Selected highlights from this sermon.
Jesus wasn’t bored before He came to Earth. He was reigning with God the Father. But He humbled Himself and chose a cross of pain to redeem us. Jesus shows us what true service looks like: completely obedient and resolutely faithful to the Father.
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Today what we’re going to do is we’re going to jump into the deep end of the swimming pool. We are going to wade in some deep waters. We won’t understand it all, possibly, but in the end we’re going to end up worshiping and praising God for Jesus, thanking God for that baby.
Now what I’d like to do is to give you a brief outline of the career of Jesus here in the next few moments, all wrapped up in these verses. And the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 2:3-5, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” That’s the way in which he sets this up.
So what I’d like to do is begin today reminding us of where Jesus began. Where was He before He arrived on earth in Bethlehem? Your text is open. Notice it says, “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Just that far for the moment.
Where did Jesus begin? The Apostle Paul says, “who being in the form of God.” Now we use the word form differently today. The Greek word is morphe, and it really means the essence of, the actual reality of, being God. Jesus has always been God from all of eternity. He and the Father share completely in all the attributes of deity. He is equal to the Father in every respect. He is God.
Remember Jesus Christ actually is God. He’s not just applying for the job. And if you ask the question, “What was it like for Jesus before He arrived on earth?” we have a good picture of that in Isaiah 6. Remember that’s where the prophet Isaiah was looking and he said, “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord high and exalted, and his robe filled the temple.” And then he goes on to say that the seraphim where surrounding him, and singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty. The whole earth is filled with His glory.”
“Oh,” you say, “that was Yahweh. That was Jehovah that was on the throne.” Yes, but you know in the New Testament in the 12th chapter of the book of John, John is writing about Jesus, and the experience that Isaiah had, and he said that Isaiah wrote of His glory, the glory of Jesus Christ. So can you even imagine where Jesus came from? The King of glory, honored, given worshiped, King of kings, and Lord of lords! That’s where he began.
But let’s look now at where Jesus Christ came, and in order for us to understand this you’ll notice that the Apostle Paul says, “He did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped.” The idea there is that equality was not something that He hung on to in the sense that He did not insist on His prerogatives of deity. He said in effect, “I’m not going to insist on my rights. I have a right to heaven. I have a right to stay here, but I’m not going to grasp that as if I cannot let go (but not of the attributes of God because that would be impossible for Jesus to do). But what Jesus did was He surrendered Himself to the will of the Father, to do the work of the Father, so that you and I would be redeemed. What is it that Jesus Christ is referring to? He is saying, “I’m not going to insist on my rights. I am willing to come down to earth.”
Now what the Apostle Paul does is he gives us four steps in the ladder of descent that Jesus took from heaven to earth. Let’s look at them. They are all here in the text. First of all, it says here in verse 7, “He made Himself nothing.” The Greek text actually says that He emptied Himself. He emptied Himself completely. Of what did He empty Himself? The divine attributes? As I mentioned, that would be impossible because God cannot possibly somehow empty Himself of His attributes. But what Jesus emptied Himself of was His divine glory that He had with the Father. In fact in the 17th chapter of John, before He ascends into heaven, He says these words, “Glorify Thou me with Thine own Self with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was.” Now His glory was veiled when He was here on earth. Sometimes that glory broke out as on the Mount of Transfiguration. But He says, in effect, “I am willing to be cursed. I’m willing to be spat upon. I am not going to insist on my rights as deity,” and so He gave up His glory.
He also gave up His independent use of His attributes. You know I give this illustration often because it’s the best one that I have. Let us suppose that you were a millionaire. For some of you, for all of us, for most of us that’s a supposition. For a few of you, it might actually apply. But let us suppose that we had a million dollars and we were millionaires, and yet we decided to keep the money in the bank and we would live as the poorest people in Chicago, and we’d go to work with them, and we’d ride the El with them, and we would simply be with them. Now consider that. At any time we could still write a check and we could use our money, but we choose not to. We lay it aside in the very same way that Jesus had all the attributes of deity, but He deferred to them not, for the most part living completely and totally as a man.
I mean here He is. He has the attribute, for example, of omnipresence, and the attribute of omnipotence. He can do whatever He likes, and yet see Him there, seated on the well (Jacob’s Well) and the Bible says, “Jesus, being wearied with His journey, sat on the well.” The Son of God, weary with His journey!
