Last week, as we began taking a look at Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we discovered in Paul’s teaching that for the sake of the advancement of the gospel, we are called to live a life worthy of Christ; and that living a life worthy of Christ, means more than just ethical living, it means living our lives in such a way that we imitate Christ. This of course, brings up the question, “How do we even begin to imitate the life of Christ?” Well, Paul is going to give us an answer to that question as we take a look at the second chapter of his letter. Beginning at verse one, let us listen to the word of God...
We always had pets in our family. As far back as I can remember we had a dog, and from time to time we also had fish, turtles, frogs and a hamster. Our hamster’s name was Alice, and one time, during the middle of the night Alice got out of her cage. This discovery was made early the next morning, and so immediately we began a search throughout the house to find Alice, and after some time, we had not found her. As frustration began to set in, someone said, “We have to think like a hamster. If we were a hamster, where would we go?” This was not an original idea, but it did the trick, because as we began thinking about it, one of the things that we remembered was that Alice seemed to like tight spaces. In her cage, she used to spend most of her time inside this little tiny car. So, with this in mind, we began looking in tight spaces; and, sure enough we found her tucked away behind the refrigerator. By thinking like a hamster, we were able to find Alice, which showed us that there is something to having the right mind set, in order to accomplish a task. Having the right mind set, is what Paul is trying to teach us in this second chapter of Philippians. If we want to live our lives in such a way that we imitate Christ, then we must have the right kind of mind set. We must think like Christ in order to imitate Christ, because there is a relationship between how we think and how we act. The two just go hand in hand. As we think, so shall we live. When Hunter was a little boy, one of his favorite television programs was called Rescue Heroes. This was a really neat show about men and women who were in the business of rescuing and saving lives. Of course, they also had really cool names like Billy Blazes, Jake Justice, and Wendy Waters. Well, at the end of every episode, after these characters have performed some heroic rescue, they talk about what should be done in the case of an emergency situation. For example they might say, “If you are ever caught outside in a lightning storm, don’t stand under tall trees. Instead you need to lay down on low ground.” Then they would finish every episode by saying, “Always think like a Rescue Hero.” The message was simple. Rescue Heroes do the right thing in emergency situations, and if children want to do the right, thing, then they need to think like a Rescue Hero. In other words, they need to adopt a certain kind of mind set, a certain way of thinking, because how they think will determine how they act. Thinking leads to doing, and that is just as true in our lives, as it is in a television program. So, if we want to imitate Christ, then we need to think like Christ. We need to have the same mind-set as Christ, which of course, brings up the question, “What was the mind set of Christ?” In order to answer the question, “What was the mind-set of Christ?”, Paul recounts for the Philippians and for us, an early hymn of the church. These were words that would have been known through the church, and these words paint a picture for us of what the mind-set of Christ was all about. Listen again to what Paul writes, “Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature God, 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 man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on the cross!” In a nut shell, that is the mind-set of Christ Jesus, and it takes some creative thinking to really grasp what it is that Paul is trying to teach us. Imagine if you will, that you are the Son of God. I realize it is a stretch, but just stick with me for a moment. You possess the very nature of God, as a matter of fact, it would be better to say that you are equal with God, you are one with God the Father. Now, being one with God means that you are in a position of having all power and authority in the universe. What would you do in that position? Well, if I am honest with myself, then I know that I would more than likely use that power and authority for my own personal advantage. I would use it to do the things that I wanted to do. I suspect that we might all share that approach. After all, if there is one thing that we strive for as people, it is for power, and control, and authority. Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden wanted to be just like God. They tried to grab for that power and authority, and from that point on, the history of the human race has been a history of grabbing for power. We are part of this history. All of us in our childhood, struggled to grasp power and authority in our lives, as we battled with our parents, our siblings, our friends. As we moved into adulthood, the striving for power continued. We strive for power, and control, and authority in our families, in our work places, our in friendships, in our communities, in our churches. Everywhere we go, we want and strive to be the one in control, to do things our way. Once we have that power, whether it is over our own lives, or over the lives of others, we do not want to let it go. The history of the human race, and the history of our own personal lives is a history of striving and grasping for power, and doing everything we can not to let it go. Yet, letting go is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus was in that position, he was and is the Son of God. He possessed the very nature of God; he was equal with God, one with God the Father. Yet, what did Jesus do in that position? He did not grasp for power; he did not hold onto that high position he was in. He did not use his power and authority for his own advantage. He gave it up; he let go. He stepped down from the right hand of God. It is interesting, if you remember the gospel story about James and John, they came up to Jesus and said, “We want to sit one at your right hand, and one at your left hand, when you come in glory.” They wanted to grasp that position of power. Well, Jesus was already in that position, but he let it go. Jesus humbled himself. He brought himself down to an even lower position, that of a human being. He who was equal with God, brought himself down so that he could be equal with us. Jesus became a man. Yet, Jesus did not stop there. Even as he walked among us, Jesus did not strive for power and authority. Though Jesus humbled himself and became man, he was still the Son of God. He still had power. All you have to do is look at the miracles and healings that Jesus performed to know that he had power. Jesus easily could have set up for himself an earthly kingdom over which he would rule. That is what Satan wanted Jesus to do. When Satan tempted Jesus in the desert, it was a temptation for earthly power. Yet, Jesus gave up that earthly power. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, death on the cross. Jesus could have avoided the cross. Remember when Jesus was arrested in the garden, and Peter tried to defend Jesus. Jesus said, “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” Even at the foot of the cross, Jesus could have grasped for power, and yet he gave it up and accepted death on the cross. From the highest position in heaven, at the right hand of God, to the lowest place on earth, hung upon a cross, Jesus made that descent. And, here is the joy of it all. He did it, not for himself, instead he did it for you, and for me, and for every person on this planet. The power and authority that Jesus could have used for himself, he instead, used for us. He gave it all up for us. Think about it. Here was Jesus, in the position of glory with God the Father, and here we were in the position of death, and out of his love for us, Jesus willed, remember that, he willed to make the switch with us. He came down here, so that we could be up there. That was the mind-set of Jesus, to give up heaven for us. We started out by saying that if we want to life our lives in such a way as to imitate Christ, then we have to have to have the same mind-set as Christ. Our thinking has to be the same as that of Jesus. So, I want to give you a thought to take home and ponder for awhile. All of you who have faith in Jesus Christ, are saved. Which means that you have heaven in your grasp. It’s yours; your there. Here’s the question, “Would you give up heaven for someone else?” There is a story, I do not know if it is true or not, but there was a young man who was standing before the Presbytery to seek approval for Ordination to the Ministry. Someone on the floor of Presbytery asked, “Would you be willing to be damned for the sake of your congregation?” Well, this young man, very quickly responded by saying, “I would be willing for this whole assembly to be damned for the sake of my congregation.” If you want to know whether or not you have the mind-set of Jesus, ask yourself, “Would I be willing to give up heaven for someone else?” Now, some of us, might be willing to give up heaven for the sake of our child or our spouse; but, what about for someone who does not like you, someone who is considered to be your enemy? That is what Jesus did. He gave up heaven for those he loved, but also for those who did not like him, want him, even those considered to be his enemies. It boggles the mind. Paul wants the gospel to advance in the church. Yet, he knows, as we saw last week, that the gospel is not going to advance unless we live lives worthy of Christ, and the only way to do that is going to happen is by our having the same mind-set as Christ. For, when we look at other people who are not saved, and we have in our hearts the same intense desire to see them saved as Christ had in his heart to see us saved, then we will make sure that nothing stands in the way of our proclaiming the gospel. When our desire to see people saved matches that of Christ, the gospel will advance, because we will be thinking more about others than about ourselves. For, that is the mind-set of Christ, whom we follow, whom we seek to imitate.
Pastor Jim's past sermons:
Giving up Heaven
Links to past sermons can be found at the bottom of this page.