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Sermon 2019-01-13 Geoff Follas

Philippians 2:5-11

THE GREATEST EXAMPLE OF HUMILITY

When we were kids we used to listen to the children’s request session on 1ZB radio each Sunday morning and one of the stories was the legend of the Kiwi. It went something like this. Many years ago the kiwi was the most beautiful bird in the forest. It had gorgeous coloured plumage, a short beak, a slender body, lived in the tree tops, ate berries and leaves and could fly.

 

One day Tane the Lord of the forest gathered all the birds together because he was concerned that the forests were under threat. The grubs, bugs and insects on the forest floor were out of control. They were eating the roots of the trees and the saplings and the forests were beginning to die off. So he asked each of the birds if they would be willing to leave the bright sunshine of the tree tops and go down to live on the dark, damp forest floor and feed on the grubs and bugs that were destroying the forests.

 

One by one each of the birds made excuses as to why they should not go, until Tane approached the Kiwi. “Kiwi would you be willing to leave the bright sunshine of the tree tops and go down and live on the dark, damp forest floor and deal with this problem that is destroying our forests? It will mean that you will have to give up your ability to fly, you will have to change your beautiful coloured plumage to blend ion with the brown of the forest floor, you will have to have strong thick legs to scratch around and a long beak to push into the ground where the grubs and bugs are. In fact, if the forests are to be saved from this infestation of bugs and grubs, you will have to sacrifice everything you hold dear and experience the discomfort, the darkness, the dampness, the danger of the forest floor. Are you willing to make this sacrifice for the sake of the forest and the birds? And the Kiwi said, “Yes Tane, I will go.”

And one day Almighty God looked upon our world and saw an infestation of sin and evil destroying the people and He asked His only Son, Would you be willing to give up the glory, the privileges, the position you hold here in heaven and go down into the morally dark and evil world of mankind, become one of them and sacrifice your life to save them from those sinful, evil forces that are destroying them? And Jesus replied, “A body you have prepared for me. I have come to do your will.”

This passage that we look at this morning speaks of Jesus, God’s eternal, beloved Son stepping down from the highest position in the universe to the lowest place in human society, that of a slave, a criminal in order to lift us out of our sin and bring us back to God.

In the passage Ross looked at last week we saw how Paul expressed his longing that the believers should be united.

And we saw that if we are to have unity and harmony in the church or in any relationship, the key is to have a humble attitude; an attitude that does not insist on its own way, that doesn’t push for power, prominence and position, but puts the glory of God and the concern for others first.

This attitude was most perfectly expressed in Jesus who was the greatest example of humility the world has ever known.

And Paul says here that if we are to have unity and harmony we have to have the very same attitude that Jesus had.

In these 6 verses we are going to look at the humiliation of Jesus and the exaltation of Jesus.

HIS HUMILIATION  v-8

In the 1990s the Iraqi dictator Suddam Hussein promoted himself as the greatest political leader in the Middle East and filled his country with statutes and images of Himself appearing exalted, glorious and triumphant. In 2003 the American forces invaded Iraq and discovered Suddam hiding in an underground cistern. He was dragged out looking like a filthy tramp, tried and hung. The glorious leader was crushed, humiliated and defeated. [photo]

The difference between Suddam Hussein’s humiliation and Jesus humiliation was that Suddam’s

was forced humiliation. Jesus chose to be humiliated.

Here we see the cost, the depth, and the extent of Jesus humiliation.

The Cost of His humiliation…His power, wealth and glory.

The scripture says here that Jesus was by very nature, God. He equally shared the position, the power, the glory, the privilege and wealth of Almighty God.

But when God the Father asked Him to make that tremendous sacrifice, give up all He had at the Fathers side, and limit Himself to frail humanity, He did not fight to hang onto what he had, He let it go.

How different this is from the prevalent attitude in our world where people, are striving and fighting to gain power, wealth and glory for themselves. We who have no right to it, grab for it. He who had every right to it, gave it up.

 

The depth of his humiliation..a human being, a nobody, slave, criminal.

In the Greek two different words are used to describe Jesus as God and Jesus as man. In verse 6 we read that Jesus was God in His very make up, His essential being, but in verse 7 we read that He clothed himself with a human body. The first word speaks of what he was the second word speaks of how he appeared.

To all appearances Jesus looked like a man, but His human appearance disguised His true nature which was God. He never stopped being God when He came to earth, He simply gave up certain privileges such as His eternal power and glory and wealth and accepted the limitations of a human body.

Ill. When George the 5th was King of Britain he paid a visit to the city of Leeds. There was a large primary school right beside the railway line that the Kings royal train was going to travel on.  The boys and girls with their teachers, crowded into the playground waiting for the King’s train to pass by. As it did the king came outside the royal coach and stood on a small platform where they could all see him.  He wore no crown or purple robe, but was dressed in a plain suit, just like an ordinary man.  From his jacket pocket he plucked a bright handkerchief with which he waved to the cheering children.  All too soon the train glided by and disappeared.  Then the children stopped cheering except for one little girl who couldn’t stop crying, so much so that one of the teachers asked her, “Why are you crying like that dear?”  The little girl spluttered through her tears, “I wanted to see the king but I only saw a man!” People who came to see Jesus saw only a man.  He lived like a man and he died like a man but he was nevertheless a king, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Almighty God.

