Kenosis – Fancy Word but Important

Today I want to look at Philippians 2:1-11 which is called the self-emptying or kenosis of Christ. This one gets a little wild but I promise you I won’t waste your time. Just push through to the end with me.

Philippians 2:1-11

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, if any conciliation of love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by thinking the same way, having the same love, sharing the same feelings, focusing on the goal. Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility considers others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not for his own interest, but also the interest of others.

Make your own attitude that of Jesus,

Who existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.

Instead, He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men.

And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross.

For this reason, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that 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 every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

What does Christ emptying of Himself mean?

This is called the kenosis or self-emptying of Christ. This was the cause of many heresies. Heresies are great because sometimes to help understand what something is we have to know what it is not.

Docetism – (dokeo seem or appear) this is a late first-century heresy that said Jesus only appeared to be a man.

Rebukes:

1 John 4:2 Every Spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.

1 John 1:1 That which is from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim to you.

John 20:27 Then He said to Thomas, “put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Ebionism – 2nd century heresy that says Jesus was adopted by God at His baptism. Also known as adoptionism.

Rebukes:

The seven I Am statements of Jesus which are Jesus claiming divinity.

The recording of the Virgin Birth.

John 10:30 – Jesus says He and the Father are One.

John 14:16 – Jesus says the Holy Spirit is another helper. This implies Jesus and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence or homoousios (same substance) as opposed to the same homoiosios (similar substance).

John 10:33 The attempted stoning of Jesus because He claimed to make Himself equal with God.

Isaiah 42:8 – I, the LORD, am one, and I won’t give my name and glory to another, nor my praise to idols.

God does not share glory. To say that Jesus was adopted as God’s Son would be to say that God does share His glory because Jesus says in John 17:5 that He has and had God’s glory. 1 Peter 1:21 says that God glorified Jesus.

Arianism – Jesus was the first created being of God. This is also modern-day Jehovah’s Witnesses. Somewhat like Mormonism that says that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that they deny the trinity and the Godhead.

Rebukes:

Colossians 1:15-16 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the first board over all creation. For in Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and for Him.

Arians and JWs argue that right here it says that Jesus was the first born but that is a legal term indicating rights of inheritance. The image reference means exact representation something along the lines of looking in a mirror.

John 14:9 – Jesus says “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.

Also, as we already looked at God does not share His glory.

There are other heresies we could look at, but these are still some pretty popular ones. But again, the point at looking at these is to get an idea of what the Kenosis is not. So, what is the Kenosis of Jesus?

First, we have to understand that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man. He is not a divided or mixed man but fully God and fully man. The Kenosis of Jesus then was His laying aside His divine power and rights in order to sympathize, save, redeem, and live forevermore as a High Priest King.

Jesus in taking on humanity made it possible for Him to die as a man taking the weight and wrath of sin upon Himself. As a man who is now raised to live never to die again He is able to live forever as priest and king.

In setting aside, His deity He was able to live like you and me. He did not stop being God He stopped using His powers so that, in part, He might demonstrate dependence on the Father and the Spirit. Jesus showed us what it means to live obedience to the Father. Jesus rarely used His own divine power while on earth. He chose to humble Himself and we can now live in that same way.

What do we do with this?

The next question we should ask is what do we do with this? I have already spoken somewhat on this (here) but Paul says that we are to serve one another and we can do this by looking to the example of Christ. Jesus had the rightful place to rule from where He was (in heaven) but He chose to come and save us. He chose not to use His divinity but instead humbled Himself. He chose to be weak so that we might become strong (in Him). He chose to serve. We can see this when He washed the disciple’s feet. He had the right to demand and instead He took served. He had the right to command and instead took request. He had the right to judge and instead took the judgment.

Jesus could do this for a few reasons. First, He was secure in who He was. Jesus is God. He knew this before He took on the form of man and He understood this during His earthly ministry (I Am statements). He could serve and be humble because He knew who He was. When we understand who we are (children of God indwelt with the Holy Spirit) we can be confident and when we are confident we can be humble.

