A Heavenly Inauguration
We are just days away from the pomp and circumstance that will come with the inauguration of a new President of the United States. No matter what the feelings after this very difficult election year . . . when the new President in inaugurated there will be celebration for some . . . dejection for others . . . but everyone will know and have to acknowledge George W. Bush as the43rd President of the United States of America.
In one sense this is the perfect picture of Philippians 2:9-11. In our passage this morning we see a picture of a different inauguration . . . the inauguration of the Ruler of the Universe. But before we look at some specifics, let’s review.
In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul is urging the people of the church in Philippi to get along with each other. We don’t know what the problem was but there apparently was tension in the church. Paul appeals to the church to follow the example that was set by Christ. He points to Christ as the one who showed true humility and servanthood. He highlights the sacrifice that the Son of God made for our sin. Paul’s conclusion is that like our Master and Lord, we should be willing to humble ourselves and serve each other rather than fight.
In verses 9-11, Paul announces that because of Christ’s actions, God has declared Him to be the Ruler of the Universe and at a future heavenly inauguration . . .the whole world will recognize His position. There are several things I’d like you to see.
JESUS DESERVES THE POSITION HE RECEIVED
The text starts with the word “therefore” which means it is a conclusion or a consequence of what is stated before. Because of the role that Christ played . . . .because of His position as Savior . . . He is exalted. He deserves the honor He receives.
Jesus has proved Himself to be the perfect Son of God. He has proved His holiness by His obedience. He has proved His love by His willing death for sinful human beings. Let’s not forget that He died for us when we didn’t show any inclination toward Him. He has proved His power by His resurrection and by His ability to change human hearts. Jesus has proved that He has the best interest of God’s created in mind because He willingly left His heavenly position and took the form of a servant so that He might rescue and redeem us.
Jesus deserves His position as Ruler of the World. By contrast let me state the obvious. We do not deserve this position. We have proved over and over again that we are only concerned about ourselves . . . and often only concerned about others to the degree that they can help us. Jesus died for sin . . . we committed it. We sent Him to the cross. Even on our best days we could never deserve the position that Christ has earned.
Now here’s the tough question . . . if it is obvious that Christ has earned his position and equally apparent that we do not deserve that position . . . why is it that we spend so much of our time trying to play God? How do we do this?
- we ignore or modify the guidelines He’s given. We decide which commands are “relevant” and worthy of our obedience.
- we demand God work by our timetable rather than rest in His
- we argue (with Him) that our wisdom is better than His in the circumstances of life
- we presume to judge Him and call Him, “unfair”, “unjust”, “arbitrary”, “insensitive”
- at times we are even guilty of trying to “save” people rather than point them to the Savior.
In each of these cases we usurping our Lord’s rightful position. We are seeking to overthrow His position as the Ruler of the World. It is an act of a fool.
JESUS IS GIVEN THE PREEMINENT POSITION
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
It is amusing that there is a great deal of debate among scholars as to what “name” is given to Jesus. But I don’t think the issue is really the name that was given . . . it was the position that Christ is given. Most would agree that the name that Jesus is given is the title “Lord”.
The word “Lord” is used three ways in the New Testament. It is used sometimes as a polite for of address. Like you and I may address a superior as “sir”. Second it is used for the master of a slave. Maybe it would be the equivalent of our “boss”. It refers to a person who has authority over another. Third, the title Lord was used for God. The name above all names that is given to Jesus is the name Lord God.
All around us people use the name “Lord” in these three ways. Some people call Him the “Lord Jesus” as a title similar to “Prince Charles”. Others refer to Jesus as Lord because they see Jesus as a great leader among men. Both of these groups of people sound like Christians while in reality they are not. When a Christian calls Jesus Lord they are acknowledging Him as God and as the one who has supreme authority in our lives and circumstances. They acknowledge Him as the one who rules over all. He has the final say in EVERY area of life.
Before the first century came to a close, the Roman Empire was demanding that Christians acknowledge Caesar as Lord. The Romans demanded that all citizens give homage to Caesar as a divine lord. Many Christians went to their death rather than say, “Caesar is Lord.”
