One Neglected Implication of Jesus’ Incarnation

Donald Macleod, Scottish theologian and professor, writes:

“How often is the incarnation brought before God’s people as their chief incentive and motivation to service. Paul urges us to think the way Jesus thought. He humbled himself. He made himself nothing (Philippians 2:3-8). He said, ‘I don’t matter!’

There is scarcely a month that a church is not wrecked by Somebody. That is the whole problem: There is always a Somebody. If we were willing to humble ourselves and be nobodies, the church would not be wrecked. That is what the church needs: Nobodies who have crucified their egos and left them on the far side of that great word of Jesus: ‘Let a man deny himself’ (Mark 8:34).”

Prepare Your Heart for Worship

Here is a simple prayer to pray through and reflect upon as you prepare to worship God personally and with others. It is based upon the beautiful hymn: “May the Mind of Christ My Savior.”

Almighty God, may my worship of you cause the
mind of Christ to be more fully present in me
this week so that I may think your thoughts
and do your deeds.
May Your Word dwell in me
so that I delight to do what You command.
May Your peace so umpire my life that I am
progressively set free from anxieties and fears.
May Your love so fill me that I am empowered
to love others that may prove difficult to love.
Lastly, may Your beauty rest on me in such a life
transforming way that others might truly see
Christ in me and be drawn to Him. AMEN.

Another way to do this is to turn this into a prayer of confession of sin.
Here is an example:

Almighty and Gracious Father,
Your Word says that You have given us the mind of Christ
so that we can think Your thoughts and do Your deeds.
Forgive us for allowing worldly-mindedness to creep in –
causing sin to seem normal and holiness to seem strange.
Pardon us for filling our lives with so many other things
rather than Your Word.
We confess that anxiety and fear rule us rather than Your peace.
We acknowledge that envy and greed fill us rather than Your love
We lament that a spirit of despair rests upon us instead of Your beauty.
So transform us that others see Jesus in us and are drawn to Him.
For we make our prayer in His matchless name, AMEN.

Cultivating a Healthy Marriage – Clothed with Humility

During your early years of marriage, you will discover that developing a good marriage is a lot like cultivating a garden (recall Tim Keller’s talk on “Cultivating a Healthy Marriage”). A garden takes a lot of work and it costs more than you figured, it is messier than you anticipated, and it requires greater determination than you expected to reap the rewards (adapted from a quote from Chuck Swindle). It is so important during these days to establish good habits and patterns of relating to one another.
This is why Colossians 3:12-17 teaches you to go daily to the wardrobe of the Spirit and ask Him to empower you to do that which is humanly impossible: To truly, fervently and faithfully love each other from the heart. Apart from the Spirit, most couples are prone to use one another to meet their own needs rather than focusing on meeting the needs of their spouse.
Verse 12 says: “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” This verse uses a clothing metaphor to describe the Christ-like life.
To put on Christ is to clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience and love. These virtues are good moral habits that take time to develop. We don’t naturally become this type of person. It takes intentionality and work. These virtues also have a corresponding vice that can undo everything you hold dear about your relationship. For this reason, I focus first on the one vice that causes more divorces than anything else: Pride.
The first virtue to which I want to draw your attention is HUMILITY. Humility is God’s blessed gift of self-forgetfulness. It is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. This Spirit-empowered virtue will arrest the biggest problem in all of our marriages – our own selfishness. At every stage in your life going forward, humility will be your greatest friend, and pride, the corresponding vice, will be your greatest enemy.
Proud people are insecure people who find fault easily and are quick to criticize. Much of your strife and discord in marriage will be the result of unchecked pride in your hearts. Proverbs 13:10 teaches us: “By pride comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who seek counsel.” The challenge in dealing with pride is this: You can see pride easily in another person’s life and miss it entirely in your own.
Pride destroys your ability to truly love one another. C.S. Lewis calls pride “spiritual cancer.” One of the best short chapters to read on pride and humility is from Lewis’ book entitled Mere Christianity. The chapter is called “The Great Sin.”
Lewis writes:
“Pride is the essential vice, the utmost evil, the great sin…
It has served as the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.
It was through pride that the devil became the devil.
As long as you are proud you cannot know God.
A proud man is always looking down on things and people;
and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you. 
Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love…”
On the contrary, humble people look out of themselves in order to focus on the gifts and graces of others. Here is the best way I know to cultivate the virtue of humility:
Actively look for ways that God is at work in each other’s life. Make it your practice to observe how the Holy Spirit is evidencing His fruit and His gifts in each other’s life. This means that you work at actively praising, encouraging, and thanking each other for the ways that you see the Lord at work in each other’s lives.
To be specific: What is your spouse more aware of – evidences of grace that you’ve noticed in him or is he more aware of all the areas where you think he needs to grow and change? How about you? Pray and ask the Lord to show you specific things in your spouse’s life that you believe are  evidences of God’s grace  in his/her life and praise him/her for it.
So many couples find fault with each other and are constantly nitpicking. Refuse to do this. It will create distance between you and will turn a loving, intimate marriage into a cold and clinical one. Refuse to speak to one another in any way that cuts each other down, but speak words of grace that build each other up.
One Scripture that crystallizes what humility looks like is Philippians 2:1-8. Here is a paraphrase from The Message that portrays true humility:
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ,
if his love has made any difference in your life,
if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you,
if you have a heart, if you care—
then do me a favor:
Agree with each other,
love each other,
be deep-spirited friends.
Don’t push your way to the front;
don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.
Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.
Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself.
He had equal status with God
but didn’t think so much of himself
that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what.
Not at all.
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave,
became human! Having become human, he stayed human.
It was an incredibly humbling process.
He didn’t claim special privileges.
Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life
and then died a selfless, obedient death—
and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.
The one who always knew the light of His Father’s presence humbled himself to live in poverty and die a criminal’s death to rescue us from our proud hearts, proud looks and proud lives.
The only sure way to be rescued from our natural tendency towards pride is to contemplate the cross of your Savior. This is the only thing that will continue to free you from the spiritual cancer of pride. The world will tell you to assert yourself, look out for yourself, believe in yourself. However, Jesus tells you, “if any man would follow me, let him deny himself and die to himself and come follow Me.”
I leave you with two beautiful quotes on this subject.
Charles Spurgeon:
“Stand at the foot of the cross, and count the drops of blood by which you have been cleansed;
see the thorned crown; mark his scourged shoulders, still gushing with crimsoned stripes;
see his hands and feet given up to the rough iron, and his whole self to mockery and scorn;
see the bitterness, and the pangs, and the throes of inward grief, showing themselves in his outward frame; hear the horrifying shriek, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
And if you do not lie prostrate on the ground before that cross, you have never seen it:
if you are not humbled to the dust by this picture, you do not know him.”
Martin Lloyd-Jones:
“There is only one thing I know of that crushes me to the ground and humiliates me to the dust,
and that is to look at the Son of God, and especially contemplate the cross
Nothing else can do it.  When I see that I am a sinner…
that nothing but the Son of God on the cross can save me, I’m humbled to the dust…
Nothing but the cross can give us this spirit of humility.”
 
