Jesus is Lord
Jesus is Lord
Three little words
Many of you will know that from time to time I quote from the TV show The West Wing. I think it’s the way that pastors like to show that they’re edgy and hip, quoting The West Wing.
But there’s an episode, where the president of the United States and his staff, are trying to find, what they call, “The 10 word answer.”
Distil, complex policy, down to just a few words.
Ultimately though, they conclude there is no such thing as a 10 word answer. Politics, life, they say, are just too complex, for 10 words.
And yet, for the early Christians,
Their statement of faith, was 3 words, in English. In Greek 2 words.
Jesus, is Lord.
And about 4 years before he wrote this letter, the Apostle Paul, wrote to Christians in Rome, and he says Romans 10:9 9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
I have a friend who became a Christian as a young girl, read those words, and her father wasn’t a Christian, so used to try and trick him into saying, “Jesus is Lord” thinking that if he said the words, he’d be saved!
“Here Dad, what’s this say? Can you read it to me?”
“Jesus is Lord”!
Doesn’t quite work that way though does it?!
She’s now a missionary in China, so I hope her mission strategy has improved somewhat!
But, Jesus is Lord
It is in some ways the most basic Christian confession.
But if a fictional president thinks that fiscal policy can’t be reduced to 10 words, then how can a whole worldview and framework for relationships, relationships that stretch from here to eternity, how can that be summed up, in 2 or 3 words.
Well, that’s what we’re going to find out in Philippians 2.
Unfortunately, Christians have a habit of coming to Philippians 2, and forgetting it is Philippians 2.
That is, we tend to only read verses 5 to 11, and we treat those as if they’re some little theological tract that the Apostle Paul printed up to give out while he was doorknocking, to help people understand who Jesus is.
But Philippians 2, is Philippians 2.
Those middle verses are theologically weighty verses, but they come to us in the context of a letter that Paul wrote to his dear friends and partners in ministry, as he urged them to hold fast to, and to live out, the whole gospel of Jesus, not some safe, convenient, domesticated version.
The cross-shaped life is a life of unity 1 – 4
And of course, when Paul was writing, he didn’t stop, at the end of chapter 1, leave a gap, draw a big number 2, insert a paragraph heading, and then start writing again.
He’s just writing straight through, and now he’s unpacking the implications of what he’s just mentioned.
1:27 striving together as one for the faith of the gospel, and conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ,
Or verse 28 you will be saved—and that by God
Therefore, if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,
if any comfort from his love,
if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind and so on,
The cross-shaped life is a life of unity.
And this is kind of Roman military language.
It’s a little different these days, we’re praying for Jono from 9 AM who’s in Afghanistan with the Army. For Jono, the unity of purpose means he’s sitting in front of a computer screen, waiting for some incoming missile to be detected, so that he can then spring into action and activate the defences that protect his colleagues!
But the picture here is of the Roman testudo, or tortoise formation: A group of soldiers, close together, those around the outside have their shields inter-locked as a barrier,
Those inside holding their shields over their heads of all of them.
They’re pretty much impervious to any attack,
Except of course,
If they’re not, verse 1, united,
If they’re not, verse 2, like-minded,
If they’re not, of one spirit and of one mind,
If they have different ideas about how to proceed.
If half of them want to go off this way, then all of them, are open to attack.
If one guy decides that he wants to go off and stare down the enemy on his own, he leaves a hole in the formation, and the whole operation falls apart.
Paul says Christian people ought to have the like-mindedness, that allows them to strive together as one for the faith of the gospel 1:27.
And did you notice the repetition, the piling up of the expressions?
having the same love,
being one in spirit,
and of one mind
The way that the cross of Christ is worked out in our lives, is through this like-mindedness, this going in the same direction.
And it’s because we’re united with Christ that we know which way to go. We’re not going to take a vote at our AGM next Monday night in order to decide, “well this is what our church stands for.”
Imagine if we had a church picnic, at a lake somewhere, and we went canoeing, in a huge purpose built canoe, that had a seat for every member of our church, all 250 of us!
