Above All Names

Tom Pennington • Philippians 2:9-11

  • 2004-05-02 AM
  • Sermons


Recently I was listening to a message by R.C. Sproul and was reminded of some revolutionary war slogans that I remember from high school and college. Perhaps you remember some of them. "No taxation without representation." But the one that struck me, and the one that he was emphasizing as well, was the one that can send a bit of shiver down your spine, and that is this, "We serve no sovereign here." As Americans I think we have a predisposition against the concept of sovereignty, certainly on the level of human government. And as fallen sinners we have an equally strong predisposition against the concept of divine sovereignty. But Philippians 2 is here to remind us this morning that, like it or not, there is a sovereign on the throne of the universe.

Let me read it for you, beginning in Philippians 2; I'll read the entire passage. We've looked at part of it already, but just to set the context, Philippians 2:5,

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be greedily clutched or a thing to be held onto at all cost, but He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As I've reminded you before, the theme of this passage is: the supreme example of the humility of Jesus Christ. Paul began the chapter by urging us, as brothers and sisters in Christ, to be united, and he said, the sin that typically destroys unity is pride. On the other hand, the virtue that leads to unity is humility. And after he sets that before us in the first four verses, in verse 5 he reminds us that we're to have that kind of attitude of humility, the very same attitude that Christ demonstrated.

In verses 6 through 8 we looked in detail at Christ's condescension and His humiliation. He willingly humbled Himself, took on the form of you and me, became like us except without sin, and even humbled Himself as a man to die on a cross. When we come to verses 9 through 11 the picture turns and we see His exaltation. No longer His humiliation, but now God exalting Him. It's how God responded to His Son's willing voluntary self-humbling. He responded by exalting Him.

In these verses there are three elements that I want you to see, three elements of God's exaltation of Jesus Christ. The first we'll call the divine response, the divine response. Notice verse 9, "For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name." With verse 9 there's a dramatic change in the flow of the passage. In verses 6 through 8 Jesus is the subject of all of the verbs, Jesus is the doer of the action, but when you come to verse 9 the Father steps in; He steps in and acts in response to Christ's self-humiliation. Notice it begins "For this reason." It doesn't mean that the exaltation of Christ was some sort of reward that God gave Christ, although you could look at it that way. But the primary emphasis is that the exaltation of Jesus Christ was God's vindication of His humiliated Son.

When we looked at the humiliation and the condescension, we saw a process. In fact, we described it as steps down. He began the "form of God," sharing the glory of God, and then He chose to "empty Himself." And the next step down, He took "the form of a slave." And then He was "made in the likeness of men." And then He was "found in appearance as a man." And finally, even as a man He took another step down and humbled Himself "by becoming obedient even to the point of death." And then finally He reached the lowest rung on the ladder and that was death as a common criminal "on a cross." It was a process, a series of steps if you will, Paul leads us down.

But with the exaltation it's not a process, in fact, it's captured in one Greek word that is translated "highly exalted." It's as if in one mighty act God grabbed His humiliated Son and thrust Him to the highest point in the universe. It's the normal Greek word for exalt, but it has added to it a prefix, it's our English word hyper. God hyper-exalted Jesus Christ, He super-exalted Jesus Christ. He exalted Christ to the highest possible degree. You see, this principle of humiliation and then exaltation is woven into the moral fabric of the universe. You remember how often Christ said something like this in His earthly ministry, "'he who exalts himself will be [what?] humbled. But he who humbles himself will be exalted.'" Christ is the living lesson in that moral principle.

The tense of the Greek verb that's translated "highly exalted" tells us that God did this, God exalted Christ, at one point in time in human history. When was that? Well, it points to the historical event of the resurrection and the ascension. In raising Christ from the dead and then exalting Him to His right hand, God exalted His Son. The resurrection, crowned by the ascension some 40 days later, was the Father's amen to the Son's dying claim, "It is finished."

But how could Christ be more exalted than He already was? Now think about this for a moment. Christ was God. How could He be more exalted than that? You see, as God, as we learned the last couple of weeks, as God He veiled His glory. So now that He is resurrected and ascended, all He has to do is remove the veil from His glory and He is all that He was; He has as He says in John 17, "'Father, restore to me the glory which I had with You before the world was.'" So in what sense did God exalt Christ after the resurrection and the ascension? He is now exalted, not as God, but as the God man, fully God and fully man, forever, with those two natures; God has highly exalted Him as the God man.

