God calls on us to worship Him, and our doing so must include giving Him praise. Since God sent Jesus to not only save the world, but show how we should live, emulating Christ is the highest form of praise we can render to the Lord, our Father.
Pastor Paul Glover
Marking the beginning of Holy Week, Palm Sunday sees Christendom pay tribute to Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem as He proceeds to Calvary, where the cross awaits Him. The week’s events reach an apex on Good Friday, when Christians pause to remember the great sacrifice Jesus made for us through His crucifixion. Holy Week culminates on Resurrection Sunday in celebration of His glorious emergence from the grave.
The synoptic gospels – Matthew, Mark and Luke – say Jesus enters Jerusalem to chants of:
– “Hosanna (save now) to the son of David”
– “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord”
– “Hosanna in the Highest”
The king-worthy praise was well deserved since Jesus was indeed a king. However, the adulation was borne of a misguided socio-political understanding of Jesus’ mission. In the minds of the people, Jesus was going to save them (the Jews) from Roman subjugation and usher in a new order controlled by Jewish authority. This misunderstanding grew from a literal interpretation of prophetic and eschatological Old Testament literature. The people never considered that God, through his prophets, had been referring to a spiritual kingdom initiated on Earth and consummated at the Messiah’s second coming. Little more than week later, these same people, discovering Jesus had not met their expectations, called for His crucifixion over that of Barabbas.
The letter, written from prison by the Apostle Paul as he no doubt reflected on his own suffering and impending demise, offers encouraging words and reinforces the need for the church to have a Christological focus. Paul says:
– “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
In other words, if Jesus has done anything for you, join with others He has touched.
Let Christ's work in, around and through us be the basis for working together.
Rather than focus on the things we perceive Christ has not done for us, and allow these thoughts to provoke divisions, focus on what Christ has done, and form coalitions. Let us place community over individualism.
The G20 Summit showed that in a global economy, nations’ interests are interconnected. Hence, we can accomplish more working together than working alone. Paul says in verses, 3 & 4:
– “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Here the apostle is admonishing his readers to think not only about themselves, but about the interests of others.
Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi were extraordinary individuals who embodied the spirit of selflessness. Yet, to the average person they represent an extreme form of selflessness. To be selfless is tough under normal circumstances. Paul suggests not just random acts of selflessness, but a selfless lifestyle. This may seem an impossible request. Yet Mother Teresa and Gandhi show the contrary. We must recall that both Mother Teresa and Gandhi are copies of a much earlier original, Jesus Christ. Both sought to live out His teachings and practices.
Imagine if Palestine and Israel practiced selflessness; I wonder how different the Middle East landscape would today be. Likewise for Iran and North Korea. How different would be the world’s perception of them, and to what extent would there be improved dialogue between them and other nations?
In verse 5, Paul says:
– “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”
Hence we should take on the character and mind of Christ. Literally, we should follow the example of Jesus by copying Him. Now this is praise! They say the highest form of praise is emulation.
Paul proceeds to explain exactly how we should emulate Christ. Verse 6 says:
– “Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”
The first step to emulating Christ is to recognize that while we are created in God’s image, we are not God.
Several weeks ago, I came across a newspaper article that told of potential new technology that would allow parents to select the hair and eye color of their children. The article also mentioned that the technology already exists that allows parents to select the gender of their babies. Technology is a wonderful thing. In the area of fertility, it has helped many couples who could not otherwise conceive children to do so. God has given us the knowledge to be able to make these advances for the betterment of our world, not to pacify our whims and desires. There is much uproar over the use of human embryos in stem-cell research. The research is geared toward reversing the effects of debilitating conditions such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, etc.
It is critical to know whether God is glorified through technology’s use, or whether we are using it to glorify ourselves. Allowing parents to design their babies is playing God. It falls in the same category as cloning.
We cannot improve on what God has created. Yet this is precisely what designer babies and cloning seek to do. They seek to assume the position of God.
Science, with God’s help, has made tremendous breakthroughs in identifying various genetic causes for many of the conditions that plague us. This is to the glory of God. It is unfortunate that we have not learned the lessons from our fore parents Adam and Eve. The serpent told them God did not want them to eat the fruit because He knew man would seek to become like Him. People are still buying into the lie the serpent told Adam and Eve, believing we can be equal with God. Paul tells us that Christ, who was God in the flesh, had no motivation to usurp His Father’s divine prerogative. Do we feel the need to dictate, control, and determine outcomes because we consider equality with God something to be grasped? Paul says, if we want to be like Christ, be content in the fact we are created in the image of God.