Prayer:
God our heavenly Father, you alone are God Most High.
Yet we contend regularly for supremacy with You.
Forgive us for all the times we have found fault with each other,
for all the ways that we have opted for control rather than truly loving one another.
Grant us grace today to put on the wardrobe of the Spirit
so that we might forget about ourselves and our needs
in order to truly love and serve each other
So work in our hearts that You progressively free us
from the boastful pride of life that we might live as
Your servant-hearted followers.
For we pray in the name of the only One
who had the right to assert Himself
yet He humbled Himself to serve and save us,
Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

A Family for Others from Philippians 2

What does it look like to live as a family for others? As THE MAN for others, Jesus saved us rather than Himself at the cross and, “every time we reflect on the cross, Christ seems to be saying to us, ‘I am here for you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying’” (John Stott). From the incarnation to the cross, from the cross to the grave, from the grave to the skies, Jesus is there for others. As we contemplate all that He has done for us, we begin to change in some major ways. We begin to live lives of radical humility, sacrificial service, and bold risk-taking.

First of all, becoming a family for others cures us of our spiritual cancer of pride to live a life of radical humility (Philippians 2:1-11). As C.S. Lewis says, “pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began…Pride is a spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love…” Unchecked pride leads to one activity… grumbling and complaining (v.14). One way we cultivate this blessed gift of self-forgetfulness is by actively identifying evidences of God’s grace in the lives of others. Paul calls attention to God’s work in the lives of Timothy and Epaphroditus. Begin to observe how the Spirit reveals His fruit and His gifts in the lives of others around you and intentionally encourage and thank them for what you see the Lord doing. Consider this: What is one way that you will resolve to weaken pride and cultivate humility?

Secondly, becoming a family for others liberates us from complaining to sacrificially serve others for God’s glory (2:12-24). Like Timothy of old, we resolve to serve the interests of Jesus Christ in the lives of others (v.21). Reflect on this: What is one way that the Lord is calling you and your family to serve others for His glory?

Thirdly, becoming a family for others liberates us from the enchantment of security and galvanizes us to take risks in building Christ’s church (2:25-30). Here we examined the life of Epaphroditus who risked his life in serving Christ. We take risks when we sacrifice our own interests, comforts and resources to make much of Jesus Christ and prove that He is more precious to us than anything else. Ponder this: What is one risk that the Lord is asking you to take for His glory and the expansion of His kingdom?

