Honestly, in my mind there can be nothing better than getting to Jesus and hearing from Him, “I’ve been getting a lot of glory down there because of you.”
Have you ever thought about what people will say at your funeral? What is your reputation? How do others see you? When people think of you what do they think of?
The title of the sermon is “Exalting Christ In Me”. Is there a better NY’s resolution? Is there a better life resolution? Can you think of a better reputation to have than that of someone who exalts Jesus Christ?
Exalt means to make great, magnify, make conspicuous, to get glory and praise. It’s like someone interacting with you and walking away they go “Wow, if Jesus is like that guy says then Jesus is awesome!” Or, after watching you they say “Wow, if Jesus is really is why she is the way she is then Jesus is incredible” Exalting Jesus in your life means that Jesus isn’t your secret. It means that other people are going to associate you with Jesus. They’re going to hear about Him from you, they’re going to see how you act and take note that there’s something different about you.
Sometimes it’ll be seen as a good thing, other times it’ll be seen as a bad thing. It may be a good thing when they see how forgiving you are, and how patient you are and how pure you are. It may be a bad thing when they see you won’t go along with something dishonest, or you won’t go along with something sexually immoral. Then they may hate that you are all about Jesus.
The point is that if our lives are going to be exalting Christ, magnifying Him, then we can’t be an obstacle to that. “He must increase, I must decrease” John the Baptist said. “I have died with Christ” Paul said, “and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” See, there is only room for one person to be exalted in our lives: its either going to be us, or Christ. Christ will not share it, and, watch out because He won’t concede His rightful place in your life either. Not even to you.
So, I want to pull 3 mini-devotions out of our passage this morning. It is driving me nuts to only be doing 3 because this passage should be 3 sermons spread out over 3 Sundays. But the point today is how to exalt Christ in our lives: 1) through Dependance, 2) through Death, and 3) every Day.
#1: Exalt Christ through DEPENDANCE (19)
Read verse 19.
Paul says, “what has happened to me”. What happened to Paul? Look at verses 12-14 here in the same chapter….read. Well, he was in prison. He wrote this letter and 3 others and together they became known as the prison letters.
If we are really going to exalt Christ then first and foremost we must face our own inadequacy. We must step into a life of dependence. Paul was well aware of how insignificant and inadequate and how dependent he was. “But for the grace of God, there go I” he once said. Another time he said, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” Now he says, “I know that by your prayers and by the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ…”
So He knows he will get through it and it is not because of how awesome he is. He’s not Jason Bourne, or Liam Neeson, he’s not an ancient Avenger. He will get through it because of things outside of himself. He mentions 2: the prayers of the Church and the help of the Holy Spirit. Paul did not think for a moment that he was alone in his circumstances. Nor did he think that somehow the plans God had for him had fallen apart. He wasn’t asking God “why?”. He wasn’t accusing God of abandoning him. He wasn’t asking “Where is God?” No, Paul knew God was with him and he knew that he was right where God wanted him.
Application: Depend on the prayers of others. I look at Paul and imitate him. He was never embarrassed about telling people to pray for him. A number of you have asked how you can pray for me and you’ve received a list. I know exactly how you need to pray for me and I would challenge you to pray for me. The person who say, “Oh, I don’t want to be selfish, don’t pray for me” is a fool. Everyone of us should be tugging on people’s shirts and saying “Pray for me”. Tell your spouse to pray for you. Tell your kids. Tell your parents. Tell your friends at church. Do not go your whole Christian life never telling anyone you need their prayers!
Application: Depend on the Lord. “and the help given me by the Spirit of Christ”. That is a radically different mentality than “I’ve got what it takes to get through this.” Or, “That which doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger.” Or, “I’ve weathered the storms before.” All those betray a self-reliance. Paul was clearly relying on the LORD and only the LORD.
His dependence on God is also a radically different mentality than blaming God. “Why have you let this happen to me God?” “What did I do to deserve this, God?” To be sure, there may be a season where we have to work through those thoughts. I don’t want to be callous to the real pain that is felt in the very real hardships people go through. But there’s a difference between trying to row through a storm to make it to the other side, and throwing the oars in the water and cursing God.
Paul was able to exalt Christ in his circumstances because He knew Christ is exalted. Christ is not a struggling hero, in danger of being overwhelmed by His enemies even though He’s fighting valiantly. No, He is exalted to the right hand of God, possessing all authority in heaven and on earth. He is exalted, and seeing that in the midst of our circumstances enables us to exalt Him.
Application: Abandon the idea that you are adequate. No one likes the idea of being “inadequate”. It means that we aren’t good enough. We don’t measure up. We don’t have what it takes. Who likes to think of themselves like that? Does an employee like to see themselves that way? Nobody ever got hired because they said, “I’m the most inadequate person for the job”. And no one ever fell in love with someone else because of how inadequate the other person was, “Gosh, you’re just so much less than everything I ever hoped for!”
We spend our lives trying to be adequate and prove we got what it takes. Yet, God searches and searches for those who genuinely say, “I’m not enough God.” Remember Moses? “I’m not a good speaker God, please go find someone else.” Moses felt and admitted his inadequacy. How about Gideon? “But my tribe is the least in Israel, my clan is the least in my tribe, my family is the least in my clan, and I am the least in my family! I’m not the guy you’re looking for Lord.” Gideon felt his inadequacy.
