Philippians 2:6-11 is the sun of the book; it is the center and foundation of Philippians. If you understand the foundational truth it teaches, it will change everything about you and your life. This is not primarily a passage on orthodoxy, it is an example of perfect and straight orthopraxy.
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Philippians - Week 2
The Pastoral Epistle I Would Write
Good morning, friends. We are in the most important part of this amazing book called Philippians. It is a song that dictates every other bit of truth in this book. It's a song, frankly, that describes to you the pinnacle of the Bible's message that God has come to rescue us and he did it in the most unbelievable, crazy, unthinkable way. It is crazy. It's way crazy.
What you may not know about me is I used to have game. I used to be able to ball a little bit. In fact, I actually shattered a backboard one time when I went to slam it. I went baseline, went up with my left hand and tried to throw it down, kind of caught the front of the rim, and had to push it through. It was back before the days of really good breakaway rims, and it just shattered the backboard.
As soon as that happened, there was a guy who was there, and he came running up to me and goes, "Bro! You've got to come speak to my kids. I work in the inner city. If you've been shot, in prison, or shattered a backboard, they will listen to you." I had immediate street cred. So I went and spoke to the kids in the inner city. I had a great time and just talked about this crazy story.
You need to know something. Jesus has street cred because of his crazy story, but it's a crazy story. One of the things that happened a little bit later was that there was a group of folks. You've heard of Athletes in Action. There's a team called Spirit Express. They're just basically a group of athletes who get together and use sport as a way to advance the gospel.
I was with this group when we were asked to come play the Jamaican national team as they were trying to get ready to qualify for the Olympics. You have to go through an Olympic qualifying tournament. We were invited to come to Jamaica and help their team train and play them in a three-game set, and in exchange for us doing that we'd do clinics around the country.
We just said, "Hey, at the halftime of the games against your team, all we want to do is share with the audience about why we are willing to come and serve you in this way: A) we love basketball; B) the idea of going to Jamaica doesn't seem bad; C) we really want to help you guys get ready." Anyway, we went down there. We were playing them in this three-game set.
The Jamaican national court at the time was outside. There was a way to go inside and play, but it was primarily outside. It was a nationally televised three-game set. It was a big deal in their country. They promoted it and talked about it, that some Americans were coming down to play them in basketball. So we went down and played.
At halftime, each of us took a turn over the three nights… The three of us took turns talking about the story. I shared the story. I remember when I was standing there in front of these Jamaicans, describing to them the story we're going to study today in Philippians… Because it's outdoors and because we're in Jamaica and they smoke weed rather freely there, there were a couple of Rastafarians up in the stands, and they're just lighting up during the game.
While I'm up there speaking at halftime, I can just watch a guy take a long draw on a little joint, and I could listen to his mind almost… He was looking at me. Like he elbowed his buddy when I sat there and told them a story about a God who loved them so much he humbled himself to become a man and to lay aside his deity and take on the form of flesh, and not just take on the form of flesh but to become a bondservant and obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Because he had lived a sinless life, the God he was and who he trusted in redeemed him from the grave where he now lives again and has ascended to the right hand of God where he will return one day to judge the quick and the dead, and if you just acknowledge that apart from his provision you have no hope before this holy God you can have a relationship with this God. It was like that guy kind of went… He elbowed his buddy like, "I don't know what we're wasting our time smoking, because that guy has the good stuff. That's a crazy story."
It is a crazy story. I literally had an out-of-body experience just listening to what I was saying to these people. I'm like, "What in the world?" Well, listen. It's either the craziest story anybody could concoct or it's the only story that matters. What's going on in the book of Philippians… I'm going to remind you that Philippi was a strategic city. When Rome conquered the Greeks they took control of many of their cities.
This is a city that's named after Alexander the Great's father: Philippi. Rome took it over, and they allowed a lot of the warriors, soldiers, who had helped conquer Greece, inhabit this city. So it's a city made up of patriotic nationalists. They were zealots for Rome, and they occupied this city. It's a part of the major trade route that goes through there. Paul is making his way west, and he's telling about this crazy story of a God who loves people and redeemed humanity.
The very first place in all of Europe that he hits and takes a beachhead to spread the gospel to the West is in Philippi. It's the very first Jesus community that gathers outside of Asia. Lydia is the very first convert. In some ways, it has been wisely said, we are all Lydia's children, every one of us who believes in the West.