Safety is a mirage. It didn’t exist for the Apostle Paul, Timothy or Epaproditus. It doesn’t exist for you. They had two choices: waste their lives or live with risk. Today we enjoy the privileges of the gospel because of the risks they took. Let us follow in their train for risk is right!

A Man for Others in Radical Humility

J.I. .Packer highlights the spiritual battle we all face: “We are all engaged in a constant, inescapable battle against spiritual degeneracy in four forms:  Our unhumbled pride, our unbelief of God’s word, our lack of forgiveness of others, and our aversion to taking risks.  All these forms of spiritual degeneration banish true spiritual joy…”   (J.I. Packer, “Self-Care for Pastors,” Crux, December 2003/Vol. 34, No. 4, pp.2-13)
How are we to counter this spiritual degeneracy in our lives? Simply put: Ask the Lord to make you a man for others. The Apostle Paul sets forth this charge in Philippians chapter 2. What does it practically look like to become a man for others? There are four marks set forth in this passage of a man for others: Radical humility, loving forgiveness, vibrant faith, and bold risk-taking.
The first mark of becoming a man for others is a life of radical humility. The stimulus for developing a humble mind is to look at the cross. Jesus Christ, THE Man for others. He saved us rather than Himself on the cross. Reflect on that cross. Hear Christ speaking to you… “‘I am here for you.  It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’”

He died for you, now, how does He want you to live for Him?

A man for others looks for practical ways to mortify pride and cultivate humility (Philippians 2:3-4 – Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.)

John Stott would remind us that at every stage of our Christian development, pride is our greatest enemy and humility our greatest friend.” Pride is spiritual cancer…humility is blessed self-forgetfulness.

Key Skill: Actively look for ways that God is at work in the lives of other people around you.
Make a practice of observing how the Spirit is evidencing His fruit and His gifts in the lives of others around you.  How about your wife?  What is she more aware of – evidences of grace that you’ve noticed or the need for change and your displeasure?  How about your children?  When was the last time you specifically and sincerely informed your child of an evidence of God’s grace that you’ve noticed in his or her life? The leader who is always finding fault is full of pride.

A Worship Service – Celebrating the Ascension of our Lord

PREPARATION FOR WORSHIP
Today is Ascension Day, and that means that it is a day of great joy for all who believe that Christ rules the world and our lives. —Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Christ’s ascension means that in heaven there is one who, knowing firsthand the experience of suffering and temptation, prays for us and perfects our prayers. The ascension is a witness and guarantee of our own bodily resurrection, as well as an invitation for us to set our hearts and minds “on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” …

The Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have begun thinking less of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in; aim at earth and you get neither. – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Let me say with tears that as far as material possessions, time, energy and talents are concerned, all too many Bible-believing Christians live as though their entire existence is limited to this side of the grave.
— Francis Schaeffer, No Little People, “Ash Heap Lives”

CALL TO WORSHIP Hebrews 4:14-16
Leader: Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.
People: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.
Leader: Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
People: So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

HYMNS OF PRAISE

COME, CHRISTIANS, JOIN TO SING – Trinity Hymnal (TH) #302

Come, Christians, join to sing–Alleluia! Amen!
Loud praise to Christ our King–Alleluia! Amen!
Let all, with heart and voice, before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice–Alleluia! Amen!

Come, lift your hearts on high–Alleluia! Amen!
Let praises fill the sky–Alleluia! Amen!
He is our Guide and Friend; to us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end–Alleluia! Amen!

Praise yet our Christ again–Alleluia! Amen!
Life shall not end the strain–Alleluia! Amen!
On heaven’s blissful shore His goodness we’ll adore,
Singing forevermore, “Alleluia! Amen!”

COME YE SINNERS, POOR AND NEEDY—HYMN #472
Come, ye sinners poor and needy, bruised and broken by the Fall
Jesus ready stands to save you full of pardoning love for all
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more
He is able, He is able, He is willing, doubt no more

Let not conscience make you linger, nor of fitness fondly dream
All the fitness he requires is to feel your need of Him
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme
He will save you, He will save you ‘tis the gospel’s constant theme

Come ye weary, heavy laden, lost and ruined by the fall
If you tarry ‘till you’re better, you will never come at all
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms
He is waiting, He is waiting to embrace you in His arms

Lo! th’incarnate God ascended pleads the merit of His blood
Venture on Him, venture wholly let no other trust intrude
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good
None but Jesus, none but Jesus can do helpless sinners good

[Repeat All]

