December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, 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. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”—Philippians 2:5–8 (NIV)
There’s nothing quite as catchy as a good song. The lyrics and melody become engraved almost instantly in your head. Today’s passage is considered by scholars to be one of the early church’s first songs, and the truth it echoes carries a timely message for us today.
In the preceding verses, Paul writes Christians should relate to one another with humility; considering others above themselves. He then goes on to explain that humility should be a characteristic of God’s people because it’s the character of Christ.
This Christ hymn reveals a profound truth: Jesus Christ, being One with God, did not cling to the privileges of His glory, but rather humbled Himself when He became man. Vincent’s Word Studies Commentary says it this way: “Christ, being before his incarnation, in the form of God, did not regard his divine equality as a prize which was to be grasped at and retained at all hazards, but, on the contrary, laid aside the form of God, and took upon himself the nature of man. The emphasis in the passage is upon Christ’s humiliation. Had he come into the world emphasizing his equality with God, the world would have been amazed, but not saved.”
Christ’s incarnation is the ultimate depiction of humility, because He thought not of Himself, but of us, when He put on flesh. The purpose of Christ entering time, becoming human, and suffering to the point of dying on a cross was to serve us. We—who had no title, no merit of our own, no status to claim, no deeds to make us holy—were served by the One who spoke the world in existence. Christ, who existed with God before the foundation of the world (John 17:4), did not cling to His divinity, but laid its privilege aside to serve us, the helpless who desperately needed redemption. Jesus displayed the greatest expression of love when He died for you and me on the cross.
Paul’s exhortation then is powerful! We have nothing to boast about except the cross (Galatians 6:14), so Christians have a new way of thinking about humility. As C.S. Lewis writes, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.” We model Christ not by belittling ourselves, but by setting aside whatever status we claim in order to serve our neighbor. Just as Christ, who out of love, set aside His glory and majesty to be crucified for us, we His followers are now commissioned to go and meet the needs of the helpless. Jesus saw our greatest need as more significant, so He served us. How can we do the same for others?
May our lives sing a song as melodious as this ancient hymn. May we be known by our selflessness, the way we give of ourselves for others. May we impact the lives of others with our service and generosity and, in doing so, live as Christ lived. Now that is a song to have on repeat.
Pause: Is there something in your life you’re holding onto (ego, comfort, control, etc.) that is holding you back from serving others?
Practice: Write down what they are and share them with your spouse, a trusted friend, or mentor.
Pray: God, thank You for Your son Jesus, who served me when I needed it most. I am amazed by Your generosity and the gift of grace You lavish on me, Lord. Teach me by Your Spirit to walk as Jesus walked, to give up my status, comfort, and whatever else I may cling to, in order to give my life for others just as You gave Yours for me. Amen.
Gabriella Bemis serves as a volunteer for Calvary’s communications and worship teams. She holds an M.A. in psychology from Fuller Theological Seminary and is passionate about integrating her knowledge of human behavior with the truth of God’s word. When she is not writing resources or singing at church, Gabi loves to paint, cook, and enjoy time outdoors with her family and friends.