************ Sermon on Philippians 2:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on July 2, 2000
A story is told of Jesus and His disciples walking one day along a stony road. Jesus asked each of them to choose a stone to carry for Him. John, it is said, chose a large one while Peter chose the smallest. Jesus then led them to the top of a mountain and commanded that the stones be made bread. Each disciple, by this time tired and hungry, was allowed to eat the bread he held in his hand, but of course Peter's was not sufficient to satisfy his hunger. John gave him some of his.
Some time later Jesus again asked the disciples to pick up a stone to carry. This time Peter chose the largest of all. Taking them to a river, Jesus told them to cast the stones into the water. They did so, but looked at one another in bewilderment.
"For whom," asked Jesus, "did you carry the stone?"
For whom, congregation, do you carry stones? For whom, congregation, did you help out with Vacation Bible School this past week? For whom, congregation, do you lead GEMS or Cadets or Young Peoples? For whom do you teach Church School or play the organ or play the piano or run the sound system or babysit in the nursery or sing in the choir? Those of you hosting SERVE, for whom do you cook food, set up tables, lead worship, supervise work-sites, and arrange transportation? And, those of you on SERVE, for whom will you hoe down weeds or paint a church or sort food or fix up a building this coming week?
We all need to realize, we all need to remember, and none of us can ever forget that we are called upon to carry stones for Jesus.
This morning I want to tell you the secret of carrying stones for Jesus! This morning I want to tell you what needs to happen in your life before you can carry those stones. This morning I want to tell you the secret to being used of and by the Lord.
I United to Christ
Before we go any further we need to remind ourselves that something wonderful has happened to us.
Topic: ChristBut now the real miracle. God has implanted the mind of Christ in those who, by grace, have accepted His Son as their Savior. Over and over again the Bible's message is that those who believe are in Christ, of Christ, united to Christ, and one with Christ. We have been joined to Christ. If we believe in Jesus we are new creatures, a new creation, with a new mind or a new attitude.
Subtopic: Mind of
French scientists have succeeded in causing chickens to sound like quail. Nancy Ross-Flanigan, writing for the Detroit Free Press, reports that researchers took tissue from parts of the Japanese quail brain thought to control the bird's call and implanted it in the brains of five chicken embryos. The experiment worked. Researchers say the hatched chicks sounded like quail rather than chickens.
To people who are one with Christ and joined to Christ, Paul says, "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." To people in whom God has implanted the mind of Christ, Paul says, "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."
You know what it comes down to, don't you? We must live out what we are! We are new creatures in Christ; now we must live as new creatures. We have a new mind in Christ; now we must live out that new mind. We have a new attitude in Christ; now we must live out that new attitude.
There used to be a TV advertisement for some low cholesterol product which said, "You become what you eat." We must become what we are in Christ: new creatures with a new attitude or a new mind. That's the secret to carrying stones for Jesus. That's what needs to happen in your life before you can carry those stones. That's the secret to being used of and by the Lord.
II The Attitude or Mind of Christ
A What is the attitude or mind of Christ we are called to imitate? The attitude or mind of Christ can be summed up by the phrase we find in verse 8: "He humbled himself."
Our Bible reading mentions two stages or steps in His humiliation: first, He denied Himself; second, He was obedient.
How did Christ deny Himself? Christ, according to verse 7, "made himself nothing." The Greek word is "kenosis." This word means "to empty." Christ emptied Himself; He made Himself nothing.
There are two important questions we have to ask: one, of what did Christ empty Himself?; two, how did Christ empty Himself?
1. Of what did Christ empty Himself? Verse 6 answers this question:
(Phil 2:6) Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped ...Christ was and is and always will be God. As part of the triune Godhead His is the glory, honor, splendor, and majesty of God. In emptying Himself Christ did not "grasp," He did not cling to, the glory, honor, splendor, and majesty that has eternally been His. Christ did not stop being God; not at all. However, He did empty Himself of the prestige of God.
