An Ode to the Lord Jesus Christ
Now that the backstory, explanation, and vision for this blog have been noted (very fitting at the very beginning), I want this first non-foundational post to be an expression of my appreciation and love for the most amazing person in human history, who just so happens to be the second Person of the Holy Trinity. God Himself. One with the Father. Infinite co-worker with the Holy Spirit in helping us get through this life which is so perennially full of perilous and pernicious potential pitfalls.
I am of course speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Humility/submission/selflessness would have to be one of the qualities which goes against human nature most fiercely. (Along with patience.) Starting at the original fall of mankind in the Garden of Eden. And ever since. So it’s not surprising that Philippians 2:5-11 is such a well-known and beloved passage of Scripture. But it actually starts with 2:1-2 in speaking of love and affection and compassion among believers and being of the same mind and united, not divided. ONE body, one mind. And then takes it a layer deeper in specifically talking about HOW such interpersonal, interrelational unity is accomplished – namely, by having EVERYONE eschew selfishness and “empty” conceit (what a perfectly descriptive word! so true! conceit is so UNfulfilling) and instead focus on the needs of others, not just our own, and introduces the world “humility” there in verse 3 so the more familiar verses 5-11 are really just elaborating and “fleshing out” (no pun intended… as in humility gets the FLESH OUT of the picture, out of one’s mind) that principle.
And surely the beloved and amazing Apostle Paul, the writer of Philippians, and absolutely, positively the Holy Spirit – the writer of Philippians (talk about a brain-twister… who wrote the book of Philippians, Paul or the Holy Spirit? Answer: YES!) – KNEW that there was no greater illustration of humility anywhere in the entire UNIVERSE than the Lord Jesus.
I don’t know about you but from time to time in my life it has been very easy and natural for a familiar passage in particular to go through my mind without my really THINKING about exactly what it’s saying, what it’s inferring, the details and color of the communicated facts. MEMORIZING Scripture certainly helps reduce that tremendously – but not totally, not completely (not in this life!) so it still happens from time to time, and this passage used to be no exception.
The point that Jesus is the very picture of humility is obvious. But have you ever stopped to really consider just what He did? And not for Himself, mind you, but for others, for us, for you and for me. Let’s take a minute to consider exactly WHAT He did and not just gloss over it like I did for years.
He was 100% God. Full deity. Omnipotent, infinite power. Omniscient, infinite knowledge. Omnipresent, not bound by time or external factors of any kind or in any way, shape, or form.
And what did He do? What did He do? He voluntarily gave up the willful use of His deity and took on all the limitations of humanity outside of sin, He wasn’t touched by that but DID go through everything else we do in this life as clearly stated in Hebrews 2:17-18 – “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in ALL things, that He might become a merciful [since He knows exactly what you and I are going through at any given time in our lives] and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For SINCE He HIMSELF was tempted [i.e., in His humanity; cf, Matthew 4; Hebrews 4:15 and James 1:13] in that which He has suffered, HE IS ABLE to come to the aid of those who are tempted. [i.e., of you and me!]” – and as set forth in 1 John 2:15-17 [which if you think about it, are the three areas to which ALL sins can be boiled down and correspond perfectly – and not coincidentally – to Matthew 4].
I’d say that’s giving up an awful lot! The pure pleasure and power of deity in exchange for all the rigors and challenges and functional limitations of humanity – oh yeah, and having to look forward to PHYSICAL DEATH? Who in the universe would ever agree to such a deal?! Would you??? I don’t think I ever would, sorry, I love you all and am happy to spend my entire life savings on this website/ministry but NO WAY would I make that trade! Deity for humanity? NO WAY! But Jesus did.
But it wasn’t just a matter of all the issues of human life and even physical death per se that he voluntarily took on, but the worst kind of physical death. Crucifixion. “Death on a cross” as verse 8 puts it (Philippians 2:8).
