Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Cross and Obedience

Once again today we had a technical issue and the morning worship and message audio weren't recorded.  I saw someone taking photos... and that was great 'cause we had a lot of fun with palm branches... but no recording.  So here you have some notes from today's message.  Prior to the message we talked about how the people of God had been dominated for so long and that there was a promise, from Zechariah 9, about how God would save them when their king would come riding on a "colt, the foal of a donkey."  So Jesus chose to come into the city, fulfilling the prophecy but also coming in a way that the people could understand and celebrate!  Salvation was near!

Anyway, here are my notes... you might read Mark 1:1-10; Zechariah 8:8-17; Philippians 2:1-11.  These notes have not been revised since I wrote them on Friday night at the hermitage, so they aren't exactly what was shared at worship this morning... it's the best we've got.

I hope you can come and be with us on Thursday for communion on the night Jesus was betrayed, then on Good Friday and Easter.  For times and locations go to


What a wonderful thing Jesus has done for us. He hasn’t only saved us from violent foreign armies…

(And he has done that! We are to be thankful to God for every good thing, including for the political and social peace we enjoy; I mean, we’re not afraid right now that another nation is about ready to invade us, at least not this week… )

But Jesus hasn’t saved us only from death by sword or nuclear weapon; he has also saved us from the power that would turn us into our own worst enemy. He has saved us from sin. Praise you, Jesus Christ!

How did he save us? Philippians 2 tells the story.

He saved us by coming from heaven to earth, by coming and being one of us, and then by being obedient to God… even unto death.

Jesus was obedient.

Have you considered this truth?

Jesus, who had been the creator of all things from the beginning of time; Jesus, the all-knowing, forever-living, always reigning King of Creation… Jesus became obedient.

Let’s look again at those verses from Philippians 2 about Jesus…
“Your attitude,” he’s speaking of you and me here, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped…”
that means it wasn’t something for him to hang onto or get the most out of for himself… verse 7 “but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness; and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”

Jesus became obedient.

He became obedient in the big things and in the little things.

Consider the way he chose to come into the capital city of Israel on the week of his death.

He chose to come into Jerusalem in a way that the common people would get excited about.

They knew the promise of God in Zechariah.

They knew because there was nothing they wanted more than to have their freedom,
to be set free from the oppression of the Roman Empire,
to stop being servants of these foreigners,
to find hope for themselves and for their children,
to not need to be slaves anymore.

There was nothing they wanted more
and when someone who seemed like a good leader came out of the mass of the people, hope would rise in their hearts. Some would follow this “Messiah” thinking that perhaps this was the time when the Lord would restore and save his people, and they could become their own free country once more.

I honestly don’t know what it is like to live under oppression.

We have a very good country that we live in.

But this is not true everywhere. In so many places people are still horribly taken advantage of.

Even here in the United States there are many who are illegally held as slaves… We heard about that on Freedom Sunday a few weeks ago. And if that is too hard to relate to, I know many of you know women and children who are trapped in homes where there is abuse and violence, or threats of violence, where power and control is used to keep women and children trapped. And there are men too who suffer in this way.

But Jesus wants all of those who are trapped and in bondage to know that he is coming to save them, to rescue, them to set them free. So Jesus, obediently, Jesus obediently gets a colt to ride on, a young donkey, or as they used to say, a young ass… and he obediently rides into the capital city in a way that the common people know is a sign… they know this is a sign… they have treasured the promise for centuries… someone would come riding on a donkey… riding, not walking, riding through the gate and the streets of Jerusalem, one who was righteous and having salvation and freedom in his hands.

Over and over again, throughout his earthly life, Jesus shows this quality of obedience. Even in what seems to be the most rebellious time of his life, when he left his parents and stayed behind in Jerusalem, he was doing that in obedience to His Real Father, for Joseph was not his real father, God was. And so it is true for us when we come to the Lord. The true commandment of obedience is not to our mom and dad. The true commandment of obedience is to God.

And Jesus was obedient when the Holy Spirit drove him out into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil after his baptism. He was obedient to the Word of God that had been spoken to him, the Word of God that told him that he was indeed God’s beloved Son. He was not rebellious and didn’t need to show off his credentials to the devil. He would not obey anyone except his Father God.

There’s a verse in the Bible that says this, these are the words of Jesus: Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. (John 5:19)

And because Jesus is obedient, all the way to the cross, where he gives his life for us, we are set free. We are set free not only from abusive men and women and occupying armies, we are set free not only from people who would take advantage of us by making us their slaves—the Lord inspires brave men and women all over the world to stand up against abuse and oppression and slavery of all kinds—but most of all, the Lord sets us free from the actual evil behind the abusers and oppressors and slavers. The Lord sets us free from sin and the power of the devil. For just as in the Bible, the evil ones in the world today are just symbols and front men for spiritual darkness and the powers that threaten us every day.

