One of the great tendencies of our age is to inflate our self-worth and self-image. This has no doubt been driven by the belief that exaltation comes by promotion rather than by demotion. In short, we are a culture who are full of themselves. I know this seems rather harsh and we would be quick to deflect such a slight away from ourselves. But before you do, just consider what offends you. I guarantee that nine times out of ten offences result from someone treating you lower than what you believe you deserve. The incarnation teaches us an entirely different path.
The Apostle Paul told the church at Philippi to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5).
In other words, we are to recalibrate our minds away from the culture and our natural tendency toward self to Christ and His attitude toward others. Check your mind against Christ’s and imitate Him.
What is Christ’s mind? “Though he was … God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). This means: “Christ, being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man” (The Man Christ Jesus, Bruce Ware). As a result, He “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (v. 7). Instead of holding onto glory, Christ poured Himself into our humanity, veiling His glory, and obeyed the Father “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8). Be sure, you have not been asked to give up anything Christ has not already given up. To have the mind of Christ means to give up whatever glory we perceive we have in the service of others.
In His outer life Christ did not please Himself. He did not seek the highest positions in this world. He did not choose a life of ease, comfort or pleasure. He lived exclusively to serve the physical and eternal needs of others, even laying down His life. Why? Because He set His mind upon the will of God the Father and perpetually found every need met in Him.
Christ’s incarnation should confront us all. The baby in the manger is an assault against our pride and “I deserve better” attitude. To have the mind of Christ is to have our thoughts, wishes, motives filled with Christ. Though the standard is indeed high, Christ must be the longing of every heart, to know Christ, to love Christ, and to be made like Christ. Only then will we be relieved of self and placed in the position to be exalted in Him. May the description of our HBC family not be one of people who are full of themselves, but of those who are full of Christ, by the way we love others as Christ loved us.
Book recommendation: The Man Christ Jesus by Bruce A. Ware.