December 17, 2012 – Devotion Sharing (Philippians 2)

Submitted by Alice R. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:5-11

  • Reflect on this passage in light of Christmas, and the incarnation of Jesus.  What did Jesus come to do?

Jesus, the very Son of God, the mighty Creator of the universe, refused to grasp on to His right as the Son of God.  Instead, this very Son of God, the King of Kings, emptied Himself by laying aside His glory and majesty and took on frail human flesh, and entered such a dark, decrepit, and dangerous place as our world.  Even though He had the form of the Almighty God, He chose to enter into this world in the most vulnerable way.  And it was in our world where He was mocked, accused, and criticized, and eventually suffered the most gruesome and humiliating death on the cross.  By human terms, such an act is nonsensical; it is utterly foolish and irrational to the prideful human mind.  And yet this is the truth that has reversed the trajectory of mankind since the Fall.  Jesus came in this most unbelievable way–all because He wanted to deliver us from our sins.  Jesus resolutely came into our world in the form of a helpless baby and as a servant submitted to the cruelest death on the cross.  He took the place we deserve there, and thereby freed us from our condemnation and ushered in forgiveness and reconciliation for mankind with God.

This gospel truth never gets old.  The incarnation of Christ, His suffering and death is truly the most scandalous occurrence in all of history.  I am grateful that each Christmas season I have a chance in a sense, to go back in history and visit the circumstances of when and how Jesus came into our world through our Christmas message series and even through our children who performed at the Joyland Christmas Celebration last night.  Even as the children were adorable and we enjoyed watching them sing and recite their lines and memorize scripture, ultimately the message of God’s love, and how He had this grand plan of salvation all along for sinners struck me once again. Even though I know most of them didn’t understand what they were declaring, I was reminded that the gospel is for everyone, and as these children had a chance to participate in telling the story of Jesus’ incarnation, I prayed that one day each of them will come to understand with clarity and deep conviction what it really meant that Jesus came in the flesh as a baby into our world for them.

  • What does this passage say to a Christian about grasping for power and self-exaltation?

This passage teaches me that as a Christian, I am called to life a life completely contrary to a life of grasping for power and self-exaltation.  As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am to imitate His life of release and of surrender, rather than grasping for power and control.  Rather than self-exaltation, I am called to live a life of descending and self-denial.  The idea of surrender, of a letting go, of self-denial is always a very scary idea.  It goes against the natural instinct to preserve and protect myself, which I immediately think is possible only when I grasp, clutch, and hoard.  An area that this passage touches upon for me today is about letting go of such a grasp in ministry.  Since I’ve been sent here to Minneapolis 2.5 years ago to help start and lead this ministry, God has been dealing with me about surrendering the grasping for a sense of power and wanting to feel like I am in control.  Being out here has caused me to face my weaknesses and limitations ever more frequently and starkly, and that has instinctively led me to want to try harder to maintain a sense of being in control, that I know what I am doing exactly all the time, and a desire to avoid mistakes and failure.   However, through leading this ministry and throughout my years of being in ministry, the truth that God brings me back to again and again is that grasping for power and control, and the desire to try to maintain my ego and image before others really goes against the very essence of who He is and ultimately brings greater harm and damage to myself, to others and to His honor.   I am learning in fact, that the greater the responsibilities and entrustment I’ve been given, the more I need to admit my weaknesses, my deficiencies and limitations that lead me to turn to God and trust and submit to His ways and not my own.  Being involved in God’s ministry itself teaches me right away that I really don’t have power or control to see that everything goes smooth and well each time, but in fact, when dealing with people especially, I am utterly vulnerable to anything that can happen.  And when trying to love people, there cannot be any room for me to try to self-exalt and protect my ego.  I am continuing to learn that to love is to allow my heart to be wide open to whatever I may receive and letting go of my pride for the sake of another for them to know and understand the truth of God.

  • Verse 5 suggests that it is possible for us to imitate Christ in his humility and obedience.  What would it mean for me to apply these verses to my life in terms of how I view myself, relate to others, and respond to God?

Verse 5 gives me hope that I it is possible to imitate Christ in his humility and obedience.