Be content to be the person God created you to be and allow others to be who God created them to be.
Let things and life run their course; do not develop a savior complex and feel the need to change the course of things. Let God be God and let us be who God created us to be.
As we internalize the reality that we are not God and cannot control the world, the text goes on to say:
– Christ “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Jesus, who at no time was never God, willingly accepted His assignment to become like us – human. While Jesus walked the Earth, He was still God, but He limited himself. Jesus did not exercise His full divine prerogative on Earth; instead, he operated within the limitations of humanity. He clearly understood that in order for His sacrifice to be valid, He needed to be like us in every way. He needed to endure the temptations and the sufferings we endure so that He could truly be our perfect example. For our part, as we strive to emulate Christ, we too must accept our limitations.
Life’s boundaries are not a bad thing, and realizing we have them can be liberating.
Limitations are God’s built-in mechanism to remind us we cannot do it all by ourselves. It is God’s way of bringing us flush with our own fallibility. Limitations remind us that while created in the image of God, we must always look to the all-knowing, all-powerful and ever-present God for our answers. A downside of technology, by contrast, is when it begins to believe it has all the answers. When human technology presents itself as limitless, the truism that no one person has all the answers begins to be forgotten. Take, for example, the computer. John V. Atanasoff designed the first digital electronic computer in 1937. The computers we have today look nothing like the one introduced in that year. As computer technicians gained more knowledge, they made advancements. Yet what we have today would not have been possible without a prototype, and it is precisely because of the limitations of the prototype that computer technology is where it is today. Indeed, with each advance, limitations persisted, and subsequent gains were made on the backs of the limitations of earlier models. Still the experts have not figured out how to eliminate viruses. Of course, Macs do not suffer viruses to the same extent as PCs, but they have instead conversion limitations. Macs can only communicate with other Macs. They too are limited.
Paul reminds us that Jesus accepted his limitations, and so should we, for they help keep us humble.
In verse 8 Paul provides yet another characteristic of Christ, saying:
– “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”
We learn from Christ that we should always remain humble.
Pride, the antithesis of humility, is the belief we are better than others. Booker T. Washington, the renowned black educator, was an outstanding example of this truth. Shortly after he took over the presidency of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, he was walking in an exclusive section of town when a wealthy white woman stopped him. Not knowing the famous Mr. Washington by sight, she asked if he would like to earn a few dollars by chopping wood for her. Since he had no pressing business at the time, Professor Washington smiled, rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to do the humble chore she had requested. When he was finished, he carried the logs into her house and stacked them by the fireplace. A little girl recognized him and later revealed his identity to the woman. Embarrassed, she went to see Mr. Washington in his office and apologized profusely. "It's perfectly all right, Madam," he replied. "Occasionally I enjoy a little manual labor. Besides, it's always a delight to do something for a friend." She shook his hand warmly and assured him that his meek and gracious attitude had endeared her heart to him and his work. Not long afterward, she showed her admiration by persuading some wealthy acquaintances to join her in donating thousands of dollars to the Tuskegee Institute.
As we look at the life of Jesus, we see He was down-to-earth. I am sure during moments alone with his disciples he cracked jokes; Scripture tells us He cried, got angry, and mourned. Jesus was unpretentious and modest. He never sought credit for His miracles or interventions. He did not put on airs; you either accepted Him or you did not.
Jesus was always true to Himself and stayed in character. Jesus also demonstrated that nothing was beneath him and that everyone was worthy of his attention.
He met and associated with prostitutes, lepers, thieves, murderers, and the like. He never made any of them feel He was better than they were. In fact, in most cases they did not know who He was. This is the epitome of humility.
Paul concludes this passage by saying:
– “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.”
God exalted Jesus to the position of Lord because of Christ’s obedience to God the Father. Jesus followed God’s plan to the letter. He did not think of himself first, He did not ponder the cost. He did not consider it robbery to leave heaven and come to Earth and die a violent death. He just did it! Moreover, because Jesus did it, God placed everything in creation under him. That is why we should praise him on Palm Sunday, because he is Lord of all creation.