We live in a self-centered, self-focused, and self-serving world that really believes that anything and everything is about ME. This poses a problem for us as believers because Jesus teaches us to live contradictory to the way the world promotes or encourages us to live. Unfortunately, in many areas though, the Church has adopted worldly philosophies that in turn has created many factions of Christianity and the Church that promotes a self-focused, me centered religion and entity.
As followers of Jesus Christ, living in the world and not of the world can be challenging and frustrating. It is challenging because it takes a lot of work to willingly and obediently live contrary to the way the rest of the world tells and expects us to live. Truth be told, we are all born selfish and sinful individuals and we naturally want to live according to the desires of our flesh to attain what we think is happiness. Our sinful desires tell us we are entitled to happiness and pleasure no matter the cost. However, our understandings and definition of happiness, joy and pleasure have become twisted and self-focused. But as redeemed children of God we come to the full realization that true happiness, joy and pleasure comes only when we live our lives for God. Happiness, joy and pleasure are found when we learn to lose or deny ourselves and put others before us.
Jesus calls us to live in humility and he calls us to do so by serving one another by putting others before ourselves. Jesus’ teachings are counter-cultural to the world we live in. The world tells us, “In order to get the job, scholarship, leadership position etc. you need to sell yourself.” We are sold a false sense of joy by saying your self-confidence, intellect, and skills will get you what you desire and deserve.” This is why the resume is so important to get the job you want. I for one find writing a resume to be challenging because really a resume is just a brag sheet that tells others how great you think you are. Yet, the world is looking for greatness in individuals. If you cannot sell yourself as great, then you don’t have the chance of getting the job. Rarely do you get ahead in secular life by being humble and putting others first, and certainly humility is often not viewed as greatness.
The world says, “I am great, look at me!” But the humble believer says, “Don’t look at me. Look at Jesus, He is great!” The world tells us to be prideful, but God tells us to be humble. James 4:6 says, “But he (God) gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’” There is no room for the proud in the Kingdom of God. Pride is what caused Lucifer to fall. Pride has been the downfall of individuals for millennia. The proud feel entitled; they believe they deserve to receive good things. The humble are just the opposite, they understand they do not deserve anything good, but by God’s grace He gives us good things.
In the worlds view when you put pride and humility next to each other one looks shiny, exciting, and enticing and the other looks, well… rather boring and mundane and nobody likes boring and mundane. So, how does this painfully long introduction relate to our passage of scripture found in Philippians 2:1 – 11? Well, let’s dig in and discover what God has to say to us this morning about humility and joy.
Finding joy in humility
Philippians 2:1 – 4
The Apostle Paul tells the Philippians that his joy would be complete when the church becomes unified in love for Jesus and in loving one another. He then tells them how this can be accomplished through selflessly serving one another by putting others first. He says,“But in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look not to his own interests, but rather to the interests of others.” (vs 3, 4). Not surprisingly, humility was not looked upon in a positive manner in the early first century in Philippi. In fact, in secular Greek literature during Jesus’ days humility and lowliness were rarely taught and practiced. Humility and lowliness were despised by Greek culture because to them it was a sign of weakness and living in humility was considered shameful. But here Paul is telling the Philippians that even though humility is despised in your culture, but in the culture of God it is the highest quality. Paul tells them not to be motivated out of selfishness or selfish ambition but to be motivated by humility. The attitude of humility is that of putting others before yourself and Paul is calling the Philippians to live contrary to culture.
The Humility of Jesus
Philippians 2:5 - 8
Now, Paul is showing that he is not asking his readers to do something that Jesus didn’t model himself. Jesus himself is the perfect example of a joyfully humble servant. He showed his humility in heaven, in his birth, in his life, and in his death.
Humility in heaven
Jesus is eternal. We are told in John 1 that Jesus was, “In the beginning.” We see elsewhere that He was with the Father at creation, he saw Lucifer cast down from heaven, and he will return one day in full glory. He and the Father are one and he shares in the glory of God. Hebrews 1:3 tells us, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Paul also shows us that even though he is eternal, he humbled himself by leaving his heavenly home to dwell among His creation. One would think that God incarnate would have come in laud and fanfare, instead he came in lowliness and humility which leads us to his second act of humility…
Humility in his birth
We see the humility of Jesus in His birth. There is nothing spectacular about his entrance into this world. It all begins with our God coming into the flesh in the form of a baby… a weak, helpless and needy baby. He did not come as a strong warrior, but a baby. He was born in a little town called Bethlehem and it was an insignificant town as Micah 5:2 prophesies. It is so insignificant that it is not even on the list of Judah’s towns in Joshua 15. Not only was he born a small weak baby in an insignificant town, but he was also born to a simple carpenter and a young mother in a cave/stable. His entrance into this world was not heralded by the angels to the world, instead they proclaimed the Savior’s birth to a group of Shepherds. Smelly, stinky, and insignificant shepherds! Wouldn’t it have been better to announce is birth to the city of Jerusalem? No, God chose shepherds. We have in the Biblical account… The Savior of the world comes to the earth in the form of a weak, helpless baby, born in a small insignificant town in a cave to a young mother and a Jewish carpenter father (who wasn’t his biological father). His birth was heralded by angels to a group of stinky, smelly shepherds who were tending to their sheep and eventually (probably one or two years after his birth) some wise guys come along and give Jesus some pretty sweet gifts. There is certainly no glamour in that!
