The King Adjusts Our Attitudes
A sermon based on Philippians 2:5-11
Sunday, April 1, 2012 – Palm Sunday
A church was once planning to hold a convention and to advertise it to the community they purchased a large banner with the convention theme: "JESUS ONLY" and hung it on the side of the church. Unfortunately, the night before the convention a strong windstorm tore the banner in two, ripping the first three letters from the side of the church. You can imagine the shock that convention guests received when they saw the banner that now read, "US ONLY."
It's sad to say, but isn't that often the case with Christians? We think we're displaying banners that read "JESUS ONLY," but our pride and self-centered natures still cling to us. We fail to humbly serve others and inadvertently display signs that say, "US ONLY."
That's what happened to the first-century Christians in the church at Philippi. They were losing sight of Jesus as their inflated egos were blocking their view of the cross. So Paul wrote them to deflate those egos and encourage them to learn humility from the King, that as they kept their focus on Jesus and his cross, they might live humbly for the King.
Because the same self-serving attitudes that overtook the Philippians can easily overtake us, we do well to listen in to Paul's encouragement that we too might have our egos deflated and learn humility from the King, and live humbly for the King. Listen to Philippians 2:5-11…
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I. Learn Humility from the King
In this portion of Paul's letter to the Philippians, he gets to the heart of the issue. He addresses the problem and gives them the solution. The problem? The Philippians had a lack of unity. They were grumbling and complaining about each other and bickering and fighting with each other as if their fellow Christians were the enemy. Someone once said, "That wolves devour sheep is no surprise. But who ever heard of sheep devouring each other."
And this lack of unity had a single source: Their attitudes. When Paul says "Your attitudes should be the same as that of Christ Jesus," he implies that they weren't. They were acting out of selfish ambition and acting like they were better than everyone else.
Sound familiar? "No. Not me," you protest. But take a look at the actions that your attitudes have produced just this past week. Evaluate with me if you've been driven by selfish ambitions: Did you always display a humility that put others' needs ahead of your own? Were you always willing to go out of your way to help others out?
Did you always ask how you could serve God first, then others, and finally meet your needs last? Or did you reverse the order and look out for "No. 1"? Was your attitude like Jesus who willing suffered whatever it took to love and serve others—even those who don't care? Or harder still for those who meet your love and service with hostility? "Your attitudes should be the same as that of Christ Jesus…"
But, I know mine wasn't. And I very seriously doubt that yours always were either. Our pride, our vain conceit, and our selfish ambitions were evidenced in the way we treated our families, our friends, and even complete strangers. And that's just this past week.
Jesus once said in Luke 18(:14), "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled…" And that's exactly what we deserve—to be humbled. We deserve the humility of being stripped of our clothes and our dignity. We deserve to be tortured and crucified. We deserve to be humbled for an eternity of the agony of hell that Jesus endured on the cross.
But we don't get what our selfish attitudes deserve. Why not? Because of Jesus' attitude for us. Let me re-read Paul's description of the attitude Jesus displayed for you. And be overwhelmed by his great love for you, selfish as you were:
"Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!"
Although he is the one and only God, the creator and owner of all that exists, the omnipotent and eternal God, he didn't consider that glory something to cling to, but gave it up. He emptied himself of the full use of that glory his whole life on earth, but especially during Holy Week…
On Palm Sunday, rather than ride into Jerusalem carried on a throne or in a chariot drawn by white stallions, he rode in on a donkey. On Maundy Thursday he would wash his disciples' dirty, smelly feet. On Good Friday he would humble himself to be spit on, mocked, stripped, beaten, scourged, tortured and finally crucified. And on that cross by his selfless attitude, he endured the guilt and the shame of every sin and took the punishment of hell itself. What humility!
Why'd he do all that? For you and for me. It was love—not nails—that held Jesus to that cross. That's why "he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!"—a death reserved for only the worst of criminals—to pay the penalty that we owe for our sinful pride, to win forgiveness for every sin. He who deserved to only be exalted was humbled that we who deserved to only be humbled might be exalted. This is true humility! And this humility that we learn from the King, moves us to live humbly for the King…
II. Live Humbly for the King
Is it possible to ponder Jesus' great humility that lead him to suffer and die for our sake, and not be moved? Is it possible to witness his humble attitude for us and not have a change of attitude ourselves?! Let the humility of the King adjust your attitude this morning!
His law humbles us and strips us of any pride in our achievements, but his gospel—the good news of the forgiveness he won for us by his humility—keeps us humble as we live new lives eager to serve him in thanks.
The ancient Greeks had a legend about a man named Narcissus. When Narcissus, the son of a river god, saw his reflection in the water, he was so pleased by what he saw that he instantly fell in love—with himself. He was so infatuated that those who cared for him tried to keep him from anything that might cast a reflection. But they couldn't watch him closely enough. And one day Narcissus found a quiet pool, caught a glimpse of his stunning reflection and tried to embrace it. He fell into the water and drowned. His love for himself was his own demise.
That is what we were like: So consumed with ourselves that it was sure to be our demise… eternally. But Jesus rescued us from ourselves! Having forgiven us for all of our sins of living such narcissistic, self-centered lives, he set us free from that love of self! Now, we know that the sun does not rise and set on us. We embrace that others aren't here to serve us. We rejoice that it's not even about us. It's all about him.
Instead of asking "How can I best be served?" in any given situation, we ask, "How can I best serve my Savior for what he's done for me?" Who can I serve today? What can I do for others to show how much Jesus' humble attitude on my behalf means to me?" We can have this attitude because Jesus shattered the mirror that held us captive by our own reflections, because he keeps our eyes fixed on the humility he showed for us on the cross, because he keeps our eyes open to see the countless opportunities we have to serve someone else in thanksgiving to God.
In short, Jesus puts the first three letters back in the banner of our lives, so it no longer reads "US ONLY," but "JESUS ONLY" again. Dear friends, may our Savior's humble attitude for you, adjust your attitudes this morning. So that "When [you] survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died, [Your] richest gain… [you] count but loss, and pour contempt on all [your] pride." In the name of Jesus, our humble King, amen.