February 22, 2015
Have you ever experienced a defining moment? A defining moment is a point at which a situation is clearly seen to start to change. Throughout our lives we may experience a number of defining moments. Perhaps it’s when your teacher says that you have a real gift for mathematics. And from that point on your trajectory of life begins to change.
Rick Warren points to a defining moment he had when he and a friend skipped class to drive 350 miles to hear W.A. Criswell preach in November of 1973. Afterwards, Warren stood in line to shake hands with Criswell. He writes, “When my turn finally arrived, something unexpected happened. Criswell looked at me with kind, loving eyes and said, quite emphatically, “Young man, I feel led to lay hands on you and pray for you!” He placed his hands on my head and prayed: “Father, I ask that you give this young preacher a double portion of your Spirit. May the church he pastors grow to twice the size of the Dallas church. Bless him greatly, O Lord.” Well that was a defining moment and Saddleback church is the result.
We have all had defining moments in our lives. Were there defining moments in Jesus’ life? There surely were. There was the moment when Jesus did his first miracle. There was the moment when Jesus set his face like a flint towards Jerusalem. It could be argued that every defining moment in Jesus’ life was a defining moment for mankind.
We have been looking at God’s big story. We mentioned that in the Bible we read about God’s intention to establish his godo kingdom rule among mankind. Beginning with Adam and Eve we see how mankind continually rejects God’s rule and last week we noted that God is reestablishing his good rule through the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. Today we begin looking at the cross of Christ. Matthew Miller writes, “The kingdom is the mission. Christ is the means,” and “The cross is the moment.” In other words, Jesus’ death on the cross is a defining moment of his kingdom rule.
I. THE CROSS IS THE DEEPEST EXPRESSION OF CHRIST’S HUMBLE SERVICE. Phil.2:5-8
Last week I mentioned Brian Williams, the NBC news anchor who has been suspended for 6 months because he has been caught in some serious lies. He was at the top of his game. People trusted him, but not now. It’s true that Williams acknowledged the untruth, but he did not come right out and say that he lied. Instead he got confused. NBC acted to stop the bleeding. It is difficult to be humble when you are in a position of power. This is surely humiliating for Williams. And now that he is humiliated, you would think the public would show mercy. But no, the public has vilified and mocked Williams. Williams has been the butt of many jokes on T.V. The world does not operate according to the principle or virtue of humility. In the world it is important to make a name for yourself and to hold onto it for there are many who are just waiting to take your place.
Of course we know Jesus was not like that. On more than one occasion the disciples of Jesus were heard arguing about who was the greatest among themselves. In Mk10, James and John came to Jesus and said, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” The other ten disciples were indignant that James and John would try to call dibs on those seats of glory and power. They all wanted seats of power. But Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” And then Jesus went on to say, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
If anyone had the right to demand to be served, it was Jesus. But Jesus did not come to promote himself and to achieve notoriety in the way that we think of notoriety. Jesus came to serve. It was and is in his nature to serve, not because he has an inferiority complex but because he knows who he is and is secure in his standing with God. Jesus did not have to make a name for himself and justify his significance.
There is an important lesson here for us. The old hymn says, “I’m a child of the King, a child of the King: With Jesus my Savior, I’m a child of the King.” And yet in our homes, at work, with our friends, it would seem that being a child of the King isn’t good enough. We often seek to be king, to have our way, to make ourselves appear better than we are, and to judge others. We prefer to be served and when we believe that being served is our right, we feel slighted and indignant when we are not served, and we let others know about it.
Let’s consider Phil.2:5-8. Here is Jesus, God in the flesh, acting in a way that most would not expect. Most would expect a god to lord it over everyone else. But that is not how the God of the universe is. When God came in the form of a man in the person of Jesus Christ, He never stopped being fully God, but he became fully man. He didn’t come to earth announce to people, “Hey, I’m God.” Instead he spoke and acted like God would speak and act if he were a man. And Jesus was and is a man. Jesus specialized in humility because humble love is an essential characteristic of God. When it says that he emptied himself it means just that. Jesus, God in the flesh, humbly poured himself out in behalf of humanity. He hung out with tax collectors and sinners. He touched people with leprosy who were considered to be untouchable. He drank from the pitcher of a Samaritan woman. He had no place to lay his head. The religious leaders called him a glutton and a drunkard. This is all pretty humbling. One of the most humbling acts Jesus did was to do the lowly job of a servant by washing his disciples’ feet in Jn.13. In Jn.13, after Judas left to betray Jesus, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in him.” It was a direct reference to the cross and all that his death on the cross would bring about.
By far the most humbling and loving way in which Jesus served mankind is when he willingly offered himself to die on the cross for our sins. He died the death of a criminal for you and me. Who would do that? Why would Jesus give his life for people who could care less about him? Clearly there is something compelling about Jesus, who lays everything down in our behalf.
II. THE CROSS IS THE PATHWAY TO KINGSHIP. Phil.2:9-11
For most kings, the pathway to kingship is through family relationship. If you are the first born son, you become king when the king or the queen dies. We don’t relate well with royalty. The British understand these things but not Americans who could never tolerate a king ruling over them. But if we are going to understand what God is doing in our world, we need to get a handle on what it means to have a king.