Paul developed a relationship with these people, and as he went throughout his life and continued to live faithfully, eventually his faithfulness to proclaim the gospel everywhere and to everyone had him basically being accused of some crimes he didn't commit, and he had to appeal to Caesar as a Roman citizen in order to escape certain death.
So he's now in Rome, and while he's in Rome his friends in Philippi, who loved him because he risked life and limb to tell them this crazy story that he was an eyewitness of… He had met the risen Lord. He said, "This is not like the Greek gods or the Roman gods you borrowed from the Greek gods. This isn't just a bunch of creative writers sitting down and trying to explain the world."
Everybody knew mythology was just that. It was a story. It was a narrative people wrote to try and explain why there's chaos in the world and why there's good and why there's evil. Paul is saying to them, "No, listen. Those are made-up stories. The one God, the true God, the one who has revealed himself in the context of human history… He did it through a group of people, and they're called Hebrews. This is what he has done with them, and this is what he told them in the Law and the Prophets about who he was and what he was going to do.
And guess what. He has done it! He has come. God has come. When he came he did what he said he would do. He was a suffering servant who gave his life for his people. What kind of God becomes a man and gives himself and dies and is authenticated by this act that the whole world has come to know about, where God declared with power that he was who he said he was and raised him from the dead? I met him. I saw the risen Lord. He has ascended to heaven, and he will return to judge the quick and the dead."
Paul believed this. To the Jews, he reasoned with them from the Old Testament. To the Greeks and to the Romans, he reasoned to them from both creation and a personal testimony of the story. He told this crazy story. God allowed him to authenticate the fact that what he was saying was true through many signs and wonders as the gospel was being established, as God always had done.
What you need to know is what we're going to look at today, this crazy story, is the best way to understand Philippians. Let me explain it to you this way. We're going to look at Philippians 2:6-11. This is the story. This story explains the entire book of Philippians. When I sat down to chart Philippians and kind of worked it out, what I saw was there are basically seven little sections Paul goes through and says, "This is the deal. This is what you need to know about what's happening in your life."
All of them only make sense as they radiate out from this story. Nothing makes sense apart from this story, but if this story is true I want you to know these things. So this is the book of Philippians: seven different ideas, all radiating out of this one thing. It's just like our life. Our life ought to be a multitude of days and a multitude of stories and a multitude of events, but they all are informed by and radiate out of this crazy story, which is either the craziest story anybody has ever told or it's the only story that matters. You have to figure out if this story is true.
Let me walk you through this. In chapter 1, verses 1-11, Paul starts by giving thanks. He said, "O God, thank you that you have loved us. You've given us grace through Jesus and peace with you through Jesus. You've revealed your power, and you've transformed people I love." So Paul starts by entering this letter, which is basically a thank you note, because when the Philippians heard Paul was in prison in Rome they sent a gift to him through Epaphroditus, who was one of the leaders in that believing community of Philippi.
They sent him a letter and brought him gifts. Paul, in response to those gifts, wrote a letter back. At the center of everything Paul did was this crazy story, so he made sure he wrote that story. It's basically a poem, and it's a hymn. Out of that he starts by saying, "Thanks be to God that grace and peace have come from this story, that power to change men has come from this story, and that you are changed people and you love me."
After that, what Paul does in chapter 1, verses 12-26, is he basically gives you an update on the missionary himself, because his friends are concerned for him, and the mission. He basically says, "Hey, this is how I'm doing. It's all good. It's okay. And this is how the mission is continuing to thrive." This is where Paul says, "Listen. I'm hard-pressed from two sides. I would long to die to be with Jesus so I could be out of this compromised world that is defined by sin and its effects, but I love you, so I know if I stay it's going to be for your benefit."
This is where when I taught this section I said, "Is it true of you that if you stay here because this story has changed your life it's of benefit for other people?" Paul very clearly says, "I'd rather die and go to heaven, but it's not about me, so I'm not going to surrender… If God wants me to live, I will go back out and tell more people the story and do everything I can to strengthen you in the truth of this story." That's chapter 1, verses 12-26. He says, "The mission is doing awesome. The missionary is fine."
