Bow low to reach high …

I hope the outline of chapter two set the tone for your exploration of it. There are riches of truth in it. But one must bend low to grasp them.

A quote by the great Bible teacher of yesterday, F.B. Meyer, points to this:

“I used to think that God’s gifts were on shelves one above the other, and that the taller we grew in Christian character the more easily we could reach them. I now find that God’s gifts are on shelves one beneath the other and that it is not a question of growing taller but of stooping lower.”

Following our outline for this chapter we see that being like Christ requires:

Looking out for others – verses 1-11

“Therefore” in verse one links the beginning of chapter two to the end of chapter one. Rewind a few verses into the end of chapter one to see the point that Paul is making in the beginning of chapter two.

There is an interesting series of similar statements in succession in verses 3, 4, and 5. Notice the three “let” statements in these verses:

  • Let nothing be done in selfish ambition or conceit – verse 3
  • Let each look out for him/herself AND for others – verse 4
  • Let the mind of Christ be in each believer – verse 5

In coming to live and die for our sins, Jesus, our Lord, took the role of bondservant or slave. Jesus showed His grace and glory through humility, not force or self-exaltation. Exaltation should come from others, and it follows humility; it does not precede it.

Verse 8 shows us that Jesus did not hold on to being exalted as the Son of God in Heaven. Rather, He emptied Himself of exaltation, took on the form of a servant (even though He is a ruler and King of Kings), became like us (a radical, un-get-a-hold-able truth), and humbled Himself to the point of death on a cross (the most horrible and humiliating way to die). He is our example.

Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16

Verse 12b can easily be misread, misinterpreted, and misapplied. To be clear: we DO NOT work for our salvation, we work because we have been saved. Our “works” do not save us or contribute to saving us from our sins and sinfulness. If one good work of ours contributed to us being saved then Christ, His death, and resurrection were not enough to redeem us. Re-read that, slowly. If we ever think that we did anything to contribute to us being saved, then we are demonstrating that we think that Jesus isn’t enough. Period.

Here is one — of the many — passages that drive this home for us:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you have been saved – and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Ephesians 2:4-9

Any good works from us are produced by the new birth in Christ and the Holy Spirit, now a resident in us. The working is the outflow of inward change caused by His grace and sanctifying work.

Verse 13 contains a precious truth, one that encourages and stabilizes us: God is the one willing and working in us. He changes the heart, mind, and will to align with HIs work and purposes. He is working in us to His own satisfaction. This stings our pride. We like to think that we generate and complete good works. No, He does. This verse shows that He continues his sanctifying work out to the finish, and for His pleasure and satisfaction. He does not work in us for our satisfaction, He does so to His. His work is effective work, it always accomplishes the goal, for His glory.

Verse 13 is a great memory verse! Tuck that one away for later.

Verse 14 hurts. Youch! Bite down and chew on it. Insert the opposite of what is stated for further impact: when we are complaining and disputing (that one really hits me) we are harmful to others and blame-laden.

The original word for “crooked” is the root word for scoliosis. The word for “perverse” refers to twisted, abnormal character that is at the point of being twisted in two.

Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30

We are to pour out our lives for others. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus model this for us.

Take note of verse 21 and how it is the opposite of verse 4.

Paul writes of pouring his life out, like a drink offering. He also commends two fellow Christ-followers for living for others:

  • Timothy was one whose character had been proven through service, he was a fellow servant in Christ and like a son to Paul.
  • Epaphroditus was like a brother and fellow servant — even fellow “soldier” during hard times — to Paul.

Paul modeled sacrificing his life for others. Those who learned from him did the same. What are others learning from our lives? Service and sacrifice, or selfishness and self-preservation?

Some application points from chapter two are on their way to you on Thursday night.

Moving beyond ourselves, or away from ourselves.

Penetrating. Humbling. Although those words do not usually reside side-by-side, they reveal the tone and direction of Philippians chapter two. In this chapter, Paul describes a way of life — the Christ life — that directly contradicts the one promoted by our society nowadays.

As you saunter into chapter two — whistling, hands in your pockets, content from chapter one’s truths of joy and God at work in your life — you enter, unaware, into a small chamber. As your pupils dilate and pulse increases you realize that you are no longer in the comfy, couch-laden parlor of chapter one. You have meandered into a hall that seems to be shrinking with each step. Soon, the hall seems to be constricting, suffocating. As you move toward the room at the end you have to bend at the waist, then take to your hands and knees, and then resort to a belly-crawl. You finally make it to a small opening that allows you to peek through a portal. Through the pane-less opening you find yourself looking into the past. You are looking into the upper room scene from John 13. Jesus is on His knees, towel-draped, wash basin in front of him; He is washing the feet of His disciples, and of His betrayer.

As I pecked out those words on the keyboard a lump formed in my throat. The image in my mind of Jesus on His knees, taking on the task of the lowliest servant in a household, placing His hands on the feet of His followers, to teach them, and to serve as the Model for them, moistens my eyes. I do not know why. But, it does. Every time.

With that scene of Jesus as foot-washing servant dialed into our minds. We are ready to settle into chapter two. Here is a working outline for breaking it down into manageable bits.

Being like Christ requires:

  • Looking out for others – verses 1-11
    • Surrendering to God’s work in us – verses 12-16
    • Pouring ourselves out for Him and others – verses 17-30
  • There is little else to say here. Go ahead and ease into chapter two. Go unhurriedly. May I offer a suggestion? Read the entire chapter slowly, perhaps out loud. Then, read verses 1-11 slowly a few times, take some notes, ponder, let it seep in. Do the same for the second section in verses 12-16, then the same for verses 17-30. There is much to marvel at there. There is much to learn. There is much truth to take in down deep, and allow it to do its work of sparking repentance, scraping away pride and selfishness, then developing humility and a focus on others.

    This chapter of Philippians cuts my feet out of from under each time that I read it. It might yours as well, unless, you breeze through it and miss what is being whispered.