy of all worship and praise. One day all will bow, either in worship or in defeat before the Super-exalted Son of God. Is Jesus your Lord? Do you trust, and obey? Then worship Him today!

III. The Response to the exaltation of Jesus by the Father: The name that is above every name, The Lord Jesus Christ—the Lord victorious over all his enemies; the Lord who has purchased a people from every tribe and tongue and nation.

     “Every knee will bow…” At the end of the age, when the mission of the Church reaches its glorious conclusion, the name of Jesus will be sounded around the world, and at that name every knee will bow, whether of angels in heaven, or of the living on the earth, or of the dead under the earth—every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Please don’t be mistaken about what this is saying. It does not mean that all will ultimately be saved. The Bible clearly says “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (Jn 3:36). Jesus said, “The way is narrow that leads to life, and few there are that find it. The way is broad that leads to destruction…”Both believers and unbelievers will acknowledge in that day that Jesus is Lord—believers, to their everlasting joy, and unbelievers, in the terror of judgment.

      So, every knee will bow, and “…every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” Not simply “master” , or even “king,”.  In the context of the New Testament, quoting from the Septuagint, “Lord” often substitutes the divine name, “Yahweh” in citations from the Old Testament. Jesus is Lord, He is God.  The word “confess” here is an intensive form, refers to an open, public confession.  This is not a confession of faith, at this moment people are either saved or are not.  All however will bow the knee and publicly acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

       At Jesus’ birth, the angel announced to the shepherds that : “…today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior who is Christ the Lord” (Lk 2:11).  Jesus told his disciples “You call me teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am” (John 13:13), and after the resurrection Thomas confessed Him as “My Lord and My God”.  At Pentecost Peter proclaimed, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).  Paul told the Romans “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved  (Rom 10:9). 

        “…to the glory of God the Father…”  Here we see a hint of the intimate fellowship within the Godhead: To proclaim the sovereign Lordship of the Son is the greatest glory that can be given to God the Father.  As Jesus is recognized as Messiah and King, as he is worshipped as our Savior and our God, the Father is glorified as well.

What is God saying to me in this passage?  Because of Jesus’ obedience in carrying out the Father’s plan He has been exalted to the Father’s right hand.  As we worship the Son, which is our only fitting response to Him, the Father is glorified.  One day all will bow, either in worship or in defeat. Is He your Lord?  Then worship Him today, and every day!

How then should we live? What is our response? We came here today to worship, right?  That is a good thing. But know that…

       1. Worship isn’t only for Sunday! Our proper attitude about ourselves will come out of our proper attitude toward God. Father, Son, and Spirit, three persons, eternally existent as one God. There is mystery in that, we can’t know God exhaustively, but we can know Him truly, we can take Him at His Word. And if we know Him, we will love Him, we express that in our worship.

       2. When we gather, we need to come expectantly, coming to meet with Him, to hear from Him, to worship the super-exalted Lord, Jesus Christ. 

       3. Remember the scene we read about in Isa 6, the Seraphim worshipping the exalted Lord? How did Isaiah respond? He said “Woe unto me, I am undone”! He saw himself in the light of the holiness of God, he knew he was a guilty sinner. The closer we get to God, the more clearly we see Him through his Word, the more clearly we’ll see ourselves, and understand our desperate need for grace. The Bible is like a mirror, is it not? Our sins had separated us from God. Now get this: He bore our sins, yours and mine, in his own body on the Cross. Humans rebelled against God and brought death. The God-Man, Jesus Christ, who was without sin, who shared the glory of the Godhead with the Father and the Spirit, brought life and light, restoration, through the Gospel. How should we respond? Remember the context, Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus…   AMEN.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Joy in Serving: Improving your Serve - Philippians 2:5-8


Joy in Serving: Improving your Serve

Philippians 2:5-8

Introduction: As usual, I knew where I would start today’s message, but I was a little unsure until around Tuesday afternoon where we would end! We’ll start right where we left off two weeks ago, and especially because we are celebrating communion today, we’ll limit ourselves to 2:5-8, where we’ll see the Perfect Model of Servanthood: The Lord Jesus Christ. This is one of the key texts in the New Testament on the person and work of Christ, and it’s implications for how we should therefore live. I’ve called the sermon today, “Improving your serve,” but I am not talking about tennis! One writer suggests, “The incarnation calls believers to follow Jesus’ incomparable example of self-denial, self-giving, self-sacrifice, and selfless love as He lived out the Incarnation in obedient submission to His Father’s will.” In Jn 13:15, after washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus said “…you also should do just as I have done for you…” How is your serve? And we’re not talking tennis!

