In Philippians 2:1-13, Paul talks about unity and servanthood. To live in unity, or to be like-minded, believers must practice three things: harmony, humility and helpfulness. When we value ourselves, we demonstrate Christian humility. We mirror Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve. When we take the very nature of a servant, we have the mindset of Jesus. When we serve, it takes our minds off our desire to be served. The danger of being a lover of self is inherent in each of us. As we put aside our desires and become more selfless, we will enrich those around us, show God’s love wherever we are, and develop the mind of Christ. When we welcome those we consider to be below us, our eyes are opened to the stories of those we meet. It’s such a simple way to love-one that changes our lives and the lives of those around us.

How is your sensitivity toward other people? Do you take time to care about the needs of your friends, family and fellow citizens? Sometimes we get so absorbed with our own personal problems we forget that there is a hurting world around us that needs our attention. The strange thing about it is that when we give love and concern to others, we usually forget about our own problems! The more we humble ourselves, the more God will raise us up not to just any old high place, but as a co-heir seated alongside our Saviour. We suffer with Christ-that we may share in Christ’s highest glory.

If God is to succeed and make things happen, it helps if His people work together. We need to work together with God and understand His plan and purpose for our lives. Directed by His Holy Word, we can pray that He will allow us to work together in reaching those who are lost and in need of the Saviour.

Jesus’ servanthood was authentic in substance and reality. He made a deliberate decision to renounce the privileges of His deity, limit Himself to a human body, and relinquish His position in heaven to become a servant on earth, even to the point of death. If the one person in history who ever had the right to assert His rights waived them, then Christians should do the same.

Attitudes are the foundation upon which actions are built, and these young believers needed an attitude of submission and servanthood to produce harmony. To be of one mind means to agree in doctrine and creed. This isn’t a call to unity at the cost of truth. To be in one accord means literally, “united in spirit” or “harmonious.” Spiritual unity does not occur without doctrinal oneness. Unity is a matter of personal responsibility, with each believer taking ownership of his or her own spirit and disposition.

Verses 5 to 11 are very likely a hymn or poem that Paul wrote or borrowed as an illustration. They offer Jesus as the perfect role model for Christian unity. While the story of the cross is recorded in the Gospels and explained in the epistles, only this passage views the Crucifixion through the eyes of the Lord himself. It presents a glimpse of His perspective so that His followers might see the price of unity: His death.

Selfish ambition is a work of the flesh and has always been the source of divisions within the church. Conceit is empty glory. Lowliness of mind, which was formerly viewed as a negative quality, has been transformed into a sign of godliness and love by the influence of the gospel. Christ taught His disciples how to submit to one another out of love instead of fear.

We are called to look out not only for our own interests, but also for the interests of others. When the community of believers cares for one another just as they would care for themselves, disunity fades through mutual service. The phrase “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” is an imperative construction: God’s people make this happen. Unless they take definite action to consider Christ, they will end up fainting in their minds.

Those who believe in Jesus are leaving an impression of Him on others with their attitudes, actions and relationships. Does this impression represent the likeness of Jesus’ heart? Paul had a desire to accurately represent Jesus, so he urged His followers to reflect the humility, self-sacrifice and compassion of Jesus for others. In fact, we are called to imitate, model and project the ability to temper our influences with humility for God’s purposes in others.

Being in the form of God doesn’t refer to Christ’s outer appearance but His genuine inner identity. All that God is, Jesus Christ was, and ever will be. The word used here for being occurs 59 times in the New Testament, and every time it refers to prior existence. Before He became a man, Jesus existed not only eternally but He also existed eternally as God-being simply not like God but the very nature and substance of God. Yet because He cared about the human plight more than His own benefit, He gave up the independent use of His attributes to serve those He loved.

Scholars have debated the meaning of Jesus making Himself of no reputation and coming in the likeness of man. This “emptying” cannot mean that Jesus divested Himself of any of His divine attributes, for “Deity diminished” ceases to be deity. This passage affirms Christ’s offering for all people. Jesus is now and forevermore both fully human and fully divine.

