Gospel doctrine creates gospel cultures called churches, where wonderful things happen to unworthy people for the glory of Christ alone. But it doesn’t end in our churches. A gospel-defined church is a prophetic sign that points beyond itself. It is a model home of the new neighborhood Christ is building for eternity.
He is God (v.6) – but he didn’t go around boasting about it. If anything, He downplayed it so that people would identify with Him as a man. Human nature does just the opposite. We try to make ourselves out to be more important and more impressive than we really are. There is a lot about attitude we could learn from just this one thing. But wait… there’s more.
He became a servant (v.7) – how many truly servant-minded people do you know. Jesus came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Mt 20:28
He demonstrated humility (v.8) – This is how C.J. Mahaney defines humility in his book by the same name: “Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.” He quotes John Owen who augments this by saying: “There are two things that are suited to humble the souls of men. … A due consideration of God, and then of ourselves. Of God, in his greatness, glory, holiness, power, majesty, and authority; of ourselves, in our mean, abject, and sinful condition” (92).
He acted obediently (v.8) – And He did this even when it was not something He wanted to do. Obedience is easy when the reward is to our liking. But what about when the reward is death. An attitude that reflects joyful obedience, for the sake of obedience, is a rare thing – and a remarkable thing.
He was exalted (v.9) – The difference between Jesus and us is that we are often looking to be exalted. Sometimes even our serving can be self-serving – hoping that others will notice and make much of us. Jesus did not have any ulterior motives in doing what he did. but because He did what He did God exalted Him to the highest place.
He is Lord (v.11) – Those who seek to have the same attitude as Jesus have no problem at all in bowing before Him and acknowledging Him as Lord. It is when we seek to be lord of our own lives, when we try to be in control, that our attitudes get all out of whack and we need to be reminded all over again that “Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”
“Two words that will change your life: ‘Yes, Lord.’”
“Joy is important in winning people to Christ. Don’t go around looking like an advance agent for the undertaker.”
“If you woke up this morning and you’re still here, God still has a plan for your life.”
Some of the littlest words carry some of the biggest weight. The word IF is one of them. Paul seems to be saying in this passage “IF you identify yourself as a Christian then start acting like one. Quit acting so self absorbed. Stop putting your own wants above the wants and needs of others. Consider Christ! Always consider Christ!”
Evidently the Philippians needed an attitude adjustment. I often do as well. I need to be reminded that it is not about me. I like to get my way as much as anybody else. But when I stop and consider Christ and what He did on the cross – how He put my needs before His own, then I am much more apt to act accordingly.
Here are a few other examples in the New Testament of the weight that this little word IF carries…
“…IF you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord’, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9
“Therefore, IF anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
Jesus said: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, IF you love one another.” John 13:35
“IF God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
“By this gospel you are saved, IF you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:2
Forgiveness of sins and justification are good news because they remove obstacles to the only lasting, all-satisfying source of joy: Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is not merely the means of our rescue from damnation; he is the goal of our salvation. If he is not satisfying to be with, there is no salvation. He is not merely the rope that pulls us from the threatening waves; he is the solid beach under our feet, and the air in our lungs, and the beat of our heart, and the warm sun on our skin, and the song in our ears, and the arms of our beloved.
The gospel is the good news that the everlasting and ever-increasing joy of the never-boring, ever-satisfying Christ is ours freely and eternally by faith in the sin-forgiving death and hope-giving resurrection of Jesus Christ.