Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday’s Sermon Outline

Introduction: When I was a boy, I made some startling discoveries about Christmas. I learned that getting what I want doesn’t necessarily make me happy. I also learned that Christmas is not about me. Finally, I learned that Christmas is about Jesus Christ and how He humbled Himself in the incarnation.

1. Jesus was fully God and fully human in the humility of His incarnation, and He also humbled Himself by His death on the cross (Philippians 2:5-8). Jesus was “in the form of God” (verse 6, NKJV) and took “the form of a bondservant . . . coming in the likeness of men” (verse 7). The translation and interpretation of verse 6 is controversial. Jesus was not tempted to rob His Father to get equality with Him. Jesus already had equality with His Father. Other translations say that Jesus did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped, as something to be held onto, as something to be used for His own advantage, or as something to be exploited. The translation and interpretation of verse 7 is also controversial. He “made Himself of no reputation.” Some translations say that He emptied Himself. The essential truth in both verse 6 and verse 7 is that Jesus left His environment of glory behind when He was incarnated on earth. He did not lose any of His divinity. Jesus was still fully God while He had a human body on earth. Theologians have debated how to explain the fact that Jesus was both 100% God and 100% human. Some people said that He was really two separate persons. Other people have said that He was one person with one predominant nature. At Chalcedon in 451 AD the correct position was described: “We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten—in two natures, and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the ‘properties’ of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one ‘person’ and in one reality. They are not divided or cut into two persons.” Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” James 1:13, however, says that God “cannot be tempted by evil.” Obviously, Jesus’ human nature could be tempted, but His divine nature could not be tempted. How about Jesus viewed as one person, not as two natures? Could Jesus be tempted? There is a mystery here. Interestingly, when Jesus was in agony before His arrest and crucifixion, He stated, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”

2. Our response to God’s initiative should be worship and spiritual growth (Philippians 2:9-13). At the end of time, every creature (angelic and human) will bow before Jesus and confess that He is Lord. Of course, not all of these creatures will be elect/saved creatures. We must surrender our lives to Christ in repentance and faith before we physically die. True worship of Jesus now is possible for Christians who can worship Him in spirit and in truth. In verse 12, Christians are told to “work out” their salvation in fear and trembling. This verse does not mean that Christians need to be re-converted or that they should be afraid of losing their salvation. Christians cannot lose their salvation. Salvation has three aspects: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Verse 12 is a reference to sanctification, the process of spiritual growth. Verse 13 says that God “works in” us “both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” As we grow spiritually, we can cooperate with God in being all that He wants us to be, and thus we can “work out” our salvation. Our flesh, with which we are born, still influences us to sin, but the indwelling Spirit in us influences us to work for God for His good pleasure.

Conclusion: We should strive to humble ourselves and be obedient. We should worship Christ and grow spiritually. Christmas is about Him and His humble incarnation.