Even when we are free from the oppression that comes upon us from outside ourselves… and don’t get me wrong, human beings inflict horrible cruelty on one another so often… but even when we get free from that we can still be in bondage.

Andria Jasper recently let us know that through the love and care of her ministry in Thailand that some young women are getting out of prostitution. But she asked us to pray for a particular young woman who is so tempted to go back into that darkness because, even though she is exploited and taken advantage of there, she gets more money and feels more glamorous than just being a waitress. And I know of people who are set free from drugs and who are thankful but long for the forgetfulness and false peace that drugs gave them. And I know of other kinds of bondage, horrible, ugly traps that women and men go back to even after being set free.

Why? Because there is an inner oppressor, a spiritual warden, a very real prison inside our minds and souls and spirits. The old confession of sin says: We are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves.

We cannot free ourselves, but that does not mean we are condemned to stay in bondage our whole lives.

Jesus has come to save us!

In another church nearby a man who was being asked to lead worship said he could not do it because he said it was wrong, after receiving Jesus as his Savior, to say anymore that he was in “bondage to sin.”

He says, and I agree with him, that we who are being saved are no longer in bondage to sin.

We can still sin, but now, on this side of what Jesus has done for us, after Jesus has taken on our sin and has died on the cross for us, we are no longer in bondage. We are now dead to sin and alive to Christ Jesus. We can choose to sin, but we are no longer bound to do it. Hallelujah!

And that’s why God speaks to us with these words from Philippians chapter 2: If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  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. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:...

Here the Lord is saying to us, that, once we receive Jesus, we can now CHOOSE.

Jesus says:
Now that we have been we been set free because of what I have done for you, taking your sin upon myself --and dying in your place…
--now that you have come to me to have your burden lifted,
--now, the Lord says-- choose now who you will serve.
Choose, as Jesus did.
Have the same attitude as Jesus did.
Choose to obey… choose to be loving, choose to be one in spirit and in purpose, choose to honor others, choose to look to the interests of others, not only to your own self.

Our Lord calls us today to consider this call in every area of our lives. At home, being a servant, being loving, being respectful, even considering saying “ok” to what someone else wants you to do even if you don’t see the point to it… as long as it’s not against God…maybe it is a bit hard, maybe it is inconvenient, maybe you and I feel that it’s unfair… but, at home, doing more than our share… that’s a challenge to me that the Lord has impressed upon me during my prayer time this week… the Lord also calls us to be loving and not domineering toward our children… to balance discipline and love, to consider them as worthy even when they are not, for that is what the Lord has done for us.

The same thing goes in our workplaces. How many of you work with bosses or supervisors who are hypocrites, saying one thing and doing another? How many of us who have employees just don’t understand why our people can’t follow the simplest instructions? Have you considered how the Lord Jesus adjust your behavior and attitudes at work? “In humility consider others better than yourselves”?

And what about in our neighborhoods? And among our friends? Can we be compassionate and caring instead of being judgmental? And our fellow and sister church members? Can we love one another and be one in spirit and purpose? Can we quit holding back our loyalty?

Here’s the thing—we can talk all day about Jesus, but unless we act in such a way that other people recognize that we are loving, see that we are caring, until our actions and attitudes show that we are Jesus followers, all the words in the world will not convince anyone of anything. We’ll just be looked upon as people who are trying to get more members for our particular Christian club.

But when we start to know the real people around us, when we “get” what it is that they are suffering, what it is they are dealing with, and when we do something that is unmistakably Christ-like, then, chances are, there is a lot better chance that they will be able to see the freedom Jesus wants to bring.

Jesus was obedient. He followed what his Father told him to do. The Father had it planned… he would speak to the people in the language they knew, by coming into town on a young donkey. A silly thing… his feet probably were scraping the ground… but the people saw, and they knew, here was someone who was coming to set them free.

Let’s pray that we can follow the directions of our Father, in His Word, being loving, tender, compassionate, considering others more important than our own tastes and our own convenience. Let us humble ourselves so that others will know our Lord, receive him, and be set free.

Prayer Time
  • For freedom for those in bondage, for the 19 year old girl and others in Andria’s ministry… for those suffering under painful and abusive relationships… for those in countries where there is no freedom…
  • That people would say yes to Jesus during this holy week. That we would bring others with us to share in the depths of Jesus’ love. That we would be obedient to Jesus’ command to make disciples of ALL nations, to leave no one out.
  • That we would hear our Father’s voice and obey it. That God would bless us with a spirit of boldness and humility, that we would not just do what others want us to do but that we would obey our Lord.
  • That we follow Jesus’ path of obedience and servanthood even when it seems as though we are getting nowhere, even when we are persecuted and rejected, even, if we need, to be obedient unto death.
  • That we would keep the promise of triumph and resurrection before us on those days and in those times when we can only see the cross, for the cross leads to joy.


  1. its all about LOVE. Let our actions speak louder than our words.

  2. Amen 11:44. Though none of our actions will ever speak as loudly as those of Jesus.