Good morning, Church. Before we read the Bible passage for today, I want to ask you a question and I hope you can keep this question in mind as we delve into God’s Word today. Is that okay? My question for you is: are you of one mind with Jesus? As you keep that question in mind, let us read from Philippans 2:1-11.
Philippians 2:1-11 (NRSV)
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
6 who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8 he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
I was chatting with someone recently and we were talking about the ability to read minds. You know, how some people are very intuitive and they can somehow sense you have something on your mind even though you are just going about your day. Or perhaps for some people, it goes one step higher. Some people know what’s on your mind even before you say it. Have you ever met anyone like that? Uncanny, right? But you know what’s the highest level? Have you ever seen two people who are of the same mind? They not only know what the other is thinking, they can complete each other’s sentences and seem to understand each other profoundly. It is with that image in mind that I asked you the question earlier: are you of one mind with Jesus? I guess the answer for most of us might be, “No, not really.” I don’t mean to assume because some of us may feel like you are of one mind with Christ. If so, that is fantastic and I’m very happy for you. But I guess many of us struggle to understand Jesus so well that we can say we are of one mind with him. Often, I feel my own mind is so limited and I wonder how I can fully grasp the mysteries of God and the love of Christ? So I honestly went into preparing for this sermon with much fear and trepidation. What can I really share with you about being of one mind with Christ?? But as we go into Holy Week anticipating Good Friday and Easter, I thought it might be good for us to take on this challenge of understanding Jesus’ frame of mind as we strive to draw closer to him.
This awesome passage in Philippians contains many truths that I cannot cover in one sermon. But please allow me to share five things that I see Jesus taking upon himself on our behalf so that God’s plans can be accomplished. These five things are:
– v.7 “but emptied himself” or “made himself nothing” (NIV)
– v.6 “who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited…”, “being born in human likeness”. Jesus was equal to God but he did not make his identity while he was on earth clearly known. He kept part of his identity secret so that he could finish what he came to do.
– v.8 “And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross.” It was on the cross that Jesus experienced ultimate separation from God because he was bearing the sins of the world.
– v.7 “taking the form of a slave”
– “emptied himself”
– “found in human form”
– “taking the form of a slave”
– “humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross.”
Some of you may be thinking, “Ok, this is all good and nice but what has all this got to do with me? So what if I understand that Jesus took these 5 things upon himself? What difference does it make to me?” Let me respond by saying, “Everything. It’s got everything to do with you.” Let me ask you, “Have you ever experienced a sense of scarcity in your life? Perhaps you felt in lack of love, money, health, career, meaning, purpose, etc.? We, human beings, are very good are looking at our lives and seeing it half empty. We are usually better at pointing out what we lack in our lives rather than reflect on what we actually have. Jesus is saying to us, “I came to take scarcity upon myself so that you can have an abundant life.” In John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” When Jesus emptied himself, it was so that we can have life and have it to the full. What I mean is that because of what Christ did, we have already been given a life that is filled with God’s love, grace and blessings — not just physical blessings but spiritual blessings. We have been reconciled with God and we are now a part of God’s family. We have love, purpose and a community to share our dreams with. We have the abiding presence and power of the Holy Spirit who resides in us. So every time we feel in lack of wisdom or strength, we have a never-ending source to draw from. Because of what Jesus took upon himself, we no longer have scarcity in our lives but abundance. We can have life and have it abundantly. The question is: do we see or realize it?
Secondly, when Jesus took on the secrecy of his identity by taking the form of a human being, he did it so we can live as God’s children without shame or hiding. Have you ever felt like you had to hide a part of yourself from God or from other people? Perhaps for some of us, we have felt the need to hide a part of ourselves for a long time and it has been hard to open up our hearts again. Perhaps for some of us, we have felt like we cannot truly be ourselves and be accepted just as we are. Jesus took on secrecy so that we can have authenticity. In Psalm 139:4, David said, “Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” “You know it completely.” Remember what we were saying earlier about some people’s ability to know what someone wants to say before they articulate it? That’s how profoundly God knows us. That’s how deeply God understands us. God knows our thoughts and our desires completely, even better than any human being. Perhaps even better than ourselves. Jesus came so that we can have an authentic, profound and vulnerable relationship with God. Jesus came so that we can approach the throne of God just as we are. No pretense, no masks, no hiding. Just as we are. The question is: do we cherish this opportunity to know God and be known by God?
Thirdly, Jesus took on separation from God so that we can become assimilated into God’s kingdom. Have you every felt like you didn’t belong? Maybe for you, your family has never made me feel like you truly belong? Or maybe it’s been hard finding friends whom you feel comfortable with. Or perhaps there are even times you feel like God doesn’t really care about you? Even though people around us say God loves us, somehow your heart feels separate and distant from God? Jesus took on painful and heartbreaking separation from God on the cross so that we will never be separated from God again. He took on separation so that we would always have a true sense of belonging. 1 Peter 2:9 says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” The question is: do you behave like you belong to God?