       Isaiah spoke of a Suffering Servant, one who would be bruised for our iniquities, who would have our sins laid on Him. Paul here alludes to that imagery of One who would be a Righteous Sufferer, a Suffering Servant. He has exhorted the Philippians to find joy in serving, and now he’ll hold up Jesus as an example of true humility: this is what humble service should look like, this is One who thought not only of his own interests, but also of the interests of others. Remember the…

Context: Paul has just told his readers that serving with humility and joy is a key to unity in the church. Read 2:3,4 again…

3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Counting others as more important than yourself, looking out not only for your interests, but also for the interests of others. That takes humility, not thinking too highly of ourselves, seeing the truth about ourselves. That is what Christian love looks like, really wanting the best for others. That is the attitude, the way of thinking, that Paul will encourage in our context today. He has already talked about some of the blessings that are ours in Christ in 2:1, “If [since!] there is… encouragement in Christ… comfort from love… participation in the Spirit… affection and sympathy…” Since, in Christ, we have such blessings, we should, in v.2, “…be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” Remember, Paul is not saying we have no diversity of opinion or perspective. He is not espousing “uniformity,” or being “cookie cutter Christians,” but he is saying the grace and love we have experienced in the Gospel, by grace through faith in Christ, will transform our thinking, and motivate us to love one another, and to be patient and forgiving toward one another. The passage today will explain how that is possible. In short, we start to think more like Jesus, we start to see the world through His eyes, from His perspective.

The Maine* Idea: As we recognize who Jesus is, and reflect on what He did for us, our attitude will be changed, we’ll find joy in serving Him by serving others.

I. We need to have our attitude shaped by the mind of Christ: I am following the ESV translation today, which comes closest to my reading of the text. “…have this attitude in yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (5). This is Gospel-shaped thinking! Jesus does not simply command us to serve, he showed us the way. He came as the “suffering servant,” the perfect example of what it means to serve, to put others first. We are to think, “…even as the Son of Man [who] came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many…" (Mt 20:28).

       But what is Paul saying here? Because we are in Christ, united with our Lord and Savior, we should allow the mind of Christ to shape our attitudes and our actions. Paul is calling the Philippians, and us, to first of all to think like Jesus. Right thinking will lead to right living.  Attitude determines outcome. “Let this attitude be in you, which is yours in Christ…” Since we are in Christ, we have experienced and trusted in the revelation we have of the mind of Christ. We’ve experienced grace, God’s merciful intervention in our lives. How then can our attitude not be changed? Because of the “…encouragement in Christ… comfort from love… participation in the Spirit… affection and sympathywe have experienced, we are compelled to extend grace to people around us. We think more like Jesus! And that is the Maine* Idea: As we recognize who Jesus is, and reflect on what He did for us, our attitude will be changed, we’ll find joy in serving Him by serving others. First, we have our attitude shaped by the mind of Christ. Secondly…

II. We need to recognize the truth about the person of Christ: “…who although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped…” (6). The self-humiliation of Christ is magnified when we contemplate the reality of who He is.  He is God, the ETERNAL SON.  The express image of the Godhead, the One who was present in creation and who holds all things together by his power. Jesus Christ was not simply a prophet and teacher who lived in Palestine 2000 years ago – He isn’t an angel, created by God to do His will. He is Eternal God, who always lived in perfect union with the Father and the Spirit. All things were made by Him and for Him. This is the miracle of Christmas: the Perfect, Holy, Son of God, left his exalted position and entered this fallen world, the Creator entered the creation. This passage clearly states that Truth.

       Do you recall the shocking way John began his gospel? In an allusion to the opening verse of the Hebrew Scriptures he said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In case you weren’t sure who or what he was referring to, he then says in 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.” So, is this a reference to some pre-existent being who was less than God? And in case the clear language of v.1 is missed, it says in v.3 “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” All things that were made were made through Him. He was not created. He is Eternal. Paul, in Colossians 1:15-17, says,  

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities- all things were created through him and for him.  17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And then in Colossians 2:9, he says For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily…” All the fulness of the Godhead in bodily form. God incarnate. Emmanuel, “God with us.” The hymn writer said it well, “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity!

       As we recognize who Jesus is, and reflect on what He did for us, our attitude will be changed, God became man to save us! Find joy in serving Him by serving others. First, we have our attitude shaped by the mind of Christ. Secondly, we need to recognize the truth about the person of Christ, and then thirdly…

III. We must understand the nature of the incarnation of Christ: but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form…” (7).

        “…emptied himself…”  Commentators and pastors disagree about what it meant for Jesus to “empty himself.” Some suggest that He set aside for a time the attributes of deity. I am convinced that it cannot mean that he in any way divested himself of his divine attributes - God is immutable, He does not change, He exists eternally in His triunity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Don’t miss this: Jesus is God. He didn’t stop being God when he came to this earth. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. In contrast to the self-glory denounced in v.3, Jesus veiled his divine glory by taking on himself a human nature. The hymn writer said it well: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; hail the incarnate deity! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel…” This is explained by the following phrases:

       “[by] taking the form of a servant and being made in the likeness of men…” Of the various English translations, the ESV makes this point most clear. Rather than laying aside something intrinsic to his divine nature which does not change, I think the ESV translators got it right in making it clear that the participle here should be read instrumentally: He emptied himself, he made himself of no reputation, “…by taking the form of a servant…”  The humiliation of Christ was the act of eternal God taking on a human nature. This idea is one of those concepts that underscores our limited understanding, and reveals the depth of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Theologians call this joining of two natures in one “person,” the “hypostatic union, the union of two natures, divine and human, in one person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Fully God and fully man, he reveals the Father to us. Jesus told Philip, “I and the Father are one… he who has seen me has seen the Father…” John Calvin comments,

“Christ, indeed, could not divest himself of Godhead; but he kept it concealed for a time, that it might not be seen, under the weakness of the flesh. Hence he laid aside his glory in the view of men, not by lessening it, but by concealing it.”