Which way do you use the title “Lord”? Do you recognize Him as the ruler and giver of life? Is He in the supreme position in your life and heart? Or do you only pay lip service to Him.
Notice one more thing: WE do not declare that Jesus is Lord . . . God does. God gives Him this position. So Jesus is Lord whether you recognize it or not. He has God-given authority. He is not waiting to be declared Lord. He has already been declared Lord. He IS the Lord. The question for you and me is whether we will bow before His Lordship or resist it.
EVERYONE WILL ACKNOWLEDGE HIS LORDSHIP
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. [10-11]
The third thing to see is that there is coming a day when everyone will acknowledge Christ as Lord. We read that EVERY knee will bow. No one will be excluded from this group. This group will include those in Heaven and those on earth. It will include the spiritual world as well as the human world. There will be those who speak these words with joy . . .and there will be those who speak these words with sorrow.
Remember my earlier illustration of the Presidential election? It doesn’t matter who you liked or voted for, on January 20 every citizen will acknowledge George W. Bush as the President of the United States. To some the words will be bitter. To others they will be sweet. But everyone will recognize the same truth.
At the inauguration of Jesus, the angels and the demons will both acknowledge the rightful Lordship of Christ. The saved and the lost will acknowledge this Lordship. All that is in nature and in Heaven will bow before His sovereignty. But it will not be a joyful day for everyone.
When Christ is acknowledged as the Lord of Life and as the rightful ruler there will be no suggestion that a recount would change anything. Everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. But this does not mean that everyone will be a Christian. It does not mean that everyone will go to Heaven. Jesus told us,
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” [Matthew 7:21-27]
These are important words to hear. There are some today who seem to imply that all you have to do is say the right things (the “magic words” if you will) and you will be saved. But Jesus says it is not the words that matter. It is not whether we recognize Him . . . but whether He recognizes us as one of His true followers.
I can tell you that I met Dr. James Kennedy, a prominent television Pastor. And I would be telling you the truth. I could tell you that I talked with Dr. Kennedy and would also be telling you the truth. But could I say that Dr. Kennedy knows me? No. We had a passing conversation, not a relationship. And that will be the test on that final day. Did we have a relationship with Jesus? Those who did will enter into eternal life. Those who did not will be cast out of His presence. You see, declaring that Christ is Lord and submitting to this Lordship are two different things.
We do not need to wonder if one day we will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord. We will. There is no question on that issue. The question is whether we will be acknowledging His position as one of those who do so joyfully or as those who do so in shame and defeat.
WE WILL SHARE IN HIS JOY
One more thing I would point out. On that inauguration day believers will share in His joy. Charles Spurgeon said it well,
I have no doubt that every common soldier who stood by the side of the Duke of Wellington felt honored when the commander was applauded for the victory, for, said he, “I helped him, I assisted him; it was but a minor part that I played; I only held my position; I only returned the enemy’s fire; but now the victory is gained, I feel an honor in it, for I helped, in some degree, to gain it.” So the Christian, when he sees his Lord exalted, says, “It is the Captain that is exalted, and in his exaltation all his soldiers share. Have I not stood by his side? Little was the work I did, and poor the strength which I possessed to serve him, but still I aided in the labor;” and the commonest soldier in the spiritual ranks feels that he himself is in some degree exalted when he reads this [Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 2 p. 614]
This isn’t hard to understand. When we stand on the sidelines of a game and cheer for our team we share in the joy of the team’s victory. When we walked onto the field after a playoff victory we smiled, we embraced, and at times we shed a tear of joy. We talked about how “we” won. We walked a little taller and felt a sense of satisfaction and pride. And yet, we made no key blocks. We had no great tackles, runs, or pass receptions. We cheered from the sidelines . . . yet we shared in the joy.
Can you even begin to imagine what a great day that Heavenly inauguration will be? The more involved we are with Christ now, the greater will be the joy on that day. The joy of that day will be unlike the joy of a sports championship. A sports championship leaves a lasting satisfaction but the position of champion is temporary. Within a few months that championship must be earned again. Imagine the satisfaction that will come in Heaven to know that the battles are over. This is no temporary victory. . . it is final. It is complete. There will be no challenges . . . ever.
James Boice gives us a great illustration from history.
