Taming the Cowboy Pride – Philippians 2:1-11

As we get ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus this month I’d like to turn your attention to Philippians 2:1-11:

"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, 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!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."

I love the way the Apostle Paul starts this passage.  In verses 1 and 2 we are given a classic if/then statement.  If you took a math or geometry class during your time in high school, then you have studied if/then statements before.  (Like how I snuck that if/then statement in on you?) 

 When I was in high school I was constantly confused by the technical terms for if/if then statements, which are usually postulates, logical axioms or non-logical axioms (depending on the problem you were working on). Whenever you come across one in Scripture, an if/then statement is pretty easy to understand and apply.  The “if” portion of the statement is the starting point that “then” leads to a fairly standard conclusion.  It is as if Paul is saying to us “if this is true…then this must be true.”

In verses 1 and 2 Paul teaches that if we have been given new life through salvation in Jesus (as evidenced by being united with Christ, fellowship with the Spirit, and a new tenderness and compassion) then we should have a desire to be like Jesus – being like minded, having the same love, and being one in spirit and purpose.  Essentially, we can’t be changed on the inside without showing some signs on the outside (how we treat others).

How are we to be like Christ?  We are not to be selfish or conceited but we should rather “consider others better than ourselves.”  

If we are to be like Jesus then we have to care more about everyone else than we do about ourselves.

That’s a tough statement for a prideful cowboy like myself – but it’s absolutely true.  Paul goes on in verses 5-11 and tells us that Jesus is the most excellent example of humility.

First, Jesus was fully God from even before the foundation of the earth.  Jesus knew that if He were to come to the earth in the form of a virgin birth that He could not show Himself as He was in heaven – radiant and glorious.  So verse 7 says that He made Himself “nothing” and took on the form of a servant.  That does not mean that He was no longer fully God – He simply set aside that same radiance and glory during His ministry here. 

Second, verse 8 carries on and teaches that Jesus ultimate act of humility was submitting to death on the cross.  Crucifixion was easily the most painful and torturous form of death known to man at the time and still probably is today.  We don’t often talk about it but death on the cross was also easily the most humiliating form of punishment.  A man condemned on the cross could literally be taunted and harassed for hours or potentially days as he waited for death to overtake him.  And that was after days or weeks of cruelty from Roman guards.

Jesus, what was already bearing the humility of veiling some of His deity and who was fully God and could speak and stop the shame and pain at any time, endured the cross and was eventually overcome by death.  Why?  He thought of others before Himself.  As we’ve all learned from John 3:16 He loved us more than He loved Himself.  What an incredible act of humility!  What an incredible example for us to follow!

Verses 9 through 11 share the rest of the story with us.  We know that Jesus was resurrected and that same resurrection was the Father’s seal of approval on His Son’s sacrifice for our sin.  That’s why to this day we celebrate the resurrection every spring.

Through humility Christ conquered sin for those who believe in Him.

As you celebrate the Lord’s resurrection in the coming weeks I pray that you’d walk out Christ’s example of humility as you serve Him.