In case you’re wondering why I didn’t post any audio from Women’s Bible study last week, it’s because Durham was hit with a snow blizzard. That’s right, a whole quarter of an inch fell on our city during the night and melted almost as soon as the sun hit it. So we responded appropriately by delaying all our school openings the next day.
As a result of our snow armageddon, we had to cancel Women’s Bible study for the week. But now we’re back! This week Cas spoke on Philippians 2 and you can listen to it here:[audio:https://sheworships.com/media/Philippians_2.mp3]
Cas brought a great message, and as I’ve reflected on the chapter of Philippians 2 this week I’ve particularly been struck by verses 5-11:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
This passage, and the story of Christ’s sacrifice, is not only liberating in that it reminds us of our salvation, but it also provides us with a road map for how we should live our lives. This passage is the ultimate example of what it means to be like Christ, but not in the way you might think.
To understand why I’m getting at, begin by considering the following quote by C.S. Lewis:
“The more we get what we now call ‘ourselves’ out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become…I am not, in my natural state, nearly so much of a person as I like to believe: most of what I call ‘me” can be very easily explained. It is when I turn to Christ, when I give myself up to His Personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own…Until you have given up yourself to Him you will not have a real self.”
In short: Only the One who created you knows who you truly are, so stop trying to find your identity in other things. Once you surrender yourself fully to God, then you will become your true self–what you were created to be.
The reason I included this quote from C.S. Lewis is that his words provide us with a lens through which to read Philippians 2. When Paul says that we should have the same attitude as Christ, he is not referring to Christ’s humility and suffering. Anyone can act humble and anyone can suffer without having any motivation related to Christ. Paul is referring to something else.
The REAL goal, the true way of modeling Christ, and the actual meaning of Paul’s word in Philippians 2, is by doing what C.S. Lewis described above. Like Christ, we should give ourselves up and make ourselves “nothing” so that God has room to move in. Then, and only then, will we be our true selves, what we were created to be. And only then can God be clearly magnified. While it is possible to do this through humility and suffering, it is Christ’s attitude behind them that we are to specifically model.
Christ’s humanity “became nothing” so that God’s glory could shine through. By letting his human body be crushed, he gave us a more clear picture of the ways and character of God. And that is what it means to have the same attitude as Christ. We make less of ourselves so that more can be made of God. We must let go of the things about ourselves that we cling to instead of God so that when people look at our lives, they see Him, not us.
Christ made himself nothing on the cross by the way in which he faced suffering, but there are other ways of making ourselves nothing as well. We can choose to forgive instead of hate. We can choose to be kind to someone who gets our our nerves. We can choose not cuss someone out who cuts us off in traffic! There are countless ways to cling to God’s strength instead of our own human strength, and in doing so make much of His abilities instead of our own.
The way we respond to suffering is only one of the ways that God’s glory can shine through us, so we should neither avoid nor pursue it. The only thing we should actively pursue is the attitude behind Christ’s suffering. It is because of his attitude that we have the clearest picture of God’s nature, character and power when He is nailed to a cross. That attitude is what we are to model every day of our lives.