A warm welcome to another edition of Brooklands Digital Church.
The message is given by our Pastor Karl Stanfield, and can be listened to as audio using the LISTEN button above. An audio MP3 is also available via the SAVE button.
The Bible readings are taken from Psalm 46 and Philippians 2:1-11.
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This passage has fascinated me from my early days as a Christian. When I say ‘fascinated’, I mean it has always spoken powerfully, and continues to do so because I am still taking in all that it infers. This passage was written by the Apostle Paul; verses 5-11 specifically have been referred to by different scholars as ‘Poetry’, a ‘Christ- Hymn’, and as a ‘Creedal statement’.
It may be that this passage was not original to Paul; he may have used this ‘poem’ because of its beauty and depth of meaning. It is a hymn in that we use it to adore the Lord while still trying to plumb its profound depths. These opening verses fall into two sections: verses 1-4 and verses 5-11. The first four verses are really about our ‘unity in Christ’. First of all you have…
The main idea in verse one is that all believers are ‘in Christ’ and therefore one… “being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1–2) In an ideal world, there would be this blissful unity and oneness evident to all. When the focus is upon Christ, there is an amazing oneness.
However, when the focus is upon ‘us’, we become aware of the differences and what often follows are the difficulties. An example of this is the recent headlines of ‘black lives matter’; it is good to be reminded that there is, after all, only one humanity(!) – so let me just say for the record – ‘black lives do matter’. Friends, I do believe that the Gospel of Christ can make the crucial difference to how we see each other. This is played out in the verses which follow.
The next two verses clearly indicate how ‘selfish ambition;’ and ‘only our own personal interest’ can be real obstacles to any unity. Of course, Paul is speaking about more than mere ‘unity’. Many gangs and groups of thieves think the same and agree with each other on many things, but Paul has something deeper in mind than criminal unity.
It is in the storyline where we find oneness – it is the story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! There are many things we agree on, but the most powerful uniting power is the Gospel – the gospel leaves no one out and is for ALL humanity.
When Jesus, the Son of God, came amongst us 2020 years ago, he did not exploit the fact of his origin! ‘Instead’, we read, ‘he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant [the word has the meaning of ‘slave’ – an evocative meaning today!].
He did not stop there either; for we are told that through his ‘humility’ he further ‘became obedient to death’ (a new and strange master for God’s only begotten Son!)
And to this master, Jesus gave way so that he may do the impossible for others under slavery to sin and death – and rise again for all who have died believing! For this to become a reality by faith, he ‘emptied himself’.
It means ‘become less than’ you really are. This should stop us in our tracks; it appears almost incredible – that God would do that. Why would He do such a thing? How can the Eternal One die anyway? My way of understanding this is the most extreme way to understand ‘emptiness’.
Have you ever felt ‘emptiness’? You have poured out so much that there is absolutely nothing left except what you are. In God’s case, that is love. The New Testament declares this one irreducible minimum about God and his character – ‘God is Love!’ (This is John’s great revelation of God in three words).
All despots and dictators who lived like gods and even believed they were gods – significantly were void of ‘love’! But – on the Cross of Christ, we find a new and purer definition of what it means to be Divine. Jesus did not cease to be God on the cross; indeed, because He WAS God in human form, he did something that only God could do!
Charles Wesley put it so concisely in one of his hymns: He left His Father’s throne above – So free, so infinite His grace – Emptied Himself of all but love, And bled for Adam’s helpless race: ’Tis mercy all, immense and free, For O my God, it found out me!
Here is the ‘God of self-giving love’! This is what it meant for Jesus to be ‘equal with God’. Jesus is the ‘self-giving love of God!’ Whatever people say about ‘God’ – from using His Name in vain to denying He exists – the New Testament declaration is this: He is The Loving, Giving, Dying and Rising-again God! Finally…
Maybe I should say your ‘Highness’, but the idea here is the same. Jesus, God’s Only Son, leaves eternal glory for temporal earth. The angels, the Devil and his demons all know of his origin and who he is. The latter think this is their big opportunity. They believe this is his ‘Achilles heel’, his vulnerability! They tempt him in the desert; they manipulate the religious leaders to set traps for him.
Jesus is betrayed and arrested, the crowd call for death – his death. He says not a word in his defence. He has been rejected! The demons rejoice, the angels are mystified. Jesus lies dead in the grave… Then it happens… just as Paul writes here in verse 9.
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name… , that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9–11).
Pure and spotless integrity lies with only one solitary Person in human history, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. ‘All (others) have sinned and fallen short’ – Gandhi, Churchill and even Mother Teresa!
I wanted to tell you this morning that it is your right to have this abundant and victorious life right now and throughout all eternity. And it is His right to have your allegiance – freely given. Will you swear allegiance to the Lord of Lords today!
Grace & Peace!