"Humble Strength for Eternal Salvation"#84-32
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on April 9, 2017
By Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz, Lutheran Hour Speaker
(Q&A Topic:Creation, Evolution, Being Human?)
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Philippians 2:5-11
"Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by 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 death on a cross."
Christ has risen! He has risen, indeed! Hallelujah!
Do you know what day it is today? Yes, it is Palm Sunday throughout the world. This is a day when Christians remember that Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem, not to ascend to an earthly throne, but to begin that journey of journeys; to a cross, to a tomb, and to a resurrection from the dead that poured out eternal life into a world that is full of death and destruction.
Today's the day. Throw your palm branches down, if you have them, throw them down as a sign of your faith and trust in Jesus Christ because He rode into this town, into that predicament, just for you.
Now, let me give you a glimpse of just what it is that's coming Jesus' way. Today's the beginning of Holy Week, where we hear about what happened, not just on this Sunday, but on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday.
It's a week of confrontations with false teachers, with political hacks, with corrupt trials, and brutal beatings, and mob rule; but Jesus enters this willingly, through blood, sweat, and tears. And what happened to Jesus Christ in this week literally changed the world. The benefits of what Jesus endured and accomplished during this week of His passion continues to change people's lives today!
Someone long ago coined the phrase, "It's a dog eat dog world." Many people will spare no expense of destroying one another just to get ahead in life. It's a sort of "survival of the fittest" mentality.
The Bible text for today's message comes from the New Testament book of Philippians. This book was a letter to a group of Christians in Philippi, an encouraging letter that St. Paul wrote to a people, most of whom were Roman citizens. However, he writes this letter of encouragement because the Philippians' Christian faith would be opposed by the forces of the world and by someone else's bottom line. Hardship would come to them. In fact, Paul was writing this letter when he himself was under house arrest due to some unjust allegations. Nevertheless, Paul endured.
In this letter, he says: "Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped, (something to be held on to or hoarded) but he emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men."
Have you seen the movie Sully? It's the story of the US Airways pilot, Chesley Sullenberger, who successfully made a water landing after a flock of birds flew into both of the engines of his airliner just shortly after takeoff. There were 155 souls on board. Miraculously, every one of them survived. The world soon called it, "The Miracle on the Hudson." In this box office movie hit, that mirrored his true life story of heroism, Sully is praised for being the X factor in the equation. But in all humility, he disagreed. He pointed to his co-pilot and to the flight attendants on board. He mentioned the United States Coast Guard, the police, and all first responders. "We all did our job," he said. "We survived." Captain Sullenberger is the consummate picture of humility. The world, though, still remembers just one name - Sully. He's a hero and a humble hero at that.
But today, on Palm Sunday, there's a Name that stands above every other name. There's a Name that is greater than any hero, more powerful than any general, more brilliant than any president, king, or queen; His Name is Jesus, and on Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem as a humble yet powerful Savior!
That day, many cheered Him on. There were many before that day, and many after who believed in God's Messiah who was to come and they knew that He, this Jesus, was the One. Some had faulty notions of that too. Some believed that He was going to come into town and set up shop in the palace, you know, the Messiah-President, the Messiah-Governor, or even the Messiah-Caesar. But Jesus Himself put that nonsense to rest. He was the Messiah, but He was the Savior of a kingdom that would be forever and ever.
That's what Paul is talking about in our lesson today. He starts to talk about a whole different reality, a whole different mindset. It's one that comes in Jesus Christ alone.
Remember what Paul says. Ready? "Have this mind in you which is in Jesus Christ the power of God that comes through ultimate humility." As Paul says, "He was in the form of God, yet did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men." If you want to know God and to know the things of God, don't look to the power brokers of this world, they don't last. Don't look to the wisdom of this world, it can't solve the big questions, it never does. Don't look even to your own best efforts and strength, for in the end, we're all weak and heavy laden.
Look to the humble strength of a Savior Who doesn't ride into town on a stallion, or a tank, or even in an F-16. Why, because Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh would make mincemeat of all that. Only a Savior on a donkey riding to a cross can overcome sin, death, and the devil with a resurrection life for all.
Get inspired today. "Have this same mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus."
So let's dig into that inspiration today, ready? Let's talk about just Who this Jesus is and just what this mindset is all about.
Paul gets very practical. He says, if you are living with the mind of Jesus Christ, then you will "Do nothing out of selfish ambition; in humility count others more significant than yourselves; look not only to your own interest, but also to the interest of others." That's Jesus to a T. That's Who Jesus was and that's Who Jesus is for you.
On Palm Sunday He came to Jerusalem not to destroy the Romans and set up an earthly rule like you have never seen before. He came to destroy something more significant: the sin that had forever threatened to destroy the relationship between God and humankind. Jesus did not ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday on the biggest stead, a conquering hero of glitz and glamour. No, He rode into town in humble fashion, on a donkey - a colt, the foal of a donkey. The crowds were loud and their praises intense but He came in, more or less, quietly.