Jesus knew all things in terms of His attribute of omniscience, and yet at the same time there were times when He limited what He knew. What He said was, “I’m going to live as a man, in dependence upon the Father.” So the Bible says here that Jesus emptied Himself and He gave up His rights and the prerogatives of deity.
And not only that, the second step down is He took the form of a servant. Now notice this carefully. He had the form of God. He was in the form of God but now He’s in the form of a servant. And that means the actual essence of God yes, but also the actual essence of a servant. He was both. He was the God man. And when Jesus partook of humanity there in Bethlehem, when He was conceived in the womb of Mary, Jesus Christ assumed humanity, and the Bible says this man continues forever, and He has an unchangeable priesthood. And someday you and I will actually see His physical form that looks like a human being, a glorified human being to be sure, but there will be Jesus, and we will be reminded of the incarnation.
But look at this. He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Could I remind you that He didn’t have to do this? It wasn’t because there was a restructuring in heaven. It wasn’t because Jesus was squeezed out of a job. It wasn’t because this is the very best opportunity He had, and He had to take whatever He got. No! He was God and He voluntarily laid aside all things so that He could be a servant. And the Bible says that Jesus Christ came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus became a servant. How countercultural is that? You and I want to hang onto our positions until our knuckles turn white. Have you ever asked someone to reduce his or her position or to take a lesser role? You try that sometime and see what happens. It is so contrary to who we are as individuals.
Well, we continue on and there’s a third rung, and that is, the Bible says, “in the likeness of men.” In fact, some translations would say “in the likeness of sinful men” - not in the form of sinful man to be sure, but the likeness of sinful man. Jesus Christ came now and He is going to endure everything that you and I have to endure. We’re talking about thirst and hunger and rejection and anger directed toward Him, and false accusations even to the point of death, as we shall see in just a moment. So Jesus Christ comes in the likeness of man, and He was actually a man – 100% a man. He was a man completely, but He wasn’t just a man. He was the God man. He wasn’t some alien from outer space that happened to come into the world. He was actually God, a very God, and man, a very man. The counsels of the Christian Church proved, as they were wrestling through the text of Scripture, that Jesus has to be completely both God and man.
And then you have the final rung here. It says, “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Notice it doesn’t say that Jesus became obedient until it became really difficult. It doesn’t say that Jesus Christ was obedient until Gethsemane, and then as He became identified with sin He decided to back away. It doesn’t say that Jesus Christ because obedient until He was asked to carry His cross, or He became obedient until the disciples forsook Him and fled, and He simply could not stand the loneliness. That’s not what the text says. “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And you know that when the Jews executed somebody, it was by stoning. It was the Romans who crucified. And here Jesus Christ is crucified, and what does the Old Testament say?
The Apostle Paul in the book of Galatians clarifies that. He says, “Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law, for it is written, ‘Cursed is anyone who hangs on a tree.’” Jesus endured our curse so that we could experience His blessing. And there is Jesus obedient to the Father.
I have a distinct feeling in my heart that I have not painted the picture of His descent well enough. And really it can’t be painted well enough. So let’s just think about it. What we’re talking about is the descent from heaven to earth, from master to servant, from glory to shame, from life to death. Jesus came that far. No man has ever stooped that low. No one is able to understand the depths to which He came, considering the glories from which He began. That’s the story of Jesus, and the story of His remarkable obedience to do the will of God. (applause)
So now you have Jesus dying on the cross. And now I pick it up at verse 9. The Apostle Paul says, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.” Notice God has highly exalted Him.
Just spend a moment imagining what it was like for Jesus Christ to ascend into heaven from the Mount of Olives. And we can imagine the welcome He received. I mean in heaven everybody knows who He is obviously. On earth He had to show His I.D. On earth He had to be pushed around, shoved and yelled at. And here He is King of kings, and perhaps we get a glimpse of this in one of the Psalms where it says,
“Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates!”
You can imagine the welcome that Jesus received, having pleased the Father, having done the Father’s will when He ascended into heaven.
And now what I’d like to do is to talk about His glorious future. You’ll notice the text says that God has bestowed upon Him a name that is above every name. You say, “Well, hasn’t He always had the name Lord?” Yes, but in His humanity now He receives that name, Lord, because He has accomplished all that God has wanted Him to do. The work is completely finished. And the Father says, “I want to honor You and give You a name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee bows, and every tongue confesses that He is Lord God.”
