How Jesus Humbled Himself

Good morning and welcome to Journey Church. My name is Phil Human and it’s my pleasure to worship with you in this cafeteria this morning.

This weekend is, of course, Memorial Day Weekend. Tomorrow is the day we honor those who have given their life defending our country. And at 10am at Petersen park there will be a Memorial Day service for those interested in attending.

This weekend has morphed into the unofficial kickoff of Summer. Today is hopefully the last day of Monsoon season and tomorrow is the unofficial first day of summer. And that means for many, vacation time!

This week I saw an ad trying to convince me to vacation in Missouri. I was curious about that odd state slogan – the Show me state – and so I did some research on it. And, might I say that, ironically, no one seemed to be able to even show me the origin of that saying.

There seemed to be two stories about the show me state. One was a gallant portrayal – that in 1899 Congressman Willard Vandiver in 1899 declared that “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton, cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I’m from Missouri, and you have got to show me.”

That sounds kind of tough – reflecting the common sense approach to people from Missouri. The problem is that it appears the saying is older than that. And so the alternative story is that it comes from Colorado during the gold rush. And the story is that many Missourians set up camp in Colorado without the slightest idea of how to mine for gold. And so they Colorado people said, those people from Missouri – you gotta show them how to do everything.

And so it could mean that Missourians are dumb. Anyone from Missouri here today? In that case I’m sure it means they are resilient people with great common sense. If not? In that case I think it’s probably the second.

See what I did there? We are up here. They are down there. If you missed last weeks sermon you can read it on line.

If you are from Missouri and I offended you – no worries – I am about to say something to cheer you up. I think Jesus was a show me kind of guy. He would have loved your slogan Missouri. Jesus was a show me kind of guy. More specifically I say that Jesus was a Show Us kind of guy.

This morning we are continuing our study in the book of Philippians. And today we come to one of the most theologically important sections in all of the NT.

The book of Philippians was written to followers of Jesus who lived in the city of Philippi, located in present day Turkey. The Philippians were the first believers in Jesus in Europe. And this particular church is about ten years old when they receive this letter from the guy who started the church – a guy named Paul. Commonly referred to as the Apostle Paul.

The New Testament is a compilation of 27 different “books.” 21 of the 27 books are actually letters, written in the first century, to churches or in some cases, individuals.

Paul wrote 13 of these letters – primarily because he started so many churches. And secondly because he spent so much time in prison that writing letters was the only way to continue to minister to them.

And usually he wrote in order to correct a theological error. Or an error in the way the church was living out it’s faith.

Philippians is a rare occasion when Paul is NOT writing to correct a theological misunderstanding. He is writing to encourage them to keep up the good work, even in the face of persecution and resistance.

That said, although the letter to the Philippians was NOT primarily theological, the passage we are reading this morning is without question, one of the most important theological sections of the New Testament. One writer called this section we are reading today “Paul’s finest hour.”

And this is what it says… Phil 2 NLT

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God, 
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, 
8     he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus is a “show us” kind of guy. And I think this passage lays out for us two very important aspects of what Jesus came to show us when he became incarnate. (By the way, that is a theological word – incarnation – and it means to take on flesh. Carne – means meat in Spanish, right? Jesus took on actual real, honest to goodness flesh. So what does Jesus show us in the incarnation?

1. Jesus came to earth to show us what God is like, on the inside. and…
2. Jesus came to show us how to live HIS kind of life in THIS kind of world.

First, Jesus came to earth to show us what God is like on the inside…

5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
6 Though he was God, 
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
We must first start by sinking our teeth into a profound theological statement. Though he was God.

Paul begins this passage with a profound declaration that is either true or insane. He states that Jesus, the same Jesus who thirty years earlier walked and talked and ate fish and preached, and got dirty feet from walking on dusty paths, and was crucified and killed on a cross – that Jesus was God.

Jesus is equal to God. Now notice that Paul is not forming an argument. He is not stating that, I have a theory I’d like to float past you to see what you think. There is no debate here. Here, already, by 60AD – the church has accepted the Divinity of Jesus. He was God in the flesh.

I bring this up because some people, and some non-christian sects, try to make an argument that Jesus was never considered God. That the trinity is a figment of imagination that was formulated by religious people hundreds of years after Jesus’ death.

Not true. Philippians – written about 60ad – flat out proves that just 30 years after the death of Jesus – that the church has already internalized the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. Paul here in not trying to convince them of any of these words. He is clearly stating doctrine the church already believes.

