What We Believe
Scripture: Philippians 2:1-13
When I say the name “Jesus,” what is your reaction? Here, in this holy place, surrounded by fellow believers, your reaction is probably one of worship, humility, adoration & praise. We have already done these things this morning; we acknowledged Jesus as our friend, thanked him for healing our broken lives, given our hearts once again to him in song, & asked for clean hands & pure hearts.
Don’t you love to do that? Don’t you love to worship Jesus? Don’t you love to just get lost in the wonder of who he is, what he has done, & the hope of His soon-coming return? Doesn’t it make your heart beat a little faster to consider God’s love for you & the faithful intercession Jesus is making for you right now at the right hand of the Father?
But it is not at all like that in the world in which we live. Mention the name Jesus elsewhere in the world, & you find yourself immediately on the outside. You will find yourself ostracized, criticized, & scrutinized. You are immediately viewed as being narrow-minded & brainwashed.
The name of Jesus. There has never been any name that has generated as much impassioned response both from those who know & love him & those who do not know him. Many of the latter have a deep hatred for him & for those who follow him. The world’s views on Jesus & their feelings about him are incredible & ought to break our hearts for the lostness of millions & millions of people – here in America & all around the world. On the one hand, there are millions who love to sing to him & worship him with passion & purpose. There are the martyrs who have given their lives because they would not renounce his name. There are missionaries who go to the farthest corners of the world to make his name known to people who have never heard his name.
On the other hand, say the name Jesus & the world may react in one of these ways:
Rage. There are tons of websites that are full of hate & rage against Jesus. Some call him Hitler; some accuse him of all sorts of things; & some just spew hate & anger against him. Some religions kill those who leave their religion to follow Jesus as Lord. Thousands of people are martyred every year around the world because they name Jesus as their Lord & Savior. Millions of people rage against Jesus with burning passion. Jesus told us it would be so: Everyone will hate you on account of my name. (Matt 10:22)
Ridicule. The ridicule of our Savior in the world today is nauseating. A man in NYC has created a “dress up Jesus” – a refrigerator magnet of Jesus hanging on the cross dressed in underwear briefs. He sells costumes so you can dress Jesus up like a ballerina, dogcatcher, clown, or even Satan himself! The depravity of the human mind & heart runs deep! Some of the things I read & saw this week while researching this sermon turned my stomach. I found myself infuriated at the hellish things that are being said about Jesus; I also found myself heartbroken as I considered the lostness of our world. It is almost overwhelming the magnitude of our task as Christ-followers to take the gospel of Jesus to a world that hates him so much.
Relegation – “to assign to an obscure place, position or condition.” These folks want to assign Jesus to an obscure place or position, saying that he was just a good man, or a good teacher, maybe even a prophet, but he is not the Savior of the world. One Unitarian website said that Jesus was a “great religious poet,” but that we should not “expect or assume that he had all the answers to everything.” Even some who call themselves Christians are willing to say that Jesus was the greatest of all the prophets, but not the Son of God & not a part of the Trinity.
Refusal. Some simply refuse to hear anything about him; they refuse to consider his love for them, his sacrifice for them, or his desire to save them. Many refuse to consider anything about him, his life, his love, his ministry, or his teaching. While this should break our hearts, it is something we ought to expect since the Scriptures tell us that many people will not want to hear the gospel but will collect teachers who say what they want to hear. (2 Tim 3:4)
These are the worldly reactions to Jesus; but what about the Word of God? What does Scripture say about Jesus?
Jesus IS God: Though he was in the form of God, he did not consider being equal with God something to exploit (v 6). In spite of the world’s attempts to relegate Jesus to a place of obscurity or its refusal to accept the truth that he is God, the Word of God teaches us that Jesus is the 2nd person of the Trinity. He is God. Theologian Clinton Arnold has written: “From the very beginning of its existence, the Christian church has proclaimed that Jesus is far greater than a wandering teacher or a prophet sent from God; he is God himself, in human flesh.”
But is this important? Do we have to believe this, or can we take the view of “Atheists for Jesus,” people who respect & admire Jesus’ teachings, but do not believe that his death was necessary for us to go to heaven? Is it really that important to believe that Jesus is God?
