Something happened in our country. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s baseball! Play ball! Take me out to the ballgame. Give me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. My Brewers didn’t fare to well against the Rockies this week. But that’s OK. There are still plenty of games left. And if they don’t do well, then there’s always the Packers.
So let me ask you this; have you ever heard of Ted Williams? Joe DiMaggio? Bob Feller? What do they have in common? Now, how about Hobey Baker (hockey) & Tim James (basketball)? Enos Slaughter? Or how about Patty Berg? What they all have in common is that they are all sports figures who were some of the best in their craft. But there’s also something else they all have in common. Each one of these people voluntarily left their respective sport in order to enlist in the military. They weren’t drafted. And they weren’t fulfilling some obligation. They volunteered to leave their sports, where they were making handsome sums of money and had fame and popularity to join the military. Why? Why would anyone want to do that? Well, It’s because there was something more to their identities than simply sports. At their core, they were AMERICAN. This was their identity. This was who they were. And they were living out their identities during times in our country when it was more important to be an American and serve the Country, than it was for them to remain in their respective sport. After their service was completed, many of them returned to their former profession where they were recognized for their greatness in the sport, but more importantly for their service to their country.
The Christian Church in Philippi was one of Paul’s favorite congregations, if not his favorite one of all. You can tell that from the way he wrote the letter; with the feeling of joy and closeness that he shared with the Philippian Christians. But, like every community of believers, they too had their challenges, and Paul needed to address them so that the congregation wouldn’t splinter. The fellowship of this church was not broken all the way, but it was fractured. It needed some TLC to heal the fracture that occurred due to the differences that arose out of rivalry, vanity, selfishness and animosity. They were joyful in the faith, but Paul needed to bring them back to their core; back to their identity and who they were in Jesus Christ so that they would live together more properly as God’s people. That’s what’s been an important part of this letter up to this point.
“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:25, 27, 29 ESV)
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4 ESV)
THIS is the mind, or attitude, that Paul calls the Christians to exercise and live out in their lives. In verse 12, Paul writes that they are to ‘work out their salvation’. What this means is that they are to live out their ‘being’. Their identity is in Christ. They have already received salvation. It was a gift, and they didn’t have to work for it or earn it. It was simply theirs for the receiving. With that said, Paul exhorted them to live out that faith; that salvation; that was there’s because of Jesus. He didn’t tell them to BE LIKE JESUS. He called them to BE Jesus to one another and to an unbelieving world who are still God’s precious people. Like Williams, DiMaggio, Slaughter and the others who left their high positions in sports to served their country because they were AMERICANS first and at the core, so too Paul called the Philippians to live out their core being as followers of Christ because Christ lived in them. Where did they receive Christ? The same place that you and I did—in our baptisms.
So often people will read or hear this part of Scripture, and they believe that they have to be LIKE Jesus. Do you really want to BE LIKE JESUS? I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to BE LIKE Jesus—and you have to listen to me carefully here so that you don’t get the wrong impression. What does it take to BE LIKE JESUS? Well, I would have to live the perfect life, to begin with. Imagine the pressure of trying to be perfect like Jesus. I can’t do that. Can you? Well, since I haven’t lived the perfect life, and you haven’t either, then that means that we need to pay for our sins if you really want to BE LIKE JESUS. Watch the Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson did a LOT of research on how the Romans carried out crucifixions. He did this because of his devotion to the Christian faith. He wanted to make certain that he portrayed it properly and correctly. And boy oh boy, did he ever! It’s gruesome but accurate. Every Christian should watch that movie—especially at those times when we think lightly of our sin. The Passion really reminds us vividly and visually what our sin cost Jesus on the cross.
So then, do you really want to be LIKE Jesus? Or, would you rather BE JESUS to others? It’s BEING Jesus to others. Right? When you watch The Passion of the Christ, and you'll soon discover that you really don't want to be LIKE Jesus.
And that’s WONDERFUL NEWS! It’s because Jesus is Jesus that we don’t have to be like Him. He is the One who, being 100% God, didn’t count that position more important than saving His people from their sin. He abandoned His high position of majesty and honor in order break into our time and history. He put on flesh in order that He could go through everything that we do, only to carry out perfectly among us. HE became LIKE US only perfectly and without giving in to temptation and the power of sin. He became LIKE US in the way that God created us to be; blameless and perfect. Jesus became LIKE US, in that He lived the life we were supposed to live and treat & serve people the way we are supposed to treat and serve people. Jesus became LIKE US so that we don’t have to become like Him.
And did the people appreciate Jesus? Sure they did. This Jesus was the miracle worker. He would supply them with food for their stomach, He would make the blind see, and the deaf to hear, and the lame to walk. Heck, Jesus even raised some people from the dead! They loved Jesus so they wanted to make Him their king. On that first Palm Sunday, they paraded Jesus through the streets singing “Hosanna to God in the highest. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD.” But their tune would soon change by the end of the week, because they misunderstood what kind of King He is, and what He came to do. Jesus would ride on in majesty to the throne on Calvary where He would then wear the sinners’ crown. He proclaims from the cross that all sins are forgiven—it is finished. He became like us in every way—even to the point of death on a cross. Jesus became LIKE US on the cross when He became the biggest sinner the world would ever see. But then rise again in glory and honor and majesty on that first Easter morning. In His humanity, now, He also is LIKE US IN THE WAY GOD CREATED US TO BE. Namely, to live with God forever and never have to worry about sickness, death, wars and rumors of wars. He’s claimed you as His own dear child with no strings attached. He’s given you His Resurrection life and salvation NOW as a free gift! It’s because Jesus is Jesus that we don’t have to be like Him.
Paul called the Philippians to obedience; not to be like Jesus, but to BE Jesus to one another; fellow Christians—and to BE Jesus in their work places, schools, circles where life took place. Have the ‘mind of Christ’—have that serving and servant attitude and heart among them, in order to heal the fractures and selfishness among them with some TLC—Tender Loving Christ.
Paul called the Philippians to reflect on Christ’s love for them, their identity in Jesus who defines them, and then to carefully think and pray about these things so that they might develop a more Christian character among them. Their BEING precedes and directs their ACTIONS & ATTITUDE toward others—beginning within the family of faith. They were called to live out their faith with the attitude of Christ and PUT IT INTO PRACTICE.
Paul didn't tell them to be LIKE Jesus. He told them to BE JESUS to one another and to others outside the faith. And praise be to God for that!
God calls us to BE the very same way. We are to live out our lives with the RESURRECTION JESUS, who lives in us. Like the Philippian Christians, we are called to BE JESUS to others beginning right here in THIS family and community of believers. In doing so, THIS CONGREGATION—MESSIAH—IS JESUS to our surroundings in this neighborhood. You don't have to be a star athlete at the top of your game to carry out Paul's command. BE who you are by working out your gift of salvation; Prayerfully examine what means that Jesus is Jesus to you. Then ask God to help you grow and develop that attitude, in thanksgiving, to put your identity and being into action.
To Him be the glory forever.