In terms of how I view myself, I think especially through the recent devotions through the Epistles, I’ve been reminded that I, along with Apostle Paul, have been called to be a bondservant of Christ, just as Jesus came and took on the form of a servant, to serve mankind, not to be served.  When I am able to take on this as my main identity, then I am much more free to love and serve others.  And this identity as a bondservant is something I am learning to embrace more and more of each day as I engage in ministering to others.  In this regard, I can let go of my sense of entitlements more freely.  And knowing that my role is to serve others, rather than to serve myself, I have greater freedom about just being available to whatever needs arise.  It is still difficult to live such a life of surrender, but I see how it has been possible for me as I continue to strive to embrace my role as a bondservant of Christ, with a growing confidence in knowing that it is through His Spirit living in me that allows me to continue to live such a life of surrender.

Philippians 2:9-11

“Christ emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, but he stooped even lower when his human condition and his obedience led him to the cross.  In the world Paul shared with the Philippians, this was the lowest that one could stoop socially.  Crucifixion was the cruelest form of official execution in the Roman empire, and although a Roman citizen might experience it if convicted of high treason, it was commonly reserved for the lower classes, especially slaves.”  [Frank E. Thielman, Philippians, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995) 119.]

  • Reflect on Apostle Paul’s claims in vv. 9-11 in light of the political realities of his day, and the low regard the Romans must have had for Jesus, who to them was a criminal crucified in one of their provinces.  On what basis can Apostle Paul make such a claim that seems to defy the visible realities of his day?

It took great faith to be able to see beyond his limited human perspective that Jesus, though died the cruelest and humiliating death that, he could declare that God had “highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord…” He must have sounded ludicrous and most offensive to the Jews and yet, what gave him this confidence to make such a scandalous claim was that he had met the resurrected Jesus Christ face to face.  He was completely and totally confronted with the depth of his own sinfulness and became a man utterly broken by his sins before the Son of God Himself, and experienced first hand, forgiveness and redemption that he did not deserve.  This truth about who he was as the chief of sinners and yet receiving the greatest pardon from God himself through Christ, completely overrode the visible realities of his day.

Personal Prayer

Heavenly Father, what an astounding thing You have done through Jesus and I marvel again at the unbelievable sacrifice You paid to come to an undeserving dark and hopeless sinner like me.  Jesus, thank you for being our God incarnate–for humbling yourself, becoming vulnerable and taking on human flesh like me, so that You could enter our world to save me and this world.  Please let me never forget the immensity of what You have done, and please cause me to daily follow in your footsteps to live a life humility and obedience to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Submitted by Mia W. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:5-11

  • Reflect on this passage in light of Christmas, and the incarnation of Jesus.  What did Jesus come to do?

This passage reminds me of the cost of Christmas. Jesus wasn’t just sent by God and born as a baby in a manger. Even before all of that Jesus, who was with God, who was God, chose willingly to lower himself, to limit himself in order to come and dwell with us. Although Jesus was in the form of God, he did not strive to be equal to God but He emptied himself. He went from being in the form of God to form of a servant–God to servant. That’s a huge leap down and Jesus did it willingly and for what? To come down and dwell with us and become ultimately the final sacrifice for all sin. And that final sacrifice happened on a cross, a gruesome and humiliating death–God in all his glory to a servant crucified on a cross. Christmas in a way is just a snapshot partway in the unfolding of God’s grand salvation plan. I have often thought in the past that Christmas was where it all started and I suppose if you looked at it from a human perspective, it appears that way but the reality of it is that there is a whole lot more to the birth. It’s that God, Creator of the universe, chose to lower himself to become a man and not just any man but took on the form of a servant who would eventually die the death of a condemned man though he himself was righteous.

In light of this, the birth of Christ takes on new meaning. Emmanuel, God with us, takes on new meaning as I think about what Jesus gave in order to be with us in the flesh. The cross and what happened on the cross takes on new meaning as I think about how Jesus set aside his glory in order to die such a death.

  • What does this passage say to a Christian about grasping for power and self-exaltation?

Christians have pledged themselves to be followers of Christ and this passage paints a picture of Jesus who did not grasp for power or self-exaltation but rather lowered himself. He relinquished power and chose not to glorify himself. He took the humble, even scorned form of a servant. For the Christian, this passage teaches that to be like Christ is to take on the same identity and form as a servant humbling himself to obedience. A Christian striving for power and self-exaltation would find it impossible to find justification in the example of Jesus. A servant does not seek his own glory or fame or even recognition. Jesus in coming in the flesh let go of his rights as God and in the same way, we are called to let go of our rights, whatever they may be, in being a servant, humbling ourselves to obedience

As a Christian, this passage rebukes and realigns me to what it truly means to follow Jesus. I recognize in myself the striving for power and self-exaltation in the ways I strive to be in situations and positions where I feel in control. One way I seek power in the form of feeling in control is to do only those things I feel comfortable with or know I am good at.

