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 20, 2016
Our Attitude like Christ’s - March 20, 2016 - Palm Sunday Text: Philemon 2:5-11
I know I have explained this somewhat before, but a refresher is always good. Our pericopy system, that is our system of Bible readings that we hear every Sunday morning has been set many years ago. The readings that have been selected for each Sunday have been selected to express the current event of the church year as well as an attempt to make sure all the reading correlate or fit together. For many years the Gospel reading for this Sunday was actually the Palm Sunday Gospel that gave us the history of Jesus riding into Jerusalem, and the passion reading that we heard was read on Good Friday. Unfortunately as our society has moved away from having a great priority of being in service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, in order to have Easter be a truly resurrection celebration, the passion reading has been moved to the Sunday before Easter and we simply skip the Palm Sunday reading, after all, how can you celebrate Easter without Jesus’ passion? So, although our Gospel reading for this morning was the reading of what we call the passion of Christ, today is actually Palm Sunday. Today is also the beginning of Holy Week. Today we remember and even celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, for the last time. Jesus set His face toward Jerusalem, that is He came to Jerusalem to do what He came to earth to do, to give His life, to die on the cross for us, for you and for me. With this as our backdrop, today we hear Paul’s encouragement, even his exhortation to have the attitude of Christ.
As 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 writes, “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. So what is the attitude of Jesus?
The attitude of Jesus is that He is true God. He is true God with the Father and the Spirit at the creation of the world. He is true God and as true God He was enjoying all the glory that was due Him. He was in heaven where He freely used 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.
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 complete use of all His divine attributes, so that He did not always use His divine attributes and power nor did He always use them to their full potential. He did not heal everyone while He was on earth, nor did He cast out all demons or raise all the dead. He did use His divine power to some degree, healing some, raising some from the dead, and casting out some demons, but again, He did not always nor fully use His power as He could have. He gave up enjoying the eternal bliss of heaven. His attitude was that He gave all this up because of His love for us.
His attitude is that He humbled Himself. Paul continues at verse seven, “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, He made Himself nothing. Other translations say He emptied Himself, that is, He made a decision not to use His divine attributes to their fullest. Notice when He was tempted by the devil in the desert, He did not change the rock into bread. He did not jump off the temple. He did not bow down and worship the devil. Yes, He did use some of His divine attributes to some extent, but He did not always nor 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, humble and lowly, pretty much in obscurity. He had a manger for His 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. He was a human being and He showed Himself to be a human being. He was tired. He was thirsty. He had emotions. When His friend Lazarus died we are told that He wept. He walked wherever He went. He slept and ate. He was truly a human man, with a body and a soul, His own Godly soul.
His greatest humility is seen in this fact, that He humbled Himself to the point of death. He was obedient to the Father’s will. He lived a perfect life. He was perfectly obedient to the will of God the Father. He obeyed all the Law perfectly. He could have simply asked the Father to take Him to heaven. But, because that was not the reason He came to earth and because that was not His attitude, instead, because of His great love for us, He took all our sins upon Himself. He became sin for us. Not because He had too, but because He wanted to. 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 and life.
After His suffering, Paul says, “therefore.” Therefore, He was exalted. We continue at verse nine, “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). God exalted him so that now He is seated at the right hand of the Father. There, at the right hand of the Father, He has returned, to the place from where He came. There He is, interceding for us, praying for us, watching over us, ruling over us, guiding and directing our doings in this life.
There He enjoys all the glory that was His, that He had given up for us. And 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. Yes, even non-believers will bow before the Lord on the day of judgement.
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 that Jesus Christ is Lord. There will be no way they can not make this confession nor any other confession. They will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord and then will try to blame God for their own unbelief. The believers, the faithful Christians, we too will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We will gladly confess and then we will rejoice and sing praises to the Holy Name of the Lord.
So, what does this mean? What does this mean for us today? To answer that question perhaps we would do well to understand that our attitude is simply a reflection of what is in our heart and mind. In other words, how we live, how we act, how we speak and the like is a reflection of what is in our mind and heart. Thus, on a daily basis we encounter people who are angry, zealous, pious, cheerful, carefree, anxious, and the like. Very often our attitude is learned from past experiences and how we have reacted to those experiences. If our life has been a wonderful life with no difficulties perhaps we would have a very positive and cheerful attitude. Or, if we have experienced difficulties in life and have had difficult experiences we may have a negative or depressed attitude. Of course, the opposite of this may be true as well. If we have had a wonderful life with no difficulties we may still have a negative or depressed attitude and if we have had a difficult life we may yet have a positive and cheerful attitude. Our attitude depends on how we react to any given situation and reflects what is in our heart and mind.
As Paul tells us, so should our attitude be, that is we are to have the attitude of Christ. What was Christ’s attitude? His attitude was such that, because of His great love for us, He gave up everything for us. For us to have such and attitude would mean being willing to give up everything for Him, and for others. Which then begs the question, “Have we given up anything for Christ, lately?” Or, have we given up anything for anyone else, lately? And let me confirm you thinking, no, we do not do well at having the attitude of Christ. We tend to be self centered, self thinking, and the like, after all, that is our nature. Yet, Paul’s words are not intended to be such harsh law words. Rather Paul’s words are intended to be words of Gospel and they are Gospel words for the simple fact that it is because of the attitude of Christ that we have forgiveness, life and salvation.
For us, then, to take on the attitude of Christ is to understand and acknowledge Jesus Christ is Lord. To profess faith in Him. To desire to be the people He would have us to be, and to understand that it is only with His help that we can even attempt to be the people He would have us to be. Thus, to take on the attitude of Christ is to have the desire to grow in our faith and knowledge of Him. So, when it comes to knowing God, we confess that 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 divine service, Sunday morning 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.
Many churches have confirmation on this Sunday. Lord willing we will have confirmation on this Sunday next year. Perhaps you have a niece or nephew, cousin or friend who is being confirmed or know of someone being confirmed today. With that in mind, I would summarize this morning by reminding you of your own Confirmation. I would remind you of the vows you made at your confirmation, including the vow that very much reflects that attitude of Christ that is that you will remain faithful in faith, word, and action even to death. And so, as Paul encourages and exhorts us, so I encourage and exhort you, now 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 as He has first loved you and given His life for you. May God grant you the will and the strength to live in such a way. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.