He is presenting what is the accepted doctrine of all the Christian churches. It is not in the least bit controversial to this early church. Jesus IS God.

Paul is merely echoing what Jesus said about himself. When Jesus said, I and the Father are one. (John 10:30) or “Before Abraham was I Am” John 8:58. And remember what the crowd did? They picked up stones to kill Jesus for blasphemy – they understood exactly what he was claiming – he was claiming to be God in the flesh.

Paul here is also echoing John, who starts off his Gospel by declaring the eternal existence of Jesus…

John 1
In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
2 He existed in the beginning with God.
3 God created everything through him,
    and nothing was created except through him.
Paul is describing the pre-incarnate state of Jesus. Before he was born he was God. Which means that whatever is true of God is also true of Jesus. Is God all knowing? So is Jesus. Is God all-powerful? So is Jesus.

Jesus came to show us what God is like. But there was a problem that needed to be solved….

See, God is so perfect, so powerful, so glorious that outwardly he is unapproachable in our present condition. Outwardly, his glory burns brighter than any sun.

In our present condition – meaning sinful, right? Broken and imperfect – in our present condition We would have as much a chance of surviving seeing God in all his glory as we would have of surviving a nuclear bomb exploding in our hands.

This is why, in the Old Testament, God appears in thunder and lighting on a mountaintop, if we truly saw his glory we’d be toast.

In exodus 33 there is a great story about Moses – bold Moses – demanding that God show him his glory. And God says, “you may not look directly at my face, for no one may see me and live.”  (It wasn’t always this way – Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden, but sin ruined us)

So how was Jesus going to show us what God is like? Back to Philippians
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
Jesus from eternity past possessed inwardly and displayed outwardly the very nature of God.

But by choosing to be born as a man, Jesus laid aside the outward splendor and glory of God – which would have made it impossible for people to approach him.

Jesus gave up his outward divine glory in order to be able to show us what God is like on the inside. That word “Gave up” means emptied – Jesus emptied himself, temporarily, of his divine privilege.

What remained was God’s glory on the inward sense. And so when we read about Jesus, we are reading about what God is like on the inside. Is Jesus kind? Then it’s because God is kind. Is Jesus filled with compassion? That’s because that’s what God is like.

We read about these things, by the way, in the Old Testament. God’s favorite description of himself is that he is compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in Love.

Paul is underscoring the humility of God. Jesus came as a humble servant. And that is because God is humble. When we read about the life of Jesus We learn that God is a humble servant. God himself is humble.

God is not a, self-centered being. Instead, in Jesus we see a God filled with such compassion for his creation that he would willingly endure the humiliation of the cross, if that’s what it took, to provide access to him through faith.

Last week we talked briefly about the fall of Lucifer – how Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 describe Lucifer as a beautiful and powerful angel. And we saw how pride led the devil to lead a rebellion in the heavens.

Isaiah 14
13For you said to yourself,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars.
I will preside on the mountain of the gods
    far away in the north. 
14 I will climb to the highest heavens
    and be like the Most High.’
15 Instead, you will be brought down to the place of the dead,
    down to its lowest depths.

Notice the pattern of Satan – he was lower than God and said I will ascend – I will be the most high! But his rebellion was crushed and he was brought down.

And now we read in Philippians – that Jesus was equal to God before he became a man, and yet he laid aside – he emptied himself of all his divine privilege in order to stoop to our level.

When he appeared in human form, 
8     he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

He stooped, humbly, as low as he needed to go in order to rescue us from an eternal fate apart from Him forever. What is God like on the inside? There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

On Memorial Day we rightly stop to remember the price that soldiers through our history were willing to pay for freedom. It is right and proper that we recognize these brave soldiers – for their sacrifice was ultimately not only an act of courage, or an act of patriotism, or even duty. It was a humble act of supreme love.

Truly there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for the freedom of a friend.
And that is what God is like. Jesus came to show us.

Scholar Gordon Fee writes in his commentary on Philippians;

In Jesus we have the one who is equal with God fully revealing the truth about God: that God is love and that his love expresses itself in sacrifice for the sake of those he loves.

I do not know what kind of image you have of God. What do you think He is like? If you really want to know then read the first four books of the New Testament. Read about Jesus. Take notes of how he responded. He came to show us what God is like on the inside… that God can be trusted with our lives because He, like Jesus, is humble, gentle, kind and loving.