I have to admit that one of the specific events I’ve most thanked God for in my lifetime was Mel Gibson’s decision to fund the production of the movie The Passion of the Christ himself when the studios were unwilling, because I can’t think of another event along with the horrific and tragic 9/11 terrorist attacks which has put such a widespread focus on God, church, etc., and in the case of the former, far more specifically on the Person and work of Jesus. As an aside, I believe that both of these events were allowed and used by God for a very specific purpose: to “blare out” to the entire world the importance of settling one’s eternal destiny before it’s too late. The Bible is clear that most people are not going to Heaven. Matthew 7:13-14 says that “the gate is WIDE, and the way is BROAD that leads to destruction, and MANY are those who enter [i.e., the afterlife, eternity] by it” but that “the gate is SMALL, and the way is NARROW that leads to life [i.e., Heaven], and [comparatively, c.f., Revelation 7:9] FEW are those who find it.” So it’s very safe to assume that most of those who died in those towers or the Pentagon or on those airplanes on September 11, 2001, did not resolve of this most important matter in all of life, where one will spend all eternity. Do you think they had thought about that many times? Undoubtedly. The first line of Ecclesiastes 3:11 is very well-known: “He [God] has made everything appropriate in its time.” But its second line is less so, yet very pertinent: “He has also SET ETERNITY in their heart” – so, yeah, those people thought about it just like you and I have throughout our lives. And just as God used Noah to “blare out” the end of the ancient world (2 Peter 2:5) before at some point [when His patience stopped “waiting” – 1 Peter 3:20] shutting the ark’s door and those unbelievers OUT forever, so also I firmly believe that God is using certain events of a massive, world’s-attention-grabbing scale like 9/11 and that self-made movie about a crucifixion of all things which had “no chance” of succeeding doing just that, and succeeding so wildly that the world writ large couldn’t avoid focusing on and talking about it for many months, I believe He is using these events to “blare out” the end of the modern world. And one of the pressing motivations of my life is this question: how many people, just like in Noah’s days, will fail to resolve their eternal destination before it’s too late and thus get “shut out” of Heaven forever? In my view, nothing better captures the word “haunting” than that. I often think that if God just gave the world the slightest taste of Heaven while they’re still alive and on Earth virtually EVERYONE would give their life to Him and be saved. But I also think that just giving the world the slightest taste of Hell would probably be just as effective, given how human nature often responds even better to so-called “negative reinforcement” than the positive variety. It would quite literally scare Hell OUT OF people, scare people out of an eternity in Hell. Anyway, all of that was an aside, the long and scenic route of saying that while and for that reason the widespread release and success and discussion of that movie has been among the greatest items of thanks and praise to the Lord in my life, after hearing about how graphically His crucifixion was depicted therein I just couldn’t bring myself to see it, to sit through that, to actually go watch it, but I’m sure many of you were able to so you probably have an even better idea of exactly what Jesus voluntarily took on when He became a man.
But you know what really hits me about this passage, Philippians 2:5-11? It’s not so much what He went through as a man but rather as a fetus and baby! As a man, He knew exactly who He was, that He was “God in flesh appearing” as the world sings every Christmas season. As a man, Matthew 26:53 makes clear that He was utterly aware that He could ask and God the Father would “at once put at My disposal more than twelve legions of angels [i.e., 72,000]“. So although it’s very true that He suffered a humanly-horrific death on the cross for us, on our behalf, He did so voluntarily and with a sense of control, knowing that He could’ve nipped that entire situation in the bud (to put it mildly… just read the last-in-the-New-Testament book of Revelation to see what just ONE angel is capable of, now think of 72 THOUSAND) if He had wanted to. But when He voluntarily became a BABY and before that a FETUS growing inside the virgin Mary’s womb after being conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18), in my view that’s a whole other level of humility. I think just about everyone will agree that giving up control is perhaps THE most difficult single action in all of human life. I dare say – and indeed it’s proven all the time – that most would rather die with control than to live without it. That’s essentially at the heart of mass shootings, isn’t it? These shooters feel a massive lack of control in life and rather than live without a sense of control they prefer to die (usually immediately) with one, borne of the warped attempt to put themselves in the role of God by deciding who lives and who dies, by deciding whom they shoot and whom they do not. So it’s safe to say that giving up control is perhaps THE MOST DIFFICULT thing in the human experience. Yet that’s exactly what Jesus did. I mean, talk about going from one (infinite) extreme to another! He went from being totally and utterly in control of everything, of the entire universe, to being totally and utterly DEPENDENT on Mary, on Joseph to feed and protect Him in His early years, and of course on His heavenly Father the entire way. Babies are the very picture of dependence. They have ZERO inherent control. None. Nada. Zilch! I can’t even imagine on this side of adulthood how hard it would be to be a fetus and baby once again (no thanks!), much less how much infinitely greater a sacrifice it was for Jesus to go not from being a human adult to a fetus/baby but from the voluntary use of His deity including omnipotence, INFINITE control, to a fetus/baby. I dare say He’s the ONLY one who would EVER make that trade, agree to that deal, and He did that not for Himself but for you and me, because He knew that if He didn’t we’d all be doomed to an eternity in Hell.
So I’m honored and thrilled to take the opportunity of this first non-foundational post to publicly thank and praise Him for His incomprehensible humility and self-sacrifice and love, all beautifully demonstrated just in that single act of becoming not just a man but a fetus and baby. Amazing love, how can it be? Indeed.
Since, unlike God, we ARE bound by time and schedules, I should probably end this post here and discuss His many other qualities in-depth in future posts, so I’ll end this one simply by saying that He is my best friend, the best I’ve ever had by far. He’s my Savior who freed me from an otherwise-certain eternity in the unquenchable fire and unending, unimaginable torture of Hell. He’s my strength and my power. He’s my continual example and motivation in life. He IS my life, my everything, my all, and I guess in an inverse way I understand the (warped, in their case) rationale and choice of those mass shooters because I would absolutely, positively, in-a-proverbial-heartbeat rather die with Christ than to live without Him. A-n-y d-a-y of the week and twice (literally!) on Sunday. I love Him with all of my heart, for all He does, yes, but even more for who He is and all that He means to me. Thank You, Lord, for always being there for me, for being such a great shield and comfort, for being such a great friend and constant companion, such a merciful high priest, for being my Lord but one whose burden is indeed so very light, for being my Lord but never “lording it over me”, for being utterly unashamed of me – even to call me BROTHER (Hebrews 2:11) and being willing to share Your indescribably massive inheritance with me (Romans 8:17; Colossians 1:12), for helping me resolve – or be content with – my weaknesses and simultaneously being the strength of my life.
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