In fact, there are three categories that are listed here in verse 10. Let’s look at them. “So at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven.” Who would that be? That would be the saints in heaven, wouldn’t it? And of course, along with the angels of heaven who are always worshiping Him. I’m not sure that angels have knees to bow, but the Bible does talk about the fact that they cover their feet in the presence of God and His holiness, and they are totally obedient to whatever God asks them to do.
So there are the angels and redeemed humanity gladly confessing that Jesus is Lord, but not only those in heaven but also those on earth. When the resurrection of Jesus Christ has taken place He was the first fruits of a future resurrection, when all of the resurrected dead shall finally stand before God whether or not they are in heaven, or whether or not they are on earth. Wherever they are they shall bow before Jesus and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Either redeemed or unredeemed, every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
And then those under the earth! This would be those who die without the shelter of Jesus Christ’s forgiveness and His grace. And those who are under the earth may also include, of course, the demons that are going to very reluctantly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will hate to do it. They hate Him, but they will confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father. And He will be pronounced King of kings and Lord of lords throughout the whole universe, every created being giving Him the worship and the praise that He deserves.
What I’d like us to do is to think very briefly now about the implications of this passage. First of all, the humility of it all! I mean we can’t get our minds around it. We are born not to want to serve but to be served. At least that’s been my experience. Not only that, but we find that in the world greatness is dependent upon how many people you rule over, and Jesus made it clear that in the Kingdom it is the opposite. It is the number of people that you serve!
I mean just imagine for a moment Jesus Christ’s humiliation and His service. He who went from one part of the universe to another, whose feet and goings forth have been from of old and from everlasting, now He has to learn to walk. He who created all things, and in His hands all things exist, that hand would now be held by a young mother. Imagine that! He whose eyes pierced the whole universe and could see everything that is happening, they would have to now adjust to the dim light of a stable. And here He is serving willingly, gladly for the joy that was set before Him. And He didn’t have to do it, but He did it for you and for me that we might be redeemed. And the question is, are we willing to serve others? Are we willing to take the example?
You’ll notice that the Apostle Paul said, “Let this mind be in you.” Verse 3, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility.” And then the example that he gives is Jesus, “that each of you look not only on your own interest but also the interest of others.”
At Christmas time it’s so easy to look at our own interests and ourselves rather than reaching out to those who are needy, rather than expending ourselves. We have some wonderful examples here at The Moody Church of those who have adopted children, being willing to give themselves, and to become servants for those who do not have opportunity, for those who are rejected, and sometimes in some cases that other people don’t want. That is Jesus Christ and His humility, and that is our example.
You know that you and I are given to ourselves. Bonheoffer asked the question, “Who is Jesus Christ for you?” Remember for him it was the persecuted Jew that he was willing to give himself to and become a servant to and to defend, and to do all that he possibly could to put an end to the atrocities of World War II. Who is Jesus Christ for us? Who do we serve?
In Brazil there was a festival some time ago, and you can buy trinkets at these festivals, and one of the signs said, “Cheap crosses for sale,” and oftentimes that’s exactly what we have as believers. Our crosses are cheap because it doesn’t require anything.
Well, salvation certainly is free but the good news is that God enables us as a result of that gift to give to others, to be known for our generosity, for our involvement, for our commitment. Here at The Moody Church we have many opportunities for people to serve. Some people can serve inside the church, and you notice how often we appeal to you that you might do that. Some people can serve through the church as representatives of the church in our community. And some people serve outside the church, but every believer should be a servant.
Lorne Sanney was asked the question, “How do you know when you are a servant?” He said, “You know by the way you react when you are treated like one.” How do you react? How do I react when we are treated like servants? There’s that lesson that grows out of the text but also this is a great message of hope.
We live at a time when there is distress around the world, isn’t there? We live at a time when it seems as if things are out of control. We have, for example, problems in the Middle East. We have problems in North Korea. We have problems with ISIS. We have problems in the capitals of the world. We have our own struggles and our own problems in Washington. And if you are at all concerned about this country, you should be concerned about what is happening there. And we look around and we can be discouraged. Well this passage of Scripture certainly reminds us that things are not what they appear to be. It may appear as if things are out of control. It may appear as if everything is going to veer off-course and never come back again, but here we have assurance that Jesus in the end will rule. And all authority and all power will be subjected to Him, and everyone will acknowledge that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
I love to illustrate it this way. When I say that things aren’t what they appear to be, consider the Great Tribulation. In the Great Tribulation, Anti-Christ rules. And in the 13th chapter of the book of Revelation it says this: “All who dwell upon the face of the earth shall worship him, except those whose names that were written in the Lamb’s Book of Life from before the foundation of the world.”
