April 2, 2014

The Cross: A Lesson in Obedience - Apr 2, 2014

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For most of our country, this year has been the year of snow. For the past few months it’s been pretty commonplace to see videos of people pushing cars out of the white stuff. But one snow related video caught a lot of people’s attention this past December.

King Abdullah II, the king of Jordan, was on his way to Amman, when he noticed some people trying to push a blue car out of the snow. Instead of passing by, the king stopped. Shoulder to shoulder with his subjects, the king helped get the car out of the drift, and back onto the road.

Someone caught this act of kindness with his phone, and posted the video to the web, where it went viral. It wasn’t huge news, but it was unusual enough to get a few stories circulated. King Abdullah was hailed by many as a “man of the people.”

Our sermon reading for today tells how Jesus Christ humbled himself in a way no human king could ever hope to surpass. In obedience to the Father’s plan of salvation, the Son of God lowered himself in order to raise up the entire sinful human race.

Philippians 2:5-8 (NASB)

    5   Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
    6   who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
    7   but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.
    8   Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Obedience is not exactly a trait that most people want to cultivate in themselves. It’s dogs that go to “obedience training” right? Not people. Our culture values self-respect, self-importance, individuality, and pride far more than humble obedience.

Even when we’re faced with some command that we SHOULD obey, there are countless reasons we choose not to.

We might feel above the commands we receive. Come on, I’m more important than that. We might feel that something we’re expected to do is gross. Ugh, shouldn’t someone else do that?

Sometimes the things we’re told to do are difficult. We see that they will end up costing us something. They might even be dangerous. And so our sense of self-preservation lead us to disobey instead.

We might even see a certain command as an insult to our person. Really, you expect ME to do THAT?

Or, we might simply disobey a command because we think we know better.
When we look at how God commands us to live in the Bible, and how we actually live, it’s clear to see that we’ve all been disobedient to God. We’ve all sinfully chosen our own way instead of God’s way. Like Isaiah says,

We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to our own way; ” (Isaiah 53:6 NIV).
But in Christ, and in his cross, we see a lesson in obedience. An example far different than our own.

Verse 6 says that Christ Jesus…

“…although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men…” (Philippians 2:6-7 NASB).

We exist in the form of “man.” That is to say, we’re human beings. But this verse says that Christ existed in a different form. He was God. And yet, when the Father told him to become human, Christ didn’t try to clutch his form as God. He didn’t resist the Father’s will. Instead, he obediently took on a new form—the form of a servant. He went from being God, whom all should serve, to being One who would serve all.

And when Christ became a human being to carry out his service to God and Man, we’re told he humbled himself. That is, he listened intently to the Father’s direction, and accepted everything the Father wanted him to do as a human. He even accepted death as part of his service. And it wasn’t just any death that Christ suffered. He suffered the most humiliating form of execution—crucifixion.

Jesus didn’t let his high rank as God get in the way of his obedience. He emptied himself of his glory, setting aside his power as the eternal God. He allowed the roles to be flipped completely—from king to servant. He even took on human flesh, going from being spirit, to being body and spirit united. He became truly human. And he even submitted to a shameful and horrific death—all in obedience to his heavenly Father’s plan to save sinners.
This is a little more newsworthy than a king helping someone push their car out of the snow. And it was harder for Jesus too. You see, when Christ became human, he was made to feel all the same things we feel. And knowing all that he would have to suffer to redeem sinners weighed heavily on his soul the night before he was crucified. It was far more than just physical suffering that would be required of him. To pay the full price for our sins, Jesus would have to feel the full wrath of God’s anger. Jesus would have to feel HELL on that cross—for every sin we have ever committed. That’s what it would take to pay off our debt.

That’s why we find Jesus nearly overcome with sorrow in the Garden of Gethsemane. He prays…

“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39 ESV).

Even in this moment of deep sorrow and mental anguish, the obedience of Christ Jesus shines through in those words, “as YOU will.”
As you know, the Father’s will was that Christ would go to that cross, that he would suffer for all your sins, and mine, and that he would die in our place. And because he did this, we’re forgiven. Because Jesus obeyed perfectly to the end, the Father raised him from the dead three days later, and restored him to divine glory.

And because Jesus obeyed perfectly to the end, we are now declared OBEDIENT—holy before the God we’ve so often failed to obey. The obedience that cost Christ everything, has gained us everything. This is the lesson in obedience that Christ’s cross lays before our eyes.
The cross of Christ does indeed serve as an example of how we should obey God in our own lives. In our reading for tonight, Paul holds up Christ’s example as one that we should follow. We shouldn’t let our own “rank” in life get in the way. We should be willing to give up what we have, to follow the Father’s direction. We should be willing to have our roles flipped, serving people stationed lower than ourselves. We should be willing to give up everything to serve God, even if in doing so we have to experience shame, pain, and death.

But the most valuable lesson here isn’t what we SHOULD DO. The most valuable lesson here is what CHRIST DID. What we SHOULD do, is never done. We always fall short of perfect obedience to God’s commands. But what CHRIST DID, is done. And it is in HIS perfect obedience that ensures our forgiveness.

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote…

18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:18-25a NKJV).

Paul’s whole point here isn’t to excuse his sin. Oh, the devil made me do it! Oh, my sinful nature made me do it! Paul doesn’t excuse his disobedience, but he recognizes that when it comes to obeying the Lord, he’s always failing. Personal obedience to God is important to Paul, but he knows that it’s only through CHRIST’S PERFECT obedience that he’ll be delivered in the end.

It’s the same for us. Try as we may, we’ll always fail to perfectly obey our heavenly Father’s will. But by faith in Christ’s perfect obedience, we will remain safe. Redeemed, restored, forgiven.

Let this remain the first lesson of obedience you see on the cross: He was obedient, so I am saved. Only then, with this greatest truth held precious in our hearts, can we move forward to follow Christ’s example of obedience in our daily actions.


The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds, in Christ Jesus.

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