Then he picks it up in chapter 1, verse 27, all the way through chapter 2, roughly verse 18. Paul basically comes through and says, "How are you doing? Are you living the same way? Are you living the same story? Are you being God's missionaries in Philippi? How is the missionary in Philippi doing? How's the mission in Philippi doing? Join me in suffering for the glory of the gospel, just like Jesus suffered for you and changed your life." That's that section.
Then he picks it back up. In chapter 2, verses 19-30, he says, "Let me just tell you, it's not just me. There are a couple of other guys you know and love." He says, "Timothy is doing this. Your Epaphroditus is doing this. Here are two great examples of people you know whose lives are changed by this story." Then he picks it up, and in chapter 3, verse 1, which we will soon study, all the way through chapter 4, verse 1, Paul says, "Guess who else has a story that has been changed: me."
Paul says, "I count all things as loss." I love Paul because he gets really graphic. He uses the word filth, but he doesn't use just the word filth. He uses the word that you'd be kind of like, "Whoa. Can an apostle use that word?" He says, "I count it all like filth and am happy to give it up and to live my life for the King. I was respected. I was celebrated. I was a Pharisee of Pharisees. I was zealous for the law. I was of the tribe of Benjamin. I was thought well of by my people. I was rolling in the dough, and I left it all, because this story is true."
In chapter 4, verses 2-9, he basically says, "Become the same example." Do you see this? "Thanks be to God who has me doing well in the midst of living in this story that has changed my life and changed your life. Suffer with us, just like Epaphroditus and Timothy did, just like I am. You do the same." Then he has one more. The seventh is basically chapter 4, verse 10, to the end of the book where Paul comes along and says basically, "I don't mind anything in my life, and you shouldn't either."
It doesn't really matter what happens to us right now, because at the end of the day we're all going to be rewarded for the love we have shown toward his name and the kindness we have shown to the saints in having ministered to them and glorifying Jesus. So Paul says, "I don't care if I'm hot or cold, rich or poor. I don't care if I'm in prison or out. For me to live is Christ."
Paul is basically saying this story we're going to look at should inform every aspect of your life. This is a song. It's a hymn. It's a poem. I don't know if Paul heard it or somebody else wrote it in Rome and he just took it, but it's one of the very first Christian hymns, and it's at the center of your life.
Last night we were gathered in here, and we sang with the Shanes through the hymns. If we built this room just for that moment, it was worth it. I don't know where you were last night, but we kind of told you we were going to be in here and it was going to be amazing. It was amazing to, for over an hour, just sing amazing truths in an incredible environment with gifted artists and choir that was up here, the choir that was out here, just singing back to one another the truths that basically can all be found right here.
Here's the deal. It doesn't really matter what we sang last night if that song… If Philippians 2:6-11 doesn't change our everything, then we were just a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. If this doesn't produce a transformed life in us, then we just know the song, but we don't know the Savior. May it never be. This is the song. This God who does everything he's asking you to do…
"…who, although He existed in the form of God…" I'm just going to read it to you. "…did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped…" One of the very first Christian songs I ever memorized was Philippians 2:6-11. Jesus, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped. "…but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow , of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue [that's in every one of those creatures will praise him and confess and acknowledge that this isn't just a good song; this is true. They will agree that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father] ."
That's the song, and it changed my life. It's not just mythology that was written by a bunch of guys who scribbled some things down; it is God revealing himself, anchored in the context of history. There is no event, according to Simon Greenleaf of the Harvard Law School, who wrote the empirical book that is used to this day on how to establish evidence in a court of law…
He, as a nonbeliever, studied the resurrection, and he basically said, "If we can't prosecute the resurrection and prove that it is true, then we can't prove anything," because when you look at the eyewitness accounts, you look at the implications of what happened and pivoted out of this, it is clear that this Jesus didn't just say he was God, but he told you what he was going to do because he was God, and it was authenticated with power that he was God. It changed Simon Greenleaf's life and it changed the world. Here's the question…Does it change you?
This is not just the best Christology in the Bible. When you study theology (the study of God) or Christology (the study of Christ) or soteriology (the study of how we're saved), it doesn't matter if when you study it all you do is become fluent in it. It's not the goal of theology for you to be a smarter sinner. The goal is that you would know truth and the truth would transform you, not just inform you.
This has always been a problem. Several centuries ago, it was a problem in Denmark or in Holland, in the Netherland region. There was a theologian whose name was Søren Kierkegaard, and he wrote a book called Spiritual Writings. Kierkegaard says, "The matter is quite simple." Watch this. "The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers." This is hundreds of years old.
