Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Humility and Unity

The Philippian church was a model church but there seemed to be some division. It was a multi-cultural church and they were also being persecuted for their faith. Whatever the source of the division, the apostle Paul wrote to encourage them to conduct their lives in a manner worthy of the gospel. He exhorts them to stand together in unity, practicing and proclaiming the gospel. He reminds them not to be alarmed by the enemy who opposes them and challenges them to diligently pursue unity and harmony with their fellow believers.

Our enemy Satan still causes division today. He divides and then conquers. He prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. With thousands of years of practice, he's good at what he does. We see division today between Christians of different denominations and there’s even division within specific churches. How quickly we forget that we have an opponent, an unseen enemy. We fall into his trap when we promote our own selfish interest, escalate petty differences, gossip or slander each other because somehow we think we are better.

Unity is rooted in humility. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the model for the mindset of humility. His incarnation, life, and death provide us with the ultimate example of humility.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3-4

Selfishness seeks personal gain at the expense of others. Humility desires the advance of others at our expense. Pride and empty conceit are a part of our fallen human nature, it causes us to compete with others, rather than to contribute to their well-being. If we are truly humble, then we are not desperately seeking to enhance our own standing. We are to treat one another as “better than” ourselves. Their interests are to come higher on our agenda than our own selfish interests. The cure for selfishness is servanthood. Humility prompts me to serve others, assigning my interests a lower priority than their needs.

Paul reminds them of the ultimate example of humility - our Lord Jesus Christ.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8

Though equal with God (or equally God) our Lord did not seize this as an opportunity to further His own interests. Instead, He “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant”. Jesus never ceased to be God; He divested Himself of self-interest, so that He could glorify the Father and bring about our salvation. Jesus did not reduce His deity; but He added sinless humanity and this was prompted by His humility.

The humbling process had several facets.

1) He left the splendor and glory of heaven to dwell on earth. Since the glory of heaven is beyond our human ability to comprehend it, we have difficulty grasping the sacrifice that was required for our Lord to leave heaven and to live on earth.

2) Then He humbled himself to take on the form of a man, a servant. He came as the “Lamb of God” who would become sin for us. He came to die the most cruel and ignoble death possible—crucifixion. It is one thing to come as a servant, but Jesus' service consisted of being condemned as a common criminal and a sinner against a holy God.

3) Jesus stooped so low in His humility that He was elevated to the highest possible place of honor by the Father. As a result of His humility and obedience, God highly exalted Him, giving to Him a name above every name. Jesus dwelt among men, was rejected and crucified; and one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

We don’t have to promote our own interests. God will take care of that when we humble ourselves.God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Therefore humble yourself under the mighty hand of God and He will exalt you in due time. 1 Peter 5:5,6

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