Jesus said this in a prayer the night before he was killed.
John 17:1-5 Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was."

Paul wrote these statements years later when he urged Christians in the city of Philippi to stop rejecting and opposing each other.

Philippians 2:5-11 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, 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. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

  1. For centuries Christians have struggled to grasp the fullest meaning and significance of the fact that Jesus "emptied himself" when he was born.
    1. Many suggestions have been proposed through the centuries.
      1. Some suggested the "emptying himself" was just the fact that a preexistent divine being left heaven and became the human Jesus.
      2. Some suggested the "emptying himself" declared man Jesus was divine, but not fully human; the emptying focused on the fact that he lived on earth.
      3. Some suggested the "emptying himself" declared Jesus was fully divine and fully human; the emptying declared Jesus lived in a human body.
      4. Some suggested the "emptying himself" meant Jesus surrendered his divinity to experience the total human experience and depend on trusting God.
      5. My conclusion: no person in this world, bound by this world can comprehend fully Jesus' experience of "emptying himself."
        1. Every person will comprehend in the fullest sense.
        2. That comprehension will occur the moment we pass from our world to God's world, and it may be our first comprehension.
    2. In that which concerns Jesus, we know this about the emptying:
      1. Jesus' incarnation (the divine one being born into this world as a flesh and blood human) was the first of God's two greatest interventions in history.
        1. The other great act was God's act of raising Jesus from the dead.
        2. God intervened in human history a number of times, but the incarnation and the resurrection are God's two greatest interventions.
      2. Jesus willingly, by choice, made sacrifices in becoming human that no one in any age can fully comprehend.
        1. He did not cling to his divine form.
        2. He willingly become human.
      3. He became human to humble himself in human existence.
        1. The greatest act of humility on earth is unselfishly surrendering life.
        2. Jesus humbly surrendered life.
        3. He died the most disgraceful, disgusting, debasing death possible in his day: he was executed on a cross as a criminal.
        4. He died in complete unselfishness.
    3. In that which concerns us, this is what we know about the emptying:
      1. As Christians we are to learn and be controlled by the same attitude that led Jesus to first empty and then humble himself.
      2. The man or woman who commits to a godly life in Jesus Christ empties himself or herself and then humbles himself or herself after the emptying.
      3. Emptying self in devotion to God cannot be separated from self-sacrifice.

  2. We live in a complex culture in a complex age among complex people.
    1. We struggle to deal with the complexities.
      1. Often we are shocked and dismayed by the fact that everything is now so complex.
      2. For a long time, American Christians thought everything was simple.
      3. The American restoration movement that produced us as an American religious body was a rural religious movement in an agricultural society.
        1. For many years, we as Christians were convinced everything was simple.
        2. For farming families, life was simple.
        3. For farming families, the world was simple.
        4. For Christians who lived on farms, God was simple.
        5. For Christians who lived on farms, the church was simple.
        6. For Christians who lived on farms, the understandable, natural, logical conclusion was this: if it is from God, it is simple.
        7. For Christians who lived on farms, understanding the Bible and determining God's will was simple.
        8. Among us, in spiritual matters, simplicity and faithfulness were inseparable.
      4. We are no longer an agricultural society, and our urban society produces a far more complex culture.
        1. Whether we want it or not, all of us now have a complex existence.
        2. The complexity surrounding us every day causes enormous struggle.
          1. Are any of you in a business that does not struggle with complexity?
          2. Are any of you in a profession that does not struggle with complexity?
          3. Are any of you in a corporation that does not struggle with complexity?
          4. Are any of you on a management team that does not struggle with complexity?
          5. Are any of you in any form of leadership that does not struggle with complexity?
          6. Are any of you in any involved relationship that does not struggle with complexity?
          7. Do any of you have a personal life that does not battle complexity every day?
      5. All this complexity stresses us as the church.
        1. In the past everything was simple, but today everything is complicated.
          1. In the past we thought, "If, as a Christian, I just do X, Y, and Z nothing bad can happen in my family."
          2. In the past we thought, "If, as a Christian, if I just do A, B, and C, I can eliminate all the 'undesirables' from my children's futures."
          3. "If everybody knew what I knew, our society would not have problems."
          4. "If everybody would accept my understanding and look at things the way I do, Christians would not have problems."
          5. "If everybody would just think my thoughts in the sequence I think them, everyone would be like me, and that would be wonderful."
          6. "If everybody would hear what I hear when I listen to God's word, then all Christians would be just like me, and that would be wonderful."
          7. "If everybody would see what I see when I read God's word, then everyone would emphasize exactly the same things I stress, and that would be wonderful."
          8. "Everything would become so simple, because I have the answers; I have it figured out; and I know God thinks just like I think."
          9. And anyone can think and reason that way as long as we do not have to deal constructively with what is happening in anyone else's life.
    2. But inevitably something happens in my family, in my work, in my experiences, or in my world and shouts, "Things are not simple; things are complicated."
      1. "I did X, Y, and Z, and bad things happened in my family."
      2. "I used A, B, and C to rear my children, and they were not protected."
      3. "Some Christians do know what I know, and come to different conclusions."
      4. "Some Christians do understand me, and still do not agree with my understanding."
      5. "When they read the Bible, they do not hear what I hear or see what I see."
      6. "The people I know and love do not have simple problems."
      7. "The people I know and love do not have simple options."
      8. "The people I know the best have complex relationships."
      9. "And that does not even consider all those people that I neither know nor understand."
    3. Honesty demands that we realize life is not simple for anyone.
      1. The only way that I can share Christ in the middle of all this complexity is to empty myself.
      2. But emptying myself is not enough.
      3. After I empty myself, I must unselfishly humble myself.