If you want to know what Anti-Christ is going to be like, think ISIS, because what we notice in the Book of Revelation is that Anti-Christ beheads people. It’s his favorite method of killing people. So you can imagine now this tremendous force throughout the world is forcing allegiance and worship, and you can think about the implications and how frightening that will be. Well, it appears as if Anti-Christ is ruling the world. All who dwell upon the face of the earth worship him except, of course, a limited number, those that belong to God. Isn’t it interesting that it says that in the 13th chapter of Revelation? What does it say later on – two chapters later? It says, “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire — and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations.’”
Did you get it, or did I quote it too quickly? “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire — and also those who had conquered the beast and its image.” The beast killed them. God raised them to glory, and God raised them to victory. And a couple of chapters after that the beast is thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone that burns forever and ever.
I want to encourage you. In the end, Jesus wins, and He wins big. (applause)
If we could just use our imaginations for a moment, I want you to visualize Jesus on a throne. And here you have all the rulers of the world, and every one of them is bowing to His sovereignty. There is Stalin. There is Hitler. There is Mao Tse-tung. There are all of the lesser leaders. We have, of course, all of the presidents that have ever ruled in the United States, and the prime ministers of Canada. Whoever they are, good, bad or indifferent, they are all bowing before Jesus as King of kings and Lord of lords. (applause)
And then, of course, we also notice that all of the leaders of the world’s religions are there. There is Krishna and he’s bowing to Jesus as Lord and Savior. There is Buddha bowing to Jesus as Lord and Savior. There is Muhammad. There is Baal. They are all bowing to Jesus Christ, King of kings, Lord of lords, God of all gods. (applause) It’s going to end okay – better than okay. Let us be encouraged.
Do you know what’s interesting in the Bible? It says this, speaking of the Lordship of Jesus, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” If you, in this life, confess Jesus as Lord, you will gladly confess Him as Lord in the life to come obviously, as all of us do who know Him as Savior and Lord. But the question I want to ask you is have you confessed Him as Lord, because after death when you are raised, there is no opportunity to change your allegiance? You will admit that He is Lord to your own detriment, but admit it you will have to, but you will not thereby be redeemed. Today to confess that Jesus is Lord is a means of salvation. In the future, after the resurrection, standing in the presence of God to confess Him as Lord, unless you knew Him over here as Lord in this life, it will be your condemnation. You’ll have to admit that He is Lord God.
So the question I want to ask you is this: Have you confessed with your mouth Jesus as Lord? Now this isn’t just a superficial confession. Jesus made it very clear that not everyone who says to Him, “Lord, Lord,” shall enter into the Kingdom of heaven, because there are those who say it superficially. “Oh yes, Jesus, You are Lord,” but they have no sense of their own need. But if you are here today and you sense the fact that you need a Savior because of the guilt in your life and the emptiness in your life, and you have never trusted Him, if God is working in your heart like that today I urge you to trust Jesus right now. Confess Him to be Lord and you shall be saved because He is the only One who is able to redeem you.
Yes, that baby is what Christmas is all about, but what a baby! What a Savior! What a King! What a God!
Would you bow with me in prayer?
Father, today we do confess Jesus as Lord. We gladly confess Him as Lord. We bow before Him. We give Him allegiance. We put no daylight between our own agendas and his agenda for us. I pray today, Lord, that everyone who knows Jesus might be totally yielded. May there be no argument regarding His sovereignty. And then, Lord, I pray for those who have never trusted Him as Savior, those who though He was simply a good teacher, and forgot that He was indeed a redeemer and the only one who is able to take us and scoop us out of our sin. Bring us into God’s presence. Declare us as righteous as God Himself is. We thank You today that there is no one else like Him, but the invitation is open to everybody. So we pray that You will work in people’s hearts. Even now, we pray, may there be those that are crying to You and saying, “Jesus, I receive You as my Savior.” We ask this in His blessed name, Amen.
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