Christ's Christmas Journey: Exaltation, Humiliation, Greater Exaltation
December 21, 2014 | Andrew Davis
Well, Christmas is a time of journey, it is a time of moving around from place to place, many of you are going to be traveling this week, I know of some of you who have traveled to get here, to be with family, and maybe you are guests or visitors. And so we know this a time of moving around, a time in which people move. They travel to be with family, they're willing to pay elevated air fares or to bear the traffic around urban centers. They're willing to just get in a car packed up with all kinds of gifts or whatever and drive long distances to be with family, and just to sit and to enjoy that family time together. I picture in my mind's eye: a crackling fire in the hearth, that we haven't had one in years but I just love that picture and the tree right there, hopefully not too close to the fire, but just the enjoyment of being with family and friends, it's a time of moving around.
I also picture sometimes, this is a time of the year after Christmas in which people go to missions, conferences, I know a year ago we went to the cross-conference and traveling through the hills of West Virginia or Western North Carolina, seeing the snow and all that. It's a great time. A time of movement. Christmas has always been associated with journeys, if you look at the very beginning, in Luke chapter 2, when Caesar Augustus issued his decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. And that meant movement. It meant populations moving around within Palestine, as each of the Jews went to their home area to their tribal - their place of tribal ancestry - and they would go there to register, and we know that that's what moved Joseph and Mary to go to Bethlehem, where the prophecy had said that the Christ was to be born. After Jesus was born, shepherds moved a very short distance from the hills outside of Bethlehem to see this incredible thing that the angel had told him about as the angel descended, and who told them, "'Today in the town of David, a Savior is born to you, who is Christ the Lord.'" And so they said, "Come, let's go see what the angel has told us about." And they left the sheep and went to see, and it was just what the Lord had told them would happen. And of course, we know the story of the Magi, we don't know how far they traveled, but they moved from distant lands and they were following a supernatural light, a star that moved and was able to stop over at the place where the child lay, and they traveled from their great distances because of the birth of Christ. And these long journeys were caused by the coming of Christ into the world. And so people since that time have been traveling also, because Christ came into the world. The entrance of Christ into our sin cursed world, result in massive movements of people, providentially. God has been moving people around to achieve His sovereign goals. I think especially of missionaries who have left their own homes and have gone long, long distances to bring the news of Christ, the coming of Christ and of his birth, of His death and resurrection, to those who have never heard his name.
John Paton was a missionary from Scotland in the 19th century. He traveled probably farther than any missionary in history, I don't know that this is true, but I can't think of anyone that traveled farther. From Glasgow, Scotland to Tana in the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. A distance of 9987 miles as the crow flies. Don Richardson, who wrote the missions book, Peace Child, traveled from Calgary, Alberta to Papua New Guinea, a distance of 6167 Miles. William Carey, for him, the distance from London to Serampore, India was 4934 miles as the crow flies, but he had to actually navigate around Africa to get there, an additional 5000 miles.
So many people have traveled long distances to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who have never heard his name. In 1993, Christie and I boarded a plane with Nathaniel and Jenny. Our two children that were alive at that time - please don't think we left the other three behind, they just weren't born yet, they were in the mind of God. But we took those two and they came with us to Japan, and for us that distance was over 7000 miles and our desire was to bring Christ to what was at that time the largest unreached people group in the world, the Japanese, that they would hear the gospel.
Yet I would say that of all of these journeys, no journey is as vast and immeasurable, even indeed infinite as the journey traveled by Christ Himself, in the text that we're going to look at today, in Philippians Chapter 2, it's an infinite journey. The coming of Christ from Heaven to Earth, to the cross, to the grave. No one has traveled so far. Look again at the words of Philippians 2, "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, 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 to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." So in this Christmas sermon, we're going to trace out the words from the words of the text, Christ's stunning and amazing journey. Where Christ began in divine and heavenly glory, how Christ traveled downward into human form, how He traveled further downward to human humility, how Christ traveled infinitely downward at the cross. How then God exalted Christ upward in resurrection glory. How God exalted Christ even further to heavenly glory at His right hand. And now, how God through the Spirit has been exalting Christ to worldwide glory, that's the journey we're going to follow. Down and back up again.
