Unity Comes from a Focus on the Savior

Steve Viars June 28, 2008 Philippians 2:5-11

 

- Two weekends ago we were treated to a spectacle in sports that was truly historic...

- Even if you don’t particularly like golf, what Tiger Woods was able to accomplish at the 108th U.S. Open at Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego was simply amazing...

- of course we’re somewhat used to Tiger winning major tournaments...

- four Master’s titles, winning the first one by 12 strokes...

- three US Opens, the first by 15 strokes...

- three British Opens, the first by 8 strokes...

- and four PGA Championships, one by 5 strokes...

- what made this past tournament special was what we learned later about the extent of his injuries...

- people who follow the sport know that Tiger had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean out cartilage in his left knee on April 15, bypassing ACL surgery with the hopes of being able to get through the 2008 season...

- less than a week before the tournament, he had not walked more than 9 holes at a time since the surgery...so he hadn’t been able to practice and prepare like everyone else...

- once the tournament started...it was obvious that something was wrong...

- he could walk on the flat areas of the course but was limping badly whenever he had to go up or down hills...

- sometimes he leaned on his clubs like crutches...

- then there was the obvious pain after he would hit many of his shots...

- but when asked during the event about his injury, like many other pro athletes, he said very little about it...

- Amazingly, he still stayed at or near the top of the leader board, hitting some unbelievable shots...

- The regular tournament ended on Sunday in a tie between he and Rocco Mediate...

- so that meant they had to play an 18 hole playoff round the next day...which meant more strain on the injury...

- that round too ended in a tie...which then took the tournament to sudden death...

- he beat Mediate on the next hole, which was the 91st of the tournament... and won his 65th professional championship and his 14th Major...

- the full truth didn’t come out until after the event was over...

- that’s when we learned that Tiger suffered a double stress fracture on his left tibia just 2 weeks before the US Open...

- his doctors told him that the preferred treatment was 3 weeks on crutches and 3 weeks of inactivity...

- His swing coach Hank Haney was in the room when that conversation unfolded and later reported...“Tiger looked at the doctor and said, 'I'm playing in the U.S. Open, and I'm going to win.' And then he started putting on his shoes," Haney said. "He looked at me and said, 'Come on, Hank. We'll just putt today.'"

- there’s a lot that could be said about that event...but I think we would all agree with this – Tiger Woods has an incredibly focused and disciplined mind.

- Golf Legend Bobby Jones used to say – “Competitive golf is played mainly on a 5 inch course, the space between your ears.”

- now let’s bring that over to the spiritual life...

- how important is your mind in the overall process of what God is seeking to do in and through you?...

- is Christianity just a set of external behaviors, or is it substantively about what occurs in your heart...in your inner man...in your mind?...

- now, I think we would all say...its the latter...having a focused and disciplined mind is a very important aspect of what is involved in growing in Christ, and living for Christ...

- if that’s true, and it is...than please think about this...an article came out on Tuesday and was published in both our local paper and also on the front page of the Indy Star reporting on a new US Religious Landscape Survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

- the title of the article was – Survey: My Way Isn’t the Only Way to Earn Salvation...Results show growing tolerance, or maybe ignorance of faith teachings...

- some ideas jump out of that title...

- for example, the notion that we somehow earn salvation...I hope everyone here would understand that, regardless of what anyone else believes, we certainly do not think that salvation is something that can be earned...

- another observation is the redefinition of the word tolerance...

- traditionally tolerance meant “to recognize or respect others’ beliefs or practices without sharing them”...

- to bear or put up with someone or something not particularly liked.

- and we have always practiced that – one of the contributions Baptists made to American life is promoting religious freedom...

- historically it has been called Individual Soul Liberty --- meaning that every person has the right and responsibility to determine their faith commitments and live accordingly...

- but we would never impose our beliefs on someone else by force, especially force of governmental law...

- but that’s not how this article is using the word...

- the emphasis now is that in order to be truly tolerant in our culture, you have to believe that competing and even contradictory truth-claims can be equally and simultaneously valid...

