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Monday, May 23, 2016

Jesus, the Name Above All Names

Philippians 2:5-11
 
Introduction
I’m terrible with names, but after six years I’m finally starting to learn everyone’s names at my church.  For me, that’s an incredible miracle and I give glory to God for it.  Names still slip my mind, but it’s not that I don’t know them.  It’s just absent mindedness I think.  I will look right at someone I know very well and the name just won’t come to me.  I think it’s a disorder! 
I even started pronouncing Andrea Denson’s name right; but the only problem is now I call all Andreas, Undrea!  I finally figured out Barbara (older) and Becky (younger) Haley.  I knew your names were Barbara and Becky Haley for years, but I couldn’t keep straight which one was which!  And I’ve even had fun meeting new people coming to our church like DJ Seifert who joined Pleasant Grove last Sunday and his mother, Susan Stone (who by the way in my head I keep wanting to call Sharon Stone!  So Susan, please forgive me if I ever call you Sharon.  I know who you are, but I’m also an absent minded duffus sometimes!)
And I’ve finally figured out all the Brookers—at least the ones that attend Pleasant Grove.  I think I know who all belongs to who—even the ones who don’t have the last name Brooker anymore.  Of course, I still meet people out in the community sometimes who say they are part of the Brooker family and it catches me off guard because I wasn’t as familiar with them.
            It seems like every church I’ve gone to there are families and names that stand out.  In my last church, it was the Woodwards.  At the one before that, it was the Busbins.  In Lithia Springs, it was the Andrews family.  At East Cobb, it was the Dobbins family and the Ragsdales and others.  These have all been strong, proud families with a rich heritage in their communities.  We all have pride in our family names, but the families that have made the best impact on their church and community for God have been the ones who recognized the Name above all names—Jesus Christ.  The best families pattern themselves after Jesus’ example.
 
Philippians 2:5-11
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
    he did not think of equality with God
    as something to cling to.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
    he took the humble position of a slave
    and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
    he humbled himself in obedience to God
    and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
    and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
 
            Philippians 2:5-11, is one of my favorite passages in the Bible.  We ought to commit it to memory because it teaches us the attitude of Christ we should imitate.  Though he was the Son of God—deserving respect and admiration, the only person who ever lived who was actually worthy of straight out worship—Jesus was not at all presumptuous.  He was just the opposite.  The Scripture says he was, “humble” and “obedient” and that he served as a slave and even died like a criminal taking our place.  So we who call ourselves Christians should have an attitude like his.
Philippians 2:3-4 says, Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”  That’s pretty straightforward.  It’s hard to do, but not because it doesn’t make sense.  It makes perfect sense; it’s just hard to do. 

Don’t be selfish.
Jesus was very clear that his followers were not to be selfish.  He put it plainly and even took it to its ultimate conclusion saying it like this, “If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.”  This saying of Jesus is listed at least five times in the Gospels; I think that proves Jesus was serious about it.  I know he was, because he lived it.  Jesus didn’t ask his followers to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself.  For his entire earthly ministry, Jesus gave unselfishly.  In the end, he literally gave his own life for our sake.
Giving up your life in order to save it seems contradictory, but Jesus spoke the Truth.  I have seen this Truth played out again and again.  People who surrender their life to God and serve sacrificially are blessed and fulfilled in ways that selfish people never experience. 
What applies to individuals is also true for churches.  I see it all the time, because fewer people are going to church these days.  When a church starts shrinking, the church folks get worried.  They think, “If we don’t do something, our church isn’t going to survive.”  So they try a couple things to save the church’s life.  Some try to increase attendance—invite more people to come.   Some try to “stop the bleeding” of people leaving the church. 
At first glance, that seems like the thing to do, but take a closer look.  Isn’t that “survival” attitude really just a selfish motive in disguise?  Isn’t that just the church trying to “cling to its life?”  What does that have to do with sharing the Gospel?  What does that have to do with showing the sacrificial love of Jesus to others? 
Churches in survival mode try to walk softly and make everyone happy so they will stay.  They are less likely to speak the Truth, because it might offend someone and drive them away.  The irony is people leave “survival mode” churches anyway, because people can tell when the church really isn’t genuinely interested in them and how the church can serve them.  People can tell that churches in “survival mode” are really just interested in the butts and the bucks—getting more butts in the pews and more bucks in the offering plates.  That’s not the Church Jesus calls us to be.  If we want to be the “Church” Jesus wishes us to be and if we want to be the people Jesus calls us to be, we need to let go of our life in service of others. 
The Truth is people (and churches) who care enough to set aside their own personal interests for the sake of others find true life just like Jesus promised.  These are the people who grow in the faith.  These are the churches that flourish.  It seems like an incredible contradiction, but it is a Promise given to us by the Son of God in Holy Scripture. 

Don’t try to impress people.  Be humble.
Jesus wasn’t trying to impress people, but people were impressed by him.  It was just a natural side effect.  You can’t help but take note of someone who willingly gives up everything in order to serve others.  The people who impress me the least seem to be the ones who brag about themselves the most. 
When I was at my last church, we were auditioning drummers for our praise band.  This one guy came in and started talking about how good he was.  He said he got his drum set for free because he was sponsored by Ludwig, a company that makes drum sets.  I was really excited, thinking, “Wow this guy must really be good.  We’d be lucky to have him in our band.”  But when he stopped talking and started playing it was awful!  He played way too loud and he couldn’t keep a steady tempo—he kept speeding up and slowing down at random times. Needless to say, he didn’t get the job as our drummer! I’d rather not have a drummer than have a bad one!
                 On the other hand, the Christians I have known that impressed me the most, weren’t even trying.  There was a guy at my last church who anonymously gave $50,000 to the church.  He didn't want any recognition or for anyone to know who he was.  He also said the church could use the funds anyway they wanted.
                 It’s not about money.  I know a lady who ate lunch with her elderly mother in the nursing everyday for years before she passed away.  She didn't do it for recognition, but for love.  There are others I know that deliver cookies to people who can’t get out of their homes much  and others who faithfully check on their neighbors everyday.  There are people who kneel in prayer for others when no one else sees.
No one knows all the things sacrificial Christians do.  People may not even know their names, because they don’t go around telling everyone about their good deeds.  There are no plaques hanging in the church in their honor.  They’re not seeking glory.  They’re just giving out of genuine love.  And that’s impressive, because that’s the same attitude Christ had.  One Day, God will elevate people with that attitude to a place of honor the same way Philippians 2 says God elevated Jesus to the place of highest honor because he laid down his life for a world of lost sinners on the cross. 

Conclusion
In this life, we are proud of our families.  We are proud of our children. We are proud of our parents and grandparents.  We are proud of our church.  We may even be proud of our names.  But One Day, all these things will pass away.  Do you realize that in heaven it won’t matter if you’re a Brooker or a Mullis or a Denson or a Caylor?  In Heaven, the only name that will matter is Jesus.  Jesus is the Name above all other names.  He is the Lord and Savior of the world.  And One Day, the Word of God says, “at the name of Jesus every knee [will] 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.” 
Why wait?  Why not start now?  Why not give your full allegiance to Jesus from this day forward?  I challenge you today to lay down your life before Christ.  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.  Make Jesus truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.  Then you will truly know the blessings of God in your life, in your family, in your church, and in your community.
            If you’d like to accept the challenge, then say a simple prayer.  Say, “Jesus, I give you my life.  I am yours.”  Would you say that prayer today?