Now in the case of Jesus, it just so happens that Jesus was in the line of King David. Joseph, his earthly father, by virtue of adoption, was a descendant of David. This is important because the Old Testament prophecies say that the Messiah, the king who was to come would be of the line of David. Jesus fulfills those prophecies. But when Jesus walked this earth there had been no king on the throne of Israel for over 400 years. And while many Jewish people thought that Jesus might be the one to overthrow Roman oppression and reestablish the Jewish kingdom, Jesus had no such intention. Just before his ascension to heaven, the disciples asked him if this was the time he was going to restore the kingdom to Israel. Jesus didn’t really answer their question. He just said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
But when we look at Phil.2:9-11, we see that the cross is a defining moment. Jesus humbled himself to death on a cross. “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth.” The cross led to his formal vindication as King. Jesus was not given the name that is above every name as a reward for his death on the cross, rather his exaltation was God’s affirmation of the fact that Jesus showed his equality with God in his humiliation on the cross. If you want to see the heart of God, look at the cross where God in Christ died for you.
If you looked at the stained glass window on the balcony you will see a crown with a cross superimposed on it. No cross, no crown! Why? It’s because the one who wears the crown is the one who in his essential nature humbly gives his life for mankind. Jesus is the ultimate king. He expresses the ideal character of what it means to be a king. He sacrifices himself for his people.
When we think about how God reestablishes his good rule among mankind it is rather shocking. In the world people who want to be king, to have influence and power, seek to present themselves as men or women who can handle the job. They are confident. They are worldly wise. They have no fear. They are attractive. They are clever. They have the answers. And they always disappoint. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” It is not derived from this world. It is grounded in the fact that he is God who pours himself out for the world.
III. THE CROSS IS THE DOORWAY INTO THE KINGDOM OF GOD. Phil.2:10-11
In Phil.2:10-11 we cannot escape the reality that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God.” In other words, a day will come when it will be universally acknowledged that Jesus Christ is God the King in the flesh. The day will come when God’s good rule will be fully established among mankind.
But there is something we must yet consider. You remember that Adam and Eve intentionally rejected God’s good rule. Sin entered into the world and into the hearts of all men and women. In other words, there is within us a principle that refuses to recognize and acknowledge God’s right to rule. It is in our nature to throw off the kingdom of God in preference for our own kingdom. Even when God raised up a people for himself in the nation of Israel, even Israel rejected the rule of God, preferring to worship idols of wood, stone, and metal; preferring human kings instead of having God as their King. And so it is today. Every last one of us is separated from God because of our sin and self-centeredness. Sinners do not want to be in the Kingdom of God. Sinners prefer the kingdom of this world.
And yet, men and women, living in the kingdom of God is the absolutely best possible place to be. God’s rule is a rule of peace, security, goodness, love, justice, grace, and mercy. In God’s kingdom everyone is deeply valued and treated with respect and honor. In God’s kingdom everyone has the opportunity to flourish as they begin to take on the virtues and character of Christ the King. We can fully come into our own, only in the kingdom of God. Jesus said that the kingdom of God is like finding a treasure in a field. You sell all you have to buy the field to gain the treasure. It is that good.
The question is how does one enter into the kingdom of God? How does one come under the good rule of God? If you have money to invest, it is common to sit down with a financial planner who can help you discern where best to invest your money. It is not a quick appointment. There is much to consider. Can I trust this person with my money? Are the recommended investments good investments? Will this person regularly monitor our portfolio? After two or three hours, if you decide to let this person be your financial planner, there are many papers to sign. It is a lengthy process and you don’t mind the process because, after all, it is your money that is at stake. You are making a significant personal commitment.
It is similar for one considering entering into the kingdom of God. This is a major life decision, one that should not be made lightly. There are a number of considerations. First is the matter of our personal sin. The Bible says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us have turned to our own way. We have all often rebelled against the good rules of God. The Bible also tells us that the wages of sin is death. This death refers to eternal separation from God and all his love and goodness.
This is why Jesus died on the cross. Listen to what Paul says in 2Cor.5:21. “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” On the cross Jesus bore our guilt. He bore our sins in his body on the cross. This is what God the King is like. He pours himself out to rescue those who are estranged from him.
When Jesus walked this earth he invited people to enter into the kingdom of God. He invited people to come under the good rule of God. Why? It’s because it is only when God is ruling in our lives that real living begins. When we enter into his kingdom we are given a brand new life to live. It is his life. Your life will begin to be transformed into likeness of Christ.
So how do we enter into the kingdom of God? Well Jesus said, “Repent and believe in the gospel [good news].” When we repent we come to see that the life we are living pales in comparison with the life Jesus offers to give us. So we turn from our sinful, selfish ways, and we acknowledge that we have rejected God as king and that in doing so we have chosen the way of eternal separation from God, the way of eternal death. When we believe, it means that we are now embracing Jesus as our Savior, Lord, and King. We understand that Jesus died so that we can receive the forgiveness of all our sins and enter into his kingdom. When we believe we are choosing to put our confidence in everything Jesus said and did. We are signing up to become his follower, his apprentice, his disciple. To enter into the kingdom of God is to enter into eternal living in Christ. And the amazing thing is that Christ will actually come to live in you and through you. Such a life blossoms into eternal life with Christ forever.
Are you ready to sign the papers? O wait, there are no papers to sign. Are you ready to let Jesus be you Savior and King? It is a life changing decision. And it is a tremendous opportunity to enter into an eternal, living relationship with the God who created and loves you dearly. Amen.