A transcription of a sermon on humility preached by Rev. Martin Holdt.
THE CROSS AND ALL MY LIFE Part 1
Read Philippians 2: 5 – 11
Read part II of this series here: Part II
A call to imitate the humility of Christ
It happens to be one of the greatest Christological statements in the New Testament and it follows a plea to Christians to be humble. When the apostle Paul introduced the subject he did so in verses 1 to 4 of chapter 2: “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the spirit, in the affection and sympathy complete my joy by being of the same mind and having the same love. Being in full accord and of one mind.”
Before I go on to verse 3 and 4, I suggest to you that the actual theme of Philippians is not so much joy, it is unity. I wish I had time to show you that. You read it for yourself and see how often the apostle deals with the whole matter of unity.
Verse 3: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility. Count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interest of others.”
And then the introduction to about what he has to say about Jesus Christ: “Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus.”
Then the verses that we are going to be looking at. It is a call to imitate the humility of Jesus Christ, which none of us will ever do as much as we ought to. But it is there for us, it is there to challenge us. There is nothing so like Jesus Christ as true godly humility. If you would be like Him, you need to be humble.
What was He like? Well, let’s go to the text. Verse 6: “Christ Jesus, although He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped.” You know what that means? It means He never insisted on His rights. I am going to repeat what I said before: the only Person in the world, Jesus Christ, to have had the right to assert His rights, waived them. Though He was fully God as He was fully man, He did not insist on His prerogatives to retain all that was His due as God. I mean, why should He have not always have been where Isaiah saw Him? Where did Isaiah see Him? Isaiah chapter 6 verses 1 to 3: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up and the train of His robe filled the temple. And above Him stood the seraphim, each with six wings and with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet and with two he flew and one called to another saying” Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Hosts. The whole earth is full of His glory”. The apostle John tells us in his gospel that Isaiah spoke of Jesus Christ: there He was in His infinite glory, being worshipped and adored by angels in the realms of glory, by the cherubim and the seraphim, loved by all in glory and heaven. Now He comes and He is rejected and despised by men.
David did not demand his rights as promised king when Saul was already rejected and the kingdom promised to David. David continually had to live a life of humiliation and in constant fear of his life, but he had never been on the throne, by comparison with the Lord Jesus. Jesus need only have retained his rights, equality with God, on the throne. He never ceased to be God when He came to earth.
What Jesus gave up
Tell me, as you respond to this, have you in recent days or months or years insisted on your rights? Have you? If you have, it was a very un-Christ like thing to do. Don’t do it again. He emptied Himself.
I agree with R.C. Sproul, that that one line in the song “And can it be” namely: “emptied Himself of all but love” is theologically wrong. That’s why I appreciate the Praise Hymn books, which says: “humbled Himself in all His love.” Just for your information. What did He give up? He gave up His favourable relation to the divine law. In Galatians chapter 4 in verse 4 and 5 we are told what this amounted to. “When the fullness of time that come God sent for His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive the adoption of sons.”
He gave that up. He was above the law, in glory but He came and put Himself under the Law. He gave up his riches. We will discover one day when we are in glory, because of His grace, what that amounted to. I don’t believe that any of us here today have any idea about the riches that were His before the incarnation. You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Corinthians 8 verse 9: “That though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you, by His poverty, might become rich.”
Jesus took upon Himself a debt
Indeed, not only did He give up his riches, He came to take up upon Himself a debt. Isaiah chapter 53 verse 6: “All we like sheep gone astray, we turned everyone to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” He gave up his independent exercise of authority. Hebrews chapter 5 verse 8: “Although He was a Son, He learnt obedience through what He suffered”. That’s what He came to. It is not only what He gave up, but what He became that is so marvellous.
John chapter 13 verses 3 to 5 – aren’t you thankful for the opening verses of John chapter 13? Before you see Jesus stooping to wash the disciple’s feet one by one, John reminds us of who Jesus was. John was there, he had his feet washed. When it was all over, and Jesus had died and risen and ascended into heaven, John could only describe Him, as he did in John chapter 1 verse 14: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we saw His glory. The glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Before the feast of the Passover when Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world. He loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going back to God. He rose from supper and washed their feet. Don’t you love Him for that? Doesn’t that move you? If it doesn’t, your heart must be as hard as granite. He emptied Himself and knowing who He was, He did that. And not only that, but He condescended lower than you or I will ever have to stoop. You and I have met some Christians who have had it much harder than we have.