This was predicted, by the way. Turn to Isaiah. We're familiar with those passages in Isaiah that talk about the suffering of Christ, but Isaiah also saw the glory that would follow. Notice Isaiah 52:13, "Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted," literally, "very high exalted." And in chapter 53, that famous chapter about the suffering of Christ, God ends it with this punctuation point at the end of verse 12, or at the beginning of verse 12 I should say, "Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, and He will divide the spoil with the strong; because He poured out His life unto death."

Daniel makes the same point in Daniel 7, talking about the exaltation of this Son of Man. Daniel 7:13, Daniel writes,

"I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven one like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed."

The Old Testament prophesied that the Suffering Servant, once He had been humiliated, once He had been taken to the point of death, He would be highly exalted. And the apostles make it clear, that's exactly what happened. In fact, you may not even have thought of this before, but the message of the exaltation of Christ was at the heart of the apostles' message after our Lord ascended into heaven.

Turn to Acts 2, Acts 2. Peter, on the day of Pentecost, preaching to that great crowd, notice what he says about Christ beginning in verse 32. Acts 2:32,

"This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it wasn't David who ascended into heaven but, he himself says:

'The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit at My right hand,
Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'"

In other words, it was the Father talking to God the Son. Verse 36, "'Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah – this Jesus whom you crucified.'"

Chapter 5, the same message comes through the apostles as they stand before the council. They are told in verse 28, not to speak anymore in the name of Jesus, and Peter responds with the apostles in verse 29 this way, "'We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you put to death by hanging Him on a cross.'" You've got to love the boldness of Peter. Verse 31, "'He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.'" This is the constant message of the New Testament, Christ humiliated and humbled Himself and God has exalted Him to His own right hand. Hebrews 2:9, "Christ was made for a little while lower than the angels, because of the suffering of death He was crowned with glory and honor." Romans 14:9, "to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living."

This whole concept of Him becoming Lord and subjecting everything to Himself is found in Ephesians. Turn to Ephesians 1. Paul makes it very clear, in Ephesians 1:20, middle of the verse, he says,

when God raised up Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand in the heavenly places, [He exalted Him] far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

He says listen, when God exalted Christ, He exalted Him above everything.

Now, how exactly did God hyper-exalt or super-exalt Christ? Well, Philippians tells us, Philippians 2. It says, He did it this way, verse 9, He exalted him by giving Him, or bestowing on Him, "the name which is above every name." By the way, the word bestow is the same Greek word, or has the same family of Greek words, as the word grace. He graced Christ with the name that is above every name; He gave it to Him as a gift.

Now, what is this name? The Greek word name can refer either to an actual name, as the name that you and I have, my name is Tom. You have a label that people call you by, it can refer to that label. It can also refer to a title. For example, it's used that way in Mark 9:41. The context determines whether it should be translated name or title.

What is "the name above every name" that God has graced His Son with? Well, there are two options. A few people have said, through the history of the church, that that speaks of the name Jesus. I don't believe that's true and let me give you several reasons why not. First of all, because Jesus was Christ's distinctively earthly name. That was the name that Joseph and Mary were told to name their newborn son. And whenever you see Jesus being referred to by those who don't believe in Him, they call Him by the name Jesus. That was His earthly name, just as my name is Tom. Secondly, I don't believe it's Jesus because of the frequency with which Jesus' names are used.

This is a very interesting thing to me. In the gospels the name Jesus occurs twice as many times as in the rest of the New Testament. But then when you look at His other names, you look at the name Lord, for example, it occurs twice as many times in the rest of the New Testament as it does in the gospels. And the name Christ occurs 10 times more frequently in the rest of the New Testament than it does in the gospels. So what you see is, after Jesus' resurrection and ascension, the name Jesus becomes less and less used and the names Messiah, or Christ, and Lord become more and more used. And in fact, when the name Jesus occurs in the rest of the New Testament it tends to occur frequently with one of those other names or perhaps both of them, as in the Lord Jesus Christ.

There's a third reason I don't think "the name above every name" is the name Jesus and that's the grammar of this passage. Notice verse 10. It begins, "so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow." Now I'm about to ruin a good song called Jesus, Name Above All Names, but I don't think that's what Paul has in mind here. Let me tell you how this should be, is better translated. It doesn't mean, "so that at the name Jesus," instead, it means "at the name that belongs to Jesus," the name that is Jesus' name, the name that's been assigned to Jesus, not the name Jesus, but another name that's been assigned to him. So what is "the name above every name"? If it's not Jesus what other name or title is in this passage? Well, by far the vast majority of interpreters and commentators through the history of the church have agreed that it is the name Lord, Lord. This is where the passage is driving, to the confession at the end of verse 11, "Jesus is Lord."