Second, Jesus was aware of and sought the Fathers glory. Jesus said I and the Father are one I only do what I see Him doing. When we understand that God is good and that He is working all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called by His name we are able to see others because we want to see our Father glorified.

Third, Jesus trusted in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus knew the Spirit was on Him. He was aware of the leading and power of the Spirit and He trusted the Spirit to do His work. When we trust the leading and power of the Holy Spirit we can be humble and serve others because we know that the Holy Spirit is working in or on them.

The purpose of all of this is to serve others in Jesus name. We are called to love and build up others. In our understanding of who we are, who God is, and the power of the Holy Spirit we can build each other up. We must do this even if it costs us. Jesus left us no other option.

Just a thought,

Mike

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The Practicality and Reality of Faith

I am always caught off guard when I read about Jesus praying. I shouldn’t be because Jesus is fully human and fully divine but here I am caught off guard again.

I remember that Jesus is God and I can defend that statement but to remember that Jesus is a man that one I struggle with. I struggle with it because it amazes me. I struggle with it because it twists my mind in ways that I don’t have words for. I struggle with it because to remember that Jesus lived as a man does something to my weakness.

There is a part of me that likes to forget that Jesus was a man because forgetting makes my weakness ok. It makes it ok to be weak and self-serving because after all, I am only human. It makes it ok to slip into sin because after all, I am only human. It makes my self-reliance ok because after all, I am only human. But to remember that Jesus was also human and was without sin well that changes things. To remember that Jesus did not rely on Himself but on the Father and the Holy Spirit that takes away my excuses. To remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and took on the form of a bondservant (Phil 2) that changes the game.

When you read the Gospels, you will find that Jesus rarely did anything in His own power. Instead, He prayed to the Father trusting and obeying. Instead of going where He pleased, He moved only by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit (see the temptation). Now it would be easy to say that it is different because Jesus is God but again He chose not to rely on His divinity.

Instead of using His omniscience, Jesus spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 disciples (Luke 6:12). Jesus could have used His infinite power and ability but chose to spend all night in prayer asking the Father for direction. Jesus could have used His command of the whole host of heaven to rescue Him from the band that came to take Him on the night of His crucifixion but instead He chose to submit to the will of the Father. Jesus could have done so much in His own power but instead, He chose to live as a man. The problem with remembering all of this is that He commands us to do the same.

I want to rely on my human weakness and frailty to excuse myself from having to do the things God calls me to do. I want to forget to pray and say it’s ok I am only human, but Christ does not give me that out. In taking humanity and living on earth He not only set an example but demonstrated the practicality and reality of faith (the ability to live that life). Now to be sure He does not expect perfection but at the same time, the excuse for not attempting has been removed.

We are not expected to be perfect, but we are expected to be moving towards the goal of maturity in Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. We have no out as Christians. We have no safe zone to escape to and no claim to ignorance. We have instead a great high priest who was tempted in every way and was without sin. Again, perfection is not the requirement, but excuses are not allowed. It is a strange thing indeed but yet here we are.

Jesus among many things is our example of the practicality and reality of faith. We must walk as He walked. We walk by the will of God, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and by faith in Christ. If Jesus prayed and trusted in the power of the Holy Spirit how much more should we?

Just a thought,

Mike

 

Malus Pumila and the Fruit of the Spirit

Today I want to look at the fruit of the Spirit found in Galatians 5. If you grew up in church or if you have kids you have taken to church, you might know the song about how bananas, grapes, apples, and other produce are not the fruit of the Spirit. But before we get to the fruit of the Spirit I want to talk about an actual fruit. This ride might get a little bumpy so hold on…

A malus pumila produces a very specific kind of fruit. There is really no other fruit like it on earth. There are some other fruits that can look kind of like it. Some have similar shapes, and some have similar taste but there is really nothing like the fruit of a malus pumila. Let me try and describe it to you. The fruit of malus pumila is sweet but sometimes a little sour, round, usually red, juicy, firm, crisp, and most of all delicious. I honestly do not eat enough of the malus pumila fruit which is sad because it is readily available being an apple and all.

