Listen to what the apostle Paul says about 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 2:6–8 NIV)
The Example of Jesus (2:6-8)
This is a stunning picture of our Lord Jesus. Consider who Jesus is and what he does. Christ Jesus is fully God. He is completely God. The scriptures clearly tell us that Jesus is God in every way. There is nothing lesser about him. All things were made by him and for him. However, just because he is almighty and all-powerful, equal to God the Father in every way, he did not consider equality with God something to be used for his own advantage. Jesus did not use who he was and what he could do as the all-powerful God to be used for his own consideration. In short, he did not use his nature as God for his own selfish purposes. We ought to be amazed by this because all things are for him. Yet, though all things that have been created for him, he still did not put himself first.
Rather, he made himself nothing. This is the idea of what it means that, “He emptied himself.” He gave himself up. He completely surrender himself. He did not do what was in his own best interest. Rather than acting for himself and considering himself, he made himself nothing. He is something. He is everything. But rather than saying that he is somebody, he made himself nothing. God came in the flesh. He took on the form of the servant coming as a human. God takes on all the weakness, problems, and frailties of being human. If this was not enough, God coming to earth in the flesh, he did even more. Jesus humbled himself. Even still Jesus did not live his life as if it was all about him. He showed us humility. One of the greatest ways that he showed us humility is that he subjected himself even to death. Our God not only became human, but he subjected himself to his creation. He let his creation mistreat him. He let his creation arrest him. He let his creation punch him. He let his creation scourge him. He let his creation spit on him. He let his creation do whatever they wanted to do to him. He submitted himself to them. He humbled himself to them. He allowed his creation to kill him.
But then notice what the apostle Paul says at the end of this: “Even death on a cross!” Paul does not merely say that he surrendered himself even to being killed by his creation. But he even gave himself over to death on a cross. Remember what we have been considering this year regarding the cross. The cross was one of the most torturous ways to die. The cross was one of the most shameful ways to die. Your hands and feet are nailed to the wood and you are hoisted up naked before the crowds so that you could be on display for hours or even days, shown as the most wretched criminal. It was more shameful than being executed before the public in an electric chair or any other capital punishment device we have in modern times. The goal of the cross was shame. The goal of the cross was a slow death. The goal of the cross was to discredit the individual. The goal of the cross was to deter anyone for doing what this person had done. God himself, did not use his nature or power to his own advantage but humbled himself. He humbled himself to such a degree that he allowed people to mistreat him, revile him, and kill him. They not only killed him, but Jesus allowed himself to be killed in the most inhumane way possible for that time.
The Message For Us (2:3-5)
Now what does Paul want us to do with this? Are we supposed to feel bad for our Lord? Are we supposed to feel pity? That is not why Paul wrote this by the power of the Holy Spirit. Go back to Philippians 2:5.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5 NIV)
The CSB reads, “Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus.” The NET reads, “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” We have just read about this picture of humility in Jesus. The apostle Paul says that this is supposed to be our same attitude and behavior toward each other. What is the attitude that we see in Jesus? We see that he did not have a regard for self but for us. We see that Jesus became a servant for us. We see that Jesus humbled himself and lowered himself below his own creation. We see Jesus sacrificed himself and submitted himself to his creation. We see Jesus dying at the hands of his own creation. We see Jesus submitting himself to such a degree that he died in the most shameful way known at that time. This attitude in Jesus must be our attitude.
What we see is that it does not matter if we have authority or power. We yield it for the good of others. It does not matter if have some advantage over another person. We do not use it but do what is good for others. It does not matter if we are different in some way. We do not use our differences for ourselves but for others. It does not matter if we are wronged. Jesus was wronged. We still do what is for the good and best interests of others. Do we see that this is the point Paul is making? Look at it in Philippians 2:3-4.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3–4 NIV)
We are to look at Jesus and have his life eliminate every selfish thought in us. We are to look at Jesus and have every thought that considers ourselves ahead of others completely destroyed. We are not to value or esteem ourselves above others. We are to elevate and value others ahead of ourselves. We do not look at for our own interests. We look out for the interests of others. We are to give ourselves to each other like Jesus did.
This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16 NIV)
Notice that Paul and John are telling us that we give ourselves so completely that we are giving our very lives for each other. This is what the picture is to mean to us. Yet we want to think this only applies under very narrow circumstances. Jesus gave himself up for his enemies. Jesus gave himself up for people who were less than him. He is the Creator and we are the created. Jesus had all authority, power, rights, and privileges. But he gave those up for us. We are to give our lives for each other. We think about others, not ourselves.
Imagine what our relationships would look like if we had such a sacrificial heart toward each other! Just imagine what the church would be like if we practiced the heart of Jesus. We would not have divisions or strife. We would not have problems but complete harmony because everyone would be yielding to each other.
Imagine what our relationships would look like in the home if we had such a sacrificial heart toward each other! Parents would also do what is in the best interest of the child in regards to their upbringing, discipline, teaching regarding the Lord, showing love, and reflecting Jesus in the home as mothers and fathers. Children would obey their parents because this is what it means to love God and love your parents. You may not like the rules but you submit to the rules for the sake of the Lord.
Imagine what our marriages would look like if we had the sacrificial heart of Jesus practiced toward each other! A husband would never think or say that he is in charge, that he is the head, or that he is the boss. Jesus did not do that! Jesus saw his leadership as a means for serving. Jesus saw his power as a way to give. Jesus saw his authority as a way to elevate others. I want us to think about something. What makes our submission to Jesus easier? What makes our Christian submission to Jesus easier is not because Jesus says, “Submit to me,” but because Jesus sacrificed himself for us. Husbands, you can create the atmosphere of a godly marriage, not by acting you are in charge, but showing sacrificial love like Jesus did. You can make it easy for your wife to obey the Lord and yield to your leadership when your leadership is sacrificial love. You will value and respect your wife just as Peter described in 1 Peter 3:7.
In the same way, a wife would never undermine or damage the leadership of the husband in the home. The wife would always work with and not against the husband. As Peter described, wives will still show their purity, reverence, gentle and quiet spirit, and inner beauty (cf. 1 Peter 3:1-6). The sacrificial heart of Jesus would be seen the respect that is offered to the husband, even when the husband does not deserve respect. We did not deserve Jesus’ love and mercy but he showed it to us anyway. We did not deserve Jesus to pay any attention to us. So we must erase in our minds giving to our husbands and wives what they deserve. Rather, we do good and love in spite of what the other does. This is true, sacrificial love.
Just think of it. The only thing we would telling each other in marriage, in family, and in the church family is, “You are first.” We would not tell each other what to do except, “You go first.” We would say, “Do not worry about me. I am worrying about you.” We would never think or say what the other can do for us. We would always think about say what we can do for others. The whole point of Philippians 2 and looking at the example of Jesus is that we would model his example. We would sacrifice like he sacrificed, love like he loved, and give ourselves like he gave himself.
I want to end the lesson by noticing what the Father did for the Son because of his selfless life. In Philippians 2:9-11 we see the exaltation of Jesus. Jesus did not exalt himself. God did. Jesus did not worry about himself. God did. Jesus did not think about himself. God did. We can sacrifice like Jesus did, not only because Jesus did it for us, but because God is think about us and will exalt our sacrificial life. You do not have to think about you because God is thinking about you. Your reward is great in heaven as you give yourself to a cross attitude.