Summary: #2 of a 6 part summer series from the Book of Philippians on how we are free in Christ
FREE TO FAIL
Freedom Series #2
Some of you are reading your sermon notes with transitional lenses or Bi-focals. Inventor? Benjamin Franklin, age 79. The computer, copy machine as the presses that printed our bulletin were powered by electricity. One of the first harnessers? Ben Franklin, age 40. Some of you here might of attended or know someone who went to an Ivy League school. Founder? Ben Franklin, age 45. Some of you have been to a library this past week. Who established the first library in America? Ben Franklin, age 25. Most of us received mail this week. The father of the US Postal Service? Ben Franklin, age 31. Who started the first fire department, invented the lightning rod, and designed a heating stove? Yep.. Benjamin Franklin. Wit. Economist. Philosopher. Diplomat. Journalist. Printer. Linguist (spoke and wrote 5 languages fluently). He did all of this until the age of 84. And he had exactly 2 years of formal schooling!
Isn’t that incredible? Inspiring? Yes! But it is a little unsettling too. As Mark Twain once quipped, "Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example." I think I know what Twain meant. I mean, good examples can help us to work harder and reach higher, but they do have this one annoying trait. We are expected to try to emulate them. The problem with that, is they can’t help us. They have no power to enable us to achieve the same accomplishments. Benjamin Franklin’s success’ may inspire us, but they can’t empower us. There’s nothing available to make us the inventor or great thinker he was. Right?
Well, if all that is true, then why did Paul exhort us to follow Christ’s example? Phil. 2:5 "Have this same attitude as Christ Jesus.." Isn’t that impossible? Oh, some try but we all soon find out that our own perspiration and performance won’t cut it. Let me ask you- Are you always doing what pleases Jesus? Me either. Do you feel like you’re even improving? How do we handle the fact that compared to Christ we all fall far short of that goal? How do you cope when you fail, make mistakes, sin? Well, good news. The secret for how to handle our failure and imperfections is in the verses before us.
This passage in Phil 2 is thought to contain some of the most beautiful verses in all of Scripture. In fact, many scholars say that these verses were sung as a hymn in the early church. But these verses are not mere poetry, they are also practical. If we will follow Paul’s advice we will learn that we have been given freedom to fail and in understanding that concept from God’s perspective we can become more like Christ.
I. THE GOAL: PERFORM LIKE JESUS: Vss: 5-8
Paul begins by giving us an ideal, a goal, an example to follow and he gives us a specific area in which to emulate Jesus. We are to imitate His attitude. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus...” Circle the word attitude. Notice he doesn’t say “Your actions should be the same as Jesus.” Paul tells us to think like Jesus more than act like Jesus. One of our problems in trying to be like Jesus is that we spend a great deal of effort trying to imitate Jesus’ actions rather than His attitude. We say things like, "Now, ask yourself, what would Jesus do in this situation." Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not knocking trying to do what Jesus does but we need to grasp this principle: thinking right always precedes acting right. A right attitude is essential to right action. The imitation of Jesus does not primarily consist in trying to imagine and do the things which Jesus would do. It consists in seeking primarily to cultivate the spirit, the disposition, the attitude which He possessed.
Paul wants to drive that point home to us with the next thing He says about Him. Vs:6- "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." Paul says, "Jesus, is God, but He made Himself nothing, or emptied Himself." Now, this does not mean that He gave up being God. It means that He gave up His position, power, prestige. The word here has to do with laying aside a rank or privilege. So the attitude of Christ is most clearly seen in us when we do not demand our rights! But, we don’t like laying aside our rank or privileges do we?
A preacher one day was preaching on perfection and he asked the congregation, "Does anybody here claim to be or even claim to know another person beside Jesus Christ who is perfect?" To his surprise a man in the back stood up. The preacher said, "Sir, you can’t actually be standing up claiming to be perfect." "No," he said, "but I thought I’d better stand for my wife’s first husband." We all have trouble from time to time seeing our imperfections. So Paul says, "You imitate Jesus’ humble attitude. The fact is, Jesus gave up His position in heaven in order to become just like us.