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Monday, November 22, 2010

Christ: The Humility Of A Servant

C. H. Spurgeon said, "Startle not when I say it, I fear many men proudly ask to be humble: they desire to be humble in order that they may be admired for it."

Herein lies one of the difficulties of humility.  The danger of being proud of our humility.  Humility seems to be rooted in a complete forgetting of self.  Of course in our modern world of mental illness we are encourage to love ourselves, to make sure we have a healthy self-image.  The conflict with humility seems to be readily apparent.  In a generation that is focused on "self" we should not be surprised that genuine humility is a rare virtue.

Philippians 2 provides a wealth of insight concerning humility particularly in the context of being a servant.  In fact Philippians 2 may be to the life of a servant what 1 Corinthians 13 is to charity and 1 Corinthians 15 is to the resurrection.

The chapter easily speaks to us concerning:

1.  Vs: 1-4 - The demand of a servant: Our christian responsibilities to one another
2.  Vs: 5-11 - The mind of a servant:  The example of Christ
3.  Vs: 19-24 - The service of a servant:  The example of Timothy
4.  Vs: 25-30 - The sacrifice of a servant:  the example of Epaphroditus

Let us focus our attention on Christ because of the three noble and glorious examples provided in the chapter of a servant Christ excels the others in glory like the sun excels the moon.  When we see Christ in Philippians 2 a couple of things demand our immediate attention.

1.  He took upon him the form of a servant.
2.  He humbled himself.

These two statements are dependent upon each other for their veracity.  If he truly took upon himself the form of a servant then he must needs have humbled himself.  If he indeed humbled himself he would necessarily be made a servant.  It is for these reasons that Philippians 2 helps us consider the Humility of a Servant.

The first thing we note is the heighteth of Christ in verses 5 and 6, Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
At the outset we are exhorted to have the mind of Christ.  We are to be like him in our thinking, we are to think as he thought.  This is to be our goal.  It is far too easy to think like the world around us, to revert back to our default settings rooted in the flesh.

We can never appreciate the humility of Christ if we do not first appreciate his eternal glory.  Verse 6 takes us right to the heart of this issue.  Jesus is God, no truth of the Scripture is more clearly presented.  Christ is the only one of whom it has not been robbery to claim equality with God.  It was not robbery because he was equal.  It is important in order to feel the full of force of the coming example that we embrace completely the significance of the deity of Christ.

Holy angels adored him!
Cherubim and seraphim made him the focus of their perpetual worship!
Arc-angels were at his beckon call!
He had spent eternity robed in light!
He was spotless, pure and infinitely holy!
He was in perfect fellowship with the Father!

None of us come even remotely close to his eternal glory as God the Son!

It is then in verses 7 and 8 that we are caused to behold the humility of Christ, But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:  And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

"But", what an important word.  It is being used here in the sense of "although this is true".  It is setting the stage to draw a contrast between who he was and what he became.

He made himself of no reputation.  Consider the implications.

He was born to a peasant family of royal lineage!
He went from a heavenly throne to a crude manger!
He was reduced from speaking the worlds into existence to working in a common carpenter's shop!
He went from the worship of angels to the scoffing of men!
He changed his robe of light for the robe of flesh!

He who had been held in highest regard in heaven was now held is lowest regard among men.

He took upon him the form of a servant.  Do you see the contrast?
From the form of God in verse 6 to the form of a servant in verse 7.  Do you see the infinite gulf between what he was and what he made himself?

Matthew 20:28 - Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

He was made in the likeness of men.  He took upon himself the likeness of that which he had created.  This he did for the purpose of serving the sinner.

Hebrews 2:9,10 - But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.  For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.
Hebrews 14,15 - Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;  And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

None of us can humble ourselves to the same degree that Jesus did.  We are already so close to the bottom that we do not have room to descend in humility to a comparable degree.  It would do us well to remember this when we are striving to humble ourselves or when God uses others to humble us.

Yet he goes lower still!

And having been found in fashion as a man.  Having been humbled to that degree.  Having embrace humility in an almost infinite measure, there remains more.

He humbled himself.

Again he did so!  "Well", we say, "I've already humbled myself."  Sometimes we have to do it again.....and again......and again........and again.  And if we be called upon to do it a hundred fold may we remember that after the King of Heaven was made a man, he humbled himself!

There is another noteworthy point to be made here.  Vs: 7 - He made himself of no reputation.  Vs: 8 - He humbled himself.  These are things he did to himself.  If I make myself of no reputation, then no one can take it from me.  If I humble myself then no one can humble me.  I don't feel near as threatened by those who attempt to humble me whether justly or unjustly.  No one can do to me what I have already done to myself!

The thing is Jesus knew he was God and therefore he could humble himself.  It did not create an identity crisis on his part.  The more confidence we have in who we are and what we are (in Christ), the more comfortable we will be humbling ourselves and depriving others of circumstances of doing it for us.

And became obedient unto death.

He experienced what sinners experience.  He took upon himself the wages of sin although he had committed no sin.  Having committed no sin he died like sinners die.  He humbled himself to do that.  As a servant he did not cringe at obedience even unto death.

Even the death of the cross.

He not only died like sinners die, he died like felons die.  He was executed by the State for crimes against the State.  Falsely accused he hung on a felon's cross, not just a common criminal but an abominable criminal.  He descended to the very lowest place of humanity and drank the dregs of humility.

The Lord of glory, see him humbled there.  Hanging on a tree.  Condemned, forsaken by God and man!  In full view of the cross claim you have humbled yourself too much???!

Lastly in verse 9-11 we see the honor of Christ, Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:  That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;  And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God exalted him.  Christ made himself of no reputation.  Christ humbled himself.  God exalted him.

James 4:10 - Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

God gave him a name which is above every name.  God will see to it that he receives homage from every tongue.

John 12:26 - . . . . him will my Father honor.

C. H. Spurgeon, "If you, Christian people, must dispute about precedence, always fight for the lowest place.  If you aspire to be last and least, you will not have many competitors: there will be no need to demand a poll, for the lowest seat is undisputed."

In other words be a servant and you will be free from the bondage and toil of self-promotion.
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