Monday, October 28, 2013

God on a Cross

Part 5 of To Live Is Christ, a series through Philippians

You can listen to this sermon here.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus [which was also in Christ Jesus, NKJV], who, though he was in the form of God, 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 by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil. 2:5-8). 

Feeling Humbled 

Back in May, Lebron James was named the National Basketball Association’s MVP. It was the fourth time James had received the league’s highest honor. What was his response? He said, “It’s very humbling.” 

Humbling? I don’t think “humility” means what Lebron James thinks it means.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of being an NBA player. In those dreams when I was named the MVP, I didn’t feel humbled; I felt honored.

Now it seems that every time an award is handed out, the recipient talks about how he or she is “humbled.” To me, that always comes across as fake humility.

In contrast to today’s fake humility, there is the humility of Jesus. By choosing to be crucified, he allowed himself to be humiliated. Why? Out of love for you and me.

The Attitude of Christ

The apostle Paul writes to the church at Philippi, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (v. 5, NIV). In verses 6-8, we discover that the mindset of Christ is a mindset of service.

  • Jesus was “in the form of God” (v. 6; cf. John 1:1). The NIV reads “in very nature God.”
  • Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). This is the opposite of “selfish ambition” (v. 3). 
  • Jesus “emptied himself by taking the form of a servant” (v. 7). He declared, “I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27). He acted as a servant when he washed his disciples’ feet (John 13:4-5).
  • Jesus was “born in the likeness of men” (v. 7; cf. John 1:14). 
  • Jesus “humbled himself” (v. 8).
  • Jesus became “obedient to the point of death” (v. 8). He “gave himself for our sins…according to the will of our God and Father” (Gal. 1:4). 
  • Jesus died “on a cross” (v. 8). Crucifixion was a humiliating and excruciating way to die. Jesus once said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). 

The one who is equal with God the Father washed his followers’ dirty feet. The one who is the Lord of the universe became a helpless baby.

The one who is God died on a cross for our salvation. 

Until we understand who Jesus really is, we can’t appreciate the depth of his humility and love.

The Antidote for Self-Centeredness 

Based on what Paul writes in this letter, it appears that the church at Philippi struggled to maintain unity (cf. 1:27; 2:14; 4:2). In 2:3-4, Paul urges the Philippians, “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.”

Humility and love are two essential requirements for Christian unity. But we are naturally self-centered people. (Have you noticed that when someone shows you a photo that you’re in, you always first check how bad or good you look? Everyone else in the picture could have their eyes closed, but if you look good, it’s a great picture.) Humility and love don’t come easy for us.

Self-centeredness destroys unity. So what can rid us of our self-centeredness? What can inspire us to have more humility and love? The answer is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Back in 1:27, Paul writes, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Living a self-centered life is not worthy of the gospel of Christ.

We have the gospel because of the humility and love of Jesus. If he had not come to this world to serve, we would all be without hope. Without his death on the cross there would be no salvation.

The cross shows us the kind of humility and love needed to maintain Christian unity. 

Daily reminding ourselves of the gospel is the antidote for self-centeredness.

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