The Plan in the Poem - Philippians 2:5-11
Well I wanted to begin this evening, by telling you a little bit about a movie I've seen called Crimson Tide! Let me just say that if you happen to like military action thrillers, then you should definitely see this movie. If you don't, then please accept my apologies because I'm going to tell you about it anyway.
The backdrop to the movie is this, an extreme Russian nationalist named Vladimier Raychenko has wrecked havoc in the Russian parliament. He has accused the Russian president of being nothing more than an American puppet and with his small, but fierce army Raychenko has managed to seize control of a Russian nuclear military base, with enough nuclear weaponry to take out 3 or 4 major U. S. cities. He then threatens nuclear attack on the U. S. and Japan.
Not surprisingly the American Government announces an emergency status of Def-Com 4 and they send in one of their nuclear submarines the U. S. S. Alabama, to keep an eye on the situation. On board the Alabama we have Gene Hackman playing the battle hardened Captain Ramsey along with Denzel Washington, starring as the Harvard educated Lt. Hunter.
Anyway off they go towards Russia, when suddenly they receive an emergency action message, or E. A. M. as they say in the U. S. navy and the message orders them to launch their nuclear missiles at Russia, to take out Raychenko as he is apparently fuelling his missiles in order to attack the U. S. The tension is running high, because there on your T. V. screen you' re about to witness nuclear war, when suddenly, just four minutes before the missiles are about to be launched the Alabama receives another E. A. M. But the radio gear suffers some problems and the full message doesn't come through!
Now Denzel and Gene are faced with a terrible dilemma, because the message that they have just received could have been an order to stop the attack! So here's the decision that they're faced with. Option 1: They could hold off on the attack and wait for the full message to come through to find out what it really says.
After all Raychenko may have surrendered and then there would be no need for nuclear action. But if they wait and the message is merely a fake, sent by Raychenko himself perhaps, then they will not be able to act in time to save America! So there's option 1. Hold off , but at the risk millions of American lives.
Option two is that they go ahead with the missile launch, take out Raychenko 's weapons eliminating the possibility of him striking at the U. S. The problem with this option is this, If the message was real and the Russian government had subdued Raychenko, meaning that peace had been restored, then the Russians would not take kindly to nuclear missiles being launched at their country. They would almost certainly retaliate and the result would be Nuclear Holocaust!
So the dilemma is great, Denzel and Gene are faced with a huge decision with enormous consequences.
When the film was over, I remember thinking to myself 'wow, I hope that I never have to make a decision like that, that has such enormous consequences'. The mere thought of having to make a choice that would have such far reaching effects really frightened me. Never in a million years would I be a nuclear submarine captain. But then I realised something. Actually I had already faced such a choice and in fact everyone has to face a choice like this and the consequences of this decision goes far beyond nuclear fall out and world destruction. What I'm talking about is a choice that will effect your eternity.
You see God has put a choice before us. In the pages of the Bible we come face to face with Jesus Christ and the question you have to answer is this 'will you follow him'! And your choice will have a massive effect on your life.
But before we can properly grasp the full depth of the decision that we're faced with, we are going to need to take a closer look at who Jesus is and what he has done. When we understand these two things, then we will not only understand the options we're faced with but also what the consequences of our choice will be.
1. Jesus' Identity
Paul explains who Jesus is very clearly in verse 6. He is in very nature God! Now this is something that the whole of the New Testament teaches us. Jesus is God. He is before all things! He is the powerful one through whom all things were created! He is infinitely wise, infinitely holy, eternal! He is God.
Now I know that in many ways the Bible's teaching of God is difficult for us who are merely humans, with merely human brains. In fact it is not surprising that there are some things about God we cannot fully grasp or force into our logic. But the Bible's teaching is clear and as Christians we must accept it. There is one God who eternally exists as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and each of these persons is fully God. Therefore Jesus is God!
2. Jesus' Work
Well so far so good, we have already established who Jesus is, he's God and we're not far off answering our second question either, because Paul tells us in the following verses what he has done. But before we look at this it's important for us to ask one more question. 'If Jesus is God, then what sort of treatment does he deserve?'