If we just said “OK, start paddling!” we wouldn’t get anywhere, would we?
But Paul understands that the gospel itself, our union with Christ,
Our experience of his love,
The work of the Spirit in us,
The compassion that is born in us, set our agenda.
My relationships are the relationships of someone united with Christ.
Your life, should look like the life of someone united with Christ.
But it’s not just that Paul says to the Philippians “do this.”
“Live this way.”
All the philosophers of the first century had lists of virtues they wanted their followers to embrace,
Behaviour to be imitated,
The difference here is that Paul’s exhortation is grounded in the objective spiritual reality that the Philippians have already experienced!
Because of your salvation, assured by God himself, 1:27, live like this.
Because of your unity with Christ, you can live in a humble unity, with other believers.
And so he then lays before the Philippians, the ultimate incentive for unity, and humility;
The example of Christ.
The cross-shaped life is a life of humility 5 – 8
Let me read from verse 5, 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
There was article in the news this week about how somebody thinks that parents today have abandoned attempts to hold their children to any kind of standard of behaviour.
I imagine there’s some truth to that.
I imagine also that that’s pretty much what every generation says about the generation that comes after them!
But this passage shows us, as Christian people, the ultimate standard for our behaviour, doesn’t it?
Where does the mindset of Christ lead?
To the cross of Christ, verse 8.
There’s our standard of behaviour. The cross.
The ultimate in self-sacrifice, and other-person-centred love.
And of course, verse 5, this mindset works itself out in our
relationships with one another .
To Paul, there is no such thing as a “solitary Christian.”
The mind of Christ isn’t something we develop all on our own, sitting in a cave somewhere like some kind of hermit, which, some people have tried, throughout history.
No, the mindset of Christ is expressed in relationship to other Christian people, and most particularly, in a life of humility, putting the needs of others before our own.
But these verses are about more than just seeing Christ as an example.
Lots of very non-religious people, see Jesus as an example.
It’s a little bit hidden in the translation of verse 5, but Paul actually speaks about people who are in Christ. It’s the same unity with Christ that we see in verse 1.
And in fact the English Standard Version translates the verse Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus
Jesus is more than the example, it is through unity with him, that Christian people are enabled to follow his example.
The great saving events of the gospel, namely the cross of Christ, are inextricably linked to the kind of life a Christian person ought to be living.
So let’s look at what Paul tells us about Jesus, and about how we who are in Christ, can have the same mindset.
Jesus gave up everything
Firstly we see that Jesus gave up everything.
He was, verse 6, in very nature God.
Literally Paul says Christ was in the form of God, but not meaning merely in outward form, but in essence,
And in function.
My kids and I went to Bunnings last weekend, and Jamie, who’s 3, insisted on going in his pirate costume; striped shirt, bandana, eye patch, the whole lot.
Why wasn’t he thrown out of Bunnings, the moment we walked through the door?
He was in outward form a pirate, and pirates steal, and wreak havoc, and make people walk the plank!
Well he wasn’t thrown out of Bunnings because he was only a pirate in outward form,
He wasn’t a pirate in function,
And he wasn’t a pirate in his essence!
But when Paul describes Christ as being in the form of God, which, you may have noticed is the little footnote in the NIV, it’s that full picture of essence and function that he shares with God, the Father, the God of the Old Testament.
From such lofty heights though, Jesus Christ willingly humbled himself. And notice that it was his doing, He made himself nothing verse 7, he humbled himself, verse 8.
Jesus wasn’t forced into this humiliation by his Father,
This is Christ’s mindset, and in verse 7, the word himself is in the emphatic position at the beginning of the sentence.
In Greek, if you want to emphasise a particular word, you stick it at the beginning of the sentence.
We’d use a highlighter, they rearranged their sentences.
Himself, he made nothing,
Giving up the privilege that was rightfully his,
The honour that was rightfully his,
Literally, he emptied himself,
by taking the very nature or form, of a servant,
Jesus becomes a real servant, and functions like a real servant.
