30 July 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (2:3-2:5)

If you have your Bible I would invite you to turn with me to the book of Philippians, chapter 2. We’re going to begin in verse 3. This morning we come to a section of Scripture that we tend to isolate from the surrounding text. We’ve talked about how even though chapter and verse divisions are helpful in finding certain passages, they do tend to make us draw divisions between texts when they shouldn’t be divided. And in fact in some Bibles, not only are there chapter and verse divisions, they have also separated paragraphs from each other. And yes all these are helpful, but there is also a danger we risk in that they have a tendency to interrupt the flow of thought. Our mind sees these divisions and it says, “OK, these are two separate ideas. Don’t consider them together.” And the text we will be examining today is one of those places where it’s almost like we take and we draw a line before verse 5 and after verse 11, and we pluck out those verses and we say, “This section is strictly a proof-text of the humanity and the deity of Christ. This passage has nothing at all to do with the verses around it.” Now don’t get me wrong. This section does indeed display for us the fact that Christ IS God and yet He became man. But there is more than that. Paul did not just drop everything and launch into a doxology of the dual natures of Christ. There was a reason—besides being led by the Holy Spirit—there was a reason he gives us this glimpse into the fact that Christ became man.

So, starting with verse 3, reading through verse 11, and we will obviously not get all the way through this today. Philippians 2:3-11Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

If you notice, verses 3, 4, and 5 all talk about the same thing: Verse 3, we are to submit ourselves to others. We are to value that other person as being greater than our own selves and we are to submit appropriately. Paul wrote a whole section about that in Ephesians 5. Wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives; children, obey your parents; fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath; servants, obey your masters; masters, don’t beat your servants. In Romans 12:9-10, he says, Let love be without hypocrisy. Despise what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another. These people had seen one man after another plot and scheme and do all kinds of dastardly things in order to become the Caesar. And Paul was seeing somewhat the same thing happen in this church at Philippi. There were some who had forgotten that it ain't about ME! And whatever this was that was going on, it was starting to pull the brethren apart. And so Paul has to write to these people and say, “Stop! You need to quit thinking that you are #! And instead think of the other person as being #1!”

Then in verse 4, he says that we are to consider other peoples’ needs as being more important than our own. Want to know one reason the economy is in the tank right now? Because people got so caught up in something called…MORE. People making $40,000 a year—not even middle class anymore—buying $250,000-$300,000 homes that they can't afford. Because the focus in this country is on SELF. Get everything you can while you can. And you can turn on the TV and find preachers preaching the same thing—get all you can and then go get more. Have your “Best Life Now!” NO!! So Paul is building here. He’s telling them, “Put other people center stage.” And it’s a back-and-forth thing. We are all to look out for one another. I look out for you, you look out for me, and we both look out for somebody else. And consider the other person’s interests before your own. You’ve got enough? Good. Somebody else is in need—go help them. Because if you are a child of God, He will provide. Matthew 6:25-34“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?...for all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” In other words, do the will of the Father, and He will take care of you. You may not drive around in a brand new BMW. But so what? It’s a car. And if you’ve got a car period—be glad. Does it get you back and forth? Yes? Good. Is your life any less because your car is a few years old? If God has given you what you need, then go help others.

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus… Did Jesus do anything through selfish ambition? Matthew 11:29“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart…” Did Jesus ever look out for His own interests? John 5:30“My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me.” Hmmmm…let’s do some math here:
  1. Jesus never did anything out of selfish ambition or conceit.
  2. Jesus did not look out for His own interests.
  3. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
What do you suppose the apostle is trying to tell us? “This is what Christ was like—now you be the same way!” In fact, if we were to read this literally, he’s not so much saying Let this mind be in you… as he is saying HAVE this mind in you! Another way to say it is, Have this mindset! It is in the imperative mood, therefore it is a command. It’s not just a suggestion; it’s not just a good idea. It is a command. Also, it is in the present tense. Basically, it’s a command to continue thinking like this. Always keep having this mindset!

Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition or conceit…Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Jesus never do anything out of selfish ambition or conceit. In fact, every chance He got to humble Himself—he took it. When He came into Jerusalem, did He come charging in on a strong white stallion? What did He ride in on? This of course to fulfill the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9Behold, your king is coming to you, He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey. When He spoke the Beatitudes, what were they? “Blessed are the…” self-confident? “Blessed are…” those who are self-motivated, and always seeking to get ahead? NO!! “Blessed are the meek…blessed are the poor in spirit…blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:3-6). And we will see in a couple weeks that He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross.

But for now, let’s flip back a few books to Matthew 4:5. Jesus has just finished fasting for 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. Nothing to eat, nothing to drink for 40 days, 40 nights. And we read in verses 5-7, Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: He shall give His angels charge over you, and, In their hands they shall bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
" Jesus said to him,
"It is written again, 'You shall not tempt the LORD your God.'" That’s kind of an odd way to reply, isn't it? But consider, what was Satan tempting Him with? “Show the world you are the Son of God! Let Your angels come and rescue you, and all the world will see who You are!” Now, if Jesus had done this, what could He have avoided about 3 years later? “Show the world You are the Son of God, they’ll believe it, and you won’t have to go to the cross!” Satan is tempting Christ with the desire to show Himself to be the Son of God, and to receive the applause and admiration of the people--and avoid having to go to the cross.

Which brings us to Matthew 16:13-17--When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven." Consider the contrast here. Satan wanted Jesus to show Himself to EVERYBODY so they could see with their own eyes—but Jesus says to Peter, “You are blessed because you haven't seen this with your eyes--this was shown to you by My Father.” Then skip down to Matthew 16:21-23--From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." Wow! In just a few short verses, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona!...Get thee behind Me, Satan, you are an offense to Me!”

