(Some of you who were at Camp Reunion, or who missed some of the talks had asked for notes of the talks. Here's the text of each of them. For those who weren't, and who haven't a clue what I'm talking about - these are three talks I gave at a young people's weekend on Keeping Christ the focus of our lives.)
Christ and our Sin
The Christian life isn't just about making the right choices, and making the best choices. It is also about not making wrong choices. Sinful choices. We live in a world that bombards us with temptation from every angle. It offers us pleasure, and lets be honest about it. Sin is pleasurable. Sin is enjoyable. The devil is not so stupid as to make sin distasteful. Often there is great pleasure to be had in sinning. And often ministers paint it as black as your boot, as if all sin was was eating rotten fish guts. But you know and I know that there's more to it. The devil comes and he offers you all this pleasure, and there are times when we are so attracted by the pleasure that although we know that it is wrong, we can make all sorts of excuses to justify what we are doing, or we can make all sorts of preparations in the hope of sinning. We can flick through the channels late at night - there's nothing wrong we tell ourselves with doing that, but all the while we are hoping to stumble across something we shouldn't, and then we'll watch it for a few minutes and then move on, telling ourselves, "It just happened to be there."
Or we can disguise spiteful gossip as wise warning to another person; all the while it gives us the pleasure of putting someone down, and building ourselves up. Or we can join in with others, and follow the crowd, saying to ourselves, "Well I may get a chance to witness to them" and we find ourselves in places we know we shouldn't be in, or even doing things we know we shouldn't be doing.
And if we are anyway sensitive as Christians, afterwards we feel and great tidal wave of disappointment and sorrow, and remorse. And we hate ourselves for it.
How can we resist temptation? How can we see past the real pleasures that are temporary to the real pleasures that are lasting.
For every situation we could discuss and come up with an answer to, the devil would invent another one, slightly different, but different enough so that the rules we make would not apply. So like last night, we'r going to look to Jesus to get our perspective on sin.
Is sin such a big deal?
We're going to see what it cost to set us free from sin
Read Phil 2
The dignity Christ gave up to free you from your sin
The humiliation Christ undertook to free you from your sin
The dignity Christ gave up v6
I think we're so used to hearing that Jesus died that we forget who exactly had to die in order for human beings to be set free from sin.
In order to appreciate sin and salvation we need to grasp who our saviour is.
His nature is what makes our salvation possible
V6 - "Who being in very nature God"
Paul could not have stated more clearly that Jesus is God. Greek = form of God. Form = essense of being. He was unabridged, undiluted Godness. He was:
Transcendent - that means that he is far above what we can ever get our heads around. So that means that when you have been amazed at who Jesus is and what he left to save you, you need to say to yourself - "No this isn't it, he is even more wonderful that."
Eternal - all of time before him like an open book
Holiness - angels covering their faces even sinless angels
This great being is who we are talking about. He commands the universe, he is worshipped by the angels. He has existed forever in a perfect relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It has been a relationship of perfect love and glory and delight.
This is the dignity that Christ had before he came here. This is the God who came to save us. This is the one who came to die.
Not only 'very nature' but v6 "Equal with God." The Son was fully God, completely God. He was not he poor member of the Trinity who got landed with the dirty work. Utter equality. The Son is as much God as the Father and the Spirit.
Listen to these verses:
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
We need to grasp the dignity Christ had if we are to love him more and love sin less.
And this dignity is seen in another way - God, Father Son and Spirit, did not need us, didn't need our worship. Illus of a rich lady who needs her drains unblocked, and goes searching for the ordinary working class man. She needs him despite all her dignity. Listen God didn't need us in any shape or form. What God did was out of choice, not out of need.
V6b - He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped" - clung to. Some versions, "thought it not robbery to be equal to God" - it wasn't robbery it was his right, that's who he was.
This is what it took for you and me to be set free from sin. It took nothing less than God. Sin was so powerful and the punishment so severe, that for you to escape the clutches of sin and to be free it took nothing less than almighty God to leave the glory of Heaven and come to earth to rescue you. No angel could be sent - that wouldn't be enough. It took God.
