In our recent Women's Breakfast series, we have been looking at all we inherit by being united to Christ as Christians. If we are united to him, then Jesus is our ultimate example of how we should live, and want to live, in light of all those wonderful promises...
One of the ways that we need to grow more like Christ is in his humility.
In Philippians 2:1-11 we see Jesus’ perfect example of what true humility looks like.
The writer (the apostle Paul) is urging believers [v 3 & 4] to count others as more significant than ourselves - in contrast to our natural tendency to be selfish and conceited. It's pretty clear what he's asking of them!
In our current situation, where we are being called on to sacrifice some of our freedom for the sake of others, it’s a good opportunity to ask ourselves how we're doing.
It’s not always easy to put others before ourselves, is it?
That doesn't come naturally!
Do you think of yourself as humble? We like to think that we put others needs before our own, but it's often said that if we think we are humble, we probably aren’t! We live in a culture where we are told that our rights and what we deserve are the most important thing. Take, for example, the old L’Oréal tagline “because you’re worth it”.
But that isn't the emphasis in these verses in Philippians.
There is a shape to the passage that forms a V - the downward direction of Christ’s utter humiliation and all that entails, is followed by the upward line of his exaltation.
God eternal, the maker of Heaven and Earth,
chose to humble himself and become a man!
The creator became the creature. This miracle is central to our faith.
Jesus was worth more than any of us, yet he didn’t cling on or hold tightly to the privileges that were rightfully his in heaven [v6]. He had the safety, the comfort, all the joys of heaven, in perfect union with his Father - yet laid aside all those things to become a man, even a servant [Mark 10:45]. Jesus is God and will always be God, but as God he also became truly man and knew pain, thirst and tiredness just as we do!
Our God knows our human struggles, isn't that a great source of comfort to us?
But there’s more! As we go further down the V-shape we that just as Jesus' human existence began in humble circumstances – born in a cattle shed - throughout his life he was humiliated, mocked and rejected. Most of all he was humiliated at his trial and crucifixion – as Paul put’s it "even death on a cross"[v8]. Death inflicted in the most painful and public humiliation the Roman executioners could invent.
Let's stop for a moment and think about the gravity of what we are reading here: Jesus Christ, the Lord of all, humbled himself to die on a cross for sinners like us!
There is nothing more humiliating than this. But, praise God that is not the end of the story!
Verses 9-11 tell us:
"Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name."*
How breath-taking that at the name of Jesus every knee will one day bow and every person will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father! That's not just believers, that's everyone in the whole of history. Everyone who rejects Jesus now will one day be humbled before Him – they will bow and acknowledge who He is.
The humility that Christ has shown is magnificent! As his followers we are called to bring glory to God in the way that we live our lives. Following in Jesus’ footsteps by showing this kind of humility is not an optional extra. Colossians 3 v 12 says:
"Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with... humility"*
How do we do this? Well the short answer is, on our own we can't! We need the Holy Spirit at work within us to change our nature and grow us to become more like Christ. Where we struggle, he promises to help us.
Jesus exchanged the glories of heaven for the anguish of the cross so that we can be forgiven of all our sin and failure and enjoy a relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us. We have a sure and certain hope of a future with him.
Why wouldn’t we want to do what pleases him and humble ourselves?
Jesus is the perfect example of humility. Let’s praise God for what his willing humility achieved and pray that the Holy Spirit would help us too - to think of him more and ourselves less, putting others' needs before our own, and to bring him glory.
*Bible quotations taken from New International Version (c) 2011