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Philippians 2.1 thru 13 BEING LIKE JESUS

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BEING LIKE JESUS.   Philippians 2:1-13

            If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one is spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

            Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

            Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed -- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

Wearing Daddy’s shoes

The unique God-Man

– a "seat of doctrine"

– in very nature God

– the very nature of a servant

- God’s key Name:  JESUS

Adopting Christ’s attitude

 – some important "ifs"

– displayed in sincere concern for others

Work it out

– as if it all depends on you

- confident that he is at work in you

– "Jesus wore his hair long"

Wearing Jesus’ sandals

            We all know how little children just can’t wait until they grow up to be like their parents in one way or another.  When our oldest daughter was little she liked to walk around, not only in her mother’s shoes, but also in my size twelves.  Once, as she was flopping around in my shoes, she said, "I wish my feet were as big as yours, Daddy."  Fortunately, she didn’t get her wish, and soon got over wishing for it.

            In this section of Philippians St. Paul tells Christians that we should aspire to be like Jesus.  Any Christian who takes seriously our Lord’s call not only to believe in him as Savior but also to follow him as Lord can surely understand that – and will make it his or her goal in life to become more and more like Jesus in outlook and in lifestyle.

The Unique God-Man

           There are some ways, of course, in which we will never be like Jesus.  He is the unique individual who is both the Son of God and the Son of Man.  Paul celebrated that in this text – in a section that many scholars feel was a liturgical form used in the early church as an expression of their faith – a statement of who it is they were putting their trust in, and why.  Let me invite you to get a feel for it in that way by reading it aloud with me.  It talks about Christ Jesus and begins with "Who, being in very nature God."  Please join me:  "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."  It does have a creedal ring to it, doesn’t it?  It sounds like it could effectively be set to music.

            We can’t be like Jesus in what this describes, and we’re glad – because it describes him as the unique God-Man, our Savior.  Theologians call this section of Philippians "a seat of doctrine" --.because it speaks more clearly than any other section of Scripture about what is called our Lord’s "humiliation", or humbling, and about his "exaltation".  It surely is a key section of the Bible for us to consider.

            It begins by identifying Christ Jesus as nothing less than God – "in very nature God."  He was not just "like God" in some respects.  He was not a "subordinate god" in a kind of hierarchy of gods, as in Greek mythology.  Nor was he created by God to carry out a certain function.  He is God!  The Nicene Creed was formulated to make this Bible teaching very clear.  Every time we say it we confess that Jesus Christ is "God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made; being of one substance with the Father." 

As God, the Christ – before he became Jesus – participated in and approved the divine eternal counsel that determined that he would become one of us to rescue fallen mankind and restore us to a living relationship with him.  Thus God’s Son, the Christ, would display his true godliness.  Who else but the one eternal God would act in love to rescue sinners by taking the sinners’ place and giving himself as a ransom for them?  Who else but God would offer the benefit of this rescue entirely as a gift of grace, to be receive freely by faith?  Who else but God would provide assurance and certainty of salvation for his people by offering a redemption that is already an accomplished fact through his once-for-all atoning sacrifice for their sins?  Who else but God would thus create the atmosphere in which the Holy Spirit would nourish faith so it would grow into a responsive love, a desire to be like him and serve him in love?

            Christ Jesus was in very nature God.  The plan of salvation through which the world would be redeemed was his very own plan – so when the right time came he did not hold back and hang onto his equality with God.  He became the divine volunteer.  He made himself nothing.  Literally, the Greek says "he emptied himself."  He put his divine majesty and power as God "on the shelf" and became one of us.  His divine majesty and power, his identity as the eternal, only-begotten Son of God, were still his, and he showed this occasionally through his miraculous signs – but as a rule he did not use it.  He "took the nature of a servant and was made in human likeness" – born of the virgin Mary. 

            As a man, the first man since Adam fully in the holy image of God, he humbled himself and was obedient to his heavenly Father in all he did – willingly accepting suffering and death on a cross, and even being forsaken for an eternal moment by his Father for those he came to save.  To the Galatians Paul wrote, "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us."  To the Corinthians he wrote, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

            We know that his death on the cross and his burial in Joseph’s tomb did not end the story of the Son of God who willingly became the Son of Man.  This ancient liturgical song includes one of the Bible’s resounding "Therefores".  "Therefore (because he was obedient even to death on a cross) God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is above every name."  Do you see what this says?  It says that it is JESUS, our Brother in the flesh, who is now risen in glory and sitting in power as the Father’s right-hand-Man, ruling all things for the benefit of those who are his own.  It says that JESUS, his name as a man, the name that means "God Saves", is the key name by which God wants to be known and worshiped and served.  Other names for God are still significant as they add their own description to who God is and what he does for us, but it is the name JESUS that is the key to the Father’s heart.  John wrote:  "No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever confesses the Son has the Father also."  It is the name JESUS that opens the heart of God to us and has him listening to our prayers.  And it is the name JESUS that brings a message of Good News to our world, a message charged with the power of the Holy Spirit for new life for all who believe.

