Sunday, March 24, 2013

Philippians 2:5-11 Palm Sunday

A pastor sits at his desk, studying and preparing his sermon, and writing the very best classes.  When someone walks in he waves his hand and says not right now, I don’t have time.  Maybe he doesn’t say that, but he makes you feel it when he doesn’t even look away from his screen, and he makes you wait before he will talk.  What is wrong with that picture?  He doesn’t care about you.  He isn’t there to serve you.  He is too busy trying to be a great pastor.
Wouldn’t you rather have the pastor who is busy but drops it all at a moment’s notice for any little thing that you need to talk about.  It is really hard to be that kind of pastor!  Why?  I’m trying to make myself important!  I’m tempted to use my job for my own benefit, to make myself look good, not for you like I should!
Jesus is that kind of Savior, who dropped everything to help us.  It says that he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”  It’s a really strange word that’s used here –a word for seizing the golden opportunity.  It’s what you do when you see something you can use to your advantage, and you can’t pass it up—like a big promotion.  Big business people are good at it.  It’s that nasty tendency to use power to take advantage of others.  It’s the thing that you don’t like about your boss.  The word is harpagmon.  Christ didn’t act that way.  He did the opposite.

Theme:  God wants us to be like Christ.

 Listen to what he said…
5” Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-11

“Your attitude should be the same as that as Christ Jesus.”

He rode into Jerusalem to do the Father’s will.  He knew what was coming, and he rode in like a King, in awesome majesty on his way to die, because it was more important for him to do the Father’s will and to offer his life for us.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

1.  Is it even possible? 
It isn’t going to happen, when we are so busy trying to make ourselves look good.
Being like Christ means that we will have to stop thinking about ourselves so much, --if he would have been concerned about himself he never would have ridden into Jerusalem.  No, he made himself nothing.  He became obedient to death—because he was doing the Father’s will as the perfect servant of God.
We are supposed to be like Christ, but we wouldn’t want to ride into Jerusalem like he did.  Who would want what he got from the Jews and Pilate? We want to be loved.  We need respect.  We need to have a feeling of control over our lives.  These are basic human needs.  If we are going to make sure that those needs are met, we can’t be like Christ.
Essentially, the mind of Christ is self-sacrifice.  It’s being willing to give up yourself for others.  But Jesus was a true human being with needs too…

2.  How did Jesus do it? 
It says, “He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant.”  Basically, he has always been God—the Almighty Awesome God—but at that particular time he decided not to use his power to get out of trouble or to make the Jews and Romans worship him.  Because it was the Father’s will that he offer his life on the cross for us, he rode into Jerusalem as a servant.  He was not worried about those basic human needs of being loved and feeling important.  He had the Father’s eternal love, and the praise of angels.  Besides that, those who crucified him would one day see his glory and bow to him.   He just didn’t have to worry about himself.  He didn’t have to use his power to make himself look good at that time.  He was free to let it all go and be the perfect servant of God, riding into Jerusalem to die for us.  We are supposed to have that self-sacrificing attitude, but we can’t have the attitude Jesus had.  Not as long as we have our needs to worry about.

Let me illustrate. 
Career is a driving force.  When a promotion comes along, or overtime is offered, the servant of God might have to pass that up in order to spend enough time with spouse and family.  But you like the idea of making more money, and having a more important job.  If you pass on the promotion, you might not get another opportunity.  You might even lose your job on the next round of budget cuts, if they get the idea that you aren’t dedicated enough.  But it will mean more time at work and less time at home.  Can you do that, and still be the father and husband that God wants you to be?  It’s hard to pass up the promotion, isn’t it?
Love and respect are driving forces.  We have to be loved and have to be respected.  When we don’t get that love and respect from people, the servant of God just has to suffer, and keep on being the loving, respectful person that God wants us to be, even though people aren’t giving it back.   That’s hard, and you might find yourself so busy trying to be loved and demanding respect, and so upset that you aren’t getting it, and you aren’t much of a servant at all. 
To underscore this point that we are too worried about ourselves to be servants of God, ask yourself, “What would I do if I had divine power, like Jesus did?”  I think we would use it to make ourselves more important.  Yes, you might be able to snap your fingers and get your wife a 6K diamond, but what if she doesn’t show you the respect you deserve?  That’s not the way a servant acts.  That’s a tyrant.  There have been a few movies that explored this idea—I didn’t see any of them, but maybe you did.  One was Bruce Almighty, where a guy is given the power of God for a little while, and he uses it all for himself.  He uses the power to manipulate, and people end up hating him.  The movie works because we can see ourselves doing that.
We are too worried about ourselves.  We need to feel loved.  We need to be respected.  We need to feel important, and we use everything we have to make it happen.  How are we supposed to be like Christ?  Service to God means suffering, and sacrifice. 