God’s presence with a lay preacher
I spent three glorious months in Germany with one of the godliest men I have ever met. He lived most of his life in Tasjikistan, once a part of the Soviet Union. He was a lay preacher, like John Bunyan. The intensity of his love for Christ was wonderful. You had to pick his brains to ask what was it like. Because he wouldn’t stop preaching, they put him in prison. I listened to him. He said to me, you know, it was hard. They would give out the daily rations and dish them out by alphabetical order. My surname is Reason, R. I was near the bottom of the list and ever so often, when it came to Reason, there was nothing left and I was hungry. I had to scrape the crumbs off the tables to get some nourishment. Incidentally, he said to me: I have never known such a presence of Christ as when I was hungry.
And one day the KGB came to get him and they summoned his wife. And Richard Reason has 12 children and they were then small. These cruel Soviets said to him: “Reason, here is you wife, children without a father.” You can go home on one condition: you stop preaching. By that stage of his long imprisonment, his longing to be at home with his wife and children was so intense that he was tempted to buckle up. But his brave wife said: “Richard don’t sell your soul for what these men are telling you to do. We’re managing”. And that was enough to tell him: “I’ll go on”. He stood low, you know, but nothing, nothing compared to the condensation of Him who stooped the lowest of all. BC and AD: Jesus.
Verse 8: “Made himself nothing” verse 7: “taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men and being found in human form, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even a death on a cross.” No Roman citizen was ever crucified. Cicero said this, as he referred to crucifixion: “This most cruel and hideous of punishments”.
Jesus obeyed the Father unto death voluntarily
Please notice the words becoming obedient. That’s proof of His divinity, by the way. You and I have absolutely no power to prevent it. You have no say over your death. The day you are meant to die you will die. Jesus became obedient to death voluntarily, willingly.
Do you too pause sometimes when you read John chapter 10? When you come to the words and you are awakened to love Him for what He said, and what eventually happened when, according to John chapter 10 verses 17 and 18: “Jesus said the reason the Father loves Me because I laid down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from me. I laid it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and I have authority to take it up again.” He did it voluntarily.
Don’t you love John chapter 18? He proved it there. They had come to seize him, soldiers armed to the teeth. “Whom do you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I am He”, He said. They fell backwards and fell down, under the weight and the authority of His word. Whom do you seek? Jesus of Nazareth.” Then, having proved the point, He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. That’s humility for you. Isn’t it? No wonder the Father rewarded Him. Above all others, verse 9 “Therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name.” Notice the therefore, it implies the Father’s pleasure in His humiliation. Therefore. So that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth. And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father. And when you read the word “the Name” it is not just a title, it’s dignity, it’s rank, it’s office. For example, His authority over the whole universe, which He had at His ascension and He still has it today.
So in Ephesians chapter 1 verses 21 and 22, beginning with verse 20:
“God worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things under His feet and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”
Therefore. Why therefore? Because He became obedient even to the death of the cross. And judgment is now in His hands. Aren’t you grateful for that? Because, you see beloved, if you are one of God’s elect, you’re a friend of the judge, and He has borne your sins. And there is now no condemnation to them that are in Jesus, not now, not ever.
I had a lady who was the wife of an elder. She came to see me more than once, she was terrified about the judgment. I asked her why? She said I can’t bear the thought of my sins being exposed all over again. I am ashamed, I am embarrassed. I said to her: fear not, you came to Christ, you bear the fruits of repentance. Your sins and iniquities He remembers no more, and they will not come up on the Day of Judgment. It is the wicked who have every reason to be hot and bothered when they are not.
Universal homage will be Christ’s
He has honour as Redeemer. You go to the book of Revelation and we are going to be spending some time in that, next time, with the final address and when you read it, the heart is moved, because you will be there, sooner or later. You’ll be there with a crowd who will hail the once despised Jesus.
Revelation chapter 4 verse 11: “Worthy are you our Lord and God to receive glory and honour and power, for You created all things and by Your will they existed and were created.” In chapter 5 verse 9 “and they sang a new song saying: Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, for by your blood you ransomed people of God from every tribe and language, people and nation and You have made them a kingdom of priests to serve our God and they shall reign forever. And there were thousands and thousands saying worthy is the Lamb who was slain.”
Note: the Lamb who was slain. This glorified saints cannot forget the cross, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honour and glory and blessing and to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb glory and might for ever and ever. No wonder the living creatures said: “Amen.” Universal homage will be His. Some will be compelled to give that, others willingly. Hallelujah.
(To be continued)