This Same Attitude

March 4, 2022

This Same Attitude

Passage: Phulppians 2:5: "You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had."
Service Type:

Dr. Dwight A. Moody, preaching



The Russian invasion of Ukraine is a perfect counterpoint to the great hymn to Christ which Paul inserted into this lovely little letter. The invasion of a neighboring country by the tanks, planes, ships, and soldiers are evidence of the worldly lust for power by that barnyard rooster named Putin. The archbishop of Russian Orthodox Church gave him a blessing but that is just one more illusion that clouds the soul of that despicable dictator.

How different the spirit and substance of our Lord Jesus Christ. The hymn says it well: He had it all, but gave it up, for you, for me, for the world. He relinquished his power, renounced his crown, and became a servant, a slave. He died for us, and with us, and in our place.

This man Jesus is the true servant of God. No wonder Paul the transformed apostle could preface this hymn, not with the name of its composer and not with the preferred tune, but with this simple admonition: that attitude of Jesus, let it be in you and me, as well. This same attitude that made Jesus such a servant and savior is the attitude that will make you all that God wants you to be.  It will make our church the people of God and a blessing to the world.


Some of you are waiting for my reference to John Prine. Many a sermon from this preacher is incomplete if it does not quote the lyrics of a John Prine song. I am glad that my tenure here has introduced some of you to the late, great songwriter.

But I must tell you, I could claim inspiration from Paul the Apostle. Long before I and other preachers integrated poems and lyrics into our presentation of the gospel, Paul was doing the same. My teacher, the famous and influential Dale Moody, notes in his book of systematic theology the 12 hymns that comprise First John and the ten hymns that are included in the pastoral epistles (First and Second Timothy and Titus). He quotes the short hymn of those early believers now embedded in Ephesians: “Awake O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”

With our hymns we praise God: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God almighty, early in the morning our song shall rise to thee!”  With our songs, we pray to God. We sang such a prayer on Ash Wednesday. “Have thine Own Way, Lord, have thine own way.” With lyrics set to music we teach what we believe: “In Christ alone my hope is found. He is my light, my strength, my song.”  With a hymn this morning, we will call each other to the communion table, “Let us break bread together on our knees.”

We should not be surprised that Paul also uses poems, lyrics, and hymn texts to express his understanding of the gospel. We come now in this little letter to the Christians in Philippi to the most famous of all the early Christian hymns. It describes the life of Jesus our savior in three movements: Christ was with God from the beginning; Jesus humbled himself and took up human life; and God raised Jesus Christ from the dead and placed him above all creation.

This is the gospel. From the beginning, the son of God was with God in creation and redemption. The son of God was born in the manger, took the name Jesus, and inaugurated the kingdom of God. After evil men killed Jesus, God raised him from the dead. This story line is what we celebrate through the Christian year: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost. This is our story. This is God’s story. This is your story.


Paul quotes this hymn, and I will preach on it again next week. But he introduces it with this simple directive: you must have this same attitude. Perhaps he was saying an ancient version of “You need an attitude adjustment.”

Attitude is what is inside: in your mind, your heart, your soul. It is what we feel deep down. It is the wellspring of all that we do. We can suppress it for a while; we can cover it up in the short term; we can deny how we feel. But in the end, it will come out.

That is why Putin is such a good public example of what not to be. He has spent 30 years cultivating the world, building economic ties with nations, and shaking hands with presidents.  But deep down it was always fake. He was always scheming, plotting, planning to do what he has done this week. Like a banty rooster, he is strutting across the world stage. He thinks he’s somebody. But he is a nobody, a rude, crude, and totally unacceptable nobody. His attitude is that of a strutting rooster: “Look at me! Ain’t I somebody?” But he’s a nobody, a violent, despicable nobody.

Putin grasped for that which he did not have. Putin is seizing that which belongs to another. Putin wants to be up here, but he is down here. He is a low life.

Putin is the opposite of Jesus. The hymn in Philippians says this about Jesus: though he was in the form of God, though he was in the heavenly places with God, though he was the agent of all creation, he did not think this equality with God was something that he needed to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges.

