Philippians 2 is one of the most important chapters in all of Scripture. If you could wring out Scripture like a sponge and gather the drops of the most critical themes, I think one of the drops would contain Philippians 2. What’s in this chapter is so fundamental to who God is, and who we were created to be, that I believe that if we had eyes to see the fabric of the universe and we could read the words embedded in sub-atomic nano particles and dark matter and the stars and the galaxies, we would be able to read verses from Phil 2.
Phil 2 is the famous passage about the humility of Christ. You could say many things about Jesus. You could say, he’s powerful, he’s a fantastic teacher, he’s compassionate, loving, he’s merciful. But if I were to choose one attribute to define Jesus, to capture the essence of who He is, it would have to be his humility. Without humility, Jesus, who is completely equal with God, would never have submitted himself under the will of God the Father and become a man. And he became not just any man, but he became a servant. And he wasn’t just any old servant, but he was a lowly servant who washes the feet of the very disciples he came to save. And he became not only a lowly servant but he became the lowliest of servants who came not merely to wash feet and serve, he came to die. And he came to die not in a typical way, but he died a most cruel, shameful, horrific death on a cross.
If you could create god in whatever image you wanted and you could give him any qualities, any powers, and you could shape him into whatever you wanted, what kind of god would you create? Would you create a God like Jesus who is a humble, feet washing, cross dying servant? No, I highly doubt it. I think you would create god to be powerful, he would have super powers, he would fly to the moon and submerge to the bottom of the ocean and he could melt mountains with lasers beaming from his eyes. We would bow down before this god trembling for fear that he might wipe us out. We would pledge our allegiance to him so that we could be on this god’s good side and maybe he’ll protect us and maybe we could get some perks out of this relationship.
Look at all the super heroes on TV and the movies–Superman, Ironman, Batman, Hulk–these heroes are powerful, they have super powers, they can do things that humans can’t do. Superman can fly. Ironman has a superior brain. Batman has cool toys. And Hulk can break things. A god of our own creation would be some kind of a mixture of the most awesome powers of each super hero put together.
But would you create a God like Jesus who is so humble and so gentle? Would you create a God like Jesus who was not born in a palace like a king, but born in a manger among the animals? Would you create a God like Jesus who takes his faltering, cowardly disciples and stoops down to wash their dirty feet, knowing full well of their imminent betrayal? If you are a servant, okay, maybe you’d wash your master’s feet, but consider the Creator of the universe washing the feet of His creation? This is totally backward. We should be washing the feet of Jesus, but he washes ours.
Some people are humble because objectively they are not as talented as others in certain areas. You may be humble when it comes to sports because you are totally uncoordinated. Or you may be humble in singing because you are tone deaf. But what kind of humility is this when an almighty, omniscient, all-powerful God who can speak and billions of stars just appear instantly, what kind of humility is this when a God like this becomes a man, and then a servant, and then a lowly servant who washes dirty feet and then the lowliest servant of servants who dies a shameful death.
The incarnation of God when Jesus, the Son of God, became a man is hard to put into words. It’s like taking the force of the Niagra Falls and stuffing it into a kid’s water gun. How could the Creator of the universe limit himself to become one of the creation and live among us and teach us and serve us and ultimately die for us?
The one question I am going to ask over and over today, for you and me, is the question, do you and I know this Jesus? Not, do you know ABOUT this Jesus? Don’t settle for information about Jesus. Don’t settle for an experience of Jesus many years ago. I’m preaching to myself here–don’t settle for church and service to others and ministry as the sole way of knowing Jesus. Do you know this Jesus?
Starting from a few weeks ago, Jesus has been beckoning me to get to know him. I know him as a pastor. I know of him, I know about him, I took classes on soteriology and Christology, I can teach information and dispense facts about him, but the simple question that God has for all of us today is one that requires some pause. Do you and I know Jesus today, right now, personally? A related question–Is knowing Christ the end goal, the chief aim of your life and mine, or are we using Jesus as a means to some other end? Like in my case, to save people or to grow a church, or to be successful in ministry.
It’s a really fine line. Knowing Christ vs. knowing OF Christ or knowing about Christ. Frankly, it is hard to know whether you are living to know Christ and He is your ultimate goal and destination vs. using Christ to achieve some other goal like peace, or having a sense of purpose, a life of blessing, answers to prayer, eternal security.
I have to admit, it’s really hard to separate Christ from the church. They are the same, aren’t they? Aren’t they two sides of the same coin? I thought so. But NO, they are not the same. It’s a fine line, but the difference is so great that it can be the difference between heaven and hell. If the focus of your life is Christ and you let Christ be the Head of the church because it’s His church anyway, then you will end up in heaven because Christ, who is your life, will take you there. On the other hand, if the focus is church or service or evangelism, and it’s not Jesus, then you might reach heaven and God will say, do I know you? Who are you? Depart from me.
You might find it hard to separate Christ from his blessings. Or Christ from your ministry. Or Christ from your evangelism. Or Christ from your service for Christ.
Often times, I have to admit that Jesus was not the end goal. I used Jesus as a means to achieve some other end. I come to Jesus in the morning for power and wisdom so that I can spend the rest of the day laboring for the Lord on my own. Jesus, I need help so that I can spend the next few days crafting the sermon by myself. Jesus, give me a strategy and tools and training SO THAT the church can be equipped to be effective ministers wherever you send us. Jesus, I come to you so that I can have your authority and power so that we can save souls and the church can grow so that we can have more resources to invest back into the advance of God’s kingdom in Pasadena, to the ends of the earth.
When I meet pastors, the conversations are pretty predictable. They ask questions like, how’s your ministry? How many are you running on Sundays? How many leaders are you raising up? What program are you using? Are you doing G12 or cell ministry? We have missional small groups, what about you, how do you keep your members accountable? We are about to plant another church, when are you going to plant? Pastors love to talk about church and ministry and evangelism, but lately, I’ve been wondering, how come it’s so rare for pastors to talk about Jesus? I mean, isn’t He the One we are following? Isn’t he the sole reason we are pastors in the first place? How come it’s so rare for pastors to profess their love for Jesus? How come I don’t hear about Christians in general bragging about how great Jesus is? Instead, many are essentially bragging about how great they are. People will brag for hours about church and what they did for Jesus, how much they donated to feed the poor, or how many mission fields they visited, or how many people they are discipling, but what about just Jesus? Just Jesus. How come no one is talking about Jesus?
How come so few echo Paul’s confession that to live is Christ, living IS Christ and dying is gain? Phil 1. Life is Christ, life is all about Christ. This Bible, all 66 books are all about one person, one main actor and his name is Jesus. And when you die, you gain even more, it’s even better because you get to have all of Christ, 24×7, for eternity. Think about how great that will be. You won’t need TV or an ipad or a smartphone because there in your living room in the new heaven and new earth, on any given night, Jesus will be over for dinner.