Good morning church! We started a new series last weekend titled “Gospel Renewal” and we’ll be covering different topics over the next 2 months like prayer, humility, repentance but explaining how all of these fruits can only come about through the gospel.
What we mean by that is – in every other religion and moral science class – people unanimously agree that prayer, humility, repentance are good things to cultivate through self-effort.
However, the Bible stands in stark contrast to all of these – through Scripture we understand that all these things can only be truly produced by trusting on the grace of God through Jesus Christ. That’s why we call it Gospel Renewal. And after last week’s theme on Gospel centred prayer, today we will look at Gospel Humility from Philippians 2.
As we are turning to today’s passage, let me just highlight a few reasons why “Humility” is an absolute need for all of us. For that we need to consider the opposite of humility which is “Pride”.
Now usually when we think about pride – we usually imagine someone who says “I’m awesome, I’m great and I do all things well”. Although this is one-way pride expresses itself, however I just want to mention a few more subtle ways in which pride manifests itself in our hearts.
- Being over-critical about others: We’ve taken it upon ourselves to points out the theological errors or sin struggles in other people. As believers do we need to correct people? Yes, but if we see a pattern where we are always the ones correcting others or if we are more concerned about the sin and issues in other people rather than our own, it’s pride.
- Prayerlessness: Prayerlessness ultimately arises out of pride which makes us feel like we don’t need God as much. We can figure things out and fix ourselves using self-effort.
- Not confessing sins: Our pride often prevents us from admitting that we have messed up and sinned against God. We usually end up minimizing the sin or getting defensive or innovating new ways to fix our sin problems apart from God.
- Not asking others for help: Even though we might be struggling in our faith, we’ll never ask our brothers and sisters to help us. We’ll never reach out to them or even if someone offers to help us, we’ll not take it seriously because in our pride we wouldn’t want to be perceived as helpless and weak.
And I want to be the first to admit that I’m prideful and God has been working on my heart over the last so many years humbling. I hope we realize that in many ways like this we all struggle with pride and we need the gospel to help us and change us to produce true humility.
3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (v3-11)
We see in verses 3-4 how Paul instructs the Philippian church in humility to count others more significant than themselves and look to the interests of others and not just our own.
But he knows that all of these instructions will be empty and futile apart from the gospel…apart from the Lord Jesus Christ. In a sense he was saying – unless you immerse yourself in the gospel, you will not be able to produce humility. And he mention 3 ways does that:
1.Looking up to Christ (v5-7)
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,[b] 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men.
I remember while I was growing up – I somehow got very simplistic answers like “The best way to live your life is to be like Jesus”. Pretty quickly I realized how impossible it was to live like Jesus.
In fact I found following the model of Jesus to be very intimidating because with every passing year I realized how further away I went from becoming like Jesus. But all of that changed when I became a believer.
Reading the Bible, I realized that the secret of the Christian life is that Jesus is now united with us in a relationship so deep and intimate that now He lives His life in and through us!
Jesus isn’t just a model but the motivation for our lives! Jesus isn’t just the inspiration but the enabler for our lives!
And so when we read the word “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” – realize that it’s not as though we are forced to follow someone else’s philosophy but rather as believer we earnestly desire to have the mind of Christ.
To look at the world in the way He does. To imitate Him. Because He is a part of us and we are a part of Him! What is the mindset of Christ? Let’s read v6-7. Its astonishing if we have to read it carefully.
Jesus Has the same nature and image of God –
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. (Heb 1:3)
And yet He did not consider equality with God as something to be seized or something to be held to for advantage. In a world where people fight for position and status – unwilling to give up their position of power…this seems to be unbelievable!!!
Paul takes it one step further when he says 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[c] being born in the likeness of men.
The idea of emptied himself means “willing to come down to no reputation”. Jesus didn’t lose His divinity (He didn’t stop being God). Jesus didn’t lose His purity.
But He did empty Himself of aspects of the richness of His glory and majesty to become like us. He took the form of weakness by putting on our flesh. Jesus is the Creator God becoming like a creature.