I find that my natural tendency is to avoid new things and when things get hard, I want to quit and run. And because I don’t like doing this, I generally just avoid new things altogether. Looking back, I think I was able to get away with a lot of things because I did this and also got away with having really deluded thoughts about myself thinking I was far more competent than I really was when in fact it wasn’t really competence but specialization. Being in a church plant, we have all had to take on more roles and take on responsibilities foreign to us and in the ways I have responded to brand new responsibilities or tasks I am not good at, I have seen this same pattern of seeking power and self-exaltation. It is essentially my pride that is behind this. The more I see how this takes a toll on others and the church, I see that it is contrary to God’s nature and is something I need to repent of.

Verse 5 suggests that it is possible for us to imitate Christ in his humility and obedience.  What would it mean for me to apply these verses to my life in terms of how I view myself, relate to others, and respond to God?

It means that first I have to see myself as a servant of Christ and I have to be willing and ready to respond in obedience. On a daily basis, this would mean my asking, “What need can I serve right now, in this situation, for this person?” and responding without hesitation and putting the needs of others before my own. Often times even when I do see a need, I hesitate and find myself calculating or justifying why I can’t do what I initially thought to do. But in doing this, I am putting my own needs and comfort before the other person. It is not the attitude of a servant but of a person who thinks she has the freedom and independence to do whatever she wants. One way I can battle this is to just meet the need or to do what I initially thought to do before I tried to talk myself out of it.

With regard to how I relate to others, it means that I consider the needs of others before my own. It means to treat others with respect and more highly than myself. When I am talking to people whether a student or team member or anybody for that matter, I need to be genuinely concerned for the person. I have to be fully there and fully vested rather than trying to multitask thinking about all the other things I need to do. For that time, I have to set aside my plans and give my full attention. For me this is an area I need to especially focus on as many times I am task oriented and fail to put people before tasks.

With regard to how I respond to God, it has to be of complete obedience. For this to be the case, I have to do the hard work of wrestling idols and sins that will cloud my ability to obey on a daily basis. It starts with knowing my weaknesses and areas of temptation. And it’s not going to be a surprise what these things will be. For me, one area is marriage. The desire to make marriage my idol will not go away now that I am married but will only come back in other forms as I have children and/or go through different phases of life or go through life’s ups and downs. Another area is a comfortable life and this is something I have to constantly be vigilant about.

And the way I am going to be vigilant and battle these things is by filling my heart and mind with the Word of God. I need to prioritize times in the Word of God, journaling and prayer so that I am not deluded or blind to what is going on in my heart. And it also means that I have to share and seek accountability from the people of God lest I deceive myself or delude myself into thinking that I am alright. To do this will help me to respond readily to God in obedience.

Philippians 2:9-11

  • Reflect on Apostle’s claims in vv. 9-11 in light of the political realities of his day, and the low regard the Romans must have had for Jesus, who to them was a criminal crucified in one of their provinces.  On what basis can Apostle Paul make such a claim that seems to defy the visible realities of his day?

From the world’s perspective Jesus didn’t seem to amount to much. His crucifixion suggests as much. Yet Apostle Paul claims that God highly exalted Jesus and bestowed upon him the name above every name. Apostle Paul’s reality was not that of the world’s, which judges only by externals. Apostle Paul saw the entire reality. He saw that Jesus had come in the humblest of forms, a human baby, to die the lowest of deaths for the sake of sinners condemned to death and undeserving. He recognized that in coming this way, in Jesus lowering himself to this extent, there was greatness and glory and power because Jesus willingly came in the flesh and was willing to endure all manner of humiliation and scorn for the sake of many. It was not something the world would have understood because the world doesn’t understand greatness in this way.

Apostle Paul’s understanding of Jesus came from a personal encounter with the resurrected Christ which changed him profoundly. Ultimately it was as Apostle Paul understood his sins and his wretchedness before God and saw how God sent his only son to be born as a man, die the death of a condemned man, and raised him up that he was able to see the power and greatness of Jesus Christ.