            These great words in Philippians say that someday "every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."  Some, who refused the call of Christ when they heard it, will make this confession begrudgingly, but they will make it!  Others, who neglected to be decisive and just let opportune moments to deal with Jesus pass them by, will say it remorsefully, but they will say it!   But we who trust Jesus as Savior and follow him as Lord will find our bowing the knee and confessing "Jesus Christ is Lord" to be the most joyous part of our celebration on that great and glorious Day when Jesus Christ returns to take us to be with him!

            And so we rejoice to be instructed in the faith again through this dramatic "seat of doctrine".  In fact, before we wrap up our study today, I invite you to feel the majesty of the inspired ancient liturgical song – with greater appreciation, having explored its meaning – by reading it aloud again.  Please join me:  "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death -- even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the Name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

Adopting Christ's Attitude

            We need to remember that it is part of Paul’s encouragement to us to be like Jesus.  Look at the words of the first paragraph:  "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one is spirit and purpose."  There are some important "ifs" here.  What Paul is saying is:  "Look at yourselves.  What do being united with Christ in his love and being in fellowship with his Spirit mean to you?  If you enjoy them at all, then work at being like-minded.  Be like Jesus.  Let his attitude be yours.  Don't be disagreeable, but be likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose."  The text goes on:  "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others."  There is a time when we are not to put our noses into other people’s affairs – but there is also a time, in Christian love, in imitation of the attitude and actions of Christ, for us to overcome our natural self-centeredness and be sincerely and helpfully concerned about how things are going in the lives of relatives and friends and neighbors – and a time to remember also the world’s needy.  There's a time to put concerns about ourselves on the back burner and place their concerns on the front burner in our lives.

Work It Out

           Now, the last paragraph of the text:  "Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence -- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."  Here’s encouragement to be serious about our life in Christ – to work at it with fear and trembling, as if it all depends on us.  But here is also assurance that it doesn’t depend just on our own effort and strength.  Our God is at work in us through his Holy Spirit "to will and to act according to his good purpose".  But it’s his good purpose that deserves the emphasis, and it is his purpose that we become like Jesus in our lives as Jesus’ disciples.

            There is a story about a young fellow in high school who went to his grandfather, who was rather well off financially, and asked, "Grandpa, how about buying me a car?"  His grandfather thought for a moment and said, "I suppose that could be done – but I have three requirements.  "What are they?" the boy asked eagerly.  "First, I want you to improve your grades at school.  You appear to be wasting your time."  "That’s easy," said the boy.  "High school is not that hard, and I surely can get better grades if I apply myself."  "Second," said his grandfather, "I want you to begin reading your Bible for ten minutes every day."  "Sure, I’ll be glad to do that," his grandson said.  "Third, I want you to get your hair cut.  I feel it is excessively long and distasteful."  The boy got a little angry at that, and responded, "I can understand your wanting me to improve my grades and read the Bible, but how I wear my hair is my own business – and I don’t think you have a right to demand that I get it cut."  They left it at that -- but about six weeks later the boy came again, this time with his latest report card in hand.  "I’ve raised my grades to A’s and B’s," he said, "and I’m reading the Bible daily.  My Bible has pictures in it – and I notice that Jesus wore his hair long.  Don’t you think I should be like Jesus?"  "Yes, you should," his grandfather said with a smile, "but have you also noticed that Jesus walked everywhere he went?"

Wearing Jesus' Sandals

          Sometimes we want to pick and choose in our discipleship.  We are ready to "wear our hair like Jesus".  We’ll imitate him outwardly.  But we’re not always ready to "walk with Jesus" down the paths of humble service.  But it’s Jesus’ attitude, not his outward appearance, that we are to adopt.  It’s his sandals of service and self-sacrifice that we are to wear.  And though we may find them too big for us, and we flop around in them and even stumble and fall, as we walk in his forgiving love and in the power of his Spirit we will find in our life experience that being like Jesus is really "the Way to go" – and we will be supported by the living hope that the Way leads ultimately to our sharing our Lord’s glory.

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