Ultimately suffering a slave’s humiliating death on a cross.
Jesus doesn’t consider equality with God to be about getting, Jesus sees equality with God to be about giving,
Giving up everything, for a greater purpose, the reconciliation with God, that he won for us, by dying in our place, taking the death and separation from God that we deserved, for pushing God to the edge of our lives, and beyond.
Think of the tyrannical dictators we see, living in luxury, while their people starve.
Jesus refused to use for his own gain, the privilege, and power,
and glory he had, since before the beginning of time.
Instead, he gave up everything, so he could go to the cross, stand in our place, and die as a rebel, a slave, the ultimate humiliation that could be dealt out in the Roman Empire.
Even the word cross, was considered an obscenity in polite company. I was going to get you to imagine the most obscene word that you could, as a comparison, but that might not be helpful!
The mention of this word provoked horror and disgust, and yet that is the point to which Jesus is willing to stoop, as he empties himself, for the sake of sinful people.
Compare that, if we dare, with our life, in Christ Jesus, our relationships with one another.
How do we think about giving up the things that we might deserve, or hold dear?
What is most desire, or enjoy the most?
Status, comfort, wealth, relationship, ministry, career?
What do I possess, that I could hang on to?,
And am I willing to consider those things with the mindset of Christ,
How does being in Christ, shape my view of those things?
How does seeing the example of Christ, shape my attachment to them?
The things that I have, that I could conceivably use to my own advantage,
Will I give them up?
Will I give up everything?
Or is there something that we won’t give up?
I’ll give up my time, and I’ll serve in some lowly ministry in the church, but I’m not giving up my annual holiday! No, I’ll keep that for my own advantage.
I’ll befriend unfriendly people, I’ll deliberately not rise as high in my career as I can, but don’t ask me to give up my money,
My nest egg,
Can you imagine Jesus Christ saying to his Father, “I’ll leave heaven,
I’ll become one of those humans we made,
I’ll even get born as a baby, in a backwater, Hicksville,
But I will not under any circumstances die like a slave, on a cross,
He gave up everything, for a greater purpose: The reconciliation, and restoration of relationship between us and God.
Jesus didn’t quite give up everything
But Jesus didn’t quite give up everything. I realise that sounds like I can’t quite make up my mind,
But these verses has been misunderstood, and deliberately abused by some people, who want to say that in entering the world Jesus stopped being God.
They say he emptied himself of his divine attributes, he gave up his “God-ness” if you like.
The essence and function of God that we talked about in verse 5, cease to be, we’re told, and Jesus exchanges the nature of God, for the nature of a slave.
The divinity of Christ has been disputed by some right throughout church history. The Nicene Creed, which we say on Sundays, was written specifically to combat this error.
But the error persists, even in churches in Adelaide, and some of you will be aware that on one occasion, our Leadership Team here, requested that I speak with another pastor, whose church was preaching this very message, that Jesus gave up the essence of God, exchanged Godness, for humanness, and therefore the cross is not about God who died for people, but simply a human who died for other humans.
But not only can you not make these words say that, it flies against what Paul and others make clear in the rest of the New Testament.
Jesus didn’t exchange the form of God for the form of a servant, he manifested the form of God, in the form of a servant.
The cross-shaped life means living under the lordship of Christ 9 – 11
But of course, for Jesus, the story didn’t end there, and remembering that we’re in Paul’s letter to the Philippians, in which he urges them not to settle for a safe, tame, domesticated version of the gospel, but to let the full breadth of the good news of Jesus permeate every aspect of their lives, he wants them to remember that the cross-shaped life means living under the lordship of Christ.
See verse 9, 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
It would be enough, in that light of what Jesus did in giving up everything, for him to be exalted, but that word in verse 10 is not your average everyday, run of the mill kind of exalted, it means highly exalted, as the ESV says, or quite literally, super exalted!