Elsewhere, the Bible tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. Some people do. We say they are egotistical. We say they are self-centered. We say they are narcissistic. All they think about is themselves. All they want is attention. All they do is put themselves forward.

Mark tells this story in his gospel account of Jesus, chapter 10 beginning with verse 35: “James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to Jesus. ‘Rabbi, we want you to do us a favor…. When you come into your kingdom and sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on the right and the other on the left.’”

Their friendship with Jesus had gone to their head. Jesus was a celebrity. He drew crowds wherever he went. He no doubt had both a Twitter account and personal bodyguards. These two disciples wanted the status of Jesus. They wanted the attention of the people. They wanted to be seen.

They needed an attitude adjustment, didn’t they?

Remember, these were two of the Twelve, two who traveled with Jesus, two who were given authority and responsibility, two who were leaders in the church.  How easy it is for even church leaders to let it go to their head, to want the attention that belongs only to Jesus, to want to be the star. This attitude is a danger to everything. It is a contradiction of the gospel of Jesus, who had everything and gave it up that he might be the servant of all.

The story continues: “Jesus responded to these two disciples, ‘You don’t know what you are asking ….’ When the other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together.”

Jesus had to deal with jealousy and envy and bad attitudes right among his important and influence disciples.

Makes us feel better, doesn’t it? We Christians look around our congregations sometimes and despair: too much tension, too much opposition, too much irritation, too much ambition, too much ego. But it is because we are just people. It is everywhere.

“Jesus called them together and said, “The rulers of this world lord it over their people and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant and whoever want to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.’”

“The rulers of this world, the economic, political, and religious leaders of this world lord it over their people.” Look up that verse on google and you will see a picture of Putin. He is the antithesis of Jesus. He is, in that sense, the anti-christ; but there are many who exhibit the opposite of Jesus, the opposite of what we are called to exhibit. There are many anti-christs and some are in the church!!


Which is why many people love and admire Jimmy Carter. He was a peanut farmer from Plains, Georgia. He was elected governor of Georgia. In 1976, our bi-centennial year, he was elected president of the United States. It was a hard four years. We remember it as a time of the oil embargo, high inflation, and the Iranian hostage crisis. These things crushed his presidency. Jimmy Carter lost his reelection bid. With humility and grace, he conceded defeat and moved on with his life. But he never lost his sense of self, his humility, his Christ-like spirit.

I invoke Mr. Carter as an illustration because, like us, he is a Baptist style Christian, dipped all the way under and up dripping wet. In fact, he is a CBF Christian. Like us, he is affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. Jimmy Carter has been the best ex-president the country has ever had. He has traveled the world building houses with Habitat for Humanity and advocating for fairness in elections. I have toured the Carter Center in Atlanta and worshipped at the Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia. One of my students, Jeremy Shoulta, was, for a time, his pastor.

I went to hear him speak once.  It was at a gathering of Baptist people and Mr. Carter was advertised as the featured speaker. But I was late that morning, as I have often been, even to church gatherings, weddings, and funerals. When the funeral directors in Owensboro, Kentucky, referred to me as the late Dr. Moody, this is what they had in mind.  I was directed to the back of the room and seated at an empty table. A welcome was given and the blessing over the meal was said. Our food was served, and I ate alone.

Suddenly the door at the back of the room opened. It was perhaps 15 feet from me. Four people walked into the room. Jimmy Carter, Roslyn Carter, and two secret service agents. Jimmy Carter walked straight up to me, extended his hand, and said, “Hello, I’m Jimmy Carter.”

I should have said, “I know who you are!”

I said, “I am Dwight Moody.”  He said, “That is a famous name.”  I said, “I have a famous name, but you are a famous person.”

He spoke to others around me; he took a seat at the table next to me at the back of the room, away from all the dignitaries, among the people who were late to breakfast. How like Jimmy!  How like Jesus! How like we are called to be, content with a seat at the back of the room.

“Have this mind in you, which was in Christ Jesus,” so that as you do justice, and love mercy, you can also walk humbly with God and with each other.

Have this attitude!

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