AFFIRMATION OF FAITH Heidelberg Catechism (Qs 46 & 49, 1563 AD)
What do we mean by saying, “He ascended into heaven?”
That Christ, while his disciples watched, was lifted up from the earth to heaven and will be there for our good until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.
How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
First, he pleads our cause in heaven in the presence of his Father. Second, we have our own flesh in heaven – a guarantee that Christ our head will take us, his members, to himself in heaven. Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a further guarantee. By the Spirit’s power we make a goal of our lives, not earthly things, but the things above where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.
CORPORATE CONFESSION OF SIN
Almighty Father, You raised Jesus from death to life and crowned him Lord of all. We confess that we have not bowed before him or acknowledged his rule in our lives. We have embraced and been led by the false values, priorities, and commitments of this present world that is hostile to you. We have failed to set our minds on heaven and give our ascended King the honor and homage that He deserves. Forgive us and free us from the bondage of sin so that we may live as your faithful people, obeying the commands of our King who rules the world and is head of the church, his body. Amen.

PERSONAL CONFESSION OF SIN

ASSURANCE OF PARDON 1 John 2:1-2
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

SONGS OF ASSURANCE

Before the Throne of God Above (Charitie Lees Bancroft and Vikki Cook)

1.  Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is Love, Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart—
I know that while in heaven He stands, [no tongue can bid me thence depart.]

2.  When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end to all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died my sinful soul is counted free—
For God the just, is satisfied, [to look on Him and pardon me.]

3.  Behold Him there!  The Risen Lamb, my perfect, spotless Righteousness!
The great unchangeable I AM, the King of glory and of grace.
One with Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased with His blood—
My life is hid with Christ on high, [with Christ my Savior and my God.]

GREETING & ANNOUNCEMENTS

GIVING OUR TITHES AND OFFERINGS
OFFERTORY
SCRIPTURE READING Philippians 2:9-11; 3:17-21

2:9 – Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is
above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in
heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus
Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
3:17 – Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk
according to the example you have in us. 18For many, of whom I have often told
you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19
Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame,
with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it
we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to
be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things
to himself.

THE SERMON Longing for Heaven: Our Heart’s True Home
#1 in the series – Jesus Ascended into Heaven

I. The ascension of Jesus galvanizes us to resist accommodation to our culture (3:17-19).

II. The ascension of Jesus prompts a change in our citizenship. This prompts us to long for heaven  (3:30-21).

III. The ascension of Jesus guarantees our own bodily resurrection. This enables us to affirm the goodness of this world
and of our bodies (3:21).

PRAYER OF COMMITMENT

SENDING HYMN

WHO SHALL ASCEND THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD – TH #292
Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
To search the mystery in heaven stored,
The knowledge of the Holy One adored? Alleluia! Alleluia!

One King alone, whose hands and heart are pure,
One servant of the Lord with purpose sure,
Can enter in that glory to endure. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He only can ascend to God’s right hand
Who first came down as His high mercy planned,
True God and man has earth and heaven spanned. Alleluia! Alleluia!

Before the clouds receive the King on high,
A cross lifts up His form against the sky;
The Framer of the worlds has come to die. Alleluia! Alleluia!

He shall ascend the mountain of the Lord,
The King of glory, whose own blood outpoured
Paid that dear price that mercy did afford. Alleluia! Alleluia!
BENEDICTION Ephesians 1:18-19

May you know the hope to which God has called you, experience the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
and trust his incomparably great power for us who believe. Amen.

If Your Marriage is Struggling…

Here are three challenging and encouraging Scriptures to reflect upon and to pray through! At Second, we believe that the gospel creates a new community where love and acceptance rule every relationship (John 13:34-35). Also, we believe that only the gospel effectively mobilizes us to resolve our conflict with others (Matthew 5:23-24; 18:15-20).

If your marriage is struggling, I would encourage you to meditate on the three Scriptures below and pray mainly for the Lord to change you so that your life reflects their message. Rather than nagging your spouse, why not use these as a grid to pray for them and ask the Lord to work in them what is pleasing to Him.

Philippians 2: The Message:  1 If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion.

Ephesians 4:31-32 – Let all bitterness (bitter resentment) and wrath (fierce indignation that boils up and soon subsides again) and anger (agitation of the soul, impulse, desire, any violent emotion, but especially anger) and clamor (verbal brawling) and slander (speech injurious to another’s good name) be put away from you, along with all malice (a vicious disposition of hate, ill-will, desire to injure, wickedness that is not ashamed to break laws). 32 Be kind (chrestos – vulnerability out of a deep security) to one another, tender-hearted (having strong bowels… 🙂 that’s the literal translation in Greek.), forgiving each other (give grace, cancel a debt), just as God in Christ also has forgiven you (canceled your debt of sin through his death on the cross).

Colossians 3:12-14 – So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint (quarrel) against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.