In this last week, Angus Rainbow and I have been fiddling around with computers, trying to get them to do what we want them to do!
And one of the things that this particular computer system requires in order to complete some specific tasks, is for you to log in, not just as a user, but as what’s called a “super-user”!
It makes you feel pretty good logging in as a super-user!
The super-user, has power over all the other users!
No one comes above the super-user.
No one comes above the one who is super-exalted.
Do you see that is God the Father’s statement about Jesus?
He super-exalted him above all others,
Gives him the name above every name.
God the Father, thinks that Jesus is Lord.
Lord of all.
And here again, this is language that speaks to us of Christ’s divinity.
The word “lord”, kurios, in Greek, at its most basic, simply means ruler or master.
It’s a bit like the English word “sir.”
But it’s also a way of referring specifically to God.
The old Jewish scribes, they wouldn’t write out the personal name of God, the name Yahweh, when they made copies of the Bible, so they just wrote “the Lord.”
“The Lord”, was God.
So in Isaiah 45 for example, which Paul draws on here, that’s where every knee should bow, every tongue acknowledge
comes from, in Isaiah 45 we find references to “the Lord”, and it’s clearly talking about God the Father,
But here Paul applies that language,
Those things that were once said only about God the Father,
Paul applies them to Jesus.
Jesus is Lord, verse 11.
It’s not just a statement about his super-exaltedness,
It’s also a statement about his divinity.
And the Philippians new that this language of lordship was a way of speaking about Jesus as God, because they knew the emperor used this language of himself, as a claim to be God!
“Caesar is Lord!”
It didn’t mean Caesar is the boss!
Caesar is the one you pay your taxes to!
“Caesar is Lord”, meant that Caesar is god!
The Guinness Book of Records tells us that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world.
For the Philippians, Emperor worship, was the fastest growing religion in their world.
To say that Jesus Christ is Lord, is to say that Caesar is not Lord.
To say that Jesus is super-exalted . is to say that Caesar is not.
If Jesus is Lord, Then no one else can be Lord,
If Jesus is super-exalted, then no one else can be.
Whatever we might be tempted to put above Jesus, we need to find a new position for it.
We need to submit it to Jesus.
Whatever area of our life we think that Jesus doesn’t have lordship over, well, verse 10, heaven and earth and under the earth, that’s pretty all encompassing, isn’t it?
Mission – the unavoidable deduction of the lordship of Christ.
I once heard the British Pastor John Stott, say that “mission, is the unavoidable deduction, of the lordship of Christ.”
Mission is the unavoidable deduction of the lordship of Christ.
Deduction, it’s what Sherlock Holmes does, isn’t it?
He looks at the evidence, and says, “If this is so, then this other thing must naturally follow.”
Mission is the unavoidable deduction, of the lordship of Christ.
If Jesus Christ is Lord, then we as his people must be committed to mission.
There is no person,
No people group,
Of whom Jesus is not Lord,
There is no person,
No people group,
Who will not be called upon, to bow their knee, and confess with their tongue, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Last Friday I was speaking with an Anglican minister from the northern part of SA, who was telling me of a meeting he was at for his denomination, and a report from CMS, the Church Missionary Society was presented, explaining the work of CMS in bringing the good news of Jesus, to people all around the world.
After this good news reporting on the spread of the gospel, one Anglican priest stood up, and stated how offended she was, that such a report was made.
She said it is both inappropriate and offensive, to say that people who don’t know Jesus, need to hear about Jesus, and then, it really just descended into an outpouring of vitriol.
What can you deduce from that?
We can deduce, that that woman, does not hold, to the Lordship of Christ.
She does not believe, that Jesus Christ is Lord.
She does not believe, Philippians 2 verse 9, that God super-exalted Christ to the highest place, and that there is nothing, of which he is not both Lord, and God.
“Mission is the unavoidable deduction, of the lordship of Christ.”
And if it is unavoidable, where is it in our working out of the Christian faith?
Where is it in our Christ mindset?
