Monday, March 30, 2009

Philippians 2:5-11


5Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So, what is this attitude that was in Jesus that we are to have in us? Jesus didn't flaunt His deity-His equality with God. So, we must not flaunt anything we have going for us in comparison with others.

Jesus emptied Himself-voluntarily laid down the supernatural attributes and powers. Jesus could pick up these supernatural powers and did from time to time as needed. So, although we have no supernatural attributes to lay down, maybe this flows out of the "flaunting" and means for us to not assert ourselves over others.

Jesus took on the role of a bond-servant-being made in the likeness of men. This is where Jesus was God available! So, we, too, must be "God-available" to people around us in that we are Jesus to them-the only form of Jesus they may ever encounter. Jesus became obedient to the point of death-even the most shameful death. So, we must focus and discipline our lives to be obedient to what God has for us each day and for the long-haul. This obedience is what I refer to when I say that following Jesus is the most difficult thing I've ever done. This is why I feel I must be stubborn about embracing the teachings and principles of Jesus as a lifestyle, not just in a verbal sense, but in a vital sense!

When Jesus embraced this attitude, GOD HIGHLY EXALTED HIM. He was given a name above every name-a name when spoken will cause every knee in the universe to bow before Him and someday every tongue will confess that Jesus, the Messiah, is the Lord God. This is why we do things "in the name of Jesus" and pray "in the name of Jesus." There is so much power in His name.

On the Saturday before Easter I had the privilege of using the name of Jesus and experienced this power. I was invited to speak before an assembly of primarily Buddhists and Muslims. Every other religious faith and culture was represented as well. It was an even hosted by the Dalai Lama and Imam Khorisani to promote peace and compassion among the different peoples. After hearing a variety of speakers from everywhere speak, I was brought up at the very last of a 2 hour session. When I said, "I bring you greetings in the name of Jesus", I sensed a clarity and power overshadowed that room of about 750 people. Many others reflected to me that same feeling came over them-Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Christian. IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

There is one other thing about this ATTITUDE that I want to mention. All of this is another way of saying to us to take on humility. I heard from a brother yesterday a poignant definition of humility that I want to share with you today. Humility is believing all that God says about Himself and all that God says about you, and pride slips in the moment we don't believe these two things.

Philippians 2:1-4


This chapter starts out with 4 conditional phrases which are assuming that the answer is true: 1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, (and there certainly is) if there is any consolation of love, (and there certainly is) if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, (and there certainly is) if any affection and compassion, (and there is) 2make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

The oneness of community and fellowship together is what is called for here. This is what the real Lord's prayer is all about in John 17, that they may be one!

Then we see the things that destroy this oneness in Christ: 3Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

I've been doing lots of evaluation of why we followers of Jesus are so ineffective in penetrating the culture. After speaking in front of the international event hosted by the Dalai Lama (Buddhist) and Imam Khorisani (Muslim) for the purpose of finding peace among a variety of cultures and faiths, I am fascinated with how to lift Jesus up most effectively. I am amazed at how often I've been hearing the same things from people, that Christianity has become highly offensive, yet Jesus is not! Yesterday I spoke with an agnostic who has been turned off by organized religion, yet he was drawn to what I had to say about Jesus.

Maybe Christianity has lost the attractiveness of the oneness spoken of here. Maybe the offensiveness stems from selfishness and empty conceit. One area of conceit that smells funny is the thinking that Christianity owns Jesus. Jesus and His Kingdom are too big for that box!

Jesus stands apart from all others in that He walked the talk. The gospel or good news is Jesus. Jesus transforms those who give themselves to Him inside out and sets them free from all worldly systems. That transformation has a lot to do with setting you free from self-centeredness and the big EGO (Edging God Out), so that you are free to love anyone and everyone with an unconditional love. This is the ultimate purpose of our relationship with Jesus, that we learn to love God with all your heart, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself.

Jesus just doesn't want to be entangled with religiosity or as a founder of any religious system. He doesn't want to merely be something VERBAL, but He wants to be VITAL in your life. When a Hindu principal of a college in India heard Jesus presented in this way, he said, "Jesus has stood four times in history before the door of India and has knocked. The first time he appeared in the early days he stood in company with a trader. He knocked. We looked out and saw him and liked him, but we didn't like his company, so we shut the door. Later he appeared with a diplomat on one side and a soldier on the other, and knocked. We looked out and said, 'We like you, but we don't like your company.' Again we shut the door. The third time was when he appeared as the uplifter of the outcastes. We liked him better in this role, but we weren't sure of what was behind it. Was this the religious side of imperialism? Are they conquering us through religion? Again we shut the door. And now he appears before our doors, as we've heard tonight, as the disentangled Christ. To this disentangled Christ we say: 'Come in. Our doors are open to you.'"

When we practice the oneness of fellowship, compassion and spirit in Jesus and put away our self-centeredness, ego and empty conceit, we are able to present Jesus most attractively as the disentangled Christ.

Philippians 1:21-30


21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

Paul is torn between dying and being with Christ and living and bringing Christ to the fellowship of believers still fighting the good fight. He sees himself staying here for the progress and joy of the faith. This entire first chapter is about ministering to "others" and giving himself to that end to encourage their walk with Jesus and with one another.

27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28in no way alarmed by your opponents-which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

I am fascinated with the use of the term "gospel," urging those in Philippi to walk worthy of the good news (gospel) of Christ. He goes on to give some direction as to how to conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel:

1. Stand firm together in one spirit 2. Strive together for the faith of the gospel 3. Stop being alarmed by what others say 4. Simply believe in Jesus and also be ready to suffer for His sake.