  • Jesus transformed the cross from the most shameful and repulsive object into the most widely recognized and beloved religious symbol today.  What happened?

While the cross was a symbol of shame and repulsive to the people of Jesus’ time, it was what happened on Jesus’ cross that changed its meaning forever. On the cross, Jesus took upon himself the sins of the world. He bled and died and with his blood made atonement for the sins of those who scorned, abused, and hated him. With the resurrection of Jesus, the empty cross became a symbol of the forgiveness of sins and the immense, unimaginable love of God.

Never in human history has there been anything that’s come close to what happened on the cross and it is was faith in the resurrected Christ that went on to change the entire world.

It is this that makes the cross a beloved symbol and one widely recognized.

  • Reflect on v. 11.  How can I confess today that Jesus Christ is Lord?

“and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Today, I can confess that Jesus Christ is Lord by trusting and obeying Jesus. Whatever situation that arises or that I face, it is to seek God’s ways, to imitate Christ no matter what that might cost me, and in so doing, declare that it is Jesus who is Lord of my life. In all my interactions today, it’s to remember that I am a servant of Christ and am called to imitate him in laying down my life for the sake of others. It is to humble myself in putting the needs of others before mine and it’s to ask myself how I can serve the person in front of me. I can’t just say Jesus is Lord with words. To have Jesus as Lord means that my actions and words are subjected to his direction.

Personal Prayer

Jesus, thank you for your great love and sacrifice in humbling yourself and becoming a man all for the purpose of saving us from our sins. Your love caused you to go from the form of God to the form of a servant. You lowered yourself to be a man in the flesh and limited yourself to dwell with us. We did not deserve the mercy and compassion you showed us in coming to us.

God I pray for your mercy today as I think about all the ways I have sought power and self-exaltation and lived in disobedience to your call for me to follow after you. Please forgive me for the many ways I have done this in the past and to the present time. Thank you for your Word that speaks correction and truth to me. Lord help me to imitate you in humbling myself for the sake of others today as I remember how you humbled yourself in coming to us as a baby all those years ago.

In the name of Jesus, Amen.

Submitted by Jonathan F. from Gracepoint Minneapolis Church

Philippians 2:5-11

  • Reflect on this passage in light of Christmas, and the incarnation of Jesus.  What did Jesus come to do?

Jesus came to earth, stooped down to our level and took on the likeness of man, all to bring us the salvation that we desperately need. I think in all of the holiday bustle filled with lights and songs, what often gets lost is the humble beginnings of Jesus’ life, and the ultimate meaning of Christmas.

Christmas marks day one of Jesus’ story, but in many ways it is all of our stories. It is because of Christmas that we have the gospel message today to share with the world. I heard a song on the radio called Mary Did You Know by Jeremy Camp, and one of the stanzas reads:

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?

Mary did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?

That this child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

The last line, especially, powerfully and poetically encapsulates what Christmas marks for us as Christians, and Jesus’ purpose here on earth. It is what makes this day so dear to the hearts of any Christian. Unfortunately, like I mentioned earlier, this truth often gets lost in our society today. I was really saddened to hear about an event that my classmates at school were hosting. I knew for a while that our campus as a whole is very liberal, but it was disturbing to see the name of the event being called “Friendsmas Celebration.” At first, I didn’t think it was anything more than just an attempt at a creative title, but when I realized that their goal was to take “Christ” out of the picture, that really bothered me. Seeing how far our culture and society has strayed from what Jesus came to do 2000 years ago, it was sad and eye-opening at the same time. It was a reminder that all the more it is up to us as believers to be the ones to share the true story of Christmas, and the real meaning behind this precious day. It was the day that God became flesh, all to save each and everyone of us.

  • What does this passage say to a Christian about grasping for power and self-exaltation?

Our savior was presented to the world in a state that many of us today wouldn’t even consider to be at our level, but even lower. And in that same vein, as we follow the life of Jesus through the years, we read about how he surrounds himself with the sick, the twisted, and even the wicked. All because he knew that all of us, no matter who we were or what we did, needed to be redeemed and made new in Christ. Never did Jesus get comfortable with putting himself in a position of power or stand on a soapbox.