Everything He does, He does completely differently than the way things work in this sinful world. And, He had too because we had gotten ourselves into such a mess.
I recently read that in medieval times, many sons of great kings, they tried to out-do the ways of their fathers. If their father had been an oppressive king, the son became even more ruthless. If the father beat with a whip, the son would scourge with scorpions. The desire for power and control, it just overcame them. The Old Testament of the Bible even talks about leaders like this. King Ahab, King Ahaz, even David's sons feuded, killed, and caused harm. These and countless others whose biographies litter the annals of history, they destroyed people to gain and to retain power. Power in the hands of sinful people, it corrupts, it destroys, and absolute power in sinners' hands destroys completely.
But there's good news. There's good news for our power corrupted, pain inflicting world today. There is One Who came with absolute power, humbly to save.
Paul says, this Jesus, "he was in the form of God (that just means that everything that God is, Jesus is) yet he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, hoarded, held on to, but he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant."
When it may seem like you have to commit treason against your conscience, in order to make your mark in this world, Jesus delivers a better way, a more perfect way; freedom from tyranny, freedom from oppression. My friends, across the vast lands of this planet, still, human beings wage war against others for the sake of power and prestige. But this should not be so among you who are Christ's people. Jesus, the King of the world, King for all time, He emptied Himself, He set aside His power for a time, in order to become a lowly servant, to become the very Lamb of God Who alone would take away the sin, the guilt, and the shame of this world; and even He overcame the power, the power of death. So Paul says: "And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
When you think about your favorite leaders, I'm guessing that these were or are people of great influence and ability, but they're people who took time out, regularly, to be a blessing to you. It was once said of President Abraham Lincoln, that whenever he spoke with people, he made them feel like they were president. Such people are strong in humility. Their power isn't in their might, or their power, or prestige. Their mindset is one of encouragement and lifting others up.
And things change when great leaders ride into town to make things right, don't they?
I read a book about Coke Stevenson and Lyndon Johnson. Do you remember who Lyndon Johnson was? He was the President of the United States. This is not a pretty story. In fact, truth be told, Lyndon Johnson should probably have lost his senate bid in 1948 by well over 20,000 votes, but it's almost certain that he had people stuff the ballot boxes in the border towns to steal the victory from the jaws of defeat.
I remember reading about that moment of truth; Coke Stevenson, who was a former Texas governor, but even more, was a Texas Ranger; he heard about all these illegalities, so he rode into those towns with other Texas Rangers. He rode in, to get those ballot boxes and to make sure that the recount was legal and fair. There were rifles pointed at him from the windows along the main street routes of every town. But fearlessly, he rode in each town and captured those boxes and confiscated them so things could be properly counted. What courage, what fortitude, unfortunately, it wasn't enough. Those boxes were captured but they were never opened. Johnson got a national court order to seal them shut. Case closed.
Well, Jesus rode into town with that courage and so much more. And Satan himself thought he would seal the deal on Good Friday, case closed, shut; but Jesus would have the last word on Easter morning. But just think about the power of Christ's work for you, think about His humility, His grace, His mindset to do it all for you; even though you don't deserve it, even though you didn't earn it, and you desperately need what only He can provide.
Over and over again in the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we hear how Jesus, powerful as He was, stooped down and was a great Friend of sinners and the downtrodden. He connected with them. He loved them. He ate and drank with them. He lifted them up! He lifts us up. He made them His own. Jesus came to earth to serve people back to the Father.
The Bible proclaims Jesus to be God's Son, the very highest Priest, the greatest Son of a King like King David could never imagine, an Heir of David promised for centuries after David himself had died, and One for Whom the world waited in great expectation. Man, we are talking about supreme royalty here. And then, He laid it all down. He set it all aside for a time so that He could become the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world. There wasn't anything that any imposter-ruler could try to take away from Him. When God the Father calls you, His One and only Son, you are golden.
So take heart about what Paul says about this Jesus. He says, "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, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Jesus, being the Son of God, The Father's One and only perfect Son, was able to lay down His life, not just because He would be raised again, but because His sacrifice on the cross could destroy the power of sin and death in this world. Yes, there is still sinfulness in the world. Yes, there are still people that lack humility; ruthless people still command destructive wars that cause great harm and lay hold of others violently and mercilessly. But their ability to cause hurt is only for this day and this age, it's already defeated and it is passing away.
Through the humble strength of our Savior there is a whole eternity that still awaits us.
And that picture sees us through the struggles that still remain this side of heaven. As the Apostle Peter says, "But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God" (1 Peter 2:9).