Fourthly, Jesus took on slavery so that we can have autonomy — true freedom — freedom from the power of sin and death, and freedom to love God and be loved by God. John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” And in Romans 8:1-2, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” Have you ever felt like you were enslaved in some way in your life? Perhaps for some of us, we have been enslaved to an addiction, an abusive relationship or to an overwhelming temptation? Or maybe for some of us, it’s not something so drastic. Perhaps we feel enslaved to our jobs, our own expectations, our obsessions or our perceived limitations? Jesus took on the position of a slave so that he could conquer the power of sin and death in our lives…so that we can live in a way that is truly free. Free to love God and be loved by God. Free to enjoy the abundant life that God has given us. Free to know God and to be known. Free to feel a true sense of belonging. The question is: what’s holding you back?
Do you know how they keep circus elephants from running away? They tie a chain around one of their legs and a small wooden peg in the ground holds it down. Do you wonder why a full-grown elephant doesn’t run away when it can easily pull away from the small peg in the ground? Its massive strength could easily snap the chain and pull out the peg. Well, it doesn’t because it believes it cannot. It believes in the limitations that had been placed upon it, even though those limitations are no longer there. You see, when the elephant was a baby, it was chained with a heavy metal chain. And anytime it tries to stray away, the chains painfully cut into its legs. The baby elephant grows up remembering this pain. When it is fully grown, it only needs to be restrained with a flimsy chain and peg because it believes the chains that used to restrain it are still there. In the same way, we may have heard that Jesus took on scarcity, secrecy, separation and slavery so that we can have true abundance, authenticity, assimilation and autonomy. We have been set free but are we like the circus elephants who allow the hurts from our past, the limitations that we grew up believing hold us back even now? What is holding us back in our relationships with God and others?
For the longest time, I felt trapped by the limitations of being gay. Deep in my heart, I felt God was calling me to do pastoral ministry. Some of my closest friends told me that was my gift and I should pursue it. At that time, I wasn’t out to some of them so I couldn’t explain to them why I couldn’t pursue that path. I struggled because I thought there was no way any church would accept a pastor who is gay and authentic about it. So I believed in the limitation. I believed that because I was gay, my limitation is that I could never do pastoral ministry. But God had to kick my butt so that I could see beyond my perceived limitation and enslavement to a wrong belief. When I realized that my gayness was not a limitation but a plus to pastoral ministry in a place in FCC, I felt free for the first time to be who God is calling me to be. What about you? What is holding you back?
Lastly, Jesus took on sacrifice so that we can have atonement. The dictionary defines atonement as “the action of making amends for a wrong or injury”. In Christian theology, atonement is all about the reconciliation of God and humankind through Jesus Christ. And interestingly, the origin of the word “atonement” actually comes from at one + ment which is influenced by the Latin word for ‘unity’ or ‘to unite’. At one + ment. 1 John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” During this season of Lent as we move into Holy Week, this is probably the best time for us to ponder and reflect upon what this means — that Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. At one + ment. We celebrate Good Friday and Easter because they represent something so crucial to our faith — the reconciling, the reuniting, the unity between God and humankind through Jesus Christ. So the question I have for you is: are you of one mind with Christ?
Have you ever wished that you had someone who would share the same mind as you? Someone you could be of one mind with? Someone who could read your mind and anticipate what you want to say even before it is on your lips? Well, Jesus knows our every thought and emotion. And today, he is inviting us to be of one mind with him. Wow….to be of one mind with him. We saw how Jesus took on scarcity, secrecy, separation, slavery and sacrifice so that we can receive abundant life, authenticity, assimilation into God’s family, autonomy and freedom and true atonement — at one + ment with God. How shall we respond? Today, perhaps all we need to do in this very moment is to express our gratitude to Jesus, pure and simple: I just want to say a simple but heartfelt thank you for all that you took on for me. But other than gratitude, one other question must be asked: How does it change you to know there is someone who truly knows and loves you? And he wants to be of one mind with you? How does it change your life to know you have already received all these things and you can live abundantly, authentically and with ultimate freedom and at one-ment with God? Would it help you strive less for recognition from your colleagues or friends? Would it help you feel more content with all that you already have? Will you cherish knowing God and being known by God? Will you behave like you belong to God? Will you stop letting your limitations hold you back?
To be reconciled and united with God through Jesus is the greatest gift we can ever receive. Today, Jesus is inviting us to be of one mind with him. How will you respond?