And as we read in verse 5 that it is our calling and purpose to imitate Christ, we must humble ourselves similarly instead of constantly striving for power, position, and self-glorification. However, that is honestly often a lot harder than I think. Even in my times of being a servant or serving others, I still try and find ways to show my capabilities or “prowess” in certain areas. In that way, making flyers or doing publications can often be a slippery slope. While I can say that I am working late into the night on flyer designs for the sake of Acts 2 Fellowship or Gracepoint, I need to make sure that it is about our event and group and not about me wanting to show off what I can do on Photoshop. This is just one of many examples of how it is so easy for me to even use times of service and doing good for self-promotion or elevating my own status in the eyes of others. But as we read about the life of Jesus, and as I am reminded in the season of Christmas the humble beginnings of which or Savior came from, it is a reminder and a rebuke to me that I am not living my life in a manner that is imitating Christ. It is this dose of reality that I need to keep myself in check. Naturally, I am going to want to twist things to my benefit, so I need to be extra mindful and remind myself that I am not living my life the way I should be.

  • Verse 5 suggests that it is possible for us to imitate Christ in his humility and obedience.  What would it mean for me to apply these verses to my life in terms of how I view myself, relate to others, and respond to God?

To apply these verses in my life would mean that like Jesus, I would put others before me. That was Jesus’ mindset all the way until his death on the cross, which was for our sins. So I think about all of the people that are in my life, whether they be my leaders, my peers, students I am ministering to, these are all people in which I need to apply this mindset. And in each case, there is no shortage of opportunities for me to do so. With my leaders, while there will be no temptation to want to be on a power trip, I can still be a humble and obedient person-someone who responds accordingly and promptly. With my peers, I often struggle with being competitive or trying to be on par with what they are doing. This is probably the greatest area for me to put this verse into practice. To let go of those desires to prove myself in their eyes, be submissive and understanding, and being an open ear rather than a sharp tongue. Lastly, as I think about the students that God has entrusted into my care, I need to continually die to myself in any way that God may call me to do. It is something that is often hard to do, but if it is for the sake of seeing someone come to Christ or grow in their walk with God, then it is a necessary step for me to take. For Jesus, he stopped at nothing for our sake, and I need to embody that same mentality with all of those in my life.

Philippians 2:9-11

  • Reflect on Apostle’s claims in vv. 9-11 in light of the political realities of his day, and the low regard the Romans must have had for Jesus, who to them was a criminal crucified in one of their provinces.  On what basis can Apostle Paul make such a claim that seems to defy the visible realities of his day?

To Apostle Paul, Jesus’ purpose on earth was extremely clear. As it states in the commentary, this passage holds many parallels to the prophecies in Isaiah 53, and it is Apostle Paul’s convictions and confidence in those prophecies that empowers him to say what he did in v. 9-11. It is confidence that is admirable, and it is confidence that I, too, continually strive to have. To have conviction that may defy the logic and realities of the rest of the world.

  • Reflect on v. 11.  How can I confess today that Jesus Christ is Lord?

It was Jesus who saved me from my self-destructive life in my early years of college. I was ready to leave God altogether, but it was His intervention in my life that has brought me to where I am today. Instead of a life of rebellion, dead ends, and broken relationships, God has given me a life filled with loving relationships, purpose, and meaning. And at this juncture, as I see where I am at and what I have been called to do, giving my all to Jesus is the least I can do for all that he has done for me. That is why each and every day of my life, I need to be faithful in what God has called me to do, I need to be obedient to His Word, and give control of every aspect of my life to God. To live not for myself, but for Him. While my nature is to be very selfish and often lazy, I need to fight against those innate temptations I have knowing what is at stake, and what God has in stake in me for His Kingdom’s work. The battle has already been won, I have been given the greatest gift that I could ever receive, and it is my purpose and my goal to share that gift with others who may not know who Jesus Christ is, who does not know what was done on their behalf, and need to experience Jesus being Lord in their lives as well.

Personal Prayer

Dear Heavenly Father,

I thank you so much for your Word today, and how in the Christmas season I am reminded of what you did for each and every one of us 2000 years ago. As I see your humility from day 1, I pray that it would be a challenge to me to embody that same humility each and every day of my life as I serve you. That I may be obedient in response to you, humble in front of my peers and leaders, and humble to all those who you have placed in my life. It has never been easy for me and I know it wont be easy for me looking forward, but I pray that you would give me the strength and the clarity of mind to remember you daily. What you did for us. That this may be what drives me to live my life for you each and every day.

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