Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, March 29, 2015
Our Attitude, like Christ’s - March 29, 2015 - Palm Sunday - Text: Philippians 2:5-11
This day is a day that three young men have been working and looking forward to for two years. And I do have to say it, this is not their graduation day. This is their day of confirmation and really this is the day that they are considered adults in the church. With that “change of status” comes the responsibility to take the initiative in their spiritual life, meaning, being an active member, being involved in worship and Bible class, being involved with areas of service, and beginning to get interested and involved in serving on the boards and committees of this congregation. Today is the day that they are to take on the attitude of Christ that Paul describes for us in our text for today.
we look at our text, the first thing I want to say about our text is that it is thought that this text may have been a part of an early Christian creed which was spoken during a worship service, similar to how we speak the Nicene or Apostles’ Creeds. Our text begins by telling us about Jesus Christ, and specifically, about His attitude. Paul says, “5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (v. 5-6). Paul exhorts us to have the mind, that is, the attitude, of Jesus. This is what I just said about our confirmands, that they are to have the attitude of Christ, and really, we are all to have the attitude of Christ. Okay, so what is the attitude of Christ?
The attitude of Christ has its foundation in the fact that He is true God. As true God He was enjoying all the glory that was His. He was in heaven where He freely used all His divine attributes of omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, and the like. He was in heaven being God, watching over us, ruling over us, taking care of us. He was in heaven enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. And we might be thinking, that is an easy attitude to have, enjoying heaven.
Yet, His attitude is what moved Him to give up all that was His in heaven. He gave up all the glory that was His in heaven in order to show how much He loved us, His creation. He gave up the use of His divine attributes, so that while He was here on this earth He did not always use His divine attributes or power, nor did He use them to their full potential. He gave up enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. His attitude was that He gave up all this, not because He had to or was forced to, but because of His love for us.
His attitude is that He humbled Himself. As Paul continues, “7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, 8he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (V. 7-8). Paul says, Jesus emptied Himself, that is, He made a decision not to use His divine attributes to their fullest. Did you notice Him doing this? Remember when He was tempted by the devil in the desert, He did not change the rock into bread. Did you notice that He did not raise everyone who had died from the dead. He did not heal everyone in the world. Yes, He used some of His divine attributes to some extend, but He did not fully use them as He could, as God.
In His love for us He took on human flesh and blood. He was born as a human. He was born, lowly, in a small town. He had a manger, an animals feeding trough, for His first bed. His parents were not wealthy or of seeming nobility, although He was born from the line of King David. He lived a rather obscure life. We do not hear anything about Him from birth until age twelve. Then we do not hear anything about Him until He reaches thirty and is ready to begin His earthly ministry and mission. He did not seek to be rich, or famous and or powerful, which are the things we deem as being great in our world today.
His greatest humility is in this, that He humbled Himself to the point of death. He was obedient to the Father’s will. He took all our sins upon Himself. Our sins of pride, greed, envy, and lust. Our sins of wanting our own way even to the detriment of others. Our sins of neglecting our own spiritual well being, absenting ourselves from worship and Bible Class, not reading God’s Word and praying to Him. He took all these sins upon Himself. He became sin for us. Not because He had too, but because He wanted to. Yes, because He wanted to, because of His great love for us.
He is our prophet, priest and king. As our priest He went to the altar to make sacrifices for us. As our Savior He became the sacrifice for us, in our place, once and for all, on the cross. He suffered the cruellest of deaths. He suffered the most humiliating and shameful of deaths. He suffered so that we might not have to suffer. He suffered so that we might have forgiveness of sins and life. Think about it this way, if He had not humbled Himself, if He had not suffered for our sins, if He had not died, we would still be in our sins and if we were still in our sins that would ultimately mean eternal spiritual death and hell for us.
After His suffering, as Paul continues in our text, “9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (v. 9-11). Paul says, “therefore.” Therefore, because of what He did for us, Jesus was exalted. God the Father exalted Him so that now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. He has returned to the place from where He came. He has returned to the right hand of the Father. There He is interceding for us, praying for us, watching over us, ruling over us, and guiding and directing all our doings in this life.
There, at the right hand of the Father, in heaven, He enjoys all the glory that is rightfully His, that He had given up for us. Paul tells us what John tells us in Revelation, that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and in earth. All creation will bow before the Lord, both those who believe and those who do not believe. In the end all people will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, some will confess to the demise, other to their eternal glory.
And, every tongue will confess, in heaven and in earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord. Again, Paul tells us the same thing John tells us in Revelation. The unbelievers will confess and then will try to blame God for their unbelief. The believers, we faithful Christians, will rejoice and sing praises to the Holy Name of the Lord.
Likewise, as Paul tells us, so should our attitude be. This morning we have the privilege of confirming three young men of our congregation. Certainly our text speaks to them. As they have worked hard for two years in order to reach this point, the point of confirmation, so we pray that they now realize that this is not an end, this is not a graduation, but this is just a beginning. For them, and really, for all of us, to take on the attitude of Christ is to understand and acknowledge that when it comes to knowing God, the more we learn about Him, the more we can see that there is so much more that we do not know about Him. And that reminds us that there is even more reason to continue on with our own instruction in God’s Word, continuing to be a part of a Sunday Bible class, continuing to read God’s Word at home, and to have personal and family devotions, continuing to humbly learn and grow in faith. This is taking on Christ’s attitude.
Again, I can never say it too much, Confirmation is not graduation. Confirmation, as defined in our catechism, is “a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.” And the catechism also notes, “Prior to admission to the Lord’s Supper, it is necessary to be instructed in the Christian faith (1 Cor. 11:28). The rite of confirmation provides an opportunity for the individual Christian, relying on God’s promise given in Holy Baptism, to make a personal public confession of the faith and a lifelong pledge of fidelity to Christ.”
Notice, as always, we get it right when we point, not to ourselves, but to Jesus. Confirmation is something we do, but only after something has been done to us and for us. As we recall, the Church stands or falls on the doctrine of Justification, that is that we are made just and right in God’s eyes by God Himself. Just as a drowning person cannot save themself, or they would not be drowning, so we cannot save ourselves. Our salvation must and does come from outside of us, it comes from Christ. In the waters of Holy Baptism with God’s name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God imputes faith, that is He puts faith in our hearts. God gives faith. As we grow in our faith through the means of God’s Word, in Sunday School and in reading our Bible, the Holy Spirit works through these means to strengthen and keep us in faith and then to help us to do what is right which we call sanctification. And yet, just as our justification begins and ends with Jesus, He is the on doing the justifying and making us just and right in God’s eyes, so even in sanctification the Holy Spirit is the One doing the doing, moving in us to make good decisions. So, in pointing to Jesus, Confirmation is the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts of these young men to speak words of affirmation of the faith which God has given them in the baptism, two of the three of which I had the privilege of God baptizing them with my hands.
Confirmation, then, is kind of a new beginning. Confirmation is a rite marking our beginning to be responsible for our own spiritual life, with the help of the Holy Spirit of course. To those of us who have already been confirmed, I ask you, do you remember your confirmation and what it meant for you? Did it give you any incentive to be more self-responsible? Did your confirmation make you what I will suggest to these confirmands? That is, that now is the time to not depend so much on your mom or dad to wake you to tell you it is time to get up and get ready for church and Bible class, but to take the initiative on your own to get up and get ready. I think that would be a part of taking on the attitude of Christ.
I would summarize this morning by saying that Confirmation is a time to continue in the attitude of Christ, to continue in living a life to the glory of God by continuing to be in the Word and partake of the Sacrament, and to be willing to give your life for Him. May God grant you the will and the strength to live in such a way. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.