In Christ, that's us, right here, right now, by faith. Already in His Name, in His kingdom, no ruthless leader, no unjust manager, no vengeful neighbor, no CEO on a power trip can ever take any of that away from you. You live for something bigger and greater than anyone else can ever try to promise you on this earth. You are a kingdom people whose King is none other than Christ Jesus the Lord. Your greatest work will always be heroic, when through your life you graciously and humbly point others to Jesus Christ Whose Name all tongues will one day confess to the glory of the Father forever.
Action in Ministry for April 09, 2017
Guest: Rev. Matthew Clark
ANNOUNCER: This is The Lutheran Hour and it's time now for Action In Ministry. It's a call to action in response to all that God has done for us in Christ.
SELTZ: Mark, today we continue to celebrate. It's Palm Sunday, so throw your branches down out there and rejoice in what the Lord is doing.
ANNOUNCER: The Rev. Matthew Clark is pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in St. Louis. He's also co-host of Wrestling With the Basics on worldwide KFUO. And he was co-director of worship for the 2016 LCMS National Youth Gathering.
SELTZ: Pastor Clark, thanks for joining us.
CLARK: Thanks for the invitation. I'm glad to be here with you.
SELTZ: Listen, your radio program takes God's Word seriously; but that seems to be the only thing you take seriously.
CLARK: That's pretty well put. We try to take the Word of God seriously but not take ourselves too seriously.
SELTZ: That's good.
CLARK: So our tagline is "we try to put the fun in the fundamentals," and that's our hope...
ANNOUNCER: All right.
CLARK: Two guys on the air together; Pastor "Jolly" John Lukomski, he's a veteran of ministry, a pastor of about 40 years; and I'm the newer guy, Pastor Matt "Youngblood" Clark, as they call me, in the ministry a little less than 10 years. So, it's kind of nice to have those two perspectives; the seasoned veteran and the newer guy too.
ANNOUNCER: Many of our listeners know that each day Lutheran Hour Ministries sends out a Daily Devotion written by our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus, or Pastor Seltz, or one of our other writers. These are available free for anyone online and we'd like to know how you've used that resource in your congregation.
CLARK: Sure. Any way that we can. They are just an excellent resource; consistently Christ centered, Bible based, and they provide that opportunity for myself as pastor, but then the congregation are to be in God's Word on a daily basis. I mean it is so important to be fed by God's Word; that lamp to our feet, that light to our path, the one centered in the Word made Flesh, Jesus Christ; and the Daily Devotions give us the tool to help make that happen. And then it is so neat to see the people that do take advantage of that. We're sort of on the same page then in our life together.
CLARK: I try to intentionally make reference to one of the Daily Devotions every couple of months in my sermons. I do that for a couple of reasons. One, just because it's good stuff and if it relates to the text for that day or the topic for that day; boy, it's a ready-made resource, a great illustration, a story that I can use. But then, too, when I use that, there's been times after worship that people ask, "Pastor, you told that story, you mentioned the Daily Devotions, where can I get that?"
CLARK: ...and then that's my opportunity to pass it on. So, just a great resource and an accessible one too.
SELTZ: See, that's what...I wish people understood what we're producing here at Lutheran Hour; we're trying to help you guys be the best you that you can be; so that people get to know Jesus because they got to know you.
SELTZ: So all these resources that we're producing, people kind of think we're just producing them for particular folks. No, it's for the pastors, for the churches, for the people; and then you can put these to work so that you don't have to do all the work.
SELTZ: And that's kind of... so great to hear that you're using this. We want more to do that. We also do Lenten and Advent stuff, how do you put these things to work too in service to the work of the church?
CLARK: Sure. The primary way that we do that at Ascension, where I serve, at least, is we actually physically print those off to make them accessible. So we download it from the LHM website. We personalize them with our church's information, our contact info, our worship times for Lent in particular; for Holy Week. And then we print them off. It's a great way for our members to be able to express an invitation, extend an invitation to someone else.
SELTZ: Yeah, we talk about it; Christ to the Nations. But our goal is to get the nations to your churches because that's where this... God wants people to be in fellowship face to face. I love that you're using these Devotions and using these resources to actually get people to use them as invitations to come and fellowship at the church.
CLARK: Definitely. Just thank you for that resource. I'm sort of on the frontline as a parish pastor...
SELTZ: I love it.
CLARK: ...and you're kind of this behind the scene sometimes at LHM...
CLARK: ...but providing resources to get in the hands of people...God's people in the church but also God's people outside of the church...
ANNOUNCER: And listeners, we invite you to visit our website and listen to these Daily Devotions especially now during this Holy Week, leading up to Good Friday and Easter. We also have another resource we'd like to put into your hands; our Speaker Emeritus, Pastor Ken Klaus, has written a book titled Changeless Christ, Changing World, and in that book you'll find a collection of stories that came from Lutheran Hour sermons. It's a great blessing. We hope you'll go online or call for your free copy.
