“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 2:5
In 1871, British author Lewis Carroll published a sequel to his famous book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Early in the book—Through the Looking Glass--Alice steps through her living room mirror and discovers a world that is completely backwards. She tries to move forward, but she ends up back where she started. She tries to go left, and ends up going right. Fast is slow, and down is up.
It’s a funny thing: The Christian life is a lot like Alice’s looking glass world. In Christ’s Kingdom, things work on opposite principles from the world around us. For example, to gain a blessing, Christ calls us to give a blessing. To receive forgiveness, Jesus commands us to extend forgiveness. To grasp the unseen, we must let go of the seen. To gain life, we must give up our lives. To lead well, we must serve well. To be first, we must be last.
One of these powerful, upside down principles is beautifully exemplified by Jesus Himself in Philippians 2:5-11. The principle can be summarized like this: If you want to be honored by God, you must be humble before God. Humility is the path to greatness. And we need look no further than Jesus Christ to discover the power of this topsy-turvy, upside down principle in action.
Philippians 2:5-11 has been called the “Mount Everest” among the Bible passages that reveal Jesus’ character. These days it’s common for skeptics to claim that Jesus was just a good teacher or, at best, a prophet. But the second chapter of Philippians sets the record straight. The verses clearly reveal Jesus Christ to be fully God and fully man. He was the God-man. And the process of leaving heaven above to become a human being here below was the single greatest demonstration of humility in the history of the world.
The Apostle Paul writes in Philippians 2:6-8 that Jesus, “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!”
These verses begin by revealing that Jesus’ divinity was an ongoing, unchanging reality. Jesus Christ was God. Jesus Christ is God, and Jesus Christ always will be God. Just as surely as your nature is human, Christ’s nature is God. As the years pass by, your appearance may change dramatically. Your hair styles and hair color may change. Your complexion may change. And the amount of trauma your bathroom scale experiences when you step on it may change. But your humanness will never change. Similarly, Jesus’ divine nature has never and will never change. He could never stop being God.
Yet God’s Word tells us that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” Instead He “made himself nothing.” In other words, although Jesus Christ had all the rights, privileges and honors of being God, He chose to lay them aside for a season. Why would He do such a thing? He did it because He considered your needs as more important than His own needs. He did it because He was looking out for my interests, not for His own interests. Jesus chose not to exploit His rights and privileges as God because He was, in a word, humble.
He temporarily left his cushy home in heaven in order to be born in a sheep stable. While on earth, He momentarily laid aside His face-to-face relationship with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. He surrendered the majority of His power, intellect and transcendence. Clearly, while He walked this sin-cursed earth Jesus was at His absolute weakest. He became the lowest of the low and the servant of the servants. He descended the ladder of success to the lowest rung. And He did it all by choice because of His gracious love for you and me.
Honestly, some of us are pretty low on the ladder of success, but as Jesus stretched out His arms on the cross, He went even lower. He went lower than the blue-collar soldiers who surrounded Him. He went lower than the hypocritical priests who mocked Him. He went lower than the lowlife criminals who hung beside Him. He went lower than the ones who spat in His face, lower than the ones who gambled for His clothes, even lower than the one who betrayed Him for thirty pieces of silver.
Why? Simply because he loved us and wanted to spend eternity with us in heaven. Jesus went down low, so that you and I could be lifted up high. Jesus died so that you and I could live. Jesus endured the torment of hell, so that you and I could enjoy the peace and joy of heaven. Jesus went low, so that we could be raised high. The Son of God was, is, and always will be the consummate example of humility. He did nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. He didn’t look out for His own interests but for our interests. And He lovingly turns to us as His followers and says, “Go, and do likewise.”
Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit www.fccvv.com and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.