What is power? - 13 April 2021
By Xanthe Hancox
- Philippians 2:5-7
The attitude you should have is the one that Christ Jesus had: He always had the nature of God, but he did not think that by force he should try to remain equal with God. Instead of this, of his own free will he gave up all he had, and took the nature of a servant. He became like a human being and appeared in human likeness. He was humble and walked the path of obedience all the way to death — his death on the cross. For this reason God raised him to the highest place above and gave him the name that is greater than any other name. And so, in honour of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below will fall on their knees, and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. So then, dear friends, as you always obeyed me when I was with you, it is even more important that you obey me now while I am away from you. Keep on working with fear and trembling to complete your salvation, because God is always at work in you to make you willing and able to obey his own purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may be innocent and pure as God's perfect children, who live in a world of corrupt and sinful people. You must shine among them like stars lighting up the sky, as you offer them the message of life. If you do so, I shall have reason to be proud of you on the Day of Christ, because it will show that all my effort and work have not been wasted. Perhaps my life's blood is to be poured out like an offering on the sacrifice that your faith offers to God. If that is so, I am glad and share my joy with you all. In the same way, you too must be glad and share your joy with me. If it is the Lord's will, I hope that I will be able to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be encouraged by news about you. He is the only one who shares my feelings and who really cares about you. All the others are concerned only with their own affairs, not with the cause of Jesus Christ. And you yourselves know how he has proved his worth, how he and I, like a son and his father, have worked together for the sake of the gospel. So I hope to send him to you as soon as I know how things are going to turn out for me. And I trust in the Lord that I myself will be able to come to you soon. I have thought it necessary to send you our brother Epaphroditus, who has worked and fought by my side and who has served as your messenger in helping me. He is anxious to see you all and is very upset because you had heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill and almost died. But God had pity on him, and not only on him but on me, too, and spared me an even greater sorrow. I am all the more eager, then, to send him to you, so that you will be glad again when you see him, and my own sorrow will disappear. Receive him, then, with joy, as a brother in the Lord. Show respect to all such people as he, because he risked his life and nearly died for the sake of the work of Christ, in order to give me the help that you yourselves could not give. In conclusion, my brothers and sisters, be joyful in your union with the Lord. I don't mind repeating what I have written before, and you will be safer if I do so. Watch out for those who do evil things, those dogs, those who insist on cutting the body. It is we, not they, who have received the true circumcision, for we worship God by means of his Spirit and rejoice in our life in union with Christ Jesus. We do not put any trust in external ceremonies. I could, of course, put my trust in such things. If anyone thinks they can trust in external ceremonies, I have even more reason to feel that way. I was circumcised when I was a week old. I am an Israelite by birth, of the tribe of Benjamin, a pure-blooded Hebrew. As far as keeping the Jewish Law is concerned, I was a Pharisee, and I was so zealous that I persecuted the church. As far as a person can be righteous by obeying the commands of the Law, I was without fault. But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ's sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere refuse, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him. I no longer have a righteousness of my own, the kind that is gained by obeying the Law. I now have the righteousness that is given through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God and is based on faith. All I want is to know Christ and to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings and become like him in his death, in the hope that I myself will be raised from death to life. I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect. I keep striving to win the prize for which Christ Jesus has already won me to himself. Of course, my brothers and sisters, I really do not think that I have already won it; the one thing I do, however, is to forget what is behind me and do my best to reach what is ahead. So I run straight towards the goal in order to win the prize, which is God's call through Christ Jesus to the life above. All of us who are spiritually mature should have this same attitude. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. However that may be, let us go forward according to the same rules we have followed until now. Keep on imitating me, my brothers and sisters. Pay attention to those who follow the right example that we have set for you. I have told you this many times before, and now I repeat it with tears: there are many whose lives make them enemies of Christ's death on the cross. They are going to end up in hell, because their god is their bodily desires. They are proud of what they should be ashamed of, and they think only of things that belong to this world. We, however, are citizens of heaven, and we eagerly wait for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, to come from heaven. He will change our weak mortal bodies and make them like his own glorious body, using that power by which he is able to bring all things under his rule. So then, my brothers and sisters, how dear you are to me and how I miss you! How happy you make me, and how proud I am of you! This then, dear brothers and sisters, is how you should stand firm in your life in the Lord. Euodia and Syntyche, please, I beg you, try to agree as sisters in the Lord. And you too, my faithful partner, I want you to help these women; for they have worked hard with me to spread the gospel, together with Clement and all my other fellow-workers, whose names are in God's book of the living. May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude towards everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus. In conclusion, my brothers and sisters, fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honourable. Put into practice what you learnt and received from me, both from my words and from my actions. And the God who gives us peace will be with you. In my life in union with the Lord it is a great joy to me that after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me. I don't mean that you had stopped caring for me — you just had no chance to show it. And I am not saying this because I feel neglected, for I have learnt to be satisfied with what I have. I know what it is to be in need and what it is to have more than enough. I have learnt this secret, so that anywhere, at any time, I am content, whether I am full or hungry, whether I have too much or too little. I have the strength to face all conditions by the power that Christ gives me. But it was very good of you to help me in my troubles. You Philippians know very well that when I left Macedonia in the early days of preaching the Good News, you were the only church to help me; you were the only ones who shared my profits and losses. More than once when I needed help in Thessalonica, you sent it to me. It is not that I just want to receive gifts; rather, I want to see profit added to your account. Here, then, is my receipt for everything you have given me — and it has been more than enough! I have all I need now that Epaphroditus has brought me all your gifts. They are like a sweet-smelling offering to God, a sacrifice which is acceptable and pleasing to him. And with all his abundant wealth through Christ Jesus, my God will supply all your needs. To our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever! Amen. Greetings to each one of God's people who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters here with me send you their greetings. All God's people here send greetings, especially those who belong to the Emperor's palace. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.
Power can be dangerous.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as they old adage goes.
History has shown that those who pursue power can do tremendous harm, and you only have to turn on the TV to see examples of this in real-time. Power and its pursuit have corrupted leaders in all spheres of life, causing them to seek selfish gain at the expense of others.
God holds the ultimate power to do anything in this world and beyond. If God wanted to bring destruction on a rebellious world, he could do it in an instant. But the Lord Almighty is also the God of compassion and love. He chose instead to offer redemption and reconciliation to the world. Jesus, the Son of God, chose to humble himself and take on mortal, human flesh.
Jesus came into this world, and he could have quickly claimed rightful kingship over all. But instead he chose the status of a servant, submitting to the suffering of persecution and death on a cross so that people could live once again in the full love of God.
Rather than curry favour with rulers and people on influence, Jesus sought out people who were poor, disadvantaged, outcast, and otherwise forgotten.
Jesus Christ defined ultimate power.
By his life, death, and resurrection, he provided a model of humility and service that true power displays.
Prayer: Lord Almighty, all power belongs to you. All glory and honour are yours. Yet you humbled yourself for our sake, and for that we are most grateful. Thank you, Lord Jesus. Amen