But you see, Jesus did not come just to receive the praises of men. He didn’t come just to heal the sick and raise the dead and cleanse the lepers. He could have done that from Heaven! He didn’t come to have men say what a wonderful teacher He was. He came to do the will of the Father. And the will of the Father was for the Son to rescue us from Hell by paying for our sins on the cross. Luke 19:10“The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” 1st Timothy 1:15This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Question: If I stole something from you. And the only way to settle things was for you to die. I stole from you, thus I owed you a debt, and the only way for me to have that debt wiped out would be for you to die. Add to this the fact that I never liked you. I hated you from the moment I was born, and I thought I was the most important person who ever lived, and that the world existed to meet my needs. Not only did I steal, but I killed, I lied, I was an adulterer, I slandered your name every chance I had, and I laughed when people made jokes about you. Would you still be willing to die so that my debt to you could be paid? Jesus did! Now, that’s not the kind of thing you can place under the label of “selfish ambition.” Christ came to die so that He could pay the debt we all owed to God for the times we despised Him, lied to Him, blasphemed Him, and laughed while people mocked Him. Listen to Romans 5:6-9, and I'm gonna kinda paraphrase it—When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. Christ did not die for “good people.” That sentence doesn’t even make sense because there is no such thing as a “good person.” In due time Christ died for the ungodly. Rarely will a person die for a righteous man; for an upright and honorable man someone might be brave enough to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. And how were we saved from God’s wrath? Because Jesus took that wrath upon Himself as He died on the cross. He drank the cup of God’s wrath so we don’t have to. Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition or conceit…Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. Was Jesus God? Was He Lord? In fact, He was Lord even as He was being born. Listen to what was announced to the Shepherds on that night, Luke 2:10-11“Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Christ the what? OK, so if Christ is Lord, and was Lord even as He walked the earth, could He not have demanded that He be given anything He asked for from anybody? And do you know why? Because it all belonged to Him anyway! The donkey He asked for, so He could ride into Jerusalem? He didn’t have to ask for it! He could have said, “That’s MY donkey, I need it NOW!” Psalm 24:1The earth belongs to YHVH, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. Jesus would have been well within His rights to demand that donkey. Because the donkey belong to Him anyway!

But…even though Jesus would have been completely justified in demanding anything and everything He wanted—He didn’t!! He did not exercise His rights as God; in fact He set them aside. Now, I need to be careful what I'm about to say next. Because if I don’t say it right, I run the risk of committing blasphemy. Jesus did not come to earth to be glorified as God. Slow down! I'm not trying to be controversial here, or start some new theology. And I'm not saying that while He walked the earth He wasn’t God—I'm not saying that at all. What I am saying is this: that Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; Son of Man, Son of God, God the Son; came for one reason and one reason only, John 17:4“I have glorified You"--the Father--"here on earth; I have finished the work You have given Me to do.” Did He come to save sinners? Yes. Did He come to heal and raise the dead and all that other stuff? Yes. But those were simply means to the end, which was this—that God be glorified here on earth as He is in Heaven. But, while He did not demand people worship Him, He did accept worship from people. Matthew 2:2—“Where is He that has been born King of the Jews, for we have seen His star and have come to worship Him.” This was, of course, when the wise men came from the east. Trivia: How many wise men were there? We don’t know. Were they kings? NO! Were they at the manger? NO! Of course we also read about many people that Jesus healed who fell down and worshipped Him.

He needed that donkey. But did He take that donkey? No. He needed a place where He and His disciples could have Passover the night before He was crucified. Did He just walk up to someone and demand, “Hey I need your upper room! Give it to Me or else!” No. As long as we are in Matthew, let’s flip to chapter 20. And in Matthew 20, we have an example of two men who were a bit too ambitious. Of course it didn’t help that they had dear old mom pushing them along. James and John—two apostles, brothers—their mother asks the Lord Jesus that they may sit on His right hand and on His left. Then in Matthew 20:25-28, He tells them, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave--just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

You know all those times in the gospels where the mob is trying to catch Jesus, to throw Him off a cliff, or they take up stones to stone Him? The reason He escaped was not a matter of self-preservation. The reason He escaped was so He could make it to the cross. Now, let me ask you this: If you had a choice between being thrown off a cliff, or crushed under boulders (which is what happened when they stoned someone)—or being crucified. Which would you pick? “Hmm. If I'm thrown off a cliff, I die pretty quick. If they stone Me, one good blow and my skull is crushed and I'm dead. No, I’d rather be beaten and scourged and have My flesh ripped off My body and have nails driven through My hands and feet and have thorns jabbed into My forehead!” Talk about looking out for the interests of others! He was willing to go through all that—for a bunch of people who were desperately wicked from the moment they were born! He didn’t do it because He saw any kind of good in us. He didn’t do it because we had done enough “good things” and earned enough smiley faces and gold stars and brownie points.

In fact, he did it for just the opposite reason. He died for us because we hated Him! He came because the Father sent Him. He came to show us the love of God toward sinful people, and to redeem those sinful people by His blood. Because the Father told him to. Isaiah 53:10But YHVH was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of YHVH will prosper in His hand. It was the will of the Father for the Son to be crushed under the Father’s wrath to spare us from an eternity in Hell. So, to finish up. Let nothing be done out of selfish ambition—trying to get ahead and be the center of attention. Let each one look out for the interests of others—I help you, you help me, and we all help each other. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. In other words, before we think that we are so wonderful because we have given up some earthly comfort or putting our own “rights” aside—consider that Jesus put aside even more to come and spill His blood for us.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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