Sunday 13th September 2020
Looking to Jesus
Binoculars are a great thing, aren’t they? Great for looking out to sea, looking up at the stars, looking up to the church gallery to see who is unwrapping a sweetie! In our reflection today, we are going to do some looking of our own, but we don’t need binoculars, just the precious Word of God, and specifically for us on this occasion, Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi. Today, through Philippians Chapter 2 verses 1-11 we focus on three things:
- Looking inwards at ourselves,
- Looking outwards at others,
- And most importantly, looking upwards to Jesus.
Before we go any further, let’s take a moment to pray:
Heavenly Father, You have given us Your precious Word as our guide and inspiration. Help us now as we ponder its riches. May we be open to all You would say to us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi is without doubt his most joy-filled letter. In Chapter One Paul writes of praying with joy and of rejoicing that the gospel is being preached. In our reading today, Paul is still on the theme of joy and rejoicing as he writes of something that has the potential to make his joy complete (Ch2v2), and what was that?
- Was it release from prison,
- His chains removed,
- A comfy bed and a hamper of food?
No, none of the above – Paul describes his joy as being made complete if the believers would do something, something at the very heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And Paul points to what that is with this three-fold ‘looking’, beginning with:
TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF – LOOK INWARDS
Paul was a master teacher, he knew how to get the attention of his listeners and readers, and he does so through four punchy, hard-hitting phrases that all begin with the same word, ‘if’. It’s as if Paul looks each one of his listeners in the eye as he says:
- If, you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,
- If, in perhaps your most challenging moments, you have known comfort and strength from His love,
- If, you have any sense of fellowship or oneness with the Spirit,
- If, because of Christ at work in your life, His love has melted your heart, giving you a tenderness and compassion from beyond yourself…
If, any of those are true for you, writes Paul, if following Jesus makes a difference to you, then: Make my joy compete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one is spirit and purpose…(v2)
Paul couldn’t be clearer in what he is saying:
- Look at yourself,
- Look at what Jesus has done for you and the difference He makes,
- And then show your gratitude through being at one with your brothers and sisters in Christ…
- One people, one purpose, one Lord…
- In Paul’s equation, ‘if’ equals ‘then’…
FIRSTLY, TAKE A LOOK AT YOURSELF – LOOK INWARDS
HAVING DONE THAT, NOW TAKE A LOOK AT OTHERS – LOOK OUTWARD
Paul now fleshes out what ‘then’ means in terms of our relationships:
‘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.’ V3-4
So, no selfishness, no ‘me, me, me’, instead humility, selflessness, thoughtfulness, others, others, others…. ‘in humility consider others better than yourselves…’
Look inwards, look at yourself and your life in Christ, ask yourself those searching questions, and having asked, if you find that encouragement, comfort, sense of closeness and fellowship with Jesus Christ your Saviour and Lord, then turn that into selfless, humble, love and care for others, especially your brothers and sisters in Christ. Inward thought equals outward action – ‘if’ equals ‘then’…
And to further hammer home what he’s saying, Paul now reaches the heart of his argument, for it is time now to look upwards:
IT IS TIME TO LOOK AT AND TO JESUS
Paul points to Jesus Christ and says in all of this, ‘your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…’ (v5)
What does true humility look like? Paul tells us:
- Look at Jesus, the Son of God, who gave up the pinnacle of glory to come and live amongst us,
- Jesus gave up heaven, and we can’t even imagine how amazing heaven is, Jesus gave it up and came to live amongst us, taking the form of a servant.
- The word Paul uses for ‘servant’ is the Greek ‘doulos’ which means not just servant, but slave, the lowest of the low in Roman-Greco culture.
Imagine our Queen giving up the palace, and everything that goes with it, to sweep the streets, or Prince Philip having to sleep in a doorway, or William and Kate hoping for lunch in a soup kitchen and queuing for a bed for the night…those examples don’t go far enough, not even close, but they help give us the idea…
Jesus Christ, the King of the Universe, came to this earth and showed us what it means to serve, to have true humility:
- Jesus, King of kings, was betrayed, insulted, beaten, humiliated, abandoned, crucified,
- And in this, He humbled himself; Scripture reminds us, Jesus was not humbled by Pilate, Herod, the Pharisees, the cruel crowd,
- This was Jesus’ choice…He humbled himself…
- Jesus did all of that for you and for me.
Charles Spurgeon, one of the greatest of preachers, comments on Paul’s writing here. As always with Spurgeon, he is hard hitting in what he says. Spurgeon writes this:
‘Jesus was the great teacher of lowliness of heart. Every day we need to learn from him.
We need daily to see the Master taking out a towel and washing the disciples’ feet. See Jesus as the Servant of servants and surely you can’t be proud! Stand at the foot of the cross, count the drops of blood that cleansed you, see the thorn crown, mark his scourged shoulders, see hands and feet given up to rough iron, listen to the mockery and the scorn, hear Him cry, ‘My God, my God why hast thou forsaken me?’ If you are not humbled in the presence of Jesus, you do not know Him. Pride cannot live below the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.’
Philippians Chapter 2 – this is a passage to take to the quiet place and to prayerfully ask yourself those ‘if’ questions:
- If having Jesus at work in your life has made a difference to you,
- Then in your relationships with others have the same mindset as Jesus.
- In Paul’s equation, ‘if’ equals ‘then’…
- Christ at work in our lives, equals a life lived in humility for Him,
- Pride cannot live below the Cross.
Perhaps a key in living this out, might be to do something every day in our lives that demonstrates our humility, like flexing and stretching our humility muscles to keep them from becoming flabby. We won’t need to look too hard or too far for opportunities, they will be there….It will not be easy again and again our pride wants to get in the way and that should keep us very prayerful, but always remember, as Jesus was brought low, so He is now exalted. This is the good news! Jesus the Crucified is now the Lamb upon the throne. God the Father exalted Jesus to the highest place:
Therefore God exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…v 9-10
Jesus who was mocked ‘King of the Jews’ is now Lord of All. Our God is the one who will ultimately turn the tables on the world; the world that mocked and continues to mock Him will bow before him….And the good news just keeps on coming, for our reward in looking to Jesus as our Saviour and Lord, for trusting not in ourselves but in Him and the finished work of the Cross, will be to be with Him, for we too are promised a crown. And at that time, Scripture tells us our joy with be complete in a way we cannot even begin to imagine:
‘No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him…’ 1 Corinthians 2:9
‘Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.’ 2 Timothy 4:8
‘Make my joy compete…’ writes the Apostle Paul, and not just Paul’s joy, for this is about your joy and my joy too, this is where true joy is to be found:
LOOK AT YOURSELF –LOOK INWARDS
LOOK AT OTHERS – LOOK OUTWARDS
LOOK AT AND TO JESUS – LOOK UPWARDS
And in your looking, binoculars will not be required, just look into your own heart, look at your brothers and sisters in Christ in love and humility, look at and to Jesus enthroned in heaven and by His Spirit right beside you, even within you. Jesus, the Servant King, who calls us to be a serving, humble, ‘others first’ people. May His kingdom come. Amen.