In v7 we read that Jesus made himself nothing.

He who was the greatest figure in the whole universe chose to become a nobody. When he came into the world nobody even noticed. He chose to be born into a poor insignificant family belonging to a despised race of people, the Jews.

But He stooped down even further….He chose to become a slave and spend His life serving God and people. He placed obedience to the Father before everything else. He put His own interests aside and lived only to please God the Father and help others.

The extent of His humiliation…death on a cross.

If it wasn’t enough for Almighty God to put on human skin and enter this corrupt world of sinful people. If it wasn’t enough for Him to become a nobody, a slave. He even chose to be looked upon as a criminal, although he never did a thing wrong…and allowed Himself to be falsely accused, condemned and executed on a criminals cross.

Roman citizens were never crucified, it was too degrading. They reserved that punishment for criminals and barbarians. The Jews regraded anyone who was crucified as cursed by God, because the scripture says cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.

In His death, Jesus was degraded and humiliated as

He hung naked in public impaled on a criminals cross.

That is how far down Jesus was prepared to go for the sake of others. He was willing to put aside His rights, privileges, power, reputation, glory, wealth, comfort, safety, His very life so that He could accomplish God’s will and bring forgiveness and eternal life to others.

That is the attitude Paul says we must have if we are to follow Jesus and if we are going to have real unity and harmony in relationships and in the church. If you are out of sorts with someone, holding unforgiveness and resentment in your heart, the answer is to humble yourself ask for forgiveness and forgive from your heart. Hear Jesus on the cross as he looks at his persecutors, “Father forgive them for they know not what they”

HIS EXALTATION v9-11

The source of His exaltation…God

Jesus emptied Himself, humbled Himself, denied Himself, lowered Himself…….but God lifted Him up.

And here is a principle that runs right through the scriptures. When we humble ourselves and submit ourselves to God He will lift us up. It appears 8 times in the Bible.

That is completely the reverse of what our society teaches. They say that if you want to get to the top you have to promote yourself, advertise yourself, trample on your competitors, fight for and demand what you want.

Do you know what the Bible says about those who exalt themselves? God will bring them down.

This is what Jesus taught and this is what he modelled to us. Even in churches there are people who promote themselves, they push for recognition,

positions of authority, they want to be noticed, admired. They use all kinds of strategies to achieve this.

They talk about their knowledge, their achievements, their good deeds all in an attempt to make themselves look great in the eyes of others. In most cases they have a hidden agenda to further their own interests and gain some kind of power or control.

That is not the way Jesus behaved or taught. He taught and lived the way of humility. He didn’t even promote Himself. He never sought the praise and adulation of people. He was just as comfortable washing people’s feet as he was teaching the crowds.

I have often said to other pastors, “ If you have people who are pushing for recognition or positions of leadership in the church, beware, because once that get it they will use it for their own ambitious and selfish ends and it could split the church.” The best leaders are those who are quietly and faithfully serving in the background, unseen and unknown. Those who are not seeking any position or authority, but have humble servant hearts. People who feel too unworthy to be leaders.  Moses, Gideon, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Peter.

Not long after I began pastoring a certain church, a man approached me and starting talking about his gifts and ministries and how he believed God had called him to be a pastor. He wanted me to give him opportunities to preach and have leadership in the church. I felt very uncomfortable about the way he was promoting himself and so I did some background checking and I discovered when the previous pastor had been there he was a deacon and brought false charges against the Pastor to try and get rid of him.

Walk the path of humility and leave any promotion to God if that is what He wants. Jesus humbled Himself and God exalted Him.

 

Look at how high God lifted Jesus. He raised Him from the dead, then He took Him up into heaven, then He gave Him the highest place in all the universe…..the place of supreme authority and power. Matthew 28:18 “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” In John 5:22 “All judgement has been committed to me.”

Jesus has been appointed the supreme ruler and

judge of all the universe.

The title of His exaltation…Lord

When Jesus came to earth He was given a name that spoke of the work He was to do on earth. It was the title of His humiliation…Jesus = Saviour.

But when God raised Him to the highest position in the universe He gave Him a new name, a new Title. It is Lord.

In 250 BC, Jewish scholars in Egypt translated the Hebrew OT into Greek and the only Greek word that could adequately describe Yahweh or Jehovah was Kurios [Lord]. And when God gave Jesus the name that is above every name He gave Him His own name….Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, God.

One day every living creature in the universe will bow

in subjection and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord.

At present He is acknowledged as Lord in heaven.