But it took more than God just to come and set us free. He didn't just come like some Maximus all conquering warrior striding onto the battlefield and thrashing sin. It wasn't going to be that easy. Sin is a personal problem so it had to be a battle fought in person. Like a disease - not just an easy injection for mankind. In a sense to produce the right antibodies, the disease had to be injected into someone, they had to battle against the ravages and horrors of it themselves, and having conquered it, the antibodies that their body produced can be used as a vaccine for the rest of us.
The humiliation of Christ v7-8
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
Here we see what was entailed in rescuing you and me from sin.
And again we see how much we owe to Jesus. What he did for you to set you free from sin wasn't something that was forced on him. Look at the words:
"He made himself nothing" - NOT "He was made nothing"
"He took the form of a servant" - NOT "He was made a servant"
All active verbs, not passive. Underscoring the voluntary nature of what he did for you.
Four steps seen here. Remember this is what he did for you:
1 Left the glory of Heaven
Heaven was home. It was to be with his father, it was pure and holy and glorious. There he was the endless subject of the angels praise, and the fathers delight. John 17:5
John 17:5 And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.
He left it. He didn't consider it something to be clung on to. Although Heaven was his home and it meant everything to him he left it so that you could go there. So that you could be free from sin.
2 Became a Man
Paul uses three phrases:
Made himself nothing
Care needed - he gave up nothing of his nature. He wasn't any less God. He didn't stop being God in any aspect. He relinquished nothing. He was fully God. But now he was also fully man. His deity was restrained, not relinquished.
But yet to look at him he had made himself as nothing. He passed up his rights to glory and honour. This phrase refers to his status and privileges of Heaven.
2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Taking the Nature of a Servant
The one who owned everything became as one who owes everything. This is what he emptied himself into. Think of it - the Ruler of Heaven serving. The Creator serving. Remember this is what had to be done for you to be free from sin. The angels served him in Heaven, and yet he came to this earth, I'm sure the angels marvelled at our ignorance, as people came into the carpenter shop and made demands of the Creator of the universe. But he came as a servant.
Being made in Human likeness
Think of all that that means. Born as a fragile defenceless baby. The King of the universe vulnerable. Born in a dark dank cave, and placed not in some royal cradle befitting a king and saviour of the world but ina cattle rough. Where once angels praised him, now dirty shepherds gather round. Placed in the care of two young people. Having to flee to Egypt.
Made as a human - For centuries the angels had watched these creatures, humans, rebel against the creator. And now the mighty God has made himself like one of them.
All for you
3 He Suffered
3rd step in his humiliation. We tend to think of just the last few hours of his life being marked with suffering. Did you know that he suffered throughout his life? Think about it. What must it have been like to come and live on an earth surrounded by sin? Seeing the effects of sin daily. Pollution all around him. HIS earth defiled. Holy eyes beholding sin. Holy ears hearing his father's name blasphemed. All around him sinners, sinning, in all their ungodly ways.
He suffered - as a man he was subject to weakness, pain, temptation, hunger, tiredness.
As the end approaches his suffering increases. He is not just man, but he is a cursed man. And as he approaches the end he knows what is coming and the horror of it sweeps over him in relentless waves.
On the cross he didn't just suffer physical pain. That was the easy part. He bore your Hell and my Hell in his own soul. No-one else could feel what he felt. The sinless man, was bearing sin, and bearing punishment, and bearing the wrath of his father. The cross is where God pours out his wrath on your sin and mine. Oh the depths of the suffering of Jesus, bearing the awful wrath of the Father at our sin. Here is God suffering Hell.
So terrible is it that he cries out in anguish at the separation from his father, "My God, My God why have you forsaken me."
And still his humiliation isn't finished
4 He died
Philippians 2:8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross!
Death - God the Son experiencing death. Not just any death but a death in which the innocent Son of God suffered the indignity of being found guilty and executed as a criminal.
Even death on a cross - the ultimate shame - a death that was a public display that he was cursed by God.
How the angels must have been horrified. Death - the ultimate withdrawal of God's blessings and happiness from man and visiting him with his wrath.
And in all this he was silent, as a sheep before its shearers, so he did not open his mouth. He could have scattered his accusers, he could have demolished their arguments, he could have come down off the cross, but a greater power was holding him there: obedience - his love to the father, and through that his love for us.
This is what Christ did for you to free you from the chains that sin had held you tight in. You languished in the dungeon of death, and by all that he gave up, and all that he suffered he has set you free.