2. Now the second question: how did Christ empty Himself? Verses 7 answers this question:
(Phil 2:7) but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
Christ emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant. He did not come as an earthly Ruler or King, with the pomp and glory of royalty. He did not occupy a place of honor, authority, and prestige among men. From the manger to the cross He walked the path of service. From the manger to the cross His was a servant nature. From the manger to the cross He came to serve rather than to be served. He humbled Himself by denying Himself.
To see Christ's humiliation we need to understand the Biblical notion of servant. A servant is not the same as an employee. An employee works a certain number of hours and in return earns a wage. When the working day is over he is free do exactly as he likes. In Paul's time a servant is more like a slave. Often he was told to do things that were humiliating and degrading. He wasn't paid for his work. And he had no time which belonged to himself; he had no moment when he was free; every single moment of his time belonged to his master. This is what Paul means when he says Christ took "the very nature of a servant."
Christ also emptied Himself by accepting a weak human nature. Christ did not give up any part of His divinity. He did not stop being God. He remained "in very nature God." He remained Lord and Ruler over all. Yet, He accepted the nature of a human. This means that He Who was and is God became subject to pain, disease, and death. This means that He Who is God above all experienced hunger and thirst, joy and sorrow. This means that He Who is almighty God became subject to temptation.
Try to imagine something similar happening to you. The eternal Son of God taking on human flesh, do you know what that is like? C.S. Lewis says that is like you and me becoming a slug; you know – one of those soft, white grubs we pick out of the dirt.
B The second step in Christ's humiliation has to do with His obedience. Our text says He "became obedient to death." A servant or a slave at the time of Jesus had only one duty – to obey his master. He had no choice in the matter; regardless of the circumstance, his calling was to obey. Often a servant had to take unjust punishment; sometimes he even had to suffer death; yet, he was still expected to obey.
Jesus "became obedient to death – even death on a cross!" He was a true servant or slave. He did not rebel. He did not resist. Consider, for a moment, how obedience lies at the heart of the events surrounding the suffering and death of Christ. In the Garden Jesus prayed, "Not my will, but yours be done" (Lk 22:42). Jesus could have prevented Judas from betraying Him. Jesus could have destroyed the crowd that came to arrest Him. Jesus could have stopped the hands of those hitting Him and silenced the tongues of those mocking Him. But He didn't because that was not God's will. "Not my will, but yours be done." Christ was completely and perfectly obedient to the Father. He was obedient to death – even death on a cross! The attitude or mind of Christ was total obedience.
III Imitate the Attitude or Mind of Christ
A The secret to carrying stones for Jesus is to have His attitude, His mind. The secret to being used of and by the Lord is to be like Jesus. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus." In other words, we are to humble ourselves; like Christ we are to deny ourselves and we are to be obedient.
First of all, we are to deny ourselves. Did you catch what Paul says in verses 3 & 4:
(Phil 2:3-4) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
One of the easiest things in the world to do is to practice selfishness. It is easy, far too easy, to think of myself first. It is easy to be dominating and domineering. It is easy to spend money on myself first. It is easy to boast about myself. It is easy to look after my own interests.
However, this is not what God wants from us. He wants us to be like Christ, to practice self-denial.
Self-denial is hard. It is hard not to be selfish, self-centered, self-glorifying. It is hard to be humble and to count others as better than ourselves. As I saw on a bumper sticker, "When you're as great as I am, it sure is hard to be humble."
Are you a braggart? Do you love to act like a big-shot, a big-wheel? Do you get angry if someone else scores the big one and is proclaimed the hero? Do you love to be the center of attention? Do you want all eyes focused on you at all times? If the answer is "yes" then you need to hear the words of Philippians 2: "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus." You should be humble like Christ. You should have His self-denial.