- in other words...no ones truth is superior to anyone else’s truth...

- thus when it comes to the things of God, no one’s ideas can make the claim of exclusivity...

- now, to boil it down to its bare essentials...because many religions suggest that salvation is by works (what you do to earn your way to heaven)...and biblical Christianity teaches that salvation is by grace through faith in the finished work of Christ...

- the notion in our country is that both approaches can be simultaneously true...

- and this was a comprehensive survey of 35,000 adults...

- would you like to know the percentage of Americans who believe this?...its 70% of the American population who think there are many ways to heaven...

- but what is amazing is that when you isolate evangelicals [people who say they believe God’s Word to be their guide]...and ask them that same question...do you know what percentage of evangelicals say that there are many ways to God?...57%...

- I think it would be good for us to examine what God’s Word would say...with that in mind, would you open your Bible to Philippians chapter 2 [page 155 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...]

- now I am sure that some here today will be a bit nervous by my even raising this topic...

- let me try to lay out a few ground rules here...

1. The question this morning is not what Pastor Viars thinks, or what Faith Baptist thinks – the question is – what does the Scripture say?...

- my job is to faithfully proclaim God’s Word to our congregation and community, regardless of what might be culturally acceptable or politically correct...

- and as soon as I start skipping key emphases in the Word of God simply because they may not be popular, at that point I will have become what Jesus called a “hireling” instead of a shepherd...and I decided long ago that by God’s grace I will never do that...

2. I am operating on the presupposition that many of God’s people need to grow in the ability of developing a discerning mind...

- one person referred to this Pew Survey as demonstrating that our country’s religious beliefs are 3 miles wide and 3 inches deep...

- I don’t mind telling you that I am frightened when I hear evangelicals take the position that contradictory truth claims can somehow be simultaneously true...that’s illogical...

- this isn’t about being arrogant...it’s about being accurate...

- because there is so much riding on this discussion --- the eternal destiny of ourselves and those who live around us...

- and the purity and depth of the faith we are seeking to transfer to the next generation...just to name a few...[there’s a lot riding on our getting this right]...

3. Then when you bring it around to what we’re emphasizing this year...

- Seeking God’s Plan as we try to finalize our next 5 year strategic ministry plan...

- and Seeking God’s Plan for Joyful Unity as we study the book of Philippians together this summer...

- well, what is it that unifies such a diverse group of people – and what is it that motivates us to work together to accomplish something for God?...

- the answer is – our common commitment to a core set of doctrinal ideas...

- that we unashamedly believe to be “the truth”...

- there is an exclusive aspect to it – because truth always excludes...if this suit is black, then it’s not red...[with all apologies to everyone who thinks it should be – its just not]...

- the apostle Paul faced this same issue with the churches in Galatia...

- because he had taught them the truth of the gospel...that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone...

- Jesus was the way, the truth, the life...no one could come to the Father but by Him [which is what Christ taught in John 14:6]...

- and then a group of false teachers came in after Paul left and began saying that salvation was by works ---- you had to keep certain laws, or do certain things...

- so Paul wrote the book we know as Galatians...

- and what was his message?...it doesn’t really matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere?...all truth claims are equally valid?...no one has a corner on the truth and it would be prideful to believe otherwise?...

- Galatians 2:4-5 - But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who had sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. But we did not yield in subjection to them for even an hour, so that the truth of the gospel would remain with you.

- Galatians 2:14 - But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?

- Galatians 3:1 - O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified?

- Galatians 4:16 - So have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?

- Galatians 5:7 - You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

- so our ability as a church family to accomplish what God has for us in the coming 5 years in a joyful and unified way is dependent in part on our cultivating minds that are like Tiger’s...that are focused and disciplined...

- and of course the passage we’re about to study helps us understand someone else’s mind...that of our Lord Jesus Christ...where we are actually invited to learn to think like Him...read Philippians 2:5-11...

- we’re talking this morning about how Unity Comes from a Focus on the Savior

- and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for Three lessons we can Learn from the Mind of Christ.