Where Christ Began: Divine and Heavenly Glory
Before the Incarnation, Jesus Existed Eternally in Heavenly Glory
And so we're going to start with where Christ began, divine and heavenly glory. Look at verse 6, "Who being in very nature God, speaking of Christ, who being in very nature, God did not consider equality with God, something to be grasped." Some of the translations have, "Did not think it robbery to be considered equal with God." So before the incarnation, Jesus existed eternally in heavenly glory, He was not created by God the Father. He was eternally begotten as God the Son and received from Him equal glory and equal worship from the heavenly angels. Now, as we've been studying in the book of Isaiah, we realize that He does not share His glory with any created being. Remember how we saw in Isaiah 42:8, The Lord says this, "'I am the Lord, that is my name. I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols.'" There is an infinite gap between God as the creator and all created beings, the creature.
A.W. Tozer put it this way In his classic Knowledge of the Holy, he said, "We must not think of God as the highest in an ever ascending order of beings starting with the single cell and going on from there to the fish, to the bird, to the animal, to man, to angel, to cherub, to God. This would be to grant God eminence, even pre-eminence, but that is not enough. We must grant him transcendence in the fullest sense of the word. Forever, God stands apart. In light, unapproachable. He is as high above an archangel, is above a caterpillar. For the gulf that separates the archangel from the caterpillar is but finite, while the gulf between God and the archangel is infinite." End quote. In that quote from Tozer, there is 1 Timothy six, 15 and 16, which says, "God, the Blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who dwells in unapproachable light whom no one ever has seen or can see." That's God. But Jesus shared God's glory equally. He shared his position in the universe as Almighty God equally. We know that, because as his work was nearing an end the night before He was crucified, He asked in John 17:5, "'Father glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began,'" which would be infinitely bold for him to ask if He were not almighty God.
Christ Equally God, Equally Glorious, Equally Worshipped
So Christ was equally God, equally glorious, equally worshipped. It was not robbery, as one of the translations has, for him to be considered equally God. Another way to look at it is He didn't think it was something He had to grab hold of, to be God or something to hold on to, all the trappings of divine glory. There's different ways to look at that. But He didn't consider it robbery to be considered equally God. It was not arrogance, it was not idolatry, it was not presumption, it was not wickedness. In Isaiah 6, in the call of Isaiah, we have these unforgettable words. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne high and exalted, and the train of His robe filled the temple. And above Him were seraphim, each with six wings. And with two wings, they covered their faces. And with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another. 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty. The whole earth is full of His glory.'" Now, in John 12, the apostle John says, Isaiah spoke about Jesus's glory because he saw him. He saw Jesus's glory and spoke about Him. He said, Jesus's glory, so I think his definitely having in mind Isaiah 6. And so he sees Christ in throne before the incarnation. Jesus's glory was so brilliant before his incarnation that the holy angels couldn't bear to look on him. They'd never committed any sin, they were holy and pure, morally perfect and yet, they're covering their faces. Because Christ dwelt an unapproachable light. 100 million angels, Daniel 7, gives us the implication of a 100 million angels worshipping Christ. That's hard to even fathom what that would have looked like. And so Jesus did not think it robbery to be counted equal with God, it was not robbery to be as divine as God the Father, as omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, righteous, just, loving, wrathful, eternal. All the attributes you can think of when you think about God, they are equally true of Christ before his incarnation. It was not robbery to be as glorious as the Father. He was as brilliant, as radiant, as terrifying to the holy angels, as was God the Father. And it was not robbery to be worshipped like God the Father, there was nothing wrong and everything right for the son being worshipped by those 100 million angels.