If you aren't a Christian - this is what it takes to get to Heaven. It takes God to leave the glory of Heaven to become a man, to live and suffer and die and go through Hell. That's what it takes. How do you intend to get to Heaven?
How does this apply to us when we are faced with the pleasures of sin, and find ourselves tempted?
Our Hatred of Sin
V9 gives God the father's reaction to this great work of God the Son
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
V12 gives what Paul expects our reaction to be:
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
"Therefore" - in the light of this then - we are to be obedient, not disobedient. We are to work out our salvation. What does that mean? It means we are to make application of it to every area of our lives.
Like someone moving into a house. Old and dilapidated. Slowly they begin to work their ownership into every room, cleaning and redecorating, and rebuilding what years of neglect had allowed to rot and decay and become filthy. That's what this means. Sin is a burglar who keeps breaking in to vandalise and destroy, and sometimes we welcome him and make him sit down and have a cup of tea, before he goes upstairs to rape our loved ones. We welcome him.
If only we could learn to see sin through the eyes of Jesus.
When we sin it is because we want to sin, even though there may be some measure of reluctance in us. And it is because we do not hate sin enough or love Jesus enough.
Put how can considering Christ help us?
Three applications, three things for you to grasp:
Satan wants you to suffer like Jesus did
I want you to see what sin does. I want you to learn to see sin as something hideous and repulsive. Sin as Satan presents it to us looks pleasurable and is pleasurable. It is pleasurable in exactly the same way a nice big juicy worm is pleasurable to a fish. Satan presents the bait and hides the hook. When we consider Christ we see the deadliness of sin. We see it for the awful thing that it is - it is so awful that God the Father wouldn't even spare his own son when he took our sins upon him.
When Satan tempts you to sin, when he tempts you by painting sin in some bright and beautiful colours. Look at Christ on the cross, coming from the glory of Heaven, to the filth of earth, look at the bloodstained flesh torn body, hear his cry, "My God My God why have you forsaken me" and say to yourself - that's what Satan wants me to end up like. The pleasure that Satan offers is real, but it lasts only for a short time, and then the hook the cruel hook is into you, and it can't be got out without tearing your soul, without leaving its scar. Never lose sight of this, Satan does not want your happiness, he is prepared to trade off a few short years of pleasure, so that you will be as miserable as he is in Hell. Never lose sight of this, Satan wants to do to you what he did to Christ as he was passed through the hands of first the temple guards as they beat him to a pulp, and then as the Roman guards did the same, so that his face was marred beyond all human likeness. That is what Satan wants to do to you. Consider Jesus, and you will never lose sight of this.
I want you to see sin as something hideous and repulsive. Whenever you are tempted to sin, look at the sight of the battered and bleeding saviour - and say to yourself, this is what sin does to people.
Jesus had to pay for that sin you are about to commit
When Satan comes to you and says, "Look see how close to the line you can walk" - so often at your age the big question is what can I do, how far can I go, how close to the world can I get. Jesus did all this, went through all this to extract you from the clutches of Satan, how can we go back to stand on the brink again.
Even those very sins that Satan paints, and puts new names and colours upon, cost the best blood, the noblest blood, the life-blood, the heart-blood of the Lord Jesus.
As he hangs there he is paying for that sin that you are just about to commit. That lustful glance, that angry word, that bitter thought, that muttering at your parents. How can we? How can we?
From Thomas Brooks:
"Consider that Jesus Christ should come from the delight of his relationship with his Father to a world of sorrow and death.
Consider that God the Creator should be made a creature; that he that was clothed with glory should be wrapped with rags of flesh; he that filled heaven and earth with his glory should be cradled in a manger; the God that made the heavens working at Joseph's homely trade; that he that binds the devils in chains should be tempted; that he, whose is the world, and the fullness thereof, should hunger and thirst; that the God of strength should be weary, the Judge of all flesh condemned, the God of life put to death; that he that is one with his father should cry out of misery, 'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'; that he that had the keys of hell and death at his girdle should lie imprisoned in the sepulchre of another. Consider that that head, before which the angels do cast down their crowns, should be crowned with thorns; those ears, which hear nothing but hallelujahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; that face, that was fairer than the sons of men, to be spit on by those beastly wretched Jews; that mouth and tongue, that spake as never man spake, accused for blasphemy; those hands, that freely swayed the sceptre of heaven, nailed to the cross; each sense annoyed: his feeling or touching, with a spear and nails; his smell, with stinking flavour, being crucified about Golgotha, the place of skulls; his taste, with vinegar and gall; his hearing, with reproaches, and sight of his mother and disciples bemoaning him; his soul, comfortless and forsaken; and all this for those very sins that Satan paints and puts fine colours upon! Oh! how should the consideration of this stir up the soul against it, and work the soul to fly from it, and to use all holy means whereby sin may be subdued and destroyed!"