I. We are Encouraged by the Example of Jesus’ Mind.

- a verse like Philippians 2:5 is loaded with hope...because it suggests that...

A. You can choose to think the way He did.

- please remember that God never gives us a command that would be impossible to carry out.

- you can change the way you think...

- this is what Paul meant to the Ephesians when he instructed them to...Ephesians 4:23 - and be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

- its what Peter meant when he told his readers to...1 Peter 1:13 - Therefore, prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

- see, some people believe that success for them depends on the conditions of the circumstances around them...

- I’ll be happy if my spouse does certain things, or if my boss does certain things, or if the weather does a certain thing, or my health goes a certain direction, or my friends do this or that...

- that is a very defeating way to live...because you set yourself up for disappointment because other people and/or circumstances don’t go the way you desire...

- so in that scenario, the person becomes the passive victim...

- but not only is it a defeating way to live – it’s also a very unbiblical one...

- God’s Word does not portray you as a passive victim at all....you are an active worshipper...and the object of your desire/worship/passion is revealed by the way you choose to think about the events that unfold around you...

- and God wants you, and God wants us...to be developing the mind of Christ...

- more important than working on your yard this summer, or your golf game, or your weight, or your wardrobe...is working on your mind...

B. Remember that God stands ready to help you develop a Christ-like mind.

- do you recall one of the key verses in our first study of this book?...

- Philippians 1:6 - For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

- it is important to make a distinction between what some theologians speak of as “gospel imperatives” and “gospel declarations”...

- gospel imperatives are the things we must do because we know the Lord...

- gospel declarations are the things that are true of us because of who we are in Christ...

- sometimes we focus too much on the gospel imperatives (the doing) without the right amount of attention to the gospel declarations (the being)...

- Colossians 1:27 - to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

- the point is – if working on your mind is something that you sincerely wish to do, then that is not an endeavor that you have to take up alone...

- trying to develop a more Christ like mind brings tremendous honor to the Father, and you can bet that the resources of heaven are available to help us make progress in this area...

 

- now, of course the question then becomes – well, what does this kind of mind really look like?...what are the practical implications of this?...that’s why we are not only encouraged by the example of Jesus mind...

II. We are Challenged by the Characteristics of Jesus’ Mind.

- we really are on holy ground here, because these verses unpack the mystery of what it means for God to become man...the beauty of the incarnation of Christ...what do these verses tell us?

A. He did not hold tightly to His position.

- Philippians 2:6 - who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

- this verse teaches the eternal preexistence of Christ...

- one of my theology professors John Whitcomb used to like to say – Jesus’ coming to earth was one of His more recent accomplishments...

- The apostle John explained that...John 1:1-3 - In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

- there is no one else of whom such words have ever been spoken...

- Paul makes it clear – He possessed “equality with God”...

- and it’s not like Paul later made that up after Jesus died...

- Christ’s opponents were forever trying to take his life, why?...because He claimed to be the Son of God...

- no one can logically take the position that Jesus was a fine moral teacher but he wasn’t really God...that was certainly not Jesus testimony...

- and you have to conclude – either He was who He said He was...our He was out of His mind...there isn’t any middle ground on that subject...and His original audience clearly understood the nature of His claims...

- but here’s what Paul is saying – even though He possessed that position, He didn’t grab onto it...He didn’t consider it something to be grasped...

- in order to accomplish the Father’s will, that position had to be relinquished...

- that is one of the ways some followers of Christ need to change in their minds...

- there are so many things they are holding onto so tightly that it colors the way they respond to the people and events around them...

- I have to be respected...why are you holding onto that so tightly?...

- I have to win the argument...why is that so important to you?...

- I have to have my things...

- friend, can I ask you this morning, is it possible that one of the ways that God wants you to change is by releasing your grip on something you tend to hold too tightly?...

B. He emptied Himself.

- it is the Greek word Kenow – this is where we get the theological term “the kenosis of Christ”...

- it means that he voluntarily laid aside the independent use of some of His attributes...

- now we have to be very careful here...

- He was not exchanging deity for humanity...