How does God deserve to be treated? What is he worthy of? Surely he's worthy of praise and worship. Surely he should be honoured and respected and loved shouldn't he? Isn't this the treatment that the creator of the world deserves, isn't this what Jesus should expect?
But take a look at Jesus' attitude. Are these things his priority? Does he cling to these things and try to force people into submission the way that the mythical Zeus might do? No! Instead look at 2: 6 - 8:
'...being in very nature God, he 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 on a cross!'
Do you get the enormity of these verses? The one before all things the one through whom all things were made. The one who is all powerful and all knowing, became a man! Took on a human body, that could get sick and that could get hungry and tired and that could be beaten and tortured. The one who is worthy of honour and glory, came to this world where people would hate him and mock him and humiliate him. God became a human who was stripped naked and smacked up on a wooden torture device to die the death of one who is cursed!
Back when I was a student, the guy who used to come to our campus and teach the Bible to us, once told us about a piece of ancient Roman graffiti. Recently I've been reading up a bit on Church History and I came across a picture of this piece of graffiti. It's actually quite a striking picture. It shows a boy with one hand raised in an attitude of worship before a crucified figure that has a donkey's head. Underneath the picture is written these words:
'Alexamenos worships his God'.
Do you see what Jesus did? God became a donkey! He became a man who was to be shamed in the most horrific way. These days crosses have become a semi trendy fashion statement haven't they? So we lose the full impact of these verses! To be executed on a cross was a death with exactly no dignity. This is how God died. In absolute humiliation with everyone around him looking at him as if he were a donkey! An Ass. This is what he did, for you! God became a donkey for you. Look at verse 7 he became a servant, how did he serve? What's the free service he offers you? Well he came to die in your place for your spiritual good. To take the punishment that you deserve, for your sin, to save you from Hell! Here is what Christ has done!
You see the Gospel, the good news about Jesus isn't just a nice little story that we tell at Christmas so we can sit around and feel all nice. It's a story involving pain and humiliation and death. Which was suffered in your place. Look if we're honest with ourselves we know that we have all tried to shut God out of our lives. We've all tried to make ourselves our own little rulers of our own little worlds and thrown God away, taken him out of the picture. Now what do you expect a just and fair God to do about that? Well of course, if justice is to prevail then we deserve to be punished don't we? If we shut God out of our lives, is there any wonder that he should eventually shut us out?
But what did Christ do? What did he who possess power beyond our wildest dreams do? Well he became a donkey and died for you. That's what he did.
But it doesn't stop there, look down at verses 9 - 11:
'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'.
You see what seemed to be a time of complete weakness, was actually a time that led to ultimate strength and power. For Jesus was risen from the dead and now rules! What's more, look down at the glorious promise of verses 10 and 11! There will come a time when every knee will bow and every tongue confess Jesus' Lordship. Now Empires have come and Empires have gone, but never has every knee bowed in submission to a ruler or every tongue confessed the Lord ship of an Emperor. But this will be true of Jesus! The mind truly boggles at such a thought.
3. Jesus' Calling
Well here we are confronted with King Jesus, the one who stopped at nothing for our good and who will bring everyone and everything under his reign! It is here that all of us are faced with a choice. Will you follow him? Perhaps let me speak to the none Christian first and let's explore some of the implications for those who have not yet accepted Christ.
You see the Bible explains that there are two possible ways for you to bow the knee to Jesus. The first of these is as his follower. As one who has let him serve you by taking the punishment you deserve for your rebellion against God. If this is who you are then this time of bowing the knee will be a glorious time, when all of the suffering and imperfections that you have had to live with will cease. It will be a time when you will begin to live with God forever on the perfect earth that he has promised in his word. That is the first way in which you may bow the knee to Jesus. The second option is very different indeed and if you aren't a Christian, then this is where you are at the moment and oh how I pray that you change. You see the second way you may bow the knee will be as a rebel brought to submission. As one who has constantly thrown God's offer of salvation back at him. As one who has refused to let Christ take your punishment and so must take it yourself. And this punishment is a very fair one, it's simply to receive that which you have spent your whole life asking for, separation from God, or Hell. The thought of this frightens me so much that I hardly want to speak about it. But a place without God is a place without his blessings, which is a place without all of the good things we have now. Think of that for a minute, life on earth without any of the things that make life worth living. It's horrific isn't it.