You see, God gives Christ a name that acknowledges who He is, a name that acknowledges what He achieved, and a name that acknowledges what He deserves. Think about it for a moment. If you wanted to give a title of honor, let's say to a private in the army, you have a wide selection of names that you could give or titles that you could give someone at that level of distinction. You could call him sergeant, for example, and for a private that would be an honor.

But if you wanted to acknowledge a highly decorated general, the number of titles that are available for you to use to honor that man by are much more limited. You have to go to increasing the number of stars on his lapel. Well, think about it, if God wants to exalt His only eternal Son, what title can He use to exalt Him? There's only one choice in all the universe and that is the title Lord, Lord. It's the Greek word kurios. It means master, owner. It speaks of a person who has control over someone or something and has the power to dispose of that someone or something as he chooses. Christ just doesn't have the title Lord, He is Lord. You see, what Paul is saying here is that because of Jesus' willingness to humble Himself, God super-exalted Him and gave Him "the name above every name," the name or title of Lord, or absolute sovereign. That was the divine response to Christ's self-humiliation.

That brings us to the second element in this passage, the second element of Christ's exaltation. Let's look at the definitive reasons. Why exactly did God respond this way? Notice verse 10,

so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Notice, "so that," this speaks of design or purpose. What follows are the reasons God acted to super-exalt His Son and to give Him a "name above every name." "So that at the name of Jesus," that is, because of the name or title that belongs to Jesus, a couple of things are going to happen. What I want you to notice is the future tense. God exalted his Son in the past. That is, at the moment of the resurrection and then later at the ascension, He exalted Him to His right hand. But something is going to happen in the future, "every knee will bow" and "every tongue will confess." You see, in the future God intends that everyone in the universe will stand before Jesus Christ and will give both a verbal and a physical recognition that He is Lord.

It's interesting to note what Christ says of Himself in John 5. Turn there for a moment, John 5:22. Perhaps you've never thought of these verses in this context before, but notice what he says, verse 22, "For even the Father judges no one," or "not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son." What does that mean? It means that without exception, every intelligent being in the universe will stand before and give answer to Jesus Christ. Why? Why has God done that? Why has He "given all judgment to the Son" so that every one of us and every person who's ever lived or will ever live, will stand individually before Jesus Christ?

Notice the next verse, "so that," here was God's purpose in doing that, "so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father." God gave all judgment to the Son, he assigned the Son the right, the privilege, to stand, to sit rather, in judgment. And for every one of us to stand before Him so that all of us would honor the Son as we should honor the Father. And Paul goes on in Philippians 2 to tell us exactly how every man who does stand before Christ will respond. This was God's intention, this was God's purpose, this was His plan. Notice, God wanted two things to happen. First of all, every knee to bow, "every knee will bow." This passage is really a restatement of Isaiah 45. I want you to turn back to Isaiah 45. This is where Paul is getting his point here, it underlies what he's saying in Philippians 2.

The end of chapter 45 of Isaiah, God declares His uniqueness and He contrasts Himself with the worship of idols. And He ends verse 21 by saying, "'I'm the Lord and there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me.'" So therefore, verse 22. "'Turn to me and be saved, all ends of the earth.'" Not just Israel, I'm not just Israel's God, "'I am God and there is no other.'" Verse 23,

"I have sworn by Myself, and the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. For they will say of Me, 'Only in Yahweh are righteousness and strength.' Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. In the Lord the offspring of Israel [both literal and spiritual] will be justified and will glory."

Now, what's going on in this passage? God is saying, I alone am God and therefore I'm issuing a summons to the entire ends of the earth, "'Turn to me and be rescued.'" On what grounds? "'Because I'm alone God and righteousness and salvation are only found in Me.'" Notice in verse 23, the Lord then solemnly swears by His own life that eventually every knee will bow and every tongue will acknowledge His full and complete sovereignty.

