Three words powerfully summarize the greatest story known to humanity. The context they appear in moves the story from Eternity to Nativity to Calvary to Glory.
The three words summarize the mission of Jesus and mark the path one must take to glory. These words draw some of the deepest theological discussion and yet speak with life-transforming simplicity. They turn a prevailing cultural vice into a radical kingdom virtue. They serve as a kind of Christian manifesto.
Let these words find a deep place in your heart and transform your mind:
“He humbled himself”
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, (eternity) did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (nativity). And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death (calvary)— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name (glory), that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).
Mentored by the death of Christ
The death of Christ is usually connected with a verb of salvation (redeem, save) and/or a preposition of substitution (for us). But without verb or preposition, the words of Philippians 2:3-11 connect Jesus’ self-giving death to our relationships. Jesus’ set an example that should lead us to unselfish relationships.
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (II Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus sacrificial death is the standard for how believers treat each other (see: Romans 14:15; 15:1-3; I Corinthians 8:9-13).
Transformed relationships among Christlike people:
According to Philippians 2:3-11, the humble mission of Jesus Christ should transform our relationships. Christian community (marriages, families and local Churches) have the goal to be Christlike in self-giving love (cf. John 13). The appeal of verses 2-3 prepares the way for the call to have the “mind of Christ Jesus”
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who….” (Philippians 2:3-4).
Jesus Christ poured himself out for others by leaving eternity and the glory He shared with the Father (John 17:5) to share in humanity, servanthood, and death. In His great love, He refused to “grasp” His equality with God for self-serving purposes.
He refused to engage in grasping and selfish actions. He didn’t “throw his weight around” when finite creatures arrogantly defied and abused Him. He gave us the example of true humility by becoming our sin-bearing Savior.
He humbled Himself
Let this be your mindset. Reject all temptation to be grasping and selfish. Become a servant through self-giving love. Greatness is measured in the Kingdom by servanthood.
“We need to note carefully . . . that it is not self-depreciation, but self-abnegation, that is thus commended to us. If we would follow Christ, we must, every one of us, not in pride but in humility, yet not in lowness but in lowliness, not degrade ourselves but forget ourselves, and seek every man not his own things but those of others. . . .”
“We cannot be self-consciously self-forgetful, selfishly unselfish. Only, when we humbly walk this path, seeking truly in it not our own things but those of others, we shall find the promise true, that he who loses his life shall find it. Only, when, like Christ, and in loving obedience to His call and example, we take no account of ourselves, but freely give ourselves to others, we shall find, each in his measure, the saying true of himself also: ‘Wherefore also God hath highly exalted him.’ The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.” (B. B. Warfield, ‘Imitating the Incarnation,’ pp. 6, 8)
Great thoughts about true humility:
Some of the best reflection on true humility I have read comes from Robert Roberts book: Spiritual Emotions.
“Those who need to excel others to think well of themselves— who seek value at the expense of others —who try to climb to honor by using others —-who construct their glory upon the shoulders of weakness found in others— who engage in the ‘dangerous business of building self-assessments on watching to see how they’re doing in comparison with others’”
“Those who live this way are— in some profound sense— actually degrading themselves and, far worse, cutting themselves off from both God and people. There is something in humility which– strangely enough— exalts the heart, and something in pride which debases it.” “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Pe. 5:5).
“A lack of humility destroys a person’s spiritual life; it subverts his spiritual relationships, the deepest and most important relationships of his life. Pride cuts a person off from fellowship with others. It isolates him and, however little he may recognize the fact, degrades him. He who exalts himself will be humbled.”
“Jesus established humility and unconcern for social status not only as the psychological structure of His kingdom but also as a basis for entrance into it. It could be argued that Jesus is simply emphasizing the attitude of truly redeemed people (cf. Isaiah 66:1-2).”
“A person could be a wonderful exemplar of humility without ever feeling humble; in fact, one who frequently feels humble is probably not very humble. But humility is…..a disposition not to feel the emotions associated with caring a lot about one’s status.”
“It is the ability to have my self-comfort quite apart from any question about my place in the social pecking order (whether the criterion is accomplishments, education, beauty, money, power, fame, or position); Humility is self-confidence that runs far deeper than the tenuous self-confidence of the person who believes in himself because others look up to him.” (Spiritual Emotions, Robert Roberts).