The Downward Journey: To Earth, to Servanthood, to the Cross
The Father Sent Him and He Obeyed
That's where Jesus was when he began his downward journey - the pinnacle of glory, the pinnacle of deity and worship - but then the downward journey begins, to earth, to servanthood and to the cross. First, we must understand the Father sent Him and he obeyed. 1 Peter 1:20 says that "He was chosen before the creation of the world" to be our savior. The father sent him from his side into the world 40 times in John's Gospel. It is said of Jesus that the Father sent Him. He is the sent one. Again and again in John's gospel, it stresses this, that the Father sent Him. For example, John 6:38 and 39, "'For I have come down from heaven. Jesus said, not to do my own will, but to do the will of Him who sent me, and this is the will of Him who sent me that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day.'" Friends, by the way, John 6:38, 39 too are the most encouraging verses in the whole Bible. The Father sent the Son into the world to save his children, and he will not stop until He raises you up on the final day. And isn't that encouraging? But again, clearly, the Father sent Him. Or again, John 8:42, he said, "'I came from God,'" this is Jesus speaking, I came from God and now I'm here. "'I have not come on my own, but He sent me.'" So it is clear that the Father sent Jesus on a mission into the world. The Father sent Jesus to become a baby.
Jesus Chose to Become Human
The father sent Jesus to seek and to save the lost, but Philippians 2 emphasizes Christ's own decision in the matter. His own will in the matter. In his pre-incarnate state, he chose to enter the world. He willed to do it. He was delighted to do it even. He chose to become a human being. Look again at verses five through seven, "Jesus: who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing taking the very nature of a servant being made in human likeness." You see the willfulness of it, the choice of it on Jesus's part. He is choosing to do this, it was His will to leave heavenly glory, to make himself nothing. It was his will to become human, to be made in human likeness. And the phraseology here, he was in very nature, God, is the NIV's translation. He became in very nature, servant. I've meditated on it. He was as much servant as he ever was God. He didn't play at being a servant, act at it, he truly to his core was a servant. And the essence of that is he became human in order to do it.
Once Made Human, He Chose a Downward Journey From There
Now once made human, he chose a downward journey from there. God ordained for the birth of Jesus to be noteworthy in its humility and noteworthy in its poverty, actually. It was extremely poor, the circumstances of his birth. Unusually poor, very few babies in the world are born into as degrading circumstances as was the son of God. You know the story, of course, no room in the end, and so Jesus ends up being born in a stable, it might have been a cave outside Bethlehem, it might have been one of those barn type things that you look at. But it was a degrading situation, surrounded by animals. And then after His birth, He was wrapped in cloths by His mother Mary, who apparently, had no help at all. I'm not trying to be insulting to Joseph, but he was probably no help at all. There were no midwives, there were no nurses, there were no OB-GYN, there was no NICU standing by in case there was a problem with the baby, no one took his Apgar score, I don't think any of that happened. And then he's laid in a box of feeding trough for animals. I mean, you think of all the efforts made at Duke or at UNC to keep new-born babies free from any infections at all and free from viruses, and that's a laudable effort, and I know some of you are involved and I praise God for your work. And it's well done too because the infant mortality rates are - it's just a terrible tragedy, I get that. But none of that was there for Jesus, none of it. He's born into abject poverty. I mean, think about 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our lord Jesus, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor. So that you, through His poverty might become rich." So the vast majority of the world's population is poor, below a certain line of poverty, and Jesus, by being born in this way, identified with their poverty.
Downward Further: Servant to All
He willingly chose by his humble birth circumstances, but then once he became a man, he made more and more of the same kind of conscious choices. Verse 8 again, "Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient." He was obedient, he always did what the Father told him to do, He was constantly obedient. We talked about that last week with Isaiah 50. The Lord gave him an opened ear, and he was not rebellious, He didn't draw back, He did everything the Father commanded him to do. He humbled himself and served the father. And at the horizontal level, He humbled himself and served anyone and everyone who came to him for anything. I mean, do you read an account of someone coming to Jesus for something and not getting what they came from for?
It's amazing how humble He was to people who came and needed something from him. Think about Matthew Chapter 8, "When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 'Lord', He said, 'My servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.' Jesus said to Him, 'I will go and heal him.'" Matthew chapter 9, the very next chapter, "…a ruler came and knelt before him and said, 'My daughter has just died, but come and put your hand on her and she will live.' Jesus got up and went with him." Matthew 14, "When Jesus heard [that John the Baptist had been executed], He withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." All He wants to do is be alone and pray to his father. He was grieving. He was a man of sorrows and acquainted with suffering, and He was grieving over the death of John the Baptist, his friend. And so He just wanted to be alone, but the crowds wouldn't let him be alone. When He landed on the other side of the sea, a huge crowd was waiting for him. And when He saw them, “He had compassion on them and healed them” and taught them many things and fed them. And so He fulfilled his own words. Mark 9:35, "If anyone wants to be first, He must be very last and the servant of all." So, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient.