In Revelation chapter 4 we read that right now all the inhabitants of heaven worship and bow before the throne where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God and they worship Him as Lord.

On earth we who love and follow Jesus confess Him as Lord. But what does that mean for us? It means that we believe He is truly Lord and God and we accept and submit to His authority as Lord. Or do we?

Jesus once said to those around Him, “Why do you call me Lord and yet do not do what I command you?” Confessing Jesus as Lord for us believers means that we allow Him to be Lord, and submit to His authority and obey his commands.

Do you know that we western Christians have demoted Jesus to the position where He is Lord in name only? Like the queen of England. She is simply a figurehead with no power or authority over her subjects. Her people call her, “Your Majesty” but she can only do and say what the government allows her to.  Even her speeches are written for her. She is called constitutional Monarch. Just recently Charles admitted that when he is King he will have to keep his views to himself and say only what Parliament allows him to say.

In a similar way we western Christians have reduced Jesus to a constitutional Monarch. We call Him Lord but we see Him more as a figurehead, who has no real power or authority over us. He doesn’t command us to do things. He can advise us, offer suggestions, give us options, even make requests but we don’t see Him as one who commands us to do what He wants because that sounds too pushy in our libertarian PC culture, which means we are not obligated to obey.

Imagine if it was like that in the armed forces. The General asks his Colonel, “Would you mind mobilising the troops tomorrow?” Reply, “I’ll give it some thought and let you know.” Imagine if it was like that in business. A boss says to an employee, “May I suggest that you not to be so rude to our customers?” “I’ll think about it.”

Jesus, who is Lord, does not ask us to love and forgive each other and leave it to us choose whether we want to or not. As Lord he commands us and if He is truly our Lord our response must be, “Yes Lord, I will obey you.”

Ill. On Wednesday I was at Chartwell Mall and I saw a man I haven’t spoken to for some time, but I didn’t want to talk to him because I knew it would take  and I was keen to get home. But I prayed and said,  “Lord, What do you want me to do?” And immediately  the thought came into my mind, “Go and talk to him.” And the man was so glad that I did and he was able to share with me some of the struggles that he is going through at this time.” I am so glad that I didn’t do what I wanted but asked the Lord, listened to Him and obeyed Him.

 

At our family Christmas dinner we played a game that involved asking each other certain questions and I was asked, “What gives you the greatest joy?” I said, “When I have obeyed the Lord.”

 

If you really and truly want to obey Jesus as Lord, ask Him what he wants you to do and I believe that 90% of the time the first thought that comes to your mind will be His answer.

Jesus once said this, “If anyone wants to do God’s will. They will know that what I say is from God.”

If you really want to obey God He will let you know what He wants.”

What if I get it wrong? God knows your heart and if you were acting from a sincere desire to please God, He will use even your blunder to bless you and others.

 

The response to His exaltation….worship and submission.

As believers we respond to our exalted Lord with worship, submission and obedience

The day is coming when the rest of mankind will be forced to bow the knee to Jesus and acknowledge that He is Lord in fear and terror when they face Him as their judge and executioner.

One day even the demons in hell will acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord. At present they will not say it, because no demon will admit that Jesus Christ is Lord, God come in the flesh.

When Jesus comes back the whole universe will acknowledge that He is Lord, the sovereign ruler over all that exists. Some will bow willingly in adoring love because they have turned from their sins and already given themselves to Christ, others will be forced to bow in abject terror as they hear God pronounce sentence on their rebellion and resistance,  “Depart from me for I never knew you.”

Judgement is always God’s last resort. He would far rather we turn away from our rebellion and unbelief and willingly bow the knee now to Jesus as our Saviour and our Lord.

The purpose of His exaltation….glory to God the Father.

When Jesus is exalted, God the Father will be glorified. When every knee is bowing to Jesus wouldn’t God the Father feel threatened. No, because Jesus is not a rival to the Father, He is one with the Father. He is as much God as the Father is.

Jesus said in John 5:23 whoever honour me, honours the father.

Tell me parents when your child has been honoured in some way, perhaps received some award or prize or commendation, how do you feel? Threatened?

No in so many cases it is a reflection on you and you feel proud.

When Jesus is exalted, it is a reflection on the Father and He is glorified as well.

The whole passage is an object lesson to do with unity and harmony.

If we are to know unity and harmony in our relationships and church we must have the same attitude Jesus had. He humbled himself, put aside His rights, His demands and served and sacrificed for God and others.

And because He humbled Himself, God lifted Him up. Humble yourself before God and others and He will exalt you in His way and in His time.

This morning we may believe that Jesus is Lord and even confess that He is Lord, but the more important issue is whether or not He is our Lord. If He is then we need to bow not only our knee but our will to Him and say, “Lord, I really want to live out what it means for you to be Lord of my life and me to to be your faithful obedient servant. Please give me the grace and the strength to follow this through in my daily life until I hear you say, “Well done good and faithful servant enter into the joy of your inheritance.”