This week we ponder six virtues that Paul has called the Philippians to meditate upon and live out in their lives as they share the world with the Roman Empire. While we will look most at how we are to think upon these virtues in our modern setting, I wonder if we might, just for a moment, contemplate these virtues as we see them in the cross of Christ.
Whatever is True: If the cross were not an actual historical event, we would believe a myth. As we think upon the cross we can know that it comes with legitimate historical witness. We have a church that has been birthed in the testimony of the death and resurrection of Christ. We have 2000 years of martyrs, some of whom in the very beginning were willing to die not only for a truth but because they actually witnessed the authenticity of the Son of God before their very eyes. Those who have heard the gospel of Christ have the testimony of the Holy Spirit who has opened our hearts and minds to the truth. We have a more sure word in the testimony of the Holy Scriptures. In these we have the testimony of the God of the Universe who does not lie. The cross is an historical event and the defining factor of eternity for all humanity.
Whatever is Honorable: What can be more honorable than the Son of Man who has committed no sin taking the burden of sin and punishment for another? Jesus is the epitome of honor and in Him we have the very definition of honor. He did this in honor of the Father who in turn glorifies the Son. We should not ask simply what is honorable but WHO is honorable.
Whatever is Just: In the cross, we see the ultimate picture of righteousness as God brings justice and wrath upon sin. It is not that sinners get off without any justice being delivered. God has shown his justice and righteousness in that he poured his wrath upon his own Son, The Lord Jesus Christ. There is not one essence of our sin that has gone unpunished. For those who believe, the righteousness of God has been fully satisfied in Christ.
Whatever is Pure: Here not only is the sin punished as it is placed upon Christ but it was the sinless One who suffered on our behalf. Here is the picture of purity. Because of the cross, Christ is a refining fire and he has eliminated the impurity of our sin. The sinless became sin and bore the full extent of its punishment. The pure became a defilement in our place. If it was not for Christ’s purity, we would not have a Savior. But Christ’s sinless life gave us a sinless sacrifice. Christ in view of the cross is purity on display and he sheds light on the impurity of every man and woman.
Whatever is Lovely: How can we even reach the depths of loveliness in the work of Christ. Because of the cross, the Christian has open eyes and an open heart to the glory of God. The work of the cross has not come without the work of the Spirit who has breathed life into the lifeless and placed the glory of God on display. In the cross, we find the beauty of mercy and grace. We find the stunning beauty of humility and the utmost beauty of God who is purposed to save. God is glorious and beautiful. His message is lovely and attractive and only held in contempt by those who have no idea about what is beautiful because they do not believe.
Whatever is Commendable: It is so apt that the last virtue is to see that the cross is commendable. It is something that is a good report and this is the very nature of the gospel. We must commend this message of Christ to everyone. In fact, it is the most commendable of all that is in the world. The message of the cross is so commendable that it is a tragedy if we do not proclaim it. In fact, it is a sin if we do not proclaim it. It is the only message by which any human being can be saved.
So, what do we find in the cross? We find that which is pure excellence and most worthy of the highest praise. As a Christian, the cross is our standard of virtue. As you prepare for our sermon this week, please think upon all that is excellent in the message of the gospel and how these virtues might play out in our life as we live in a world groaning in the pain of sin and hopelessness. God forbid that I should boast save in the cross of Christ my Lord who crucified me unto the world and the world unto me!