But Jesus’ Obedience and His Humbling Went to the Infinite Level
But Jesus's obedience and his humbling went to the infinite level. So let's finish the thought, "And being found in appearance as a man", Verse 8, "He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross." The cross was His perfect act of submission and obedience to His Heavenly Father. He said, "The world must learn that I love the Father, and I do everything the Father has told me to do. Including dying." And so He said in Gethsemane, "'Not my will but yours be done.'" He drank the cup for us. Now, the cross was infinitely degrading to Jesus. You cannot measure it, you cannot understand how degrading it was. Isaiah 52:14, which God willing we'll get to soon, it says this, "Just as there were many who were appalled at Him, His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and His form marred beyond human likeness." Now that's got to be talking about Jesus's death on the cross. And then in the very next chapter, Isaiah 53, it says, "He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, and by His wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." No one can possibly imagine, fathom how infinitely degrading and humiliating it was for Jesus, the Son of God, the Holy Son of God, to bear our sins, our defilements, our iniquities, our wickedness on himself like swimming in a swamp of un-holiness covered with the muck of our lusts and murders, and thefts and blasphemes and corruptions. And then being justly with him as our substitute, crushed by God the Father, suffering the infinite wrath of God for us as our substitute. This was the very reason why He became human. This is why He took on a body that He might lay that body down in our place on the cross, that was the nadir, that was the bottom of this downward journey that we have been tracing out here in Philippians 2, from Heavenly glory to death, even death on a cross, and then to burial in the grave.
The Upward Glory: Resurrection, Ascension, Enthronement
God Glorified Jesus in His Resurrection
But now, we begin the infinite upward journey as well. Resurrection, ascension, and enthronement. Look at Verse 9, "Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name." God the Father glorified Jesus in His bodily resurrection from the dead. At Christmas time, we celebrate the commitment of God the Son to be human, that is eternal, it's perpetual, he's still human. He took on a body because we humans, we have bodies. He died and laid that body down. God raised him from the dead in a resurrection body to show his perpetual commitment to Christ as human, as our mediator. And so, God glorified Jesus in His resurrection. Verse 4 of Romans Chapter 1 says, "Through the spirit of holiness, Jesus was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord." So this, just glory as God raised Him from the dead.
God Glorified Jesus in His Ascension
And then God glorified Jesus in His Ascension to Heaven. I love that moment in Acts 1 verse 9, where Jesus after he'd spent 40 days with His disciples. Teaching them many things about the Kingdom of God took them out to the Mount of Olives. And it says in Acts 1:9, "He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight." I remember at one time, a number of years ago, one of my kids got one of those free balloons from Kroger and - a helium balloon - and it wasn't properly secured around the wrist. You know those moments. You ever seen that? And then off it goes, we step out, and it just goes, and I just stood there watching it go higher and higher and higher, thinking about the Ascension of Jesus Christ. It's funny my child wasn't thinking about the Ascension of Christ at that moment. It was a moment of great sadness and sorrow, but I was just thinking, what would it have been like to stand there on that hillside and see Jesus as He went higher and higher until finally, a cloud hid Him from their sight. It must have been an awesome sight. And you get the picture of the apostle just standing there staring and like the world. Their lives have ended. They're just there now. And they're immobile. And so God has to send an angel to say, "Come on, let's move along, now. Go back into Jerusalem. The Lord's going to come and give you the power of the Holy Spirit. Don't stand here waiting. He's coming back some day." But what an awesome glory that was to Jesus to ascend. But the book of Hebrews tells us that even the cloud hiding from the sight. That wasn't enough. Jesus, it says, "Has moved through the heavens," So you can imagine like circle upon circle of heavenly reality and exaltation and glory, and Jesus is going higher and higher and higher, even within the heavenly realms.
