Archive for the ‘Philippians 2:1-18’ Category

We Need Jesus to Survive!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 25, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Philippians 2:1-18

Do you know the music that’s playing?  Yes it’s the theme song to the reality T.V. show, “Survivor.”  it’s playing because I want to start off our message this morning with an analogy to that show.  On Survivor, the premise is this: If you want to survive, you need to outlast, out smart, and out play your opponents who are isolated with you on the island.  Well our message this morning calls us to do the opposite.  Like the reality show, we too are gathered together, not on an isolated island, but here in Christ’s church.  We are gathered together with a bunch of people who are completely different than us, yet we are all exactly the same.  Each of us has different life time experiences, but each of us are fighting against the same opponents, sin, death, and the devil!  Instead of playing to eliminate your fellow islanders by out-playing them, you’re living to see that they make it all the way to the end!

On the tv show, each player tries to obtain what’s called an immunity idol.  This “idol” protects the players from the strategy and attack of their opponents.  In our walk of Christian faith, we have our baptism.  It also makes us immune, immune from the attacks of sin, death, and the devil; as long as we are resting in our baptism, these evil forces can’t eliminate us from winning eternal life.  Now here is where the greatest difference is; in our walk of faith our goal isn’t to eliminate others but to include them by helping them reach the same goal… eternal life with Jesus.  How can this be done?  Only by having, and then helping others have the heart and mind of Jesus Christ; a heart and mind that can only be obtained through God’s Word!  Through the Word, we’re given Jesus and a new faith and obedience to trust and obey God!  When we have Jesus, we will naturally live to “Out Love, Out Sacrifice, and Out Serve” each other.  We will come to see the truth in the saying, “I need you, you need me, and we all need Jesus to survive!

In our epistle lesson this morning (Philippians 2:1-18), St. Paul is asking us to live a life of humility.  He’s asking us to put the needs of others above our own by out loving them, out serving them, and out sacrificing for them.  He is asking us to be a source of encouragement and comfort by participating in the ministry of the church.  He’s asking us to utilize our time, talent, and treasure to help further and build the Kingdom of God.  He says in verse 3 that we are to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than (ourselves).”  He says that we are to look not only to (our) own interests, but also to the interests of others. [vs. 4]

But how?  How can broken sinners like us fill such a tall and perfect order?  How can we sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure to spread God’s Kingdom of grace when everything in us and around us is convincing us to do the very opposite?  By being obedient to God’s will!  Here’s a truth that you might want to write down and remember: “Selected obedience isn’t obedience at all; it is merely convenience.”  Saints of God, we haven’t been called to do what is convenient, but what is inconvenient.  When we give of our time, talent, and treasure when it isn’t convenient, God calls that sacrifice.  And when God sees sacrifice, He sees love!

A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land.  The husband said, “Wouldn’t it be great to stand on Mount Sinai and shout out the Ten Commandments?”  To that the wife said, “Wouldn’t it be even greater if we stayed home and kept them?”  Men of God please hear me; our families and our community are waiting for us to be the spiritual leaders that God has created us to be!  They are waiting for us to lead them through love, sacrifice, and service!  The question is will we respond?  How do any of us respond?  How do we begin?

And to this Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, 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.”  And there you have it… we must have the heart and mind of Jesus.  We must live in the same frame of mind that He had; what is even more interesting is the fact hat he says we already have Jesus’ heart and mind! And what is the heart and mind of Jesus?  Well it’s the heart and mind of a slave and of a servant!  Do you see yourself as God’s slave and as the servant of your brothers and sisters in the church?  Do you see Jesus example and desire to make it your own?  If you’re anything like me, you are probably getting a little uncomfortable and feeling a little inadequate.  If you are, good!  That’s the work of God’s Law reminding you that on your own you can do nothing!  If you are listening right now, if you are really paying attention then you are also feeling helpless.  And that’s good, because you see, after God shows you your sin and you confess it, it’s no longer about you… it’s all about God and what He did for you through Jesus Christ!