Now that's the passage that serves as the basis for Paul's argument in Philippians 2. Turn back to Philippians 2. Notice the extent of this bowing, this obeisance. He says in verse 10, "so at the name of Jesus every knee will bow," and in case we didn't get it, he says, when I say every I mean "those who are in heaven and those who are on earth and those who are under the earth." Those three words define the extent of Christ's authority. Every intelligent being in the universe will bow before Jesus Christ. That's what Revelation 5:13 says, "every created thing which is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.'" It's going to happen.

Now, who are these people in each of these categories? Well, we can't be dogmatic, but probably those in heaven refers to the holy angels, those on earth refers to all men, and those under the earth refer to the fallen angels, the demons. But regardless of the specific meaning of each of those phrases, Paul obviously intends to say that every created being, every rational being, every intelligent creature in the universe will fall before Jesus Christ.

Now there's a second reason God had for exalting Christ and giving Him the name that is above every name. Not only so that every knee will bow, but also notice, again back in Philippians 2, that "every tongue will confess." To confess simply means to openly declare, to acknowledge publicly. And Paul here adds two very important things to Isaiah's prophecy. You remember, back in Isaiah, Yahweh is speaking and Yahweh says, "every knee will bow to Me and every tongue will confess to Me." Paul here tells us that, specifically, it is the second member of the Trinity to whom every creature will bow and confess, Jesus Christ. He also tells us exactly the confession that every tongue will be forced to make. Notice what he says there, "every tongue will confess," literally, "that Lord is Jesus Christ." Or, as it's often put in other places in the New Testament, "Jesus is Lord."

This was the earliest confession of the early church. In fact, in the first century if you wanted to be baptized you had to make this acknowledgement, Jesus is Lord. It appears, for example, in 1 Corinthians 12:3, where Paul says, "no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, 'Jesus is accursed'; and no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit." Now what does that mean? Of course, an unbeliever can say, "Jesus is Lord." Matthew 7 says that, "'Many will say in the last day, "Lord, Lord,"'" and then they end in destruction. So what do you mean, "no one can say, 'Jesus is Lord,' except by the Holy Spirit"? He means, no one can say it and mean, to me, Jesus is Lord, except by the work of the Holy Spirit.

This is at the heart of the gospel. Turn to Romans 10. Many of us grew up reciting what we called the Romans Road, presenting the gospel to others, and it ends with these familiar verses. In Romans 10:8, Paul says,

what does it say, "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" – that is, the word of faith, [or literally, the message of faith,] which we are preaching, [the message of faith we're preaching, here it is,] that if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;

So something comes out of the mouth that is simply a recognition of what's going on in the heart. Verse 10, "for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he then confesses it openly, resulting in salvation." What's going on here? What does it mean? What does it mean to confess that Jesus is Lord? Well, first and most obviously, it means to acknowledge that He is God. Back in Isaiah 45, that was the point. God was saying, I am only God and there are no others, and so every knee is going to bow and every tongue confess that that's true.

So to say, "Jesus is Lord," is to acknowledge that He is God. But it doesn't simply mean that, because the demons acknowledge that Jesus is God, James 2:19. In fact, Christ warns that there will be others who will acknowledge that He's God who will spend an eternity separate from Him. Turn to Matthew 7, Matthew 7:21. These chilling words of Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, He says,

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Kurios, Kurios,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Kurios, Kurios, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them. 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'"

So obviously, simply acknowledging the reality that Jesus is what He claims to be, and even calling Him Lord, isn't what it means to confess Jesus as Lord in the sense of Romans 10:9-10. What does it mean? Well, remember the Greek word is kurios. Let me give you a brief overview of that word and how it used. I'm not going to give you all the references. If you want them I have them here my notes, I can give them to you later, but let me just kind of skate you through how it's used in the New Testament.

It's used of the master or owner of a house, the master of a vineyard, the owner of a harvest, the master over animals. It's also used of anyone in authority. For example, a son refers to his father with this word. Sarah refers to Abraham, her husband, with this word. It's used of earthly government officials. It's used of Pilate. The Roman emperor is also called kurios in Acts 25:26. It's used as a synonym for king. You remember that expression that occurs a number of times throughout the New Testament, that Jesus is King of Kings and Kurios of Kurioi, Lord of Lords, synonymous with king.

But it's used most commonly, this word kurios, is used most commonly of the master of slaves, both literal slaves, you find that throughout the New Testament, but it's also used figuratively. Let me show you a couple of these. Turn to Matthew 6:24, Christ says, "'No one can serve two masters,'" the word masters is our word kurios in plural form, "'for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.'" It's used as a master of slaves.

