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” (Phil 2:5-11).
Once again we are examining this ancient “Christ Hymn” where Paul provides us with a clear snapshot, or as we have been calling it, a box cover photo for the jigsaw puzzle that is the Christian life-in-formation. I called it the V-shaped life in a recent sermon (see graphic below).
Today we look at three more lessons that Christ’s example teaches us. The question remains: What kind of attitude is fitting for a person who is following Christ’s example.
3. Self-sacrificial love is the supreme Christian virtue. Is there anything more heroic among human beings than self-sacrifice for the sake of others? Remember all of the moving stories following September 11 of heroic firefighters who willingly sacrificed their lives in their efforts to save others? Our hearts are moved by such stories because they strike one of the deepest chords of human existence. In fact, such stories all draw their power from the ultimate display of self-sacrificial love — “I lay down my life…No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:17-18). Our attitudes should be the same as Christ Jesus in the way we gradually grow in our ability and willingness to self-sacrifice for others. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
This, no doubt, sets the bar extremely high for fallen, sin-tainted, naturally self-centered human beings. Before we give up all hope for ever getting our life’s puzzle to look like this heroic Christ-shaped box cover, let me assure you that we aren’t expected to muster up this heroic self-giving love on our own power. In the next passage Paul tells us “it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose” (Phil 2:13).
4. Honor is bestowed from above; not self-given. Jesus obeyed the Father, submitted his life to the Father’s will, willingly let go of his position, power and privileges in order to serve those below him and gave his life up out of his love for others. “Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name” (v. 9). Two points here. First, God exalts Jesus because Jesus humbled himself. This is a pattern solidly established elsewhere in scripture that Jesus embraces: “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt 23:12; cf. Ps. 75:7).
Second, Jesus’ example shows that all honor that is of any lasting worth is bestowed upon us from above. We cannot earn it or grant it to ourselves. This cuts against the grain of a world full of self-exaltation, self-promotion, self-congratulation, etc. We labor so hard to gain high positions, join the right social circles, win over other’s opinions, earn the right degrees and promotions — all efforts to lift ourselves up by our own merits. Jesus humbly serves and God exalts. Can we have this attitude toward honor and exaltation that was also in Christ Jesus?
5. “To the glory of God the Father.” Perhaps there is no greater truth exemplified by Christ in this hymn for us to follow than in the purpose for which he did all that he did. What was Christ’s ultimate goal in coming, obeying, humbling, loving, self-sacrificing, dying and rising for our sake? Jesus did it all “to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:11). This is the foundational truth upon which all human life is meant to be built: we are created in the image of God to reflect the majesty of God for the purpose of glorifying and magnifying God.
As we saw in a previous post, our lives are meant to be living masterpieces showing off the Creator’s brilliant artistry and craftsmanship. We are currently marred, tainted, shattered, broken in a million pieces. Yet, as each piece of our personal puzzles gets put back into its God-intended place, all the glory and praise goes to Him who made us in the beginning and will bring us to perfection us in the end (cf. Phil 1:6).
Originally posted in 2009 as part of the “Dear Philippians” series.