The Word, God the Son, became flesh, and lived for a while among us. The incarnation is an idea that we celebrate at Christmas, but it is really at the heart of the Gospel message. By the sin of one man all were made sinners, but the obedience of One, all who would receive it are made righteous. What did the angel say to the shepherds? Unto you is born this day a Savior, Christ the Lord. The great theologian J.I. Packer recently went to be with the Savior. He made this reference to our passage in Philippian in his famous book, Knowing God,

"We talk glibly of the Christmas spirit, rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis… It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor, … the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the prin­ciple of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellowmen, giving time, trouble, care, and con­cern to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need."

First, we have our attitude shaped by the mind of Christ. Secondly, we need to recognize the truth about the person of Christ; thirdly, we must understand the nature of the incarnation of Christ; and finally…

IV. We must respond to the love shown in the Cross of Christ: “…And being found in human form he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross…” (8).

       Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death…” Not only did he take on a human nature and enter this sinful world, but he came to fulfill the Father’s plan, his humiliation would include dying for sinners.  The wages of sin is death… (Rom 6:23). Death is the result of sin. By one man sin entered into the world and death through sin. So death spread to all men because all have sinned (Rom 5:12).  Jesus was without sin, the only human since Adam born without sin, and who never sinned.  He didn’t have to die. Yet he willingly came to die, to give his life. It’s how He showed His love: Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends… He knew what he would endure on our behalf, but he thought of us.

       Obedient to the point of death, “…even death on the cross…” The repetition of the word “death” is deliberately dramatic and emphatic.  Not only death, but the most humiliating, torturous, horrible form of death imaginable in the Roman world of the first-century. It wasn’t only a punishment, it was a statement to the people, an affirmation of Roman power, and a deterrent to any who would resist Roman authority. Submit to Caesar or else! But Jesus, the true Sovereign, willingly went to the Cross, to carry out the plan conceived in the Godhead in eternity past, before the foundation of the world. Ironically, the charge was nailed to His cross: The King of the Jews! The King was also the Lamb! He did it for you and for me!  As the song says, “…my sin, not in part but the whole, Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

What is God saying to me in this passage? Jesus modeled for us what it means to serve. Paul is saying that if we have the same attitude, unity in the church will follow. If we follow Jesus’ example of servanthood we’ll experience the unity that God intends for the church. Today we’ll celebrate the Lord’s Table, an excellent opportunity to reflect on the coming of the Son of God as the Suffering-Servant, as the Paschal Lamb, who would give his life to give us life to redeem all who would believe. In the upper room Jesus told his disciples, after the King stooped down to wash their feet, as I have done for you, so should you do to one another.

What would God have me to do in response to this passage? How is your serve? Does it need improving?  If Jesus is our model, I think we all have to admit we can do better. I read the story of a scene in London, shortly after the end of World War 2. Europe was in shambles, picking up the pieces.  One of the saddest consequences of war then and now is the children who were orphaned.

Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to his barracks in London.  As he turned a corner, he saw a little boy, dressed in rags with his nose pressed against the window of a bakery. Inside, the chef was working on a batch of pastries. The soldier stopped, and walked over to where the boy was standing looking in the window.  As the hot pastries came out of the oven the boy was pressed against the glass. The soldier’s heart went out to the boy next to him. “Would you like one of those?” the soldier asked.  The answer came quickly, “Oh yeah, … I would!” The American bought a dozen and came out and gave the whole bag to the boy.  He turned to walk back to his jeep and felt a tug on his coat.  The boy looked at his face and asked, “Mister… are you God?” 

It may be, that when we serve others, when no one is looking and we expect nothing in return, that we reflect Jesus most clearly. Have this attitude in yourself, which was also in Christ Jesus…   

       As we prepare our hearts for the Lord’s Table, let’s look back, remembering what Jesus did for us, that which we couldn’t do for ourselves. He paid the price so that we could be reconciled to God. He died a criminal’s death so that we could become, by grace through faith, children of the king. Let’s remember, and let’s take a moment as well to examine ourselves. Are we walking worthy of the calling with which we have been called? Let’s determine to follow the Master, let’s yield to the Spirit that the fruit of the Spirit might testify to the world, “This one belongs to Jesus!” We are here on assignment, our lives a testimony to the grace of God. AMEN.