God Glorified Jesus in His Enthronement at His Right Hand
It says in Hebrews 4:14, "We have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens. Jesus, the son of God, and then God glorified Jesus in His enthronement at His right hand." Mark 16:19 says, "After Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into Heaven and sat at the right hand of God." Psalm 110 verse 1, "The Lord said, to my Lord, Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet." Ephesians 1:20-22 kind of captures all of this upward journey that we've just covered so quickly. Ephesians 1:20-22 says this, "That God raised him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way." So that's the upward journey from the grave to a resurrection, to ascension, to sitting at the right hand of God over everything there is in the universe.
“Therefore” Means the Humiliation Results in the Exaltation
I also want you to notice the link between verse 8 and 9. By the word, therefore, the downward journey was the causal relationship to the upward exaltation. Whoever humbles himself will be exalted. No one has humbled himself as much as Jesus, and therefore no one is as exalted as Jesus. There's a connection. Therefore God raised Him from the dead and seated him at His right hand. Therefore, He exalted him to the highest place.
Jesus Given the Name that is Above Every Name: God
There's a link there. And then it says, Jesus is given "the name that is above every name." Well, that simply is God, He's given the name God or any name that we could refer to God, God the Son, Almighty God, omnipotent, powerful ruler of Heaven and Earth, the one who sits in throne above the circle of the Earth and all its people are like grasshoppers. He is the sustainer of everything in the universe. He is the judge of all the Earth. Any title that could be given that's glorious. Jesus has those titles.
Christmas Results in Greater Glory for Jesus Than if He’d Never Come
And Christmas results in a greater glory to Jesus than He would have had if He had not come to Earth. He ends up with more glory because of what He did. Revelation 5:9, it says, "They sang a new song in Heaven, singing to Jesus, You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals because you were slain and with your blood, you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation." They're celebrating his atoning work, and so He is in Heaven, and He is glorified and exalted. But there is a remaining glory yet for Jesus, and that is a worldwide worship. Look at Verses 9-11, "Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
The Remaining Glory: Worldwide Worship
The Glory of Christ Has Been Spreading Since His Resurrection
Now the glory of Christ has been spreading and increasing since His resurrection and ascension. It's been getting greater and greater every day, every single day. On the night of His resurrection, Jesus came to where his disciples were in the upper room where the doors were locked for fear of the Jews, and Jesus came and stood in their midst and said, "Peace be with you," and they were stunned when they saw him and filled with joy, and He showed them His hands and His side. The marks of His atoning work. And again, He said to them, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, even so, I am sending you.' And then He breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit.'" And with the coming of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, the church started moving out, started that external journey that we talk about, just pouring out of the Upper Room to those thousands of pilgrims who had come there for the day of Pentecost and began preaching the Gospel beginning in Jerusalem, a church started there, it grew to 3000 baptized that first day, and it just continued to grow in Jerusalem. Persecution broke out, it spread throughout Judea and Samaria, and they preached the Gospel in that area. It was taken down to Ethiopia by that eunuch that Philip witnessed to out in the desert from Isaiah 53; we will get to all that.
It spread to the Gentiles by Peter's witnessing to Cornelius and his family. It spread to Cypress and then throughout Asia Minor by Paul and Barnabas as they went on their first missionary journey. And then it spread across to Macedonia and Thessalonica, and down to Athens and Corinth by Paul and Silas as they were called there by the Holy Spirit. It was taken in chains by Paul to Rome, the center of the Roman Empire, but God's word was not chained, and a church was growing up there in Rome and spreading, and everyone in the Roman world heard about that. It continued to spread after the apostolic era through the Roman empire by the blood of martyrs, seed for the church, and our brothers and sisters willing to die for their faith so that the Gospel might spread and Christ might get more and more glory and honor.
As the Gospel spread throughout the Roman world, it continued to spread through the barbarian tribes of Europe, it spread to Germania and Britannia, by early Roman missionaries continued little by little to conquer Europe, spread eastward to the vast rolling hills and valleys of Russia, the distant, mysterious kingdoms of India and China in those early centuries, under the Nestorian's, spread along the Silk Road into the steps of Central Asia. Explorers started taking banners of their Christian kings and queens to the New World, but genuine missionaries came too and started sharing the Gospel among those that were already living in the new world, and the Gospel continued to spread.