- it wasn’t that He was no longer God...or He couldn’t later die for our sin...

- but He looked at the glory He possessed in heaven and He was willing to lay that aside...and though he possessed eternal riches Paul told the Corinthians, Christ was willing to become poor...

- He was even willing to relinquish His favorable relationship with the Father, because at least for a period of time...on what we now call Good Friday, God the Father turned His back on His own Son...[my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me...]...

- see, Jesus emptied Himself...- now the grammar there is very important...the Greek text reads like this...but...Himself...He emptied...

- the point being---this wasn’t something forced on Him...this was something He voluntarily chose...He emptied Himself...

- see, Christianity isn’t somebody putting a gun to your head and making you do certain things...

- it is you, out of your love for Christ...choosing to think and act this way...

- [by the way, we need to be sure this is clear...Paul is writing to people who have already had a definite time in their life where they trusted Christ as savior and Lord...Develop—this lifestyle is a response to what Christ has already done in your heart...]

- but if you are a follower of Christ...can you look to specific examples where you emptied yourself in order to serve God?...

- now, please don’t do this...please don’t put your head down and say...yeah...I did...and it is really depressing and terrible...nobody loves me, nobody respects me, nobody appreciates me...but I’ll keep emptying myself like the family martyr...

- what is one of the major themes of the book of Philippians?...our joy in Christ...

- Philippians 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

- you also might say, yeah, well Paul was writing from some hot tub somewhere—what would he know about emptying himself?....not exactly...where was he writing from?...[develop how he had emptied himself and he was having a ball witnessing the guards who were chained up to him and the other governmental officials with whom he was interacting...]

- emptying yourself isn’t an end in itself...it provides the place for the plan/purpose of God to be replaced...

  • By taking on the form of a servant.

- think about all of the arguments and fusses that will occur in so many homes...and so many offices...and so many neighborhoods...

- do you realize that would be impossible if everyone involved was seeking to serve one another?...in fact it often makes a dramatic difference if just one person will seek to be a servant...many times those actions can be infectious...

- and it doesn’t start with an adjustment to our hands...it starts with an adjustment to our hearts, to our minds...

- I wonder how many of us have things that just have to be emptied out of our minds if we are really going to be the servants God desires?...

C. He humbled Himself.

- that is a condition of one’s mind...and that theme runs throughout this passage

- [develop the verses Rob taught last week – especially verse 3 – did you have opportunities to put that into practice?...]

  • By becoming obedient to the point of death
  • Even the death of the cross.

- what would He later say in the Garden of Gethsemane?...

- Matthew 26:39 - ...O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.

- here’s one way you could summarize much of what we’ve said this morning...The Christian mind is a submissive mind...The Christian mind is an obedient mind...

- The Christian life examines what God’s Word says and then quickly and joyfully does it...

- Can I ask you this morning – what would have to change about the condition of your mind to bring your thought life more in line with the mind of Christ?...

- are you in the habit of slowing down long enough to ask, what am I thinking right now?, and are these thoughts honoring to Christ?...

III. We are Focused on the Consequences of Jesus Mind.

- Because Christ was willing to think this way, and live this way...

A. God has highly exalted Him.

- I hope every person here would say – this is the kind of Savior I want---this is the kind of Savior I need...

- and when you choose to draw that conclusion in your heart, you are part of Christ being highly exalted...

B. God has given Him the name that is above every name.

- that is what is so insidious about the results of this survey...

- you can pick practically any page of the OT and begin making a bee-line to the cross...

- even as early as- Genesis 3:15 - And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.”

- God was already focusing on the purpose and the mission of His dear Son...

- we don’t believe what we believe because we are trying to Lord ideas over others...we want others to come to Christ because we agree with what God has said about the uniqueness of His Son...

- do you remember how Peter explained this when he was on trial?...

- Acts 4:5-12 - On the next day, their rulers and elders and scribes were gathered together in Jerusalem; and Annas the high priest was there, and Caiaphas and John and Alexander, and all who were of high-priestly descent. When they had placed them in the center, they began to inquire, “By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. “He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video