Jesus came to show us what God is like on the inside.
Secondly, Jesus came to show us how to live his kind of life in this kind of world.

It’s important we remember why Paul is writing it. He is not writing to correct heresy or wrong doctrine, or to combat an error of faith. Paul here is NOT pleading for doctrine. He is pleading for a life of love from his church.

Remember verse 5? 5 You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Paul is explaining that Jesus came to show us – not only what God is like. He came to show us what we will be like.

That’s what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:18 We are being transformed into his likeness with ever increasing glory…

He came so that we might be transformed – starting on the inside – transformed into his likeness.

When we come to that point in our spiritual Journey where we make a decision to follow Jesus, then there begins a process where our very being – who we are on the inside – begins to change and be shaped into the likeness of Jesus.

Which means that – as we follow Jesus – we begin to be more patient. More kind. More gentle. More courageous. More loving. More humble. We start looking like Jesus on the inside.

We begin to live life like Jesus. Willing to stoop. Willing to serve. Willing to lay down our life in love.

As his apprentices we learn to live like he lived. We become willing to empty ourselves of our privileges, we become, like Jesus, willing to lay down our life in living service to others.

It’s what the Bible means when it says that Jesus is creating new creations – a new kind of human being – one shaped not in the mold of this world, but rather, transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.

The kind of human being who can humbly relinquish control of their life – NOT to a church or to a religion, but to the good shepherd himself. The kind of human being who is willing, indeed finds joy, in stooping to serve others.

There no longer is a need for us to claw our way to the top; to Lord over others. Instead our lives become a race to the bottom. A race for second place. Willingly allowing God to be the one to sort out the rewards at the end.

As did Jesus. Jesus decided to live a life of humble obedience to the Father and let God be in charge of any honor he wished to bring. And God certainly did honor him…

9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Jesus, having temporarily relinquished his glory, is once again crowned with it – as the Father elevates the Son to the place of honor he deserves. And he is there now. It’s why we worship Him. Why we praise him. Why we honor him with our lives and words and deeds.

In closing this morning I thought I’d end with a Memorial Day story. It’s astory about an Army airman who was transformed by the love of Jesus,

Jacob DeShazer was a sergeant in the United States Army Air Corps on December 7th, 1941, the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, killing more than 2400 American’s. DeShazer was filled with rage and declared that he would make Japan pay.

DeShazer’s opportunity came sooner than he expected. On Sunday, March 1, 1941 DeShazer began to prepare to be part of a surprise raid on Tokyo. He, along with 15 other bomber crews, became part of the famous Doolittle’s Raiders. These bombers would deliver the first American bombs over Japan.
Launched from an aircraft carrier in April, 1941, DeShazer and his crew successfully bombed Nagoya, Japan. They ran out of fuel before their intended landing zone, and had to bail out of the plane.

He was captured by the Japanese and placed inside a Japanese war camp where he was severely beaten and malnourished for 40 months. three of his fellow airman who had also been captured were executed, or died of mal nutrition.

One day Deshazer was surpised to discover that a guard had given him a bible in English. And for three wonderful weeks before it was taken from him, DeShazer had a bible to read. And he read about this Jesus. And there in that prisoner camp he decided to trust Jesus with his life and future. He was particularly challenged by the idea of being the kind of person who could love their enemy. And bless those who cursed you.

And it was then and there that Jacob DeShazer asked Jesus to make him into that kind of person.

When he was released at the end of the war he went to bible college and decided to become a missionary – to Japan. He willingly went back and humbly served the Japanese for more than 30 years.

One day someone gave a copy of DeShazer’s story to Captain Mitsuo Fushida, the man who led the raid on Pearl Harbor, who said he was about to throw it out until he read that it was written by one of the Dolittle raiders. As a pilot himself he had great respect for the bravery of those men. He read about this Jesus, and soon afterward also decided to trust Him with his life.

These two men teamed up for 30 years of faithful ministry in Japan. telling their story of giving their life to Jesus.

DeShazer, later in his life, was nominated for the Congressional Gold Medal, and written on his letter of recommendation by his congresswoman, was “At this time in our history, we feel it is ideal to honor a man who was a genuine war hero, [but] who after his sacrificial service put on gloves of peace, and touched the entire world with grace and humility.”

The same Grace and Humility that Jesus displayed for us. Jesus is a show me kind of person. He came to show us what God is like on the inside. And we found him to be filled with grace and Humility. And he came to show us how to live his kind of graceful and humble life, even, or especially, in this kind of world.

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