See I could have just said the fruit of an apple tree (malus pumila) is an apple but by describing it I gave you all its features. I told you what you are getting. When you have an apple you don’t have red, or sweet, or crisp. Instead, you have an apple that is those things. Now taste is somewhat subjective so you might not like apples and that’s OK but I think you get my point – the description is the thing. So, what is the fruit of the Spirit?

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. These are not fruits of the Spirit. There is not a fruit of love, or joy, or peace, and so on. I would argue that there is one fruit and it is Christlikeness. Why would I say this? Simply put because I think God says it.

Romans 8:29 says that we are being conformed to the image of the Son. God’s purpose is to make us more like Christ. That is one reason the Holy Spirit lives in us. We are to walk by the power of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead now lives in us. We are to be more like Jesus. 1 John 2:6 says we are to walk as Jesus walked. Jesus walked in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. He walked according the Spirit (Luke 4:1) and so should we.

We should read Galatians 5:22-23 and see a list not of individual fruits to be cultivated but a singular fruit that is a wonderful thing. We should see a list of things that should describe us and things that we are to be. Peter says that we have all we need for a life of godliness in us and this is because the Holy Spirit is in us producing His fruit of Christlikeness which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. If we find that we are short peace for example, we don’t need to pray for the fruit of peace we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to strengthen us and to make us more like Christ in that area. We need to confess our need for Him to continue to produce His fruit. Thinking about the list differently changes it from a list of things I need to do to a list of gifts I can have to make me more like Jesus and that is the goal. Jesus is the prize the descriptions of that fruit are not. If we are just chasing the descriptions, we run the risk of missing the mark and we can quickly fall into legalism. We are empowered by the Spirit by Christ to be more like Christ.

Just a thought,

Mike

Holy Spirit – It or Him?

What is a person? Is the Holy Spirit an “It” or a “Him?” According to theology books, a person is one that has intelligence, emotions, and will and according to Charles Rye since the Holy Spirit has all of these He must be a person. Scripture does not leave room for the Holy Spirit to be anything less than a person. He has intelligence as seen in 1 Cor 2:10-11 where it says that He teaches believers. He has emotions which can be seen the classical example of Ephesians 4:30 where we are advised not to grieve Him. Finally, He has a will which can be seen in 1 Cor 12:11. Throughout the New Testament, and partially in the Old we see that the Holy Spirit is a person. As to why this is important that is akin to asking what is the difference between dating and marriage?

If we think about it from that perspective, we can see that the Holy Spirit being a person means that we are intimately connected to Him and Him to us. He is not a force that we play around with in order to gain something for ourselves but someone that we owe devotion to. R.A. Torrey in his book The Person and Work of the Holy Spirit says we should be asking the question “How can the Holy Spirit get more of me?” If we ask this question with the understanding that He is a person we stop trying to get and start surrendering. If the Holy Spirit is a person and has a will we must submit to that will. If He has emotion, then we must involve feelings into our relationship. If He has intelligence we must seek His guidance. If, however, He is merely a force or a thing then we can date Him continually just trying to get what we want out of the relationship. The problem is we cannot marry an it.

When we move from dating to marriage we submit to the other person. We place their wants and desires above our own. We stop trying to get something from the relationship and seek to give to the other person. We make a commitment to love and serve the other. In our relationship with the Holy Spirit when we move from “it” to “Him” we do a similar thing. We start seeking His ways and want to serve instead of receiving. This is not to say that we marry the Holy Spirit because we are the bride of Christ, but I do not feel the analogy is too farfetched as it pertains to understanding the dynamics of a relationship with a person.

 

Just a thought,

Mike

The cat is out of the bag

The cat is out of the bag. God told Adam not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But we all know the how that went. Adam and Eve ate and now we all suffer. We now have knowledge of good and evil. So, what do we do with this knowledge?