"We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. Take any words in the New Testament and forget everything except pledging yourself to act accordingly." It will change your life. "My God, you will say, if I do that my whole life will be ruined."
I won't just get to live the way I want to live, because if it's true that God loves me so much he came to redeem me and I just kind of flick my nose at that, if I say, "Who cares that there's a holy God? Who cares that he did this unspeakable thing to redeem me? I'm just going to keep living my little way, and I'm going to study theology and talk all about what he did, but it's not going to ever affect me…"
I want to say this right here. This is the greatest Christmas hymn that ever was written. When Charles Wesley wrote, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," it came right out of Philippians 2.
Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see
Hail, th' incarnate deity…
The angels cannot believe it. "What is this? God has become man? Peace on earth, good will to men? The baby is God?" The angels just sang, like, "Who does this?" Well, who knows that and isn't changed by it? Guys, watch this. You're about to turn on your radio and not be able to avoid Christmas music. I don't know if you've noticed it or not, but people who sing Christmas music are not all Christians. They make Christmas albums for one reason: they sell.
Does AC/DC have a Christmas album? It would not surprise me, because Christmas music is just like, "Man, we all love it. Did you hear what AC/DC did with 'Joy to the World'? Oh man, it's amazing. They just thrash it all the way through the song." People who know those songs and sing them… I'm glad they're declaring the songs, but the goal isn't to know the song; the goal is that the song would change you.
God forbid that we would get in here and sing hymns, God forbid that we would study Philippians 2:6-11 and it would not radically change our lives, change our everything. Paul says, "I don't care what I'm talking about. It all comes back to this." The whole letter emanates out of this section. Everything in your life should emanate from this section.
Kierkegaard goes on to say, "How would I ever got on in the world [if I really dealt with the Scripture]? Herein lies the real place of Christian scholarship. Christian scholarship is the church's prodigious invention to defend itself against the Bible, to ensure that we can continue to be good Christians without the Bible coming too close to us. Oh, priceless scholarship, what would we do without you? Dreadful it is to fall into the hands of the living God. Yes, it is even dreadful to be alone with the New Testament." Because if the New Testament is true, it ought to change your everything.
My question for you today is…Has Jesus changed your everything? If not, you're just like Willie Nelson when he sings "O Come, All Ye Faithful." You're just selling an album. You're just floating along. You're doing what culture basically tells you to do, by and large still in the West, but when push comes to shove, it isn't about Jesus; it's about you. May it never be.
There's another guy who wrote about this idea, and I want to share it with you again, because this is such a big deal. He was writing basically a commentary on James 1:22, which says, "Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves." This is a guy named A.W. Tozer. A.W. Tozer writes, "There is scarcely anything so dull and meaningless as Bible doctrine taught for its own sake."
We're not trying just to inform you every week, if you haven't noticed. One of the things that drives me nuts is when people go, "Oh yeah, Watermark. They have the Watermark way." I go, "What's the Watermark way? I didn't know we had a Watermark way. There is no Watermark way. If there is, let us repent of it, but there is the Way." The book of Acts says "the Way." These people live a different way.
Why are they living differently than Jews and Gentiles? Why do these Christians live differently? Well, it has changed their life. I hear the Watermark way is "You guys are a 'do' church. It's like do, do, do at Watermark. We're just a 'be' church. We just sit and soak in the grace of the song." I pray nobody ever says all we do is sing and just accept the grace God has given us.
Let me tell you, without the grace of God it doesn't matter what we do, but because of the grace of God it should change everything we do. It's not a Watermark way; it's James 1:22. Be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves and just stop and go, "That was a wonderful theological lesson this morning, Pastor. Just don't ask me to do anything with it." That's the American church, by and large. This is not new. This is what Tozer wrote:
"Truth divorced from life is not truth in its biblical sense, but something else and something less. […] No man is better for knowing that God in the beginning created the heavens and the earth. The Devil knows that, and so did Ahab and Judas Iscariot. No man is better for knowing that God so loved the world of men that he gave his only begotten Son to die for their redemption. In hell there are millions that know that. Theological truth is useless unless it is obeyed. The purpose behind all doctrine is to secure moral action. […] Any man with fair pulpit gifts can get on with the average congregation if he just 'feeds' them and lets them alone."