3.  God has made a way for us.
It says in our text, “God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, etc.”  You actually don’t need to worry about making yourself look good.  You can forget yourself, and be a servant like Jesus, because your Lord has been exalted.  Let me explain…
Do you understand what it means that your Lord Jesus has been exalted?  You know what it means to be a part of a great country.  You are proud to be an American, but you can forget about that right now—we are talking about something better.  You are part of Jesus’ kingdom.
If you like to drop names, my dad used to play basketball with Tony Romo.  When I see Kenny Wiggins wearing that 49ers jersey on TV, I am proud to say that he is my member’s grandson.  That doesn’t matter though.  Your Jesus has a name above every name.
Just how great is our Jesus who rode into Jerusalem for us?  Well…
On the Last Day, when every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord, many will do it grudgingly, because they never would have believed in him.  But when the see him alive and in the flesh in all his awesome glory, they will have no choice but to acknowledge that our Jesus is Lord. 
The Jews wanted him crucified and the soldiers mocked him.  No one has ever been hated and disrespected more, even to this day when certain cults claim that Jesus is not Yahweh, the true God.  They will see our Jesus as the true God yet.  Isaiah 45 says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess the LORD, Yahweh.  This says that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the LORD, Yahweh, is Jesus Christ.  There will be no more escape, and no more rebellion.  The day of reckoning will come for all who have not taken him seriously.  Jesus is the LORD.  On that day, there is no way you can imagine how much it will mean to be able to say, “Jesus is my Lord.”  He even died for me.  He has power to judge, but he used his power to pardon me.  He has power to destroy, but he uses his power to rescue me from every evil, even from death.  You can say all of that!  You have been baptized into his kingdom, and he died for you!  He is your Lord.
Just like Jesus, you don’t actually have to worry about making yourself look good.  You don’t need the power.  You don’t need the money.  You don’t need to make people love you and respect you.  Jesus is your Lord, and you will be exalted with him.
You truly have nothing to worry about.  How much more love do you need than the eternal love of the Heavenly Father, who sent his Son for you, and also the love of Jesus his Son, who offered his life for yours on the cross?  How much more respect do you need than the respect that comes with standing by Jesus your Lord, who has been given a name above every name and will be worshiped by all?  If people don’t respect you now, they will in the end when every knee bows to Christ and they see you with him.  You can forget worrying about yourself.
Now it still isn’t going to be easy, but God has made a way for you to serve him.  You’re going to need to take God at his Word, though, and believe that you have something with Christ that you don’t see.  Look to Christ who went before us, and you will find confidence.   As you hear his story of suffering and death this Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, note how he humbled himself, being willing to suffer so much, all the while knowing that he would be exalted again.  See what God did when he raised Christ from the dead, and hear his promise that he will raise you to be with him.  Seeing how Christ went before you to secure your salvation will give you confidence to have the same mind.
There is an illustration in rock climbing.  The best climber goes up first, and sets anchors into the crevices in the rock.  The other climbers follow, using ropes that are secured to those anchors.  If they slip, the anchor will catch them.  If I went rock climbing, I would never get to the top—I would be too afraid of falling—unless someone went ahead of me to set the anchors.  Then I could follow.
Christ has gone ahead of us as the perfect servant of God.  His service, by offering his life, has anchored our salvation.  The eternal love of God, and the glory of being with Christ in his kingdom are a sure thing for us.  Now, anchored by Christ, we can forget ourselves and be better servants.

This week, as we descend with Christ to the depths of his humility, and we see him in his agony and death, don’t lose sight of the fact that he is the awesome Son of God.  May God open our eyes to see him setting aside all of his glory to help us.  May God open our eyes to see the glory that we already have as part of his kingdom.  When we see the glory we have from Christ, may we be able to let go of ourselves and be more concerned about others.  Follow Christ, the perfect servant of God.   Amen.