If you are a non Christian then the consequences are big, far bigger than nuclear fallout, that at least will eventually kill you. Look at who it is that calls you, look at what he has done for you, please turn and follow him.
Well what about the Christian? Sadly Christians will sit through this incredible message of salvation bored and yawning. Sadly the mistake that Christians so often make is that they don't think they need to hear this story any more. It is vital that we never fall into this thinking because if you choose to follow Christ, then this will have massive implications for your life also. When we look at the context in which this passage is set, then we begin to see very clearly that we to desperately need to hear the Go spel message again and again.
You see the Church in Philippi, to whom this letter was written initially, seemed to be doing pretty well. In chapter 1: 3 the Apostle Paul writes of how he thanks God every time he remembers them. They can't of been doing to badly.
But Paul wants them to press on in the Gospel and one of the key ways in which they are to do this is mentioned in verse 5 of Chapter two. Paul tells them that if they are Christians, then they are to have the attitude of Jesus. They're not just to admire his attitude and remember it at Christmas, they are to live it! That's what Paul says. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus! That attitude that stopped at nothing. That attitude that drove God to become a beaten, tortured, rejected, humiliated Donkey for the spiritual good of others. That is the attitude you should have to, if you follow Jesus!
So let's apply this. Well granted we're dealing with a massive area here and there are many, many ways in which we can apply this passage, so I'll just mention a few. For starters, we need to work hard at our mind set. Our western culture promotes a very self orientated attitude and we all suffer from this. In general we only do the things that we want to do or that will lead us to that end. We need to be so careful about this because this thinking can invade every area of our lives.
Who comes first in our thinking? Ourselves, or others? For example, what dictates to you which Christian meetings you're involved in, whether it be Sunday meetings, Prayer meetings, home groups, Men at the Top, Student stuff, if you're a teenager, Mark 2 or Pathfinders? Is the first thing you think 'now where will I be of most help? Where are people I can minister to? Where do the Church leaders need my support'? Or do you think first 'I'm not sure I have the time. I'm generally tired that night. I'd rather do something else. I don't like that sort of thing. If I do that I might have to push myself a little bit.'
What we do with our money is always a touchy one and I always feel very awkward when I have to mention it, but I just wonder about that. A while ago I heard a preacher saying that if Christians gave just 10% of their incomes to Gospel work, then we'd never be short of money to do ministry. But that's not what happens is it.
A small portion of people give much, whilst everyone else throws spare change. This is Gospel ministry I'm talking about! This is the most important thing in the World! We're talking about supporting people and events and resources that will bring the saving message of Jesus to people who are going to Hell! And yet we throw spare change, why is that. Is that the attitude of Jesus, or is that just me, looking after me?
I was reading a magazine called the Briefing the other week. This is a great magazine and I would recommend it to everyone. Anyway within this magazine on the subject of personal ministry. The article encouraged Christians to find some people within their congregation to meet up with and minister to. This was with a view to seeing people developing their knowledge of the Bible and putting what they learn into practice. In other words encouraging one another in godliness, with a view to the person your meeting with to go into personal ministry themselves.
Now wouldn't it be amazing if we all sacrificially set aside the time and energy to build someone else up in this way?
Just imagine the way people would grow in Godliness if we were ministering to one another like this! O.K. it's not offering your physical life to save another from a firing squad, but it is certainly the attitude of Christ, giving yourself for another's spiritual good. It will be hard work, it might mean meeting with someone who you find awkward and difficult. Pushing people to live out the word is hard. But just imagine if all of us did this?
Well I've said a lot and I'd better stop, but before I do, I want to read through our passage again and as I do I want you to think about the things that you need to change, whether you are a non - Christian or a Christian. And why not afterwards talk to someone about it? So often we just discuss the weather anyway, why not ask someone to help you change in the areas you need to. That's the great thing about Church, we can help each other.
Let's read, Phil. 2: 5 - 11.
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