Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on December 20, 2015
Open your Bibles to Philippians 2:5-11. This marks our third week focusing on the Incarnation of Christ. As I have stated for the last two weeks, the reason we are focusing our attention on the Incarnation is to fix a problem. The problem we are attempting to fix is the problem of under appreciation. By this I mean that during the Christmas season our attention is drawn to the historical event of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, and because of sin, we do not appreciate the magnitude of Emmanuel, God with us.
This is a believer’s current state of reality. Christians have been given eyes to see and ears to hear of the glory of Christ, and this seeing has caused us to repent and place our faith in Christ alone, however on this side of Heaven, we do not have perfect vision, perfect knowledge, perfect faith, or perfect joy. Some day we will, when we see him face to face, but until that time it is our calling to pursue the glory of God. Week in and week out we are to devote ourselves to the Word of God, praying that God to reveal to us more and more of His immeasurable worth. Asking him to press upon our heart the magnitude of such things as the incarnation of His Son.
In doing so, our knowledge of God increases, or faith in God increases, our joy in God increases, and our praise of God increases. As Paul says in Philippians 2:15-16, “that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16holding fast to the word of life,”
This is the Christian call during the Christmas season, to shine as lights in the world against the backdrop of the darkness of this sinful world. So my goal is to throw fuel on the fire of your hearts so that your affections burn brightly for Jesus this Christmas season.
With this goal in mind, two weeks ago we focused on the fact that Jesus is God. As I stated, no one debates the historical Jesus. Everyone agrees that Jesus of Nazareth existed, and it is the same Jesus the world dates their calendar by, however, the debate is whether this Jesus is God. As we saw two weeks ago, the evidence is overwhelming from brothers, mothers, friends, enemies, miracles, and prophecies all signs put to his divinity. Jesus of Nazareth is in fact the Sovereign God of the Universe.
Last week, we focused on the magnitude of the moment of Jesus, our God, taking on the flesh of mankind. As we saw in Ephesians 1, all of history was destined for this moment in time, when with the dawning of the Light of the World would break forth upon humanity. God spoke the heavens into place because he wanted a platform for the display of His glory and grace, and This was the will of God, to share his glory with his creation, by sending his son in the flesh, full of grace and truth. And not only to send him, but to send him as a sacrifice so as to die the death that each of us deserve. Why? So we could see and treasure the pinnacle of God's glory, His grace.
Today, we will turn our attention to the humble acceptance of Jesus to fulfill the plan of His father. So let us look together at Philippians 2:5-11, then we will pray that God would press these words upon our heart, and then we will unpack our text.
The Form of God
In verse 6 we see Paul beginning in the same place we began, with the recognition that Jesus is no mere man, he is God. Verse 6, “he was in the form of God.” This description of Jesus in verse 6 is a description of the pre-incarnate Jesus.
The word form is the Greek word, “morphē.” Morphe means the external appearance of an object. Therefore the note that is struck by this statement is not just that Jesus was God prior to becoming a man, but that he was the perfect display of God. Perhaps the best verses that helps us understand this is Hebrews 1:3, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”
Now this glory of Christ, before he became a man was unrestrained, no limitations, at maximum illumination, if you will. Jesus speaks of this in John 17:5 when he says– “Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” The Glory that Jesus is talking about is the unrestrained display of his majesty prior to becoming incarnate.
If you look at the second part of verse 6 it says, he “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.” What does this mean? It simply means that Jesus did not have to rob, or exploit, the throne of God. Equality with God is not something you can reach out and take, like Satan attempted to do and Adam and Eve attempted to do in the Garden of Eden. It just doesn't work that way. The glory of God can only be given. It can never taken. The form of God that Jesus possessed was rightfully his by his eternal begotteness. Jesus has the form of God by the nature of who he is. And this type of glory is not to be grasped, but it can only be given.
Humbled and Emptied Himself
And this is exactly what Jesus did. Verse 7 says he, “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form.” What does it mean that Jesus emptied himself? Many people wrongly believe this means that when Jesus became a man, he stopped being God. This is not at all what Paul is saying in verse 7. In order to be Emmanuel, you must be fully God. No, look at verse 7 again, Paul defines what he means by Christ emptying himself. He says, “by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” This emptying is not the relinquishing of Godness, but it is covering up of unrestrained display of his Godness, under the garment of flesh.
Jesus is the perfect radiance of the Glory of God, but for approximately 33 years, he covers this glory under the likeness of man. Once again, let us be clear. We are not saying that Jesus was not fully God while he was on earth, we are merely saying that he restrained the full display of that reality.