In John 13 Christ, I think, further gives definition to this word kurios. John 13. This, of course, is the night before His crucifixion, He's just washed the disciples feet, and then He gets up and, verse 13, He says this to them,

"You call me Teacher and Kurios; and you're right, for I am. If I then, the real Kurios and the Teacher, washed your feet, you all also ought to wash one another's feet."

Now watch verse 16, how He defines the word, "'Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his kurios.'" When Christ said, "'you call Me Lord,'" He was saying, "'you call Me Master,'" as a slave would refer to his master, "'and it's right for you to call me that,'" He says.

Paul also uses it in many passages in this way. You can look at 1 Timothy 6:15, but I want you to turn me with to Colossians 3, Colossians 3:22. He writes,

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters [plural of kurios], on earth, not with the external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the real Kurios. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the real Kurios rather than for men, knowing that from the Kurios you will receive the reward of the inheritance. For it is the Kurios Messiah whom you serve.

This is my point, when you look at the meaning of this word, when you look at its use in the rest of the New Testament, saying that Jesus is Lord must mean acknowledging Christ's right to rule you. It's saying, You are my rightful master. Christians were persecuted by the Romans, and even put to death, because they said Jesus is Kurios. It wasn't because they were claiming that Jesus was God that they were put to death, there were lots of gods in the Roman pantheon. It's because when they said Jesus is Lord, they were saying that's where my allegiance is, instead of to Caesar. It was seen as an act of high treason by the Roman government, because they followed a different king.

When God bestowed on Christ as the God man, absolute unrestrained authority, that's what it means to recognize Jesus as Lord; it's to recognize that authority, that sovereignty. Matthew 28:18, "Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, 'All authority,'" this is after His resurrection, "'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.'" All authority belongs to Christ and someday, Paul says in Philippians 2, someday every tongue in the universe will publicly acknowledge that reality. You say, well I understand that believers do, we already do, we already confess Jesus as Lord, but does that mean unbelievers as well? The answer is yes. If you go back to Isaiah 45:24 it says, even those who are angry with Me will confess that and they will be brought to shame.

D.A. Carson writes this, "In Philippians 2, every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but it does not follow that every tongue will confess Jesus Christ as Lord out of happy submission. The text promises that Jesus has the last word, that He's utterly vindicated, that in the end no opposition against Him will stand. There will not be universal salvation. There will be universal confession as to who He is. That means that either we repent and confess Him by faith as Lord now, or we will confess Him in shame and terror on the last day, but confess Him we will." End quote. You see, the divine response to Christ's self-humiliation was to super-exalt Christ and give Him the title and authority of Sovereign Lord. And the definitive reasons God did that were so that every knee of every intelligent being in the universe would bow and that every tongue would confess that Jesus is both God and absolute Sovereign.

That brings us to the third element, the direct result. Notice the end of verse 11, "to the glory of God His Father." You see, to honor the Son as Lord is not to take on or away from the Father. In fact, it merely reflects the Father's plan. Matthew 10:40, Christ says to His apostles, "'he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.'" You see, when we bow before Christ, acknowledging His authority, acknowledging His right to rule, we not only honor Christ, but we give glory to God the Father. That is the Father's eternal plan.

So that brings us to the end of the passage and to ask this question, so what does it mean? How does it apply? Well, if you're sitting here this morning and you're a believer, let me give you a couple of ways this passage should apply to you. First of all, if you've made the confession that Jesus is Lord, then you should live in submission to His will. Turn to Luke 6. Listen to what Christ says in Luke 6. It's part of Luke's rendition or version of the Sermon on the Mount. Christ says this in verse 46 of Luke 6, "'Why do you call me "Kurios, Kurios" and do not do what I say?'" That doesn't make sense, He says, you call me Master and you don't do what I say.

In the parallel account in Matthew you have people standing before Christ on the judgement day saying Kurios, Kurios. Here you have their present confession. So in Luke He's talking to the people who were around Him at that time. In Matthew He is talking about those people who will stand before Him on judgment day. But in both cases you have people saying Kurios, Kurios, Jesus is Lord and yet their lives don't reflect that reality. To respond to that, in both cases, Matthew and Luke, Christ then launches into that familiar story that we've heard since we were children, about the two houses; the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the wise man who build his house on the rock. His point is to illustrate that there are these two kinds of professing Christians, there are these two kinds of lives, if you will, both of which profess Jesus as Lord.

