Follow Jesus’ Example
Dr. Tony Campolo, sociology professor and ordained Baptist minister one evening took a late flight back home after a conference. The passenger next to him talked non-stop. He bragged about what he accomplished in life and expressed how much he is needed in this world. Finally, he turned to Campolo and said, “So, tell me about yourself.” The response came, “Oh, I'm just the opposite of you. I'm not important at all. But my Father and Brother are very important.” “Really”, the man replied. “Who are they and what have they accomplished?”, he asked. Campolo answered in a soft voice, “You see God is my Father and Jesus is my Brother.” The rest of the flight was a bit awkward for the man who couldn't stop talking about himself. But he learned a lesson from a man who grasped the essence of Philippians 2: 5 as we hear it from the New Living Translation, “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” We can also put it in the following words, “Always strive to follow in Jesus' example.” But isn't it true my friends? So often we feel miserable and defeated in our lives as Christians. We had the best intentions of becoming the best for God, but then we fail. How can we “Follow Jesus' Example”? Let's meditate on St. Paul's advice from Philippians 2: 1-11.
First he says 1 You Have To Empty Yourself. Verses 6 and 7 read, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing...” The literal meaning of these words is "He emptied out Himself." The question is – Of what did He empty Himself? The answer to that question is that He stripped Himself of His glory. In other words, Jesus voluntarily laid aside His divine rights and privileges as God. We have to understand that He didn't quit to be God when He came in the flesh to this world. Neither did He leave His sinless nature behind. But everything else as the King of heaven to Whom angels sang their praises , our Lord Jesus left behind. It's very much the same as a person of royalty who is willing to leave his palace and all of the riches associated with that lifestyle behind, to go and live for a period of time among the poor. He would dress modestly, eat food that is far from what he is used to and sleep on the floor. Though still a king, he has voluntarily consented to live under those circumstances to show that he fully identify himself with the poor in his kingdom. It doesn't always sink into our minds and hearts what our Lord Jesus was willing to give up and how there wasn't much He had here on earth. We have heard the words of Matthew 8: 20 so many times, but do we truly comprehend its meaning? “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He gave up everything; He emptied Himself from everything. And now St. Paul says, “The first step in becoming like Jesus is to empty yourself too.” And you know some people go with the assumption that they just have to sacrifice some of their worldly ways. No, my friends, it means a complete surrender of yourself before Jesus; you have to empty the contents of your life just like Jesus poured everything out. I think it's quite logical to say that if you want to fill a container with oil that has vinegar in it, you first have to get rid of the vinegar. You can't add oil to vinegar and then call it oil. To be called a Christian and to be like Jesus first of all means that the old life has to go. Our Lord doesn't want to share ownership; He wants our entire lives. Can you agree with me? There are so many people in our world of the “self” and “me” who are just not willing to empty themselves. No, selfish ambition is something that became a standard in our time. Oh my friends, the first prominent step we have to take to “Follow Jesus' Example” is to look at our own lives and ask, “What can I surrender; what changes do I have to make that Jesus can become more and I less just as John the Baptist said?” What daily exercise can we have to accomplish that? Think how you can place Jesus above everything else in your life.
Secondly Paul says to “Follow Jesus' Example” asks for a life where 2 Servanthood Is An Honour. Look at the words found in verse 7, "...by taking the very nature of a servant...." Here Paul wants to remind us – the King of all kings deliberately took upon Himself the lowest position any person can have in society. That of the lowest servant most people will not even reckon worth having a conversation with. We have to take ourselves back to what happened in John 13. Jesus recalled when His disciples argued among themselves who of them was the opposite of that lowest servant. But then He demonstrated something His disciples never expected. He got up from the table, took His outer clothing off, wrapped a towel around His waste and started to wash their feet. He got quite a reaction from Peter - “You shall never wash my feet.” John 13: 8. But Jesus did and many more things to show that He came to serve. There is something we have to grasp from the expression - “...the very nature of a servant.” Commentaries on Philippians tell us that there is a difference between “being of service” and “being a servant.” When you are “of service” you occasionally go and do something and when it's over, then you return to your life of convenience. But to “be a servant” means that you carry that title the whole time; the whole time you can be called upon and be expected to do the inconvenient task. Jesus in His life on earth was that for His Father. Never was any task beneath Him. That my friends was and always will be the perfect example of servanthood. The attitude of Jesus as a servant is something we do not see much in the Christian church. No, I think most people tend to give the orders or to supervise others to do the work. My friends, we are called to serve as our Lord; we are called to be a servant to one another. There was a missionary who went to Sri Lanka and he put posters up about having services. A few came to the services and it almost came to nothing. Then he decided to go and volunteer and the Food Bank, the local hospital and a Care Home. He worked as a cleaner at all those places. People saw that he had a serving heart and they believed what he preached. More people went to the services he held. You know, we don't need to go to a foreign country – we just need to do things in our own community. There are places where we can serve. Perhaps we can go to a neighbour in need and ask, “What can I do to help?” In our congregation we can do things for one another as well.
There is a last thought from the apostle Paul - To “Follow Jesus' Example”
3 Demands Obedience. Yes, demand is the right word, for obedience isn't optional. We are not asked if we would like to obey God. No, we are told, “You will follow in the footsteps of Jesus; you will demonstrate the same obedience and submission He showed throughout His entire life.” But then my friends, it's only the attitude towards obedience that we can demonstrate. There was no one after Jesus who could repeat His obedience; nor will there be anyone who can still repeat that. Verse 8 tells us about the extend of His obedience, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” Obedience to the Father meant the cross for Jesus. And He didn't back away from that – He was nailed to the tree as someone who was cursed by His own Father according to Deuteronomy 21: 23, “...for he who is hung on a tree is cursed by God...” How far will you and I take our obedience to God? My friends, it's alarming to see how many people who once committed heart and soul to Christ leave His path and go on a path that isn't asking so much of them. No, the obedience we have to show is that we are loyal to our King. We have to show in everything that nothing will sway us from that. John Galbraith, in his autobiography, “A Life in Our Times”, told of en embarrassing incident, but an incident that illustrates the obedience of his house maid, Emily Wilson. He had a difficult morning in the office and after lunch wanted to have a nap. He instructed Emily not to wake him. About ten minutes after he fell asleep, President Lyndon Johnson phoned. Emily said, “Sorry sir, but he sleeps right now.” The president raised his voice a bit and said,
“Well wake him, I'm the president of the United States of America.” Emily calmly responded, “Sir, I'm not working for you; I'm working for Mr. Galbraith and I will obey him.” Later in the day the president phoned Galbraith at his office and had a good laugh when he told him what happened. He also said that he needed someone like Emily in the White House. Let's show Jesus that He will always have our loyalty – come what will. My friends, we have One with a perfect example Who went before us – One in Whose footsteps we can follow. He emptied Himself; He demonstrated perfect servanthood and He showed us what obedience is all about. He would not expect anything less from us. Let's strive to “Follow Jesus' Example.”
Rev. Willem H. van de Wall