So, what is the gospel? I think it is simpler than how we might normally articulate it. The gospel is Jesus! Jesus truly was the word that became flesh and dwelled among us. I've been reading through the life of a most unique follower of Jesus, E. Stanley Jones. He says, "Everything Jesus taught was a fact within Himself. He didn't bring the good news: He was the good news! The gospel lies in His person. Philosophies point to truths; Jesus said, 'I am the truth!' Moralists point to the way; Jesus said, 'I am the way!' Religions point to the life; Jesus said, 'I am the life!' Philosophies and moralisms, however good they may be, are powerless to change character and life. They may influence character and life marginally, but cannot change them." Everyone else is into making people better; Jesus makes them different. Religions try to produce reformation; Jesus is into personal transformation.

"When you take hold of Jesus, you take hold of God. Jesus is not a third something or someone that comes between you and God-JESUS IS GOD AVAILABLE!" And the believers in Philippi were urged to walk in a manner worthy of Jesus-to walk, talk, think and love like Jesus.

This is also for you and me today, too. I am stubbornly working on this in my spiritual journey. How is it going with you?

Philippians 1:12-20


We come to an interesting passage in this first chapter of Philippians. There are three great insights into what happens as we live in the Kingdom of Jesus. First-Our negative circumstances result in spreading the gospel.

12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

Paul believes that his bad situation of being held in prison is turning out to be a tool in spreading the gospel further in two ways. One is that the whole Roman guard and everyone else have heard the reason for Paul's imprisonment. It's because of his stubborn stand for Jesus as the Messiah. They would never have heard the gospel, unless Paul had been imprisoned and caused all of the gossip and talk. Second, most of the brothers and sisters have been encouraged to speak the word of God more boldly and they have been moved to trust in the Lord because of this imprisonment.

Second-We must learn to rejoice that Jesus is being lifted up, no matter who does it and no matter their motives.

15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

Even when others preach Christ with bad motives, even from envy and strife, selfish ambition, or even if it is all a show, lifting someone's ego, we ought to rejoice that Jesus, the Messiah, is being proclaimed. Now that is a tough order. All of this is to say that the person is not that important, but only Jesus. Note that this must apply to anyone who lifts Jesus up, whether we agree with them, their culture or their theology or not. How does this feel? Last week I heard a Buddhist lift Jesus up. What does he know about "my" Jesus? Then I spoke with two Muslim Imams who expressed their enthusiasm about the power and teachings of Jesus. Who do they think they are? This has stretched me beyond anything I've ever experienced! Remember that the Lord was willing for the rocks to cry out, if everyone were to have kept quiet. Or even more vivid is the picture of God speaking through a donkey. This is at the core of what we have come to know as JESUS PLUS NOTHING!

Third-We must live with a confidence that everything is going to be OK.

19for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

Note where the confidence comes from. Through the prayers of fellow believers through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Then note the reason that the confidence hangs on that Christ will be exalted in my body, whether I live or die!


Philippians 1:1-11


Philippians is one of the many epistles that follow the five Gospels-Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts. Epistles are not the apostles wives, but letters written to the followers of Jesus in various cities to encourage and exhort them in their walk. The book of Philippians is one of the few actual letters written to the believers. It isn't a treatise or theological study, but a personal letter from Paul and Timothy. It's also interesting to note that it is not just Paul alone who wrote it, but with Timothy. Note how many books in the epistles mention more than one author. We seem to miss that point too often. Jesus started this dynamic of doing things together-two by two-and how powerful it can be, even promising to be in the midst of two or three who come together in His name to do anything.

1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Note the term "saints". This is literally "holy ones" and it refers to the believers, but especially denoting that they are those who are separated unto God for His mission. There was never an understanding in the New Testament that there was a group of believers that were not on a mission for God, just spectators, but all were to be participators!

3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

This is a wonderful letter displaying our important it is to be focused on the "others" in your life-those other believers you are encouraging and bringing along in the faith-those you are walking with to this end. These believers were always in Paul's prayers and these were prayers of joy because of their participation in the gospel.

6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Here is one of the 3 promises mentioned yesterday. The prayers for these other believers were prayers of confidence that God was at work in them and that He would keep working in their hearts until Jesus returns. Note they were in his heart. Paul was imprisoned while writing this letter with Timothy's help. Although there are differing views as to where he was-Caesarea by the Sea or Rome, I believe this letter was written when Paul was in prison (actually house-arrest in Rome.) What makes this interesting is that he is overflowing with this letter of joy and love while he, himself, is locked up!

9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, Note the prayer is that their love will abound more and more and that it will abound in the full, experiential knowledge of Jesus and one another and, that their love might abound in discernment-the ability to decipher right and wrong, wise and foolish.

10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Note the purpose of the prayer is "so that you may approve the things that are excellent". This literally means that they might TEST OUT you would a metal for its genuineness. Don't waste time with the things that don't matter, but test out everything in order to be walk more faithfully with Jesus and with one another until Jesus comes back.

QUESTION: Who are the others in your life and are you keeping them in your prayers? It is simply to easy to live your life ALL ABOUT YOU with a self-centeredness that ultimately becomes destructive to you. As a follower of Jesus, you are meant to be different from the world's ways. You are separated unto the Lord for His mission and His mission is for you to love Him and His people. WHEN YOU ARE ALL WRAPPED UP IN YOURSELF, YOU MAKE A VERY SMALL PACKAGE!