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Time To Take Out The Trash

by RevBill in GA

based on Phil 2:1-11


Read Philippians 2:1-11

Happy New Year, everybody. Have you made your new year’s resolutions yet? I’ve made mine. Yes sir! In 1999, I’m going to lose weight and gain brains. I’m going to work out every day, until I’m the living embodiment of health, strength, and energy. I’ll never weigh 205 again. Why, by the end of the year, I’ll be down to 170, just like I was in my thirties. And I’m also going to read and study every day. By the end of this year, I’ll be so smart, I’ll probably have several books in print, I will have reworked the entire body of Christian theology, and I’ll come up with a new Theory of Relativity. That Einstein never really got it quite right. That may sound like your resolutions, or it may not. You may have reached the stage in your life where you see the futility of making out a list of resolutions that read like a Martha Stewart newsletter. You may have realized the irony that the one new year’s resolution that is almost impossible to keep is that you will remember what you resolved until the end of the year. Or, you may have realized that the really important things of life are too important to make a commitment to in January, and then blow them off in February. In our scripture today, Paul gives us some recommendations for lifetime resolutions. There are several in this passage, but the main one is in verses 5 through 7. 5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. “Be of the same mind as Christ” means to think, speak, and act like Christ. What does that mean? Christ was God. It was his unchangeable, eternal nature to be God with God the Father. But He didn’t think that was something He ought to take advantage of. He didn’t exploit the privileges of his position. He didn’t insist on the respect due to his position. Instead, He “emptied himself.” What does that mean? It means He gave some things up. Did he stop being God when He emptied Himself? No, He didn’t. He never gave up his “Godness” – his divine nature. But He did give up His glory. He gave up the perks and privileges. He gave up the robes and crowns. He gave up wealth and material possessions, because when he arrived in the manger he had nothing except the cloth Mary and Joseph wrapped around him. Then what? He took on the nature of a slave, one whose purpose is to serve others, and became a human. What a huge, huge change of position for God the Son of God. We humans cannot grasp the extent of this change. We can’t fathom what a huge step downward God took to be on our level. And he did that to give us an example for how we ought to live our lives. He did that to give us our new year’s resolutions, our lifetime resolutions. If we are going to have the mind of Christ, then we are going to have to empty ourselves. Jesus didn’t give up his “Godness,” and we can’t give up our “Humanness.” But just as Jesus gave up the outward signs of his glory, we have a lot of signs of our humanity that we need to give up. When we empty ourselves of these things, we are likely to find that the trash can is full, and it’s time to take out the trash. Let’s see what some of those things are. Jesus himself teaches us what his mind is like. If we want to be of the same mind then we have to start with what Jesus said about himself in this passage. (Matthew 11:29) Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Jesus said he was humble, and, in fact, he was humble enough to wash the feet of his disciples – all twelve of them, including the one who betrayed him. Jesus is teaching us to be humble, and if our resolution is to do that, then the first thing we have to empty ourselves of and put in the trash is pride. Pride can’t take suggestions or criticism. It lashes out and strikes back. Driving illustration. Pride insists on the respect due to one’s position, and acts ugly when it doesn’t come. It can’t tolerate too many good ideas or suggestions from anybody in a lower position, and it can’t tolerate anybody else being out front, even if they are going in the right direction. Micro-manager illustration. Pride keeps us from doing what Jesus did with the needy, the lost, and the disadvantaged people of the world. He met them at their own level – at their point of need – and ministered to them there. Pride may let us give to the poor, but only by remote control, or only if we can quickly hurry away, without meeting the real need for Christian fellowship and love. No doubt about it. Pride has to go in the trash.

We are also going to have to give up our fascination with materialism. Remember that Jesus the God with the Father, had access to infinite wealth. In several places, and particularly in Haggai, God tells us “The silver is mine, and the gold is mine.” Yet, when Jesus arrived in Bethlehem that night, he didn’t have a penny to his name. Here is what Jesus teaches on this subject: (Matthew 6:19-21) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Jesus knew first hand about treasures in both heaven and earth, and he is telling us straight out where his mind is on the subject. Do you know what the real problem of materialism is? It is not having wealth. Usually, if we have wealth, that is in God’s plan for our lives. We may not be doing what He intends us to do with it, but he doesn’t object to having wealth. No, the real problem of materialism is that we use our possessions to isolate ourselves from the people of the world who are truly in need. Within five miles of this place, there are million dollar homes with Mercedes in the driveway, and there are hovels where children live with no father, no household income, and no hope. If you had to chose which of those two places to go for a visit, which would it be. If we isolate ourselves from the poor, then they are “out of sight, out of mind.” And we can just keep on ignoring them, and keep on keeping it all for ourselves. This was not in the mind of Christ, and it is high on the list of things we need to throw in the trash.

Finally, we are going to have to give up division. What do I mean by that? We are going to have to give up doing and saying things that divide us from our brothers and sisters in Christ. What was the mind of Christ about this? John 13:34-36 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." If that is the teaching of Christ and the mind of Christ, then we have got to get rid of a few things to have the mind of Christ. The first of those would be that irrepressible human urge to talk badly of our neighbor. Most of us are thinking about gossip, and we think of gossip as untrue information. But it really doesn’t matter whether the information is true or false. There comes a point where the talk just has to stop because it tears down the fellowship of Christ and it damages the Kingdom of God. Listen to what James tells us about this sort of talk. James 3:6-10 And the tongue is a fire. The tongue is placed among our members as a world of iniquity; it stains the whole body, sets on fire the cycle of nature, and is itself set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, 8 but no one can tame the tongue--a restless evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God. 10 From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Another element of division that has to go is prejudice. Doesn’t matter whether we are talking about racial, religious, gender, class, cultural, or nationality prejudice. It flies in the face of everything that Jesus stands for. As I stand here and say to you, “If God is your father, I am your brother,” you probably think that is just fine. At least I hope you do. But what if it is Wednesday instead of Sunday? What if it is in your workplace instead of in church? What if I’m a black guy with dreadlocks instead of a white man? And what if I’m standing inside your personal space acting like I might give you a hug. Ask yourself, and give yourself an honest answer, how will you feel about that?

No doubt about it. Prejudice has to go in the trash along with all the other things that lead to division of the Body of Christ. And along with materialism, and pride. This is surely not the end of the list, but throwing these things in the trash will get us started toward having the mind of Christ. Oh, to have a servant's heart in the year 1999, so that position and rank mean nothing and people around us are not evaluated by their rank and wealth but that all things would be done to the glory of Christ. Paul tells us that we have to have the mind of Christ in us to do that. Every one of us must empty ourselves, much the same way as Jesus did. We all have a lot of habits that need to go in the trash. We need to take that trash out – get it out of our lives. Wouldn’t it be a good new year’s resolution, and a lifetime resolution, to walk worthy of the name by which we are called? Have you thought about that? Is God calling you to do that this year. Is the Holy Spirit whispering in your ear right now? These prayer rails are open, and there may not be a better time this year for you to come kneel, and talk these things over with God. Please know that you can do that as the Spirit leads, as we sing our closing hymn.