  3. I do not know how long the war between good and evil has existed, but for people it began on earth in the garden of Eden.
    1. In the arena of this earth, Satan made human life a battle ground and began a hot war against God by perverting everything God made.
      1. Satan, the prince of darkness and wickedness, perverted everything God made by seducing the people God created.
      2. This is much too complex for me to wrap my mind around, but for a reason God needed to neutralize the injustice of evil produced by human ungodliness by letting His son die for our sins.
        1. I understand Jesus' blood was to atone for our sins.
        2. I understand Jesus' death is the foundation of our redemption, the way God bought us back from evil.
        3. I understand that Jesus' death was substituted for our eternal death.
        4. I understand the Bible teachings on the essential nature of the crucifixion.
        5. But I do not understand all the whys.
    2. The combination of Jesus' death and resurrection defeated Satan, but the war is not over.
      1. The war will not end until Satan is cast into the abyss and imprisoned forever (Revelation 20:10).
      2. An enormous conflict between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan has been raging since our first act of rebellion against God, and now the only arena in which Satan can show his hatred for God is on earth.
        1. Satan convinced God's people to ask for Jesus' execution.
        2. According to traditional sources, Satan killed eleven of the twelve apostles.
        3. Herod executed the apostle James by the sword (Acts 12:1,2).
        4. Stephen was executed by the Jewish court (Acts 7:60).
        5. Before conversion, Paul ravaged the church in Jerusalem, dragged Christians out of their homes, and put men and woman in prison (Acts 8:3).
        6. After he became a Christian, Paul was severely abused and finally executed (2 Corinthians 11:23-33).
        7. If you have studied much in the New Testament, you know in some places Christians were physically persecuted.
        8. Revelation declared that the persecution was so severe in Asia Minor that many Christians concluded that Christianity would become extinct.
      3. "What is your point?"
        1. My point: something much bigger than us, something eternal is ongoing in the war between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
        2. The war between good and evil will not allow life to be simple.
        3. Nothing would please Satan more than to steal you from God and take you to hell with him.

Each summer I audit a graduate course at Harding Graduate School of Religion. "Why do you do that? You have the job!" I do it for three reasons. Reason one: it is an incredible opportunity to learn. Reason two: it refreshes my understanding of a truth. Only the person who empties self walks with God. Reason three: it is an humbling experience. It reminds me of how much there is to know, and how little I know.

Is God greater than Satan? Absolutely! Is Jesus Christ more powerful than evil? Absolutely! Does that eliminate suffering, injustice, and death in the world? No. God and Jesus' greatness guarantees our eternal victory over Satan and evil. Why? Because the incarnate, resurrected Son of God guarantees our personal victory over death. The resurrected one will resurrect us. In the war against Satan's kingdom, God makes good use of our lives and our deaths, if we trust Him and we let Him.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 28 January 2001

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