Let’s start with a quick review.
Being Christlike begins by changing the way you think—specifically, what you value (Php 2.3) and where you focus (Php 2.4). That change in outlook will then issue in changing the way you act—divesting yourself (Php 2.6), humbling yourself (Php 2.7), and now—and finally—sacrificing yourself (Php 2.8).
And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Christ, who is equal with the Father, as we’ve learned earlier (Php 2.6), submitted himself to the Father in obedience.
That is a mark of remarkable humility—and confidence, as we’ve discussed earlier. He obeyed someone who was not his superior.
We’re not like that. We don’t like to obey anybody, ever. As 4-year-olds, we thought we were smarter than our parents, and as 14-year-olds, we thought we were smarter than our teachers. (Actually, I recall acting that way openly in class when I was just 11. I was a precocious little snot, I was.) Today I have all kinds of friends who think they’re smarter than the government.
OK, maybe that was a flawed example. 🙂
But the point stands. We don’t want to obey anybody, even—and most especially—those whom God himself has placed in authority over us.
Romans 13? Well, that says the government is a terror to evil and a praise to those who do good, and my government isn’t like that, so I don’t have to obey them.
By that standard, no one has ever had to obey any government that has ever existed, and God wrote Romans 13 as a gigantic joke.
That’s not a conclusion I can come to.
Obey the government? Well, in the US the government is the Constitution, and our elected officials don’t follow it, so I don’t have to obey them and their stupid laws.
There’s a fancy term for that governmental philosophy; it’s called anarchy, when every man does what’s right in his own eyes. And it doesn’t turn out well.
Jesus obeyed. He is God, and he obeyed.
The passage goes further.
Not only did he obey, but he obeyed at infinite cost—to death, and even the death of the cross.
Crucifixion was designed specifically to be the slowest, most painful death possible. The Father’s will was not to send Jesus to die during the French Revolution, when the guillotine was the execution device of choice.
Drop, lop, plop. Done.
He didn’t send him to die in Hiroshima in August of 1945, when his life would have ended in a brilliant flash of light and instant vaporization.
He sent him to the Roman Empire in the first century.
There has never been a worse time to die.
Obedience really cost him something. And this something went far beyond the merely physical pain.
Obedient unto death—even the death of the cross.
I’ve heard a lot of talk from Christians recently about persecution.
For the most part, I find it embarrassing.
What persecution? Against this background—the death of the cross—what persecution?
What have I sacrificed?
I’ll tell you about the worse I’ve ever suffered for Jesus.
In college, I was standing on a sidewalk in St. Matthews, SC, next to a friend who was preaching across the street from a bar during the Purple Martin Day Festival, the town’s annual street party. Some men came out of the bar to see what was going on. One of them had a large paper cup of beer, and he threw it at my friend. Missed him and hit me. Beer all over me.
That’s the worst I’ve ever suffered.
And to tell the truth, it was a hot night, and the cold beer actually fell pretty refreshing running down my front.
Serving Jesus has cost me nothing of any consequence.
I know that not everyone can say that. I have friends who have lost much to follow Christ, and I have friends of friends who have died violently specifically because they were Christian.
They would say that it has all been worth it.
Next time, we’ll share some closing thoughts.