Oh my goodness. I have to tell you that is true. Do you know what the church is full of? The church is full of theological critics who basically go, "Let me hear what he has to say. Is that true? No, I don't know if I agree with that." They're there to kind of evaluate the pastor's theological acumen or maybe his entertainment value. "Did he hold my attention?" But the truth, no matter what it is, never holds their heart.
A lot of pastors are fine with this. That's why they don't really call you to anything. If you haven't noticed here, we're just trying to say, "Guys, we don't care if you come to Watermark. Watermark is irrelevant unless it is a Jesus community of which God has called you to be a part so you can grow in your faith, develop your gifts with faith, and deploy them for glory so you can work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
That's why we say if you're here and you theologically agree with us, way to go. I'm glad you know the Christmas song, but if you're not radically transformed by it, you are not a regular attender at a theologically well-informed church; you are an irregular believer, and it ought to make you really uncomfortable that you just have a Christmas album out like Willie and you don't have a Christmas-informed life like Paul.
We're just saying, "None of us are perfect. That's why we're so thrilled with this song, but let's spur each other on to love and good deeds in every area of our lives." Are you all with me? It should change you. He goes on to say, "Any man with fair pulpit gifts can get on with the average congregation if he just 'feeds' them and lets them alone. Give them plenty of objective truth and never hint that they are wrong and should be set right, and they will be content."
"You show up. You validate me with your existence. You tell me I'm a good theological preacher, sometimes even entertaining. You give me enough money to keep the lights on so we can do hymns live Saturday nights, and I won't ask too much of you, and we'll both tell each other we're doing what Jesus wants us to do."
"On the other hand, the man who preaches truth and applies it to the lives of his hearers will feel the nails and the thorns. He will lead a hard life, but a glorious one." That's not just me; that's you. Can I just tell you what's going on here every week? I say it all the time. This is a prophet's school. We are training you to be prophets. We are reminding you what is the truth of God, and we're calling you to live faithfully as God's heralds. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing." Not just the spirit beings that were created but the messengers of God who are alive on earth who know this song.
It's why Paul wrote, "Hey, man, suffer with me. Be all about what Jesus wants with me, like Timothy and Epaphroditus, like me. That ought to be you, and it doesn't matter what happens to us because God will highly exalt us in due time." So off we go. This is a pastors' conference, and we're reminding ourselves what God wants us to do this week. I love that I get to use my gifts. I thank you that you let me use my gifts, and here we go.
Let's just break this apart. Verse 6: "…who, although…" Talking about Jesus. We are to have this attitude in ourselves which is also in Christ Jesus. What's the attitude of Jesus? Well, he did nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind he considered others as more important than himself. He did not merely look out for his own personal interests but also for the interests of others. If you know the story and the story has changed you, that ought to be you.
You need to know something. This is what Paul wants to remind them of. This is not primarily here to teach theology about Jesus. He is saying, "You serve the greatest King." Remember who he's writing to: a bunch of ex-soldiers. "Hey, I know you went to war for Caesar, and I know Caesar set you up here in Philippi and has given you a life and a purpose, but let me just tell you something. The King of Kings didn't just set you up; he went to war for you. He won a battle you can't win. He died for you, and you should love him." Great leaders never ask more of their servants than they are willing to do themselves. This is what Jesus says in Mark 10:42-45:
"Calling [his disciples] to Himself, Jesus said to them, 'You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.'" Then Jesus says, "For even the Son of Man…" That is a messianic title from the book of Ezekiel and the book of Daniel. The Son of Man was Prince of Peace, Eternal Father, Mighty God.
"For even [Mighty God] did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Jesus is begging those people who know the story to be like him and to be servants of God. He said, "This world is not going to last. What's going to last is the reign of the King, and I am rejoining you to the Sovereign God who loves you so much he came and is going to die for you and do what you can't do."
Let me tell you something. Kids, the second-generation church in Philippi was not going to seek Jesus if their veteran fathers who heard the story of Paul started singing this song but were still angry, still wavering in what their purpose was now that they were no longer able to go to war for Caesar, still largely indifferent to Mom, still going and participating in temple prostitution and not leading in their home and caring for their children.