One of the best modern examples of someone who practiced self-denial is Mother Theresa. This woman impresses me. She worked with the poorest of India's poor – the destitute, the dying, the lepers, the tiny babies abandoned on garbage heaps. She, and her helpers, spent hours every day washing sick and dying bodies, cleaning toilets, cutting away rotting flesh, emptying bedpans. And, at night she didn't go home to riches; she lived a life of poverty. In the name of Christ she lived a life of self-denial.
I urge you, look to Christ. Look at what He did. Have His attitude. As Christ's servants, imitate Him and practice self-denial.
B Secondly, we are to practice total obedience. You and I are to be obedient like Christ.
Topic: ObedienceThat's the kind of obedience Christ gave to the Lord. That's the kind of obedience we are to have as Christ's servants.
Title: Saved Through Instant Obedience
Bible teacher Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960) told the following story: A young son of a missionary couple in Zaire was playing in the yard. Suddenly the voice of the boy's father rang out from the porch, "Philip, obey me instantly! Drop to your stomach!" Immediately the youngster did as his father commanded. "Now crawl toward me as fast as you can!" The boy obeyed. "Stand up and run to me!" Philip responded unquestioningly and ran to his father's arms.
As the youngster turned to look at the tree by which he had been playing, he saw a large deadly snake hanging from one of the branches! At the first command of his father, Philip could have hesitated and asked, "Why do you want me to do that?" Or he could have casually replied, "In a minute." But his instant obedience without questioning saved his life!
Are we obedient like this? Can any of us say that we don't think bad thoughts, say bad words, do bad things? Go through the Ten Commandments. Do any of us dare to claim we always respect mom and dad, never think impure thoughts, always use the holy name of God only with reverence and awe? Like Christ, do any of us always say to God, "Not my will, but yours be done"? Are we willing to be obedient to death, to die for the faith, to be martyrs whose blood is our testimony?
This too is hard, isn't it? It is hard for us to imitate Christ and to be totally obedient in all things. So once more I say, look to Christ. Look at what He did. Have His attitude. Imitate Him and practice total obedience.
IV The Exaltation of Christ
A Finally, I want you to notice what happened to Jesus because He humbled Himself. I want you to notice what happened to Jesus because He denied Himself and practiced total obedience. Paul says,
(Phil 2:9-11) 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.The Christ Who was humiliated became exalted.
B We can do no less. In fact, there is nothing we can do that is greater than exalting the name of Jesus. Let me illustrate this with the story of the donkey used on Palm Sunday to carry Jesus into Jerusalem. The story is entitled "Palm Monday."
Topic: ServiceLike the donkey, it is only when we lift up Jesus that there is anything special about us. And, like the donkey, we are most fulfilled only when we are in the service of Jesus Christ. Without him, all our best efforts are like "filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6) and amount to nothing.
Subtopic: Rendered to Christ
Title: Palm Monday
The donkey awakened, his mind still savoring the afterglow of the most exciting day of his life. Never before had he felt such a rush of pleasure and pride.
He walked into town and found a group of people by the well. "I'll show myself to them" he thought.
But they didn't notice him. They went on drawing their water and paid him no mind.
"Throw your garments down," he said crossly. "Don't you know who I am?"
They just looked at him in amazement. Someone slapped him across the tail and ordered him to move.
"Miserable heathens!" he muttered to himself. "I'll just go to the market where the good people are. They will remember me."
But the same thing happened. No one paid any attention to the donkey as he strutted down the main street in front of the market place.
"The palm branches! Where are the palm branches!" he shouted. "Yesterday, you threw palm branches!"
Hurt and confused, the donkey returned home to his mother.
"Foolish child," she said gently. "Don't you realize that without him, you are just an ordinary donkey?"
The secret to carrying stones for Jesus is to have His attitude, His mind – to practice self-denial and total obedience. Whether it is Vacation Bible School, hosting SERVE, participating in SERVE, teaching Church School, leading GEMS or Cadets or Young Peoples, participating in worship – you are to do it all for Jesus and you are to do it all like Jesus.
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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