The word “servant” is Greek is the word “doulos” which means bondservant or slave. Here the Master of the entire universe took on the form of a slave – one of subservience.
The Son of Man came not be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt 20:28)
In another place in Galatians it says that Jesus was born under the law. Think about it – Jesus gave the command of circumcision to Abraham in Genesis and centuries later Jesus Himself got circumcised on the eighth day.
Jesus Himself gave the law and commands to Moses and centuries later He lived in obedience to that same law. It’s humiliating when you think about it.
He was willing to lay down and give away His reputation to be with us. He’s not disconnected from us and our issues. Here is our God who identifies with us by emptying Himself and taking our form and living in the very same broken world that we live in.
You feel pain and hurt? Jesus fully understands. Do you experience temptation? Jesus knows exactly what that feels like. If this doesn’t humble us, nothing else will. The God of the universe becoming like us! Amazing!
2. Looking at the Cross
8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
When we think about the cross nowadays – it’s placed above church buildings signifying that it’s a church building. In the early 2000s wearing a cross used to be also a style statement.
And I was a new believer in those days and I also starting wearing a cross. One uncle from church who used to take bible studies for us once asked me a question: he asked me if the cross is a faith statement or a style statement?
For the first time, I began to question why I wore the cross because deep down I knew it was a fashion statement. So even though nowadays the meaning of the cross is quite different from what it was in NT times.
When Paul wrote this letter to Philippians, they knew what the cross meant. It was capital punishment in the Roman empire.
Only the guiltiest criminals, the worst of the lot, people who would cause violent uprisings against the Roman government – only they would receive this punishment. Not only was it the cruellest way of killing criminals and but it was extremely humiliating because it was done publicly.
And we see our Saviour Jesus Christ – even though he was innocent and sinless – willingly giving up Himself on a cross. Why? Let’s remember that we deserved to be on that cross – not Jesus because of our sins.
The horror of the cross is a reminder of how serious the charge and penalty that was levelled against us. But at the same time, the cross is a declaration of God’s love and mercy toward us.
Jesus Christ was willing to be humiliated by even dying on the cross – if that is what it meant to save us from the wrath and punishment for our sins! Here is our God who protects us by laying down His life! He loves us so much that He takes our punishment upon Himself so that we can eternally live in a relationship with Him! It’s mind-blowing!
Did we earn this favour? No! Did we deserve this? Absolutely not! And that’s what humbles our hearts. When we realize that we were once condemned prisoners who have been set free by the sacrifice of our Saviour!
3. Kneeling before Christ
9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (v9-11)
Imagine you were invited to meet the President of a country. In that place where you are going to meet him, there’s a gathering of the entire army of the country, the officials and governors.
And when you attend the meeting, you won’t go and announce “I’m so and so and I’ve done all these things in my life”. Instead, you’ll be humbled at the sight of the President and everyone else gathered there.
John Piper says something like when you go to the Grand Canyon…you don’t go there and think of how great you are or how good you look…why? You’ll be blown away by the breath-taking beauty of your view! You’ll be humbled at the creation of an amazing God!
Similarly, these verses tell us that the name that has been given to Jesus is so honourable and so great – that at that name every knee will bow down in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord! Wow!
I think what it means is that when Jesus Christ returns and King and Judge in His glory – every person on the earth – believers and even unbelievers will kneel and acknowledge Jesus Christ when they see Him!
What does that mean for us as believers now – is that We’ll never know what humility is unless we’ve learnt to humble ourselves before Christ!
Humility comes from an awareness of who Jesus Christ is and who we are in relation to Him. Humility involves surrendering to the will of Jesus Christ!
In my experience, I’ve seen how God had used the gospel to humble my heart while listening to the Gospel being preached or when a brother has applied the Gospel to my life situation or when my heart melts with the Gospel during my Bible readings.
It doesn’t happen through self-effort or self-improvement. It happens when we look up to Christ, look at the cross and kneel before Christ!