Paul reached this point too in his life. Three times God refused to remove the thorn in Paul’s flesh. Whatever it was God decided that pain, that weakness, that fault, whatever it was, was a good way to keep Paul humble and remind Paul that without Christ he can do nothing, that without Christ he is nothing. Remember those famous words? If you talk to Eleanor Slater you’re bound to hear them. They’re the words of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in your weakness.”
That is not Christianity 101. It’s not the ABC’s of the faith. That is advanced, matured, experienced Christianity. That is a full-grown faith learned through painful trials and even more painful realizations that we really are inadequate in ourselves. That we really are dependent – far more so than we ever see. Why do I say blessed? Because blessed is the man who does not trust in man but wholly trusts in the LORD
What has happened to you? Have your plans fallen apart? Has life taken turns you never expected? Have things never turned out quite the way you imagined? Our reactions to the ups and downs of life may in large part be due to the fact that we live with the expectation that when we expect something we will always get it. It may just be that God allows those things to happen to bring us face to face with the reality that He is the only One who has a right to expect things to go how He intends. It may just be that He brings things into our lives by His own design to purify us, to humble us, to make us rely less on us and more on Him.
Only once we personally are seeing Christ exalted in our lives are others going to be able to see Christ exalted in us.
What has happened to you? Are you exalting Christ in your dependance on Him?
#2: Exalt Christ in DEATH (20-24)
You may have picked up on the motif of life and death that Paul writes with. Paul is very aware of death. And this is a good thing. Follow along with me in verses 20-24, “……”
Paul touches on 3 important perspectives of death:
First, Paul looked at death with courage. Read verse 20…. There was certainty in Paul’s mind that he would not “wimp out”. That when the sword was raised, he would stretch his neck; or if the gun were put to his head he would lean into the barrel. He would have sufficient courage.
Courage doesn’t mean the absence of fear, necessarily. Courage means you act according to what is right even when you feel fear. Your convictions control you rather than fear. In 1 Corinthians 16:13 Paul says “be men of courage”, in other translations it says act like men. Courage is a manly trait. Even threat of harm wont make you run or compromise.
I remember the story of the ancient Christian bishop Polycarp when he was martyred. It is said that when he entered the Roman arena a voice was heard shouting: ‘Play the man Polycarp! Play the man!”
And did he play the man indeed. Go read his story. ( Quit making celebrity Christians your heroes and idolize men like Polycarp, or Ignatius, or women like we looked at last month.)
That kind of courage strikes to the heart of manhood: mastering fear instead of being mastered by it. For us Christians courage comes from faith. Fear and faith are mutually exclusive. After calming the storm Jesus turned to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Paul said in Acts 21:13, “I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
Let me humbly offer two prescriptions to face death with courage.
First, practice intentional courage in everyday situations. The more we practice courage the more likely we will act with courage
Second, be more afraid of displeasing Jesus than anything else. Make pleasing Him your highest goal every day. If that’s how we live every day and if that’s how we face every circumstance, and that’s how we think through every decision then as bigger challenges to our faith come our way we will have been practicing for it. But if we
Second, see that death is a gain. He says in verses 21–23. Clearly Paul was convinced that whatever benefits and joys were his down here, they were incomparable to what was coming on the other side of death. Death wad a gain, and that is the understatement of eternity. “We are confident I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the LORD.” (2 Cor. 5:8). “No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9). “To depart, is better by far”. As what may be one of Jan Nopperts favorite verses: “He has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Third, desire death. Follow along, verses 21-23….. Our society has an aversion to death and talking about it. Turn the other way, change the subject, busy ourselves with everything – just don’t think about death or talk about it. Christians have an opportunity in such a society to really stand out because of the hope we have in death.
Now notice the way Paul talks, he really wanted to leave. He really wanted to go. He really wanted to die! “I want to know Christ” he says in chapter 3, “and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings and so become like him in his death.”
It was not in any way because he hated his life and was miserable and depressed. Paul knew great joy and peace and love in life. Just read through this whole letter. No, what made Paul want to leave was not the bitterness on this side, but, the utterly surpassing joy waiting on the other side. Life was good as far as Paul was concerned, but, leaving was unimaginably better! This is upper level Christianity. It comes with a pure life, a time-tested faith and a deep devotion to Gods promises in the word
You may not die a martyrs death – execution style. You may die of old age, of cancer, a sudden accident, or even from COVID. You may go in comfort or pain. But, will others see you face your death with courage, with desire, and with an expectation of the gain waiting for you on the other side?
Exalt Christ in your death by living faithfully all the way up to your death. Make your death a perfect ending to your life.
#3: Exalt Christ Each DAY (v22, 25)
I think it was best to explore death first. I think that in facing death we are better suited to live. At funerals I often quote the french philosopher Montaigne who said, “Whoever would teach men to die would at the same time be teaching them to live.” His point is that meaningfully thinking about our death results in living a better life. Christians couldn’t agree more, especially since we know what death ushers us into!
We see Paul here too connecting death and living. How I hope to see death like Paul in order that I would see life like Paul! Let me pull just one thing out for us that ought to give shape to our lives as Christians: Fruitful living
And by that I mean: Fruitful labor. Notice verse 22 and 25, “….” We are only given so many days on on this earth. What shall we devote them too? Paul would not let one day go by where he did not improve the faith of other Christians. The fruitful labor for Paul meant helping other Christians progress in their faith, in exalting Christ more and more in their own lives.
Leave others better in Christ for having known you. Honestly, in my mind there can be nothing better than getting to Jesus and hearing from Him, “I’ve been getting a lot of glory down there because of you.”