So let us dwell upon this for a second. Jesus is God, and according to John 1:3 all things were created through Him, yet for a little while he created himself. Jesus who according to John 1:1 is eternal, is conceived in the womb of Mary and then born. Jesus who according to Hebrews 1:3 upholds the Universe by the Word of His Power, as an infant had to learn to talk. Jesus who according to Colossians 1:18 is to be preeminent over all things, submits to being raised by two sinners, Mary and Joseph. Jesus who according to Colossians 1:16 all things were created for, took on the form of a servant.
It is utterly mind blowing to think that Jesus, who is limitless in all things, chooses to limit himself. Jesus who is infinite in all things good, puts himself in the bottle of mankind. The masking of His glory us incalculable. And despite the immeasurable step from God to man, Jesus choose to accept the plan of His Father.
And let us be clear, this was the choice of Jesus. As we stated last week, this was the plan of God the Father to have the elect share in His glory through the death of His Son, but make no mistake Jesus had to accept the mission. Jesus could have said no, in a sense, but he did not. He willfully chose to humble himself and lay aside the privileges that come with being the God of all things.
Death, Even Death on a Cross
When dwelling on this choice of Jesus to empty himself, one wants to say that there is no greater display of humility than the incarnation. But this would not be true. In verse 8 we see that he didn't just become a man but “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus who is not only the giver of life, but life itself, chose to lay down his life.
And let us not forget that the only reason that death exists is because of sin. Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is death.” But let us also remind ourselves that Jesus did not sin. He did not earn the curse of mortification. Yet as he says in Mark 10:45, this is exactly why he became a man, “to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But even still, if that was not enough, not only did Jesus humble himself and become a man, and not only did he humble himself and lay down his life, but he died upon a cross. Jesus did not die of old age. He did not die of a heart attack or cancer. He died in the most excruciating way possible, crucifixion. In fact, this is where we get the word excruciating.
Jesus was flogged, beaten, ridiculed, spit on, a thorn of crowns on his head, nailed to a tree, and hung their until he suffocated to death due to his physical inability to lift himself up to breathe. Once dead, he was stabbed with a spear just to make sure.
But there is something even greater then the physical death of Jesus. Not only did he let go of the radiance of God's glory and become a man, and die upon the cross, but he took upon him the sins of the World, and therefore took upon himself the wrath of His father.
The wrath of God is stored up for us, but it is poured out on Christ for those who place their faith in Jesus.
As the Father and the Son were together in eternity past, and the plan of redemption lay before them with the purpose of displaying the glorious grace of God, and as Jesus sat there in all of His glorious splendor, he did what no one could do but a gracious God, he said “I'll do it.”
The depth of this grace is truly immeasurable. This grace of God is glorious beyond understanding. This grace of God is perfection. I challenge anyone on this planet to imagine a more flawless and magnificent display of the attribute of God's grace than the humiliation of the life and death of Jesus Christ. Let me save you some time, you can't. Their is nothing higher than the glory of Christ and there is nothing lower than absorbing the wrath of God for humanities sins.
Why did Jesus say Yes?
So why did Jesus do it? Why did Jesus agree to fall so far? Why was He willing to empty himself of the privileges of God? Two reasons: He loves the Father and He loves his Brothers.
The reason we have Christmas is because Jesus loves the Father. The reason we have Easter is because Jesus loves the Father. The reason we don't burn in Hell for all eternity is because Jesus loves the Father. There is nothing that God the Father can ask Jesus that he won't do. He is 100 percent committed to Him, and he is 100 percent committed to his friends.
Before there was an us, the all powerful, all knowing God of the Universe loved us. As Christ stared into the plan of His father, he did not just see the manger, he did not just see the cross, he saw your face. He saw James, Bruce, Jen, Ryan, Lisa, Kim, Kathy, Mitch, and all of you who have said yes to Jesus, and because of his everlasting love for his brothers and sisters, he said “I'll do it.” No matter what the cost, I will do it. Why? Because he loves his friends.
And once again, this is why we celebrate Christmas. This is the heartbeat of the season, the love of God manifested in the incarnation of His Son Jesus Christ. How can you not have joy knowing that this is the Jesus that we call Lord?
So let us think about these things over the next five days as the day draws near. Lay aside the chaos, lay aside the materialism, lay aside the things of this world, and cling to the Savior of this World. You will not find a greater treasure than the love of Christ.