But you find a veteran father who deals with his post-traumatic stress disorder with hope and has a peace that passes understanding, who starts to lovingly and tenderly serve his spouse in the way Jesus served the church and turns his heart toward home and raises his young son to be a man and doesn't say, "You don't even know how to suffer. You don't know what it was like. Do you know how we got Philippi? Your old man went to war. Toughen up!"
No, but he becomes a tender father and loves his son and tells his son, "I thought Caesar was worth dying for. I thought Rome was the kingdom. No, Rome is a fleeting kingdom. There's a King of Kings who died for your dad. No matter what he could have done he could have never saved himself. This King saved me. His name is Jesus, and I serve Jesus. You're going to see me marked by his song, and you're going to see your father become a tender warrior, a humble servant, who seeks your interests and Mom's interests and this community's interests. I don't care what this community does to me, because I live for the King."
That little boy is going to say, "Tell me more about this God who can save my dad. Tell me more about this God who restores. Tell me about this God who gives peace, heroic purpose, and hope." But dads who know the song who go to church in Philippi who aren't transformed… That doesn't change anything.
It says right here in this little section, "…who, although He existed in the form of God…" Prior to the incarnation all you saw when you looked at Jesus was glory, and then you're about to see this. Paul basically goes through this little song. This is Philippians 2:6-11. He was born. He took on flesh. That's what incarnate means. Carnal means flesh. He was in the flesh. Born into humanity. Not just any human; he was a bondservant.
He didn't do what he wanted to do; he did what was best for you because he loves you. He lived an obedient life so that when the wages of sin were paid he had no debt, so when he paid for sin he could pay for yours. It wasn't just any death; it was death on a cross. Paul is saying, "Hey, man, if God did that for you, it ought to change you." I love this. It says he did not regard equality a thing to be grasped. In other words, to be utilized, to be asserted.
I told you this is not primarily a theological passage; it's a moral lesson. Paul is saying, "This is the greatest leader who ever lived." We love leaders who use their power to serve us. The problem today is most leaders use power to maintain power. It's why we don't like Congress. Mark Twain almost 100 years ago said, "Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself." That's what he said.
One of the reasons Congress has such a low Q rating is because they do things like vote for themselves a health-care program that is not like the rest of the citizens. "What do we do with our power? Well, let's give us this health-care option, and we'll give everybody else this health-care option, and we'll tell them we're here because we love them and we're their elected representatives and we'll do everything we can to get elected again so we can vote for ourselves more entitlements."
We go, "I don't think I like that kind of servant king." Jesus was not like that. The Son of Man didn't come to be served but to serve. He didn't regard equality a thing to be grasped. This is what's called the hypostatic union. I'm not here to teach you about the hypostatic union. "What's that? What is the hypostatic union? What's he using that word for?" Okay, the hypostatic union is that Jesus never stopped being God.
His divine nature never left him, but he added to his divine nature his humanity. He did not regard in that perfect blend of two natures, one fully present the other fully present, either without in any way compromising the other… He did not use his deity for his own benefit. That's what the word grasped means. It means he didn't utilize it. He didn't assert his deity ever in order to escape the troubles of the human condition.
He relates in every way that you have. He knows how hard it is to trust the Father, but here's the thing: Jesus knew the truth. He knew the song of the goodness of the Father…so good that he, in his perfect eternal state, loved people so much he would humble himself this way to redeem them. Any God who would do that is worth trusting while you're here on earth. Jesus knew it wasn't easy. Jesus was greatly distressed, just like you were.
He has been tempted in every way as you have been. There were times when he, as a man, was trusting in the Father. He's like, "Dad, I'm not really sure I like this. In fact, there has to be another way. If there's anything we can do besides the cross… By the way, other humans, will you pray for me? Because I'm not sure I can do this. Other humans, will you pray for me? I'm not sure I can do this. Other humans, will you pray for me?" Three times. "Because I'm not sure I can do this."
But every time, he went back to the Father and said, "Father, this is going to come down to me and you. Do I trust you? If there's any other way to pull this thing off, our love of redeeming others to serve man by me dying and being separated from you, the only thing I don't ever want to happen, let it be another way," but at the very end of the day he says, "Not my will but your will be done." That's this song.