The Name of Jesus is Greater and Greater with Every Day of Missions
The last three centuries have seen an explosion of missions to India, Burma, China, distant islands of the South Pacific. After World War II, the unreached people groups began to be isolated and focused on, and more and more turning to the Gospel that they're hearing as this thing relentlessly spread. You know how it says, there's more joy in Heaven over one sinner who repents than 99 who don't need to repent? Everyone person who turns to Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit under the true Gospel, that's more glory for Jesus up in Heaven. Amen.
That's awesome. And every saint that dies and is "absent from the body, present with the Lord" and sees his or her Lord face-to-face and is instantly transformed and made holy and perfect in every way, more glory for Jesus, and there is yet more glory to come, there's more and more work to be done. The Gospel is going to continue to spread. We're going to continue to evangelize right here in the Durham area and to be involved in missions to the ends of the Earth. And it's going really, really well. It's exciting, actually. This is a great time to be alive.
I read an incredible article in World magazine written by David Garrison. The name of the article was the rising tide of Muslim converts to Christianity. And David Garrisons is an IMB missionary for 25 years, PhD from the University of Chicago. He's written a book called, A Wind in the House of Islam. A Wind in the House of Islam. He believes - and in that book, he does research and relates the results of his research - he believes, based on his research, that somewhere between two and seven million former Muslims have converted to Christianity in the past two decades. He says there's been lots of upheaval in the Muslim world, but some of that has actually loosened the grip of Islam on the hearts of people living in Muslim countries. Key example is Iran. Garrison says that The Ayatollah Khomeini has been one of the greatest evangelists for Christ that Iran has ever seen. He didn't mean to be that way, but that's been the outcome. What do I mean? What did Garrison mean? Well, because of his overwhelming dedication to enforce the Islam that is actually taught in the Quran, hear me carefully, it's not extreme Islam, it's genuine Islam, and he desired to enforce that in Iran, thousands and thousands of Iranians don't want any part of it. Don't want any part of it. They're leaving Islam in record numbers. Tens of thousands and probably hundreds of thousands in Iran are now brothers and sisters in Christ.
And Jesus's glory has increased as a result of that. That's happening on a grand scale in many places. Garrison said this; there are movements of Muslims to Christ. And by that, I mean not just individuals, but movements of at least a thousand within a single community who have been baptized or 100 churches planted over the last two decades. Those are his criteria from one end of the Muslim world to the other, so from West Africa to Indonesia and everywhere in between. He said Muslims are having their sleep disturbed by visitations and by answered prayers as well. He said we've talked to a number of folks who just talked about how they tested God. They said, "If this is real, I'm just going to pray, and if you're really there, Lord, I want you to hear this." And Jesus began to reveal Himself through His faithfulness in amazing ways, and they realized that to follow Christ was not to follow a 2000-year-old dead prophet. It was to follow the living Lord. That, for them, was the turning point. Garrison said this, "I traveled more than a quarter of a million miles into the Muslim world, and in every corner I interviewed people, I would never have imagined I'm talking about Sheikhs and Imams and Mullahs, leaders in the Islamic community who gave testimony to having been baptized after having met Jesus and knowing that in doing so, they were saying, "I am willing to die because they knew very well that Islamic law did not allow for conversion from Islam to anything." "Over the next... The course of the next couple of years, as I began compiling lists," said Garrison, "What I discovered was that in the whole course of Muslim-Christian interaction, there have been 82 times, 82 movements of Muslims to Christ of at least a thousand baptisms or 100 church plants over the last two decades," 82 times. Now, here's what's striking, 69 of those have occurred since the year 2000, we're in the midst of the greatest turning of Muslims to Christ in history.
I don't think the Church of Christ is aware of this. Now, even though it's minuscule, when you look at 1.6 billion Muslims, it's less than 1.5% of Muslims have been touched by the Gospel at all. Yet we're seeing 84% of all the movements that have ever happened in the history of missions right now among the Muslim world, and that's exciting. By the way, all of that's in a book written by David Garrison. It's on my desk, in my office. I will give that book after worship is over. I'm going to go to the back of the church to the first person that promises that they'll read it sometime in the next three months. I mean, all of it. If you make me a promise that you'll read the whole book, I'll give it to you for free. Moving on.