The truth is that if we did not believe this foundational truth, every aspect of our lives as Christians would change. Worshiping Jesus, obeying him, & praying to him would be foolish. Again, Arnold writes: “If Jesus is not God, we have believed in vain. Were Jesus a mere man, we would be left with a nice set of teachings (& a lot of antiquated stories) rather than a dynamic relationship with the God of the universe, made possible through the eternal sacrifice of an eternal being.”
He was in the form of God. This is foundational to our understanding that Jesus was & is God. He has always been God. John 1:1: In the beginning was the Word & the Word was with God & the Word was God. That word form means the “outward expression of the inward nature.” Colossians 1:15: The Son is the image of the invisible God. Charles Spurgeon wrote: “There are 3 persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, & the Holy Spirit; these 3 are 1 God, the same in essence, equal in power & glory.”
For us as Christ-followers, there must never be a doubt that Jesus was God, is God, & will forever be God. Jesus revealed the true nature of God – self-giving love. He cannot be placed in a category lower than God. Jesus is God!
Jesus is Savior: He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave & by becoming like human beings. When he found himself in the form of a human, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (vv. 7-8). The sacrifice of Jesus through his death on the cross is the supreme act of love that God did to show his love for us & to provide us a Savior. Romans 5:8: God shows us love for us, because while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Jesus himself said: For the Son of Man didn’t come to be served but rather to serve & to give his life to liberate many people. He did this for us all because he is our Savior – our ONLY Savior! And even though the world rages against him, he died for them too. Though they ridicule him in horrible ways, he died for them too. Though they refuse to believe that he was anything more than just a man, he died for them too. What awesome & incredible love!
Jesus’ death on the cross was one of humility & humiliation. He was willing, not only to make himself nothing – emptying himself – but to take the very nature of a servant. He went even further than that because of his love for all of us. He humbled himself to the point of death, the most degrading kind of death that could be inflicted on a man, death on a cross. It was the form of capital punishment the Romans used for foreigners, slaves, & those convicted of heinous crimes. But Christ’s death was unique because he had no crime to pay for. He died not for what he had done. He had no sin. He died for others, for us, paying the penalty for the sins of the whole world. Only our Savior would do that. Only our Savior would lay down his life for us. Isaiah 53:6: Like sheep we had all wandered away, each going its own way, but the Lord let fall on him all our crimes. Only our Savior would do that.
Chuck Swindoll has written: “If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist. If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior!” Friends, Jesus is the one & only Savior!
Jesus is Lord: Therefore, God highly honored him & gave him a name above all names, so that at the name of Jesus everyone in heaven, on earth, & under the earth might bow & every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (vv. 9-11). Max Anders has written: “Following Jesus’ humility & obedience, God the Father exalted him to his rightful position of honor & glory. Through the miracle of the resurrection, God gave new honor to the obedient, humble Son.” Jesus’ name is above every name. He is exalted now to the right hand of the throne of God, & is Lord of all. He is the object of worship for the church & is now Master instead of servant, Lord instead of man.
And because he is Lord, a day is coming – SOON – when every creature will acknowledge Jesus as Lord. Every person who rages against him; every person who ridicules him; every person who relegates him to a place of obscurity; every person who refuses to believe that he is who he is. Every person will bow down & confess that Jesus is Lord. What does it mean that he is Lord? It means that he is supreme; he is Master; he is sovereign; he is the Boss, the CEO. He is King who has all authority. It means there is none other like him, no equal to him, & no other above him. He is eternal & immortal & the only one worthy of worship. No matter what the world says or believes, Jesus is Lord!
So, what do you believe? Perhaps more importantly, how has your belief affected your life – both here & for all eternity?
Mike Fleischmann, in his book, Loved by the Son, writes: “Through the Son we hear God speak. Through the Son we see God’s compassionate heart. And even more, through the Son we draw near & personally experience God’s presence.”
Has God spoken to you today as we have looked at his Son? Has God touched your heart today as we have considered the great sacrifice he made by sending his Son to be our Savior? Do you need to respond today & personally experience God’s presence in your life? When your belief in Jesus moves from your head to your heart, you will never be the same!
Carry out your own salvation with fear & trembling. God is the one who enables you both to want & to actually live out his good purposes.