How can we, how can we?
Whenever you find yourself tempted to sin, and Satan whispers in your ear - "Its OK you can repent afterwards, God will forgive you. 1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins he is faithful and just and will forgive us."
When he does that look at Jesus, and look at the nail marks and the lashes and say to yourself - "I am not going to add anymore."
How often is it that we sin in things we don't even need to sin in - things that don't even matter. You were to do something for someone, something not terribly important, and they ask us did you do it - and even though we haven't we say "Yes". Or we are busy and we sit down and waste half and hour watching something we shouldn't, or surfing somewhere we shouldn't. And we don't even need to do it. Its not as if there's a lot riding on it - on a human perspective. And we think to ourselves "Its not that serious" - friends it is deadly serious. Try to see your sin through Christ's eyes as he sobs in the Garden of Gethsemane, "Father take this cup away from me" He saw in those moments the awful tide of sin that was about to sweep over him. He saw your sins and mine lined up like a tsunami of effluent about to engulf him. And it caused this God-man to weep with loud cries, and to sweat on a cold night.
When you are tempted to go into a situation where you know it will be difficult, and you are tempted to justify it to yourself by saying, "I'll maybe get a chance to witness" - think to yourself - Did Jesus go through all that so that I could go in here and to have my mind filled with all the very sorts of things that put him on the cross?
Jesus' suffering shows us that sin has to be paid for
So often we are tempted to envy those who can sin freely without conscience bothering them. Remember that all the pleasure that Satan offers, lasts only for a short time. And each time it leaves a scar upon the soul. And for some of you who aren't yet Christians I want to say this to you - Yes Satan does offer pleasure, sin is enjoyable, but all your pleasure lasts only for this life, and you have an eternity of sorrow. For the Christian on the other hand, all your sorrow is in this life, all of it, and among that you will also have great moments of pleasure, but all the sorrow you will ever have is now, and then you will have an eternity of pleasure beyond anything you can ever imagine, purchased for you by Christ on the cross.
When you are tempted to look at unbelievers around you, and to envy them for their pleasures and fun, remember that's all they'll ever get. And I don't want it to sound as if there is no pleasure for the Christian - life is full of it. Being a Christian is the best life, not the easiest but the best.
Someone might say, "Mark, listen, you're forgiven, all this talk about sin isn't healthy." It is perfectly healthy. A friend of mine has a gluten intolerance and everywhere he goes he has to talk to the chef. He carried a book with him of everything that contains gluten and he'll point things out to the chef. Is he being fussy. No, its how he has to live. He isn't free to eat what he wants. The gluten won't kill him, but it will make his life miserable. Sin will not snatch us out of God's hand. But it will make our lives miserable. We have been brought into a wonderful relationship with the greatest being ever - we'll be thinking more on that this evening - and sin, in all its shapes and guises wants to disrupt that, so we need to learn to hate sin with a passion. To be so caught up in our love for Jesus, and what he has done, so that we see sin through his eyes. And when we are tempted to sin, it will be as if someone has handed us a bowl of rancid fish guts to eat, and we will react instantly with a disgust and revulsion.
Jesus didn't save us to blend in. He went through Hell so that we could stand out. So that we would be a bright light warning people of the dangers of sin. So that by our very presence people would be uncomfortable in sin.
There is one part of the passage we haven't touched yet at all. V9-11
Philippians 2:9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Here is the final encouragement for the Christian. God exalted Christ and gave him glory and honour.
Keep your eye on Christ. Watch him - watch him in these two ways - watch the price he paid to set you free from sin, and watch the way he was exalted. One has happened to you, the other will happen.
Although there will undoubtedly be so called pleasures in this life that we have to miss, God is one day going to exalt you, to lift you up and to glorify you. And you will be seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.