Who is Jesus Christ to you? Is he really the Son of God who came to us in our flesh to set us free from our sins or is He only partly God’s Son or only a man and not even partly God’s Son? This isn’t some theological issue that only scholars argue about, this is an issue involving the life or the death of every Christian, including each of us.  How we believe will determine whether we’re obedient or disobedient; it will determine where we will spend our eternity! How we answer this question and what we believe about Jesus involves the whole saving work of Jesus for sinners like you and me!  The key that unlocks God’s Kingdom for us and allows us to be and remain in it rests entirely on who Jesus is, what He did, and whether or not He is our source of sincerity, obedience, and true sacrifice.  In Jesus we must see that the only sacrifice pleasing to God, could only be made by Jesus the Christ, Son of God and son of man!  If He was not truly man, then He could not have suffered and died for the world… for only man can pay for the sins of men.  Jesus suffered and died for you!

On Good Friday, Jesus the Christ suffered and died to pay for what we cannot pay for!  On that day Jesus defeated our chief enemy,which is sin!  But if His work stopped there, if His work in our flesh was all that He gave to us, then we would still have no hope, because our other enemies death and the devil would still be our master.  But His work didn’t stop there, because on Good Friday not only did Jesus the man die for us but Jesus the Son of God died as well!  On Good Friday, that which can’t happen happened… God died for us!  God had to do this, because only God has the power over life and death.  In the person of Jesus, the Son of God emptied Himself for us when He became our Christ… our Savior.  He became our brother by emptying Himself, becoming a slave and dying a slave’s death upon a tree!  But He also proved that He was our God by taking His life back up again.  God did all of this to save us; so that we could return to Him!  He did this so that you could enter and remain in His Kingdom of forgiveness and love.

This death and resurrection was something only the Son of God could and did do, and He did it for us!  And when it was finished this act gave Jesus the Christ the Name, which is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  [vs. 10, 11]

But you already know this don’t you?  You are already struggling to live out this truth.  Or as Paul says, we are “(working) out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why fear and trembling?  Because we know that our God not only suffered and died for us, but He also lives and works within us!  He not only wills that we live a life of love, service, and sacrifice, but He is accomplishing that very thing within us through the heart and mind of Jesus!  And because we know this is true, we find comfort knowing that the same God who has ignited a spark of true godliness in our hearts will keep right on working until it becomes a blazing bonfire!  We know that in our weakness and failures, we have a God who comes to us and strengthens us with divine help!

And how does He help us?  Only through His Word!  It is His Word alone that tells us that we have been saved by grace alone through baptism and new life!  It is His Word alone that not only encourages us but enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  It is the gospel that tells us that we have a God who is for us and not against; a God who is willing and working in us and among us to bring and sustain His Kingdom of peace and forgiveness.  And as we remain centered in His Word in our worship, prayers, and service we begin to sense His presence as we witness ourselves “(doing these) things without grumbling or questioning”. And this is God’s work within us, the real change He brings so that we may know that in His Kingdom, we are blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom (we) shine as (bright) lights in the world.”  And all of this is done only because we are “holding fast to the Word of life, the Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I’d like to close with this story.  A missionary translator worked hard to find a word for “obedience” in the native language. This was a virtue that seemed to be lacking among the people into whose language he wanted to translate the New Testament. As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed. An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue, “Your dog is all ear.” Immediately the missionary knew he had his word for obedience.

Dear friends, God wants us to be all ear; He wants us to hear His Word and allow Him to transform us.  We need the new obedience, the heart and mind of Jesus, which God’ Word provides. Yes, we need God and we need each other.  I need you and you need me, because together we are all part of God’s Kingdom.  I need you through the presence and power of God to out love, out serve, and out sacrifice me, and you need me and each other to do the very same thing.  I need you and you need me, but each of us needs Jesus to survive!  May God continue to do this great work of providing for our needs through Jesus Christ… AMEN!