Humility in his humanity
Jesus exemplified humility in the life he lived. In Matthew 20:28 Jesus says, “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” He backs up his statement to the disciples in John 13 when he humbled himself as a servant and washed the feet of the disciples. In verse 13 - 15 he says, “You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is the messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.” The fact that Jesus Christ humbled himself and became a human and gave himself up to die on the cross shows us the ultimate form of service and humility (Phi 2:5 – 7). God himself became a man and served those whom he created to worship and glorify him. If Jesus, who is the Lord, Savior, and Son of God served those who followed him, how much more ought we serve others around us?
Humility in his death
The death of Jesus is a graphic, gruesome and humiliating ordeal. Most of you have either seen movies, read books or imagined in your mind what took place that horrific night. The death Jesus suffered was a painful, humiliating and violent one, yet it was necessary in order to accomplish the will of the Father. It is important to note that Jesus humbled himself. Nobody humbled him. So at every level, his humbling was his own doing. Crucifixion was a method of capital punishment used by many nations including Greece and Persia. The Romans used it as a means to execute slaves and criminals.
Humility to Exaltation
Philippians 2: 8 – 11
THEREFORE/FOR THIS REASON – this is key. Since Jesus humbled himself God has exalted him above all. The reality is that Christ’s humility resulted in his death, which resulted in his resurrection, which resulted in his ascension, which resulted in his exaltation. His exaltation results in every knee bowing, and every tongue confessing in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth that he is Lord of all.
“In heaven” signifies angelic beings and all the heavenlies. “On earth” describe earthly inhabitants, and humans. “Under the earth” refers to dead humans and all fallen spirits. Nobody and nothing is excluded from bowing and confessing. The future result is some will bow with reverent delight and praise, and others will do so with resentful lamentation and shame.
The passage has established thus far if we want to become great in the Kingdom of heaven, we must put others before ourselves and become servants to one another. This is made evident to us through the example that Christ showed us by modeling it himself.
This brings us now to the practical part of this message. How do we live in joyful humbleness? How many times have you heard someone say they want to help out or serve in an area because it makes them feel good about themselves? Is this what our motivation should be in putting others first? Does God want us to serve so the result is self-satisfaction? I don’t think so. I think it is good for us to check our motivations in our joyful humility. Some people serve out of guilt. Their outlook is the Bible tells me to serve, so I have to serve even though I really don’t like to and if I don’t do it then my conscience will bug me all the time. Some serve out of fear. They think if they don’t do as the Bible says God is going to hunt them down and send them on a bee line to hell. Some serve for personal gain. People donate time, money resources so they can get write off’s for taxes or maybe it may help them to look better in the public eye or possibly they can get some business as a result of their generous deed.
My conclusion from the teachings of Jesus is that if our motivation behind our service is anything other than blessing others and glorifying God then it is the wrong motivation. This statement is not intended to discourage but to encourage us to look at our hearts and motivation in serving. The fact remains that there are so many needs in this world and there are people serving and fulfilling needs whether it is for selfish reasons or not. A lot of good is done in this world by people who do not profess Christ as Lord and God still uses their deeds to bless those in need; however, from an eternal or kingdom perspective this service is all for naught.
Consider Paul’s writing again, “Do nothing from rivalry 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.” And let’s be honest, sometimes we put others before us, and they either do not reciprocate, appreciate or even acknowledge when we do. But that is often the nature of people. We should not serve just to expect something in return. We serve because we love God and we love his people, and we want to bless them in the name of the Lord. God has blessed us all with gifts so we may be a blessing to others. Whether it is a financial blessing, a resource blessing, a talent or a Spiritual gift everything is to be used to bless others and glorify God. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 9:23, "I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." Our motivation needs to be for the Gospels sake for and in the sharing of its blessings to those who receive it.
My challenge for you today is to first revisit our previous challenges.
Jeff has been in ministry for well over two decades. He currently serves as Campus Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Southside Campus in Bradenton, Florida.
Jeff Has authored an Advent Devotional (The Advent of Jesus) and a devotional on the book of James (James: Where Faith and Life Meet). Both are available on Amazon.
He is married to Carrie and they have four children, Micaiah, Gabe, Simon, and Berea.
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