Well, there are two things we need to do with it according to Scripture. First, we must be wise about what is good and innocent of evil (Rom 16:19) and second, we must be trained to distinguish between good and evil. I must admit this seems a little confusing because Paul writes that we should be innocent of evil and the author of Hebrews says we should be able to able to distinguish between the two (Hebrews 5:15). If we need to be able to know the difference, then doesn’t that mean we won’t be innocent of evil? What’s the deal?

Have you ever heard the expression I know enough to be dangerous? It is like this – I know enough about how electricity works to know that if something goes wrong I need help. If my power shuts off I know to check the breaker box but if that is not it then I need help. The same with good and evil. We need to know enough to know what is right and wrong but not so much about what is wrong that we actually partake in it.

There are some people who think they should be completely cut off from the world and anything worldly, but I don’t think we should go that far with it. We need to know about things, but we need to make sure we are not intimately involved with those things. I can know there is a crack house in town without going there. I can know what is going on there without participating in. I can know that people who are going in that place are going to get drugs without getting drugs myself. I can know these things and then if someone tells me they were at that house I can safely assume they might need to go to rehab.

We need to know right and wrong because the cat is out of the bag. We have to know what is right and what is wrong. We learn this in large part by studying what is right, that knowledge of right helps give us an understanding of what is wrong.

Now we can use examples like a crack house but really it needs to get closer to home. God wants us to study the right things so much that He is able to shine a light on the dark things and we easily see it. God wants to sanctify us and that is just a fancy way of saying He wants to set us apart or clean us. We are sanctified in Christ but there is also an ongoing process where God strips away the old man and filth so that we are able to walk in the new life He has given us in Christ.

God wants you to study the right things so that when you are walking outside of His best for you there is a tug that makes you realize it. That tug is an awareness of the Holy Spirit saying, “hey remember what is right?” When you get upset and start dropping F-Bombs like you’re the star of an HBO show God wants you to have so studied the right things that you feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in you saying “really?”

Like I said the cat is out of the bag. We now have the knowledge of good and evil so now we have to study. Let’s study the right things.

Just a thought,

Mike

Know Your Enemy

Sometimes I think we give the devil way more credit than we should. That being said the devil is our adversary. After all, Satan means adversary. We should also understand that he does have a vast network of demons that do his bidding so while we should not give him too much credit it is important to know his tactics. That all being said I want to look at three tactics found in Genesis 3.

First, the devil “perverts language” as Bruce Waltke says, using it to confuse Adam and Eve.[1] Before the fall language was wholesome and only communicated truth or was used to ask questions but never for deceit. The idea of using language to confuse or tempt was completely foreign to the minds of Adam and Eve. This is not to excuse Adam and Eve because they clearly had God’s words regarding the tree. But we should understand that to them there was language was pure, so the statements and questions of the serpent made sense to a degree.

For us to combat this we need to constantly remind ourselves of what God has said. Personal revelation about Scripture and direction in life are good but we need the revealed Word of God to fall back on in times of trouble and question. The devil can easily make us question a direction we believe is from God and he can attempt to use Scripture to confuse us. We fight this the same way Jesus did and that is by rightly dividing and knowing the Word of God.

Second, I see that the devil turns God’s command regarding the tree of knowledge into a general question about all trees in the Garden. This planted the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind because later she sees that the tree was good for food (v6). Additionally, the serpent goes on to contradict God’s words in verse 4 when he says, “you will not die.”[2] The devil makes Eve think that “God is jealous and makes lavish promises” introducing the idea that God does not have their best intentions at heart.[3] The trickery here was to make Eve think that God was keeping something from them. That there was more that could be had but to get it they must get it on their own.