Jesus Deserves to Be Worshipped and Glorified as God
Jesus deserves to be worshipped and glorified as God. Verse 10:11, "At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in Heaven and on Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." Simply put, people are saved. They're saved from their sins when by the power of the Holy Spirit, under the hearing of the true Gospel, they confess the deity of Christ. And when they do, Christ's glory increases that much more. This human baby that we're celebrating at Christmas time recognizes fully God and their own savior by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Christmas Leads to Missions!
So, therefore, Christmas leads to Missions. Amen. It leads to missions. This is a completely appropriate emphasis of Southern Baptist churches across the nation. The Lottie Moon Offering $120,000 for our goal, 175 million nationwide, if you happen to have 175 million lying around somewhere, give it to The Lottie Moon Christmas Offering or less is fine to consider the widow who gave two copper coins, and we're told she gave more than anyone, whatever God calls you to do. But more than that, lay yourself on the line in 2015 to grow in your commitment to evangelism and missions. You're commitment to seeing Christ's glory expand more and more, that every knee would bow and every tongue would confess. That should be the passion of our hearts.
Celebrate with Great Joy!
So some final applications, first just celebrate with great joy. Christmas time, enjoy yourselves in a Christian way, enjoy yourselves. Have a good time with your family. But let's be sure that we remember Him who gave everything that we might have all of these gifts. Let's make Him the center of our celebration. Amen. I know we mean to, but often we forget. We've got our own family traditions, etcetera.
Don't forget. Don't forget, and I mean, just literally like the text says, bow your knees to Jesus, get down on your knees on Christmas morning, and thank Him for dying for you and rising again. Worship Him as God. I'm going to especially challenge fathers, okay? Lead your families on Christmas morning with the Bible, read scripture, Colossians 1, John 1, Hebrews 1, or the accounts that were so familiar with in Luke and Luke 2, and in Matthew 1 and 2. Focus on Christ and worship Him.
Imitate Jesus’ Downward Humility
Secondly, imitate Christ's downward journey in your own way. We cannot travel as far as he traveled, but the same downward upward journey is commended by Paul to all Christians in Philippians 2. That's the reason why he's even talking about it. He wanted the Philippian Christians to get along and to serve one another. And so take to heart what he says in Verses 2-5, "Be 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 interest but also to the interest of others." Have this mind in you, which is also in Christ. Think like He did, who went that downward journey.
Thirdly, missions. The exaltation of Christ has continued now for 2000 years. God has sent people on long journeys to win the ends of the Earth. Ask God to make you more attentive than ever before to missions, learn more about it, ask him to give you a heart for missions, embrace church members who are serving overseas, who are presently there in the field now. It's actually pretty lonely to be on the field at Christmas time. It's a strange feeling. In Japan, they celebrated Christmas in a purely secular way. There was nothing Christian about it, in that way, similar to the US, but without churches and people assembling together. Other places, it's just another day. There's no difference at all. Pray for our brothers and sisters who are serving on the field. Young people, I just believe that God is going to be calling some of you to go and lay down your lives to the unreached people groups. I'm talking about high schoolers, college students. What is God doing with you? What is He calling you to be and to do? I just would love to see FBC as a launching pad for unreached people group missionaries. And so if you're young, you might be in elementary school and you just, your ears are perking up. You might be in middle school. You might be in high school, college, or just out of college. What do you want to do with your life? How do you want to sacrifice and serve? Could this be something God is calling you to do? Consider it.
Come to Christ
And then, finally, if I could just say if you're a visitor here, you were invited here, and you know you're on the outside looking in, and you've never given your life to Christ, today is the day for you. Repent and believe. Give your life to Christ, trust in Him. If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Close with me in prayer. Father, thank you for this time of celebration that we have, this time of year, in which we get to rejoice and delight in the gift of Jesus Christ for us.
Father, I pray that we would... That we would not think too highly of ourselves. As we're opening gifts, Lord help us to not feel I deserve this, or we deserve this. So Lord, help us to realize that you have lavished grace on us contrary to what we deserve. Thank you for Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and who gave Himself fully for us, and thank you for His bloodshed on the cross. I pray in Jesus name. Amen.