During the nineteenth century, when Italy was divided into a number of independent states, there was a popular movement for the reunification of Italy under Victor Emmanuel II of Sardinia. Before he became king there was a surge of enthusiasm to drive out the Austrians, keep the French at the borders, and to place this man on the throne. A slogan embodied the hopes of the Italian people. The slogan came from the first letters of the Italian phrase meaning, “Victor Emmanuel King of Italy”. In Italian the phrase is “Victor Emmanuel Re di Italia,” and by taking the first letters from each of these Italian words, the patriots produced the slogan “verdi” At this time the great opera composer Giuseepi Verdi was at the apex of his fame. Hence, his name became a symbol of the reunification of Italy and was written everywhere. In 1861, Victor Emmanuel became king of the united states of Italy, and at the time verdi was still displayed across the country. Now, however, the slogan took on an entirely different meaning. It was no longer a cry of expectation; it was a triumphant acknowledgment of what had already happened.
In exactly the same way the confession “Jesus Christ is Lord” on our lips is expectation, at best an acknowledgment of what is only partially true or true in potential. But the day that these verses speak of is coming, when the confession will stand as a glorious acknowledgment of what has already taken place. Jesus is Lord, but then there will be no more rivals to his throne. [Boice PHILIPPIANS p. 137]
Let me wrap this study up by asking a very practical question. In light this future heavenly inauguration what difference should this make in our daily living NOW?
First, we need to make sure that we are on the right side. We will not get to Heaven by merely learning the right words. We must be actually trusting the Savior. So you and I have to search our hearts. Is our faith superficial or is it real? Does the Savior know us? Do we have a relationship with Him or only a passing contact? Are we really trusting Christ for our salvation or are we hoping that we can produce the right formula, or learn the right words, or do the right deeds? If any of these are the case we are not trusting Christ at all . . . we are trusting ourselves.
True faith is when: 1) we realize that we can never be good enough to earn God’s favor. 2) we acknowledge that Jesus died to do what I could not do for myself. 3) we rest completely in what Christ has done for us and live our lives now in light of the forgiveness He has granted. In other words . . . we must really believe the gospel message of forgiveness and life in Christ. Have you done this? If not, I pray you will.
Second, we will reflect Christ’s Lordship in Our Priorities. If we know that Jesus Christ is Lord and someday everyone will acknowledge this it seems to only make sense that we would honor Him as Lord in our day to day existence. And as we begin a new year we should be reflecting Christ’s Lordship in the goals we set. Is building your relationship with the Lord Jesus a priority in your life? Is it important enough to get up a little earlier so you can read His Word and visit with Him in prayer? Are you willing to honor His Lordship and seek His will for your life decisions? Are you willing to serve Him in ways that may not always be convenient? How important is Jesus to you?
Finally, we will relax. I remember the good old days when the Chicago Bulls were a Championship team. Every year in May and June I would watch the playoffs. And inevitably I would get real nervous. I would swing from despair to elation as the lead changed hands. Life is like that a good portion of the time. We have great times and we have deeply trying and discouraging times.
I bought a number of the highlight films from those years . . . and do you know what? When I watch them I relive the excitement . . .but not the anxiety. What makes the difference? It’s simple: I know they are going to win! And that’s what makes our life different . . . we can live confidently because we know that Christ will one day sit on the throne and reign supreme. Life is filled with struggle . . . but the child of God knows the outcome.
The battle is won. Salvation has been purchased through the blood of Christ. When we trust Him . . . our future is certain. We no longer need to fret about Heaven . . . instead we can begin preparing for it. We no longer need to look over our shoulder, we can look ahead. Practically, this means we don’t read the Bible because we feel if we don’t we might go to Hell. We read the Bible because we want to know God better and we want to know His wise counsel for our lives. We no longer pray out of sense of obligation but we pray out of a desire to build our relationship with the Lord. We don’t worship as a duty but as a joyful celebration of His life. And we don’t serve to earn His favor but to honor Him.
Life won’t always be easy. We won’t always understand what is going on. Sometimes we will need to remind each other that the ending is already written . . . the campaign is over. The transition has begun. And some day, there will be a celebration that will last for all eternity.