If it is true that Christ is God and he did that for me, then no response to that is ridiculous. This is the section of Scripture right here. It says he didn't regard it a thing to be grasped. I love what it says in the King James Version. Not very often do I take you to the King James, but the King James Version, at the very end of chapter 6, says, " [He] thought it not robbery to be equal with God…"
In other words, nobody had to steal from him his God-ness. Nobody had to tell him he couldn't use his deity for himself, because he gladly laid it down. Why? Because he does nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind he considers others as more important than himself. He said, "You don't have to take my glory. I'm just going to lay it aside, because I love you." He emptied himself. Theologians love this word. It's the word kenoo, which basically means he rendered void.
Even though he was God, he just said, "I'm not going to act on my God-ness. I'm going to take the form of a bondservant. And being made in the likeness of men and being found in the appearance of a man, I'm going to humble myself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Then there's this amazing section. "For this reason…" What reason? Because he did the thing that should be highly exalted.
Guys, if it is true… We sing songs every week about this. This is why we gather. I'm going to sing again. This crazy God in his almost, what appears to be, irresponsible, reckless love became a man and let man who he created, who he had power and sovereignty over, spit at him, reject him, mock him, call him a lunatic, call him a demon, and nail him to a cross like he had no power, because he knew that in letting them do that he would die a sinner's death so he could pay a sinner's debt so he could set sinners free. That is either the most weed-smoking, LSD-tripping story ever told or it is the only song that matters.
"…God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow** , of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess…"** Can I just say this to you? Sometimes we call people nonbelievers, and that is not a biblically accurate term. There is no such thing as a nonbeliever. What we should call people is a "not yet" believer.
My Bible says that one day Bill Gates, Bill Cosby, Steve Jobs, Donald Trump, Oprah, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Barack Obama, Charles Darwin, Denzel Washington, Kim Kardashian, Anderson Cooper, Stephen Hawking, Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Kate McKinnon, LeBron James, Steven Spielberg, Woody Allen, Jennifer Lopez, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Richard Dawkins, Ayn Rand, Muhammad, Gandhi, Buddha, you will acknowledge this is true. It's going to happen.
They are not yet believers, but they're going to say, "This is true. I confess he is King and he is Lord. Rome was a joke. Caesar was a joke. There's only one life that matters." Paul says it ought to change your everything. If Jesus hasn't changed your everything, you don't know Jesus. This is like the ultimate Undercover Boss episode. That's what this is.
In all fairness, the Undercover Boss episode… You go, "Look at the humility of these CEOs. They're just doing grunt work. They're letting people who work for them who they can fire boss them around. They're so humble." They're not humble. They know who they are. They know where this is headed. They didn't lose their salary. The board is not going to fire them. They're just walking around letting people dismiss them, and they know they're being filmed.
They know everything they do is going to be captured, so they're gracious and hardworking and diligent, because they know at the end of the episode they're going to do this great reveal, and they're going to be the CEO, and everybody is going to bow before them and go, "Oh, dang! I wish I'd have been a little more thoughtful in the way I treated you and trained you and worked hard. I didn't know I was in your presence."
Jesus knew he was in the presence of the Father, that everything, in a sense, was being filmed, just like you and me. Here's the amazing thing. Guess what. All the crap that I'm like, "Oh dang! I hope that's edited out…" This story says it's edited out. He died for all that crap we still do, but there's going to be a day when he just shows the highlight reel, all the times we lived faithfully in light of this story, and he's going to highly exalt us for all that stuff.
Do you know what that makes me want to do? It makes me want him to not have to edit out very much. It makes me want to live today the way I'm going to want to live when I know what I know that I sing about. That's what it makes me want to do. This is the application in verse 12. "So then, my beloved…" This is Paul writing to his friends. "…just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…"
What he's saying right here is "Don't be 'Eddie Haskell' Christians." Half the body says, "Who's Eddie Haskell?" Quit binge-watching Netflix, tune into TV Land, and get your PhD in The Andy Griffith Show. Get your master's in Leave It to Beaver. Eddie Haskell was Wally's friend, and he always showed up. He was always buttoned up. "Hello, Mr. Cleaver. Mrs. Cleaver, you look lovely today. Did you just get your hair done? Is Wallace home? Is Theodore available?"
But Eddie Haskell was a snake, and the very first chance he had when June and Ward weren't around, he just goes and tries to lead Wally and Theodore to an early death in rebellion with him and Lumpy. That's what he does. June and Ward were on to his game. Paul is saying, "Don't be an Eddie Haskell. Don't show up to church or don't act like you love Jesus when I'm around. Do it all the time. Work out your salvation."
