Bible Reading: Philippians 2:17-30
In one of the most important and majestic passages dealing with His saving work, Philippians 2:5-8, we read of Christ Jesus and His humiliation and ultimate death on a cross. Step by step the passage describes His descent from heaven’s glory, to His obedient subjection, to His death on a cross. It was all voluntary on His part, because He came into the world not to be served, but to serve and give His life and ransom for many (Mark 10:45). In this text I find two incredible truths: 1) That the eternal Son of God would step down from heaven to dwell amongst man and die for my sins is a divine mystery defying all comprehension. It is, as the hymn puts it: “Amazing love, how can it be; That Thou my God shouldst die for me?” and 2) That God would call for me to have the mind of Christ, thereby imitating Him in His humble and self-sacrificing manner of life. Yet that’s exactly what verse five calls upon us to do, saying: “Have this mind among yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Mind = attitude = way of thinking.
Set against the sin-rooted backdrop of man’s depravity with its associated selfish ways, the life of Jesus shines forth in the glorious beauty of its radical selflessness. His was a perfect life. Never demanding. Always loving. Always serving. Its glorious divergence cries out to us from the majesty of His inner virtue. He’s marked out for all a narrow path of self-sacrifice, which beckons to those weary of the broad path’s selfish and hurtful ways. The cross represents to the believer, not only the basis of salvation, it also sets before us the manner of life to which we are called, according to the example of Christ’s self-sacrificing way of thinking and living.
Philippians chapter two puts before us three examples of those who walked according to Christ’s example: the Apostle Paul (Philippians 2:17-18); Timothy (Philippians 2:19-24); and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30). All three demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice in obedience to Christ and for the sake of others. They all followed Christ’s example, as we are all called to do. We’ve not the space to look at all three here, but consider the example of Timothy.
Paul abounded in praise for his son in the faith, Timothy. Note what he said about him: 1) “I have no one like him;” 2) “(he) will be genuinely concerned for your welfare;” and 3) “you know Timothy’s proven worth” (Philippians 2:20-22). On top of all that, Paul made this astounding statement: “For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 2:21). Who was Paul speaking about when he said they all seek their own interests? Not unbelievers, who have neither the heart nor the ability to do anything except seek their own interests. He was speaking of able-bodied folks in the church who could be useful, yet were debilitated from serving by their own self-focus. How tragic! How heartbreaking when self works to negate our freedom to serve Him who sacrificed all to save us! But then there was Timothy, saying, “Here I am, Lord, ready to do Your bidding!” He had chosen that better, more beautiful path–the one marked out for us by Jesus. In the setting aside of his own personal prerogatives, Timothy would be used by God to bear a glorious harvest of fruit in the instruction, encouragement and care of his fellow believers. In seeking the interests of Jesus Christ, Timothy set his sights on that which was well-pleasing to God and of lasting significance!
To be sure, one can only live this way, by the leading and empowerment of the Spirit, but we do well to think and live like that, according to the example of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus and most of all, according to the example of Jesus Himself. To serve in selfless fashion is a part of what it means to love like Jesus!
MAY THE MIND OF CHRIST, MY SAVIOR
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
Live in me from day to day,
By his love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.
May the word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through his pow’r.
May the peace of God, my Father,
Rule my life in ev’rything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.
May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
This is victory.
May we run the race before us,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As we onward go.