But one stands the test of the judgement and the other collapses and is devastated and destroyed. What's the difference? Well, notice what he says, verse 47,

"Everyone who comes to Me and hears My word and [underline this] acts on them, I will show you whom he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when the flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and it could not shake it, because it had been well built. The one who heard and has not acted [underlined that, here's the other person, he's not acted] accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great."

Now, what is the difference between these two groups of people, both of whom confess Jesus as Lord? One heard Christ and obeyed His words. The other heard Christ and did not act on His words, did not obey Him. What's Christ point? Obedience doesn't save, it simply shows whether your house really has a foundation. Obedience shows whether our confession that Jesus is Lord is real. Obedience simply shows which life is really built on Christ. It doesn't mean Christians don't sin, we do. It doesn't mean we sometimes don't sin horribly, we do that too. Nor does it mean that we can't go along and refuse to repent over an extended period of time. Unfortunately, we as Christians sometimes do that as well.

What it does mean is that where there is an honest confession that Jesus is Lord, there will, as a rule, be an increasing pattern of righteousness and a decreasing pattern of sin. If that's not true of you, then you need to examine your heart. If your spiritual pulse is a flat line and has been for some time, then it may be that you were spiritually stillborn, that you never really had life at all.

There's a second point for us as believers here, not only to examine our lives, but secondly, to follow Christ's example of humility. This is the point Paul is making in Philippians 2. He's saying, you can follow the humble example of Christ; don't live to advance yourself and to promote your own empty conceit. Self-forgetting love is the only way to true exaltation, both for Christ and for you. Don't exalt yourself. Don't lift yourself up. Instead, like Christ, humble yourself, become a slave, become a servant, and God will exalt you in His time and in His way.

If you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, let me say to you, you will eventually bow the knee and you will eventually confess that Jesus is Lord, that He is your sovereign. But Hebrews 9:27 says, "it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgment." If your confession of Jesus as Lord occurs after your death then it's too late for you. At that point all that is ahead for you is eternal pain in a place Jesus describes as a place where no one ever dies and the flames are never quenched.

But if you confess Him now as Lord, Romans 10:9-10 says, that you will be saved, it's a divine promise. That passage ends in verse 13 by saying how that kind of faith in the heart expresses itself. It rolls out in a cry to God, "'Whoever calls upon the name of the lord,'" whoever calls out to God for that kind of salvation, "'will be saved.'"

On January 17, 1994, a few minutes after 4 am, a major earthquake struck Los Angeles. The epicenter was just a few miles from my home. It was a wild ride, let me tell you. When it struck I reached over and hooked one arm around the mattress and the other arm around Sheila, and it was like someone grabbed the house, a giant grabbed the house, and shook it as violently as you can imagine. A few seconds later, less than a minute later, when the shaking stopped, the devastation was incredible, 51 people lay dead, 10,000 were injured, 44 billion dollars in property damage, nine interstate overpasses lay in rubble, several of them near my house.

What was interesting about it, as you looked at the buildings that were demolished, 25,000 homes were ruled uninhabitable, but what was fascinating is that some buildings and their contents were devastated and others nearby seemed hardly touched. For example, our town home sustained 10,000 dollars in damage; while two miles away in my in-laws' house, they had a teacup break.

The engineers began to look and fascinated by the differences, and as they looked at that they came across one very interesting reality. And that was, the devastation in any given home, any given situation, the extent of the damage seemed to be directly related to the soil on which the structure was built. Those that had a base of bedrock seemed to fare far better than those that were built on fill. Those built on the right foundations survived when the ultimate test struck.

That is the consistent message of Scripture. The life that is built on the right foundation, that is, on Christ, will survive in the judgment. The question is, how do you know if your life is really built on Christ ? Christ's answer is very simple, do you do what I say? Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the powerful reminder from Your Word, that every person who has ever, is currently living, or will ever live, will someday recognize the authority that You have granted to Your Son when You exalted Him and gave Him the name Lord. Lord, we're grateful that we who know You have already acknowledged that sovereignty, that we have already bowed our knee and our tongue has already confessed that He is our Lord, our Master. Lord, our obedience is so imperfect; we ask for Your forgiveness. Lord, help us to live like what we profess.

And Lord, we pray for someone here this morning who has never truly bowed his or her knee before You and confessed Jesus as Lord, help them to turn this morning in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ. In whose name we pray, amen.