SELTZ: Well, Pastor Matt Clark, thanks for joining us today.
CLARK: Thank you so much for having me and for all you do here at Lutheran Hour.
SELTZ: And that's our Action In Ministry segment today; to bless, to empower, and to strengthen your life in Christ for others.
ANNOUNCER: To listen or subscribe to our Daily Devotions, go to lutheranhour.org and click on Action In Ministry. Or call 1-855-john316. That's 1-855-564-6316. Our email address is email@example.com.
LUTHERAN HOUR MAILBOX (Questions & Answers) for April 09, 2017
Topic: Creation, Evolution, Being Human?
ANNOUNCER: Now, Pastor Gregory Seltz responds to questions from listeners. I'm Mark Eischer. Today a listener says, "I'm not all that scientific, but it just seems wrong, somehow, to say that human beings are just animals and that survival of the fittest is the true law of nature. What does the Bible have to say that might support my gut feelings on this?
SELTZ: Mark, I think those instincts are good, but unfortunately, most people don't think about these issues very critically and I think they do miss the big picture that is beyond test tubes and philosophy. It goes back to origins and purpose.
ANNOUNCER: What do you mean by that?
SELTZ: Well, again, Christian teachings and hard science, the stuff in the lab, they're not against each other. But Christian teachings and Darwin's talk about origins are beyond hard science. So let's ask some questions like, "What does the Bible say about being human" and "what does evolution say?"
ANNOUNCER: Christianity says "All people are created in the image of God," whereas Darwin would say we're just another form of animal; albeit a very clever one.
SELTZ: Exactly, and then there's this "survival of the fittest" stuff as if that is the moral reality of the universe; and we can say, "Says who?" Is it survival of the fittest or blessed are the meek? Is it "take whatever you can by force or by power," or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you?" There is a huge difference to what it means to be human from both points of view.
ANNOUNCER: Both world views are really different interpretations of the same data.
SELTZ: Yeah, and that goes to the heart of not only what it means to be a Christian or an atheist, but what it means to be human.
ANNOUNCER: How might we become more positive, more critical thinkers about such things?
SELTZ: Well, like I've said before, all people have worldviews about how things in their world hold together. I don't talk about Christianity or faith in Jesus right off the bat with people, until I've tried to understand their worldview from their point of view.
ANNOUNCER: You've called that working the worldview, to see how it holds.
SELTZ: Because my worldview, your worldview, anybody's worldview outside of God in Christ, it doesn't hold.
ANNOUNCER: All right; take, for example, the evolutionary worldview.
SELTZ: Or even let's talk about things like, "survival of the fittest," like we were talking about. You can think about it so many different ways. If that's the central truth of the universe, then why do human beings, if we're at the top of the food chain, why do we bear young that are so vulnerable to nature? How did we survive? Other animals give birth to young that either get up and run that day or have got fangs to survive other predators. Here we are; human beings; no fangs, vulnerable young, much weaker physically than other animals; seems kind of foolish and I don't see how such vulnerability rises to the top of the food chain. Why don't we just talk about that?
ANNOUNCER: But there's even a bigger issue involved here.
SELTZ: Yeah, the big issue in our culture that seems at the heart of every argument, you know, the ideas of race and racism. When someone says, "I believe in evolution," my first question is "Oh, I didn't think it was a good thing to be a racist." You see the foundation of all this master race stuff, the abortion movement; it was to wipe out the so-called lesser races, defined by again science and food chain, and move that evolutionary process along.
ANNOUNCER: And if that's your worldview, why don't you understand that that teaching is the foundation for the master race?
SELTZ: So again, when you start to critically analyze these things, there are things that flow from a 'survival of the fittest' way of looking at life.
ANNOUNCER: But a Biblical view of life looks at other human beings, no matter how small or different, as still part of God's image, with dignity in spite of their weakness.
SELTZ: Yeah. Exactly. The Bible teaches that all human beings are created in God's image and even though humans are fallen, even though there is sin, there is still this idea of common dignity of human beings and the potential for them to be what they were created to be.
ANNOUNCER: Why do these discussions often become so heated?
SELTZ: Well, there are all kinds of reasons for that. But Christians can think through all of these issues, striving to get at the heart of things, and the heart of things is what does it mean to be human. So what do the teachings of the Bible about being human, being sinful, being redeemed, being made in the image of God; what difference does it make in the way we think about ourselves and about others?
ANNOUNCER: As we read in the Psalms, "what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?"
SELTZ: Much good happens in the world when we get that question right. Much bad happens when we don't!
ANNOUNCER: Thank you, Pastor Seltz. This has been a presentation of Lutheran Hour Ministries.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)
"The God of Abraham Praise" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)