Where is it in our cross-shaped lives?
Where are we engaged in God’s mission in the world?
Who are the people that we are calling on, in love in compassion, with all gentleness and humility, but calling on none-the-less, to acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord?
Or have we, adopted some safe, polite, politically correct domesticated version of the gospel of Jesus, in which is he is exalted to a fairly high place,
And given a name at least as good as any other name,
And in which every tongue will acknowledge, that Jesus Christ, is good for some!
Where is the lordship of Christ expressed in your life?
Is there a part of your life or his world, that you would try and hold back from him?
The cross-shaped life requires a firm hold on the word of life 12 – 18
Of course, in order to live with Jesus as Lord, in order for the cross of Christ to truly shape our lives, we need to maintain a firm hold on the word of life.
The Philippians obeyed the message of the gospel when they first heard it, Paul longs for that obedience to the gospel to continue even now, as they work out their salvation with fear and trembling.
That doesn’t mean they’re to sit around, trembling with fear, trying to work out how they might be saved.
No, to work out their salvation means to live as those who have been saved, as those who are in Christ.
They need to, in all humility, work out the implications of their relationship with Christ.
For our daughter Heidi’s last birthday, we gave her a ticket to an event she really wanted to go to.
And as he unwrapped the package that we’d put this ticket in, we could see her reading the different words, and each time she read a bit more, we could see on her face as the implications dawned on her.
“Hey, that’s the name of that event I want to go to”
“Hey, it’s got my name on it, ”
“It’s a ticket!”
“And that means it’s my ticket!”
“And that means I’m going on Wednesday!”
“And that means, and that means, and that means.”
It’s all about making deductions, to use our Sherlock Holmes word!
Jesus is Lord!
I am in Jesus!
And that means, and that means, and that means.
Work out the implications of your faith.
Paul has in mind particularly their conduct that is seen by people who don’t know Jesus, the warped and crooked generation, shining among them like stars in the sky
And the way to make sure you keep doing that, is to Hold firmly, to the word of life.
We live in the Adelaide Hills, we know what it’s like to be home when the power goes off. The picture here is of someone walking into a dark room, holding a torch.
Only when you hold onto the torch, and hold it firmly, can you go forward.
To let go of the torch is spell disaster,
To let go of the torch is to be plunged into darkness yourself, and to impale your feet on the toy farm animals and blocks left scattered there by your children.
Hold firmly, to the word of life
If the Philippians are able to do that, they’ll be able to fulfil their calling as children of God, shining in a dark world, and standing firm against those who oppose them.
Holding firmly to the word of life, well, that’s also the means of preventing disunity, isn’t it?
We won’t end up believing a different gospel, if we hold firmly to the gospel.
We won’t argue over things inconsequential, if we hold firmly to the gospel,
The cross-shaped life; 2 examples 19 - 30
And the last 11 verses, give us 2 examples of people who live the cross-shaped life,
Who show what it looks like to live with Jesus as Lord.
There’s Timothy, who puts the needs of others before himself,
Who sees the lordship of Christ as governing his priorities,
He has made the unavoidable deduction, and labours with Paul, in the work of the gospel.
And there’s Epaphroditus.
Servant of the church in Philippi,
Servant of Paul,
Longing for the Philippians, and yet, he’s hundreds of kilometres away, because of his commitment to a greater purpose.
He almost died, for the work of Christ.
There are 2 examples,
Who might we add?
By whose example are you encouraged?
Or, to whom might we be, the Timothy, or Epaphroditus?
The brother or sister, who models the cross-shaped life.
To whom, might we be, the one who lives with Christ as Lord,
Genuinely concerned, for the welfare of others.
Serving alongside other believers in the work of the gospel,
To whom might you be a brother, co-worker and fellow soldier?
Would we risk our lives, because Jesus is Lord?
Three little words.
Jesus is Lord.
And yet there is no part of our life,
No part of our life together,
No part of life in God’s world, untouched, by those words.
Jesus is Lord.