That is not to say work for your salvation. If you're working for your salvation you're a heretic and you just missed the story. You just missed the point. You just missed that apart from this you can't be saved. Guess what. Because of Jesus, you are saved. Praise be to God! It should change your everything. This week, one of the guys on our team, Matt Armstrong, left. He has been with us for 10 years. You don't know Matt Armstrong because Matt Armstrong lives in the shadows. He's just a humble servant.
Matt wrote a letter to our staff, as most folks who make a transition have. He just said, "Staff family, 10 years seem to have flown by, and I hardly know how to write this or how to say goodbye. The impact of this place on me and my family is immense. In a time when I needed humility and direction, God brought me here through a few friends, and it changed my life." He said, "You guys are incredible." Now he's going to start to thank some people who impacted his life. Listen to what Matt said.
"Chance Fletcher…" You don't know Chance Fletcher, because Chance Fletcher is just here serving humbly in the shadows, just like Matt, making sure this facility is ready and working, making sure that cracks are fixed and paint that's chipped is redone and chairs that are broken are fixed and stuff that needs to be waxed is waxed. He goes, "Chance Fletcher, your calm, humble demeanor is known and spoken of often by me and others with awe. Scott Kedersha…"
Scott is the guy on our staff who loves everybody like nobody. Our staff has a lot of turnover, especially in our support staff, because different things happen in life stage in the early 20s, so a lot of people are transitioning on and off, but do you know who always knows everybody's first and last name? Scott Kedersha. All the time, because he loves people. He says, "Scott Kedersha, your grace and wisdom, your love for people impacted my marriage long before our 2-on-2 counseling. Daniel Merchen…"
You don't know Daniel Merchen because he lives in a cave back here. He makes everything work. I got a letter this week from some dude in South Africa, and he said, "Todd, I had no idea that I was being taught a lie. I'm in a Word of Faith church. We watch what you guys broadcast from the United States on TV, but I found these messages on Real Truth. Real Quick. that taught me Bible doctrine. It made me go look at other doctrine that you guys have. I'm being discipled. It's changing my life, and I need to help the church in South Africa know the truth."
That happened because of Daniel Merchen, Chris Mano, Jeremy Jaqua, Sammy. It happens because people whose names you'll never know log that stuff, work that stuff, and make things happen so it can be useful and used. He goes on to say, "Admins, you're the most elite group of cat herders I've ever seen." That's a great description. "I'll keep this from becoming a tome, but I want you to know these are a few people who make me want to be more like Jesus."
Do you see who he didn't mention in this? He didn't mention JP, one of the most gifted young leaders I've ever seen. He didn't mention Todd Wagner. This week, I had some friends who came to me and sat me down, the guys I lead with, the elders in my community. They just said to me, "Hey, Todd, can I just tell you something? The crazy humble Todd Wagner we love… We feel like in our last few conversations where there have been some examples that has just been diminished." I went, "What? What?" There is nothing they could have said that would have pierced my heart and made me grieve and want to repent and understand more.
I said, "Thank you, guys, for telling me. That is the most wounding thing anybody has said to me in the last two decades, but thank you. What do you see? The Scripture says that the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn. It grows brighter and brighter until the new day comes. The more I'm conformed to the image of Jesus, the more I ought to become a humble servant. You're telling me you see less crazy humble in me in the last few times we've been together than what you've seen in 20 years?"
They said, "Yes, and we love you, so we're going to point it out to you." I said, "Praise be to God. Let the righteous smite me with kindness. Let them reprove me. It's like oil upon my head, because all I want to do is be like Jesus." I don't want to teach through Philippians; I want Philippians to teach me. I need you to pray for me, and I pray for you.
Father, may our beautiful Savior affect our lives. May we not just sing Christmas carols. May Christmas carol songs scream through us in everything we do. I thank you for your incredible love. I thank you for our beautiful Savior. What a beautiful name it is. May this beautiful story be the center of our lives. May this beautiful song change our everything to the glory of the Father. May we get on our knees now and walk as bondservants of him. May we not just be deluded hearers but your angels who hail the incarnate deity. In Jesus' name, amen.
Todd & JP walk us through the entire book of Philippians, a love letter from a pastor to his congregation.