Jesus sacrificed none of His deity, yet He came in perfect humility by taking on flesh and becoming fully human. By this, He voluntarily submitted Himself to the authority of God the Father and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. He also confined Himself to a human body. The word “likeness” suggest similarity but difference. Jesus’ humanity was genuine, but He differed from other humans in that He was sinless and in full possession of another nature-God’s.

Paul looks beyond the day of Christ’s exaltation into heaven (after His ascension) to a future day when every tongue in heaven and on earth will exalt Him as Lord. Though not everyone on earth received the King on His first arrival, one day the One who was brought low will be raised high, and then every knee will bow-believers with joy and unbelievers in sorrow and remorse.

Jesus was sent from heaven for the most humbling of reasons-to exchange His royal robes for the cloak of sin worn by humanity. About one-third of each Gospel’s narrative is devoted to Jesus’ ministry leading up to the Crucifixion, because the very purpose of His coming was His death and resurrection.

Paul does not say “work for your salvation.” God has already worked to make salvation possible. The Christian’s role is to work out what God has worked on by cultivating the characteristics of a godly life. Such faithfulness will allow believers to shine as lights in the world. There is nothing we can do to serve ourselves spiritually; Christ took care of that through His life, death and Resurrection. God has a part in our growth-but so do we. We must make an intentional effort to grow.

Paul uses the word “therefore” to tell his readers that those who call themselves Christians must practice the same discipline that Christ exercised when He obeyed His father. The call to discipleship is costly. When we talk to someone about our faith, we don’t have to put a lot of pressure on ourselves to be persuasive, poetic or scholarly. All we must do is tell the wonderful things God has done and His love for everyone. Let His persuasive power work in someone’s heart and mind.

God is at work in the mundane, tiring, ordinary, repetitive duties of life. It might not come with the thunder and lightning of Mount Sinai, but He works in our lives right now just as He worked in the lives of His followers throughout history. God’s plan is often different from our desires, but even when that is the case, He cares deeply about us. He wants to encourage us and strengthen us as we face tough times. He brings us joy through His many blessings in our lives.

What controls us in our Christian lives-our feelings or what we know God asks and expects us to do? Our answers will reveal just who is in the driver’s seat. Sooner or later, everyone will be on their faces before God, even those who have opposed Him. That’s when the people who have already humbled themselves before Him on earth will have no hesitation taking a knee and giving Him praise in heaven. It’ll be like they’ve been there…like they never expected to be anywhere else. We must open the door for God to work in our lives. We must humbly let Him in.

 

Bibliography

 

  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1658-1659)
  2. Dave Brannon, “The Interests of Others.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org
  3. Pastor Mark Jeske, “God’s Persuasive Power.” Retrieved from www.TimeofGrace.org
  4. Anne Graham Lotz, “Every Knee Will Bow.” Retrieved from www.angelministries.org
  5. Dr. David Jeremiah, “The Tendency of Inwardness.” Retrieved from turningpoint@davidjeremiah.org
  6. Bill Crowell, “Painting a Portrait.” Retrieved from donotreply@email.rbc.org
  7. Kenny Luck, “Royalty Without a Crown.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  8. Dr. Steven Davey, “Invisibly Involved.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
  9. Jim Burns, “Responding with Love.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
  10. Pastor Rick Warren, “Spiritual Growth Must Be intentional.” Retrieved from connect@newsletter.purposedriven.com
  11. Joni Eareckson Tada, “Therefore…” Retrieved from communic@joniandfriends.org
  12. Joel Osteen, “Reflect Him.” Retrieved from devotional@e.joelosteen.com
  13. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Be Like-Minded.” Retrieved from lh_min@lhm.org
  14. Joe Gibbs, “Take a Knee.” Retrieved from www.GamePlanForLife.com

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