The devil can often confuse us (or at least me) about things that seem to contradict. Genesis 2:9 says that all the trees in the garden were pleasing in appearance and good for food including the tree of knowledge of good and evil so the devil can say if it is good for food then you should eat it. If God wants me to be happy and live in abundant life, then why shouldn’t I get what I need? I am not under the Law I don’t need to give tithes or offerings. I need to live an abundant life, don’t I? This is just one example but in truth, the devil comes at us with all sorts of temptations that for things we can justify. The problem is again that we must go back to the Word of God and see what God has truly said on the matter. We cannot philosophize the Word of God or His commands. Paul writes in Colossians 2:8 that we should not be carried away by teachings, philosophies, and traditions that are not based on Christ. We cannot turn God’s specifics into questions about abstract and general things and we must hold fast to the promises of God and trust in Him.
Lastly, as Walter Brueggemann says in his commentary on Genesis, God was objectified by the serpent. [4]  God was not included in the conversation that the devil had with Eve. The devil will attack us this way. He will get us to question God, His motives, His previous commands, and so on all the while being sure that we talk about God but never to Him. We must always be careful not to let God become an academic study. We cannot allow God to become just another subject we study. Our endeavors to learn about Him must be married with a desire to grow closer to Him. These two things must never be separated. God is not an abstract concept and should not be treated as such. Christ’s life and death was not only simply to save us from eternal separation from God but to give us union with Him. It is Christ in me the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). We can treat it as salvation from sin and death but more than that it is a call to relationship. Just as our salvation does not exist outside of Christ our knowledge of Him should not exist outside of Him either. Galatians 2:20 says that the life we now live we by faith in the Son of God.

When we better understand our enemy, we are better prepared on how to fight. We should understand that we fight from a place of victory, but it is a battle nonetheless. The victory is ours in Christ, but we still live in the flesh. So, arm yourself today and know how to fight.

Just a thought,

Mike

 

[1] Bruce K. Waltke, and Cathi J Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2001): 91.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Didymus, and Robert C. Hill, Commentary on Genesis. Washington, D.C.: Catholic University of America Press, 82. accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost.

 

[4] Walter Brueggemann, “Genesis,” (Louisville, Ky: Presbyterian Publishing Corporation, 2010), 48, accessed March 12, 2018, eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), EBSCOhost

 

More than a story about sharing fish

God is looking for a heart that is after Him. He wants people who desire Him and His sufficiency. In John chapter 6 and the story of the feeding of the multitude, we see that all the people ate and were satisfied. We can look at this story and see the obvious. We can see that there was a need and a boy shared his loaves and his fishes. We can see this and if we stop there we can learn a little something. However, if we push through just a little we can see so much more. There are three great points that we can take away from this story.

  1. God works through people. God gives the gift. He is the One who provides the means, but He does this work through people. He works through the church. He works through you and me.
  2. When we serve God by giving generously our faith increases.
  3. Jesus is sufficient for us. He is more than enough.

If we look at the story we see that Jesus multiplied the little that was offered. This tells us that Jesus did not need the little that was offered. Why? Because He is God. He used it, but He did not need it. The power of God, the presence of God is sufficient with or without our offerings. God is more than able to meet any need because God is sufficient. More on that in a moment.

God works through people. Again, He does not require you or me, but He chooses you and I. God has decided that in His infinite wisdom He would work through the Church. He would choose the lowly and foolish things to accomplish His plans and purposes. I wouldn’t choose you and me, but God did, and it is for our good that He does.

God choosing to use us is for our good just as much as it is for someone else. When we serve others, when we give of our time, when we give of our money we grow into the image of Christ. God choosing to use us means we get to partner with God in the things He is doing. If we think about like when our parents would let us “help them” we can see this a little clearer. Our parents did not need our help and in some cases, our “help” was actually no help at all. But that used those moments to teach us and to grow us. We learned more about how it was done, the heart of our parents, and the value of service in those moments.

God being a good Father is so much more than our earthly parents. Again, He does not need our help, but He allows us to help so that we might grow. God does not need me to share these things with you. The Holy Spirit is much more capable than I and could easily communicate this message to you and He can do it better than I can, but He allows me to help so that I might grow too.

Going back to the first part of this story we can see that Jesus us sufficient. He can meet the need all by Himself. Somehow this gets turned into a prosperity Gospel message but when we look at the text we see the people got what they needed and wanted Jesus to do more so He left. That should be a message to all those who say God wants you to have it all.

Jesus is the sufficiency, not the stuff. God gives gifts. He supplies the need, but He wants us to desire Him and His ways.

Just a thought,

Mike