Following Christ

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil 2:5-8 NKJV)

When we think about the sacrifice that Christ made for us, His death on the cross immediately comes to mind. However, His sacrifice was much deeper than that. According to Philippians, He stepped away from the glory that belonged to Him as the King of kings and the Lord of lords. The New American Standard Bible renders this scripture:

“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

There were certain characteristics of God that He left behind in order to enter the world. He was obviously no longer omnipresent. In the flesh and blood, He could only be one place at a time. He was also no longer omnipotent. If He was, then there would have been no power that could take His life. These are big things, but He left them behind so that He could give His life for us. In his work, “Christ’s Famous Titles”, William Dyer wrote that Christ:

uncrowned himself—to crown us; and put off his robes—to put on our rags; and come out of heaven—to keep us out of hell…He came from heaven to earth—that he might send us from earth to heaven!

Paul tells the Philippians (and by extension, us) that we need to have this same mindset that Christ had. He emptied Himself to become like us. We need to empty ourselves to become like Him! He came in the form of a bondservant so that He could serve everyone. That is the calling that we have, to serve one another:

“He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, ‘Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.’” (Mark 9:35 NLT).

But, you may argue that you cannot be like Christ, after all, He is God. However, that is the goal – that we would be like Christ, not that we would be Christ, but that we would be like Him.

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.” (Eph. 5:1 ESV).

The Message Bible puts it this way:

“Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents.”

Christ taught us how to live. If we are to be followers of Jesus, then we must be like Him in every way possible. This is a hard assignment, yet Christ knows and understands how hard it is.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15 ESV)

The word “sympathize”, when taken from the Greek, means “to be affected with the same feeling as another.” Again, Christ gave up His omnipotence for us. Since He was not all powerful, He experienced our weaknesses and He was tempted as we are.

When we think of the temptations of Jesus, the Bible only gives us one instance where He was tempted. After His baptism, the Bible says that He was driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It is easy to assume that after he defeated Satan, that He was never bothered with temptation again. But that’s not what Hebrews tells us. If He was tempted in every way that we are, then there are more temptations that He faced. The good news is, He did not succumb to those temptations, and never sinned!

To be like Jesus, we have to get past temptation without sinning. Some temptations are easy, but some may cause a lifelong struggle. None of us are without sin, and none of us are perfect (or will be while living this side of Heaven!) However, it is our burden to be like Jesus in all ways. Sometimes, we may stumble. When that happens, we need to let Jesus pick us up, brush off the dust, and heal our wounds. Then, we need to learn from our mistakes, and continue on a path that leads to glory.

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3 thoughts on “Following Christ

  1. Good thoughts Todd! Come Holy Spirit!! There are a host a beautiful thoughts through the early Fathers, the Patristics, etc, regarding Christ’s “kenosis” or self-emptying. Though they generally regarded Christ taking on flesh not only as an example, but as accomplishing something utterly cosmic. The incorruptible put on corruptible, so that the corruptible could put on incorruptible. We are planted with Him in death, that we may rise with Him in newness of life. The Son of God became the Son of Man so the sons of men could become sons of God. Which brings us to the other side of the coin opposite kenosis: theosis. That is, the putting on of the divine nature, which Peter and Paul and all the NT gang seem to also affirm.

    Gregory Nazianzen said, “the unassumed is the unredeemed.” Meaning, if Christ did not take ALL of our darkness upon Him, whatever was left out could not be redeemed. He had to “go there” in order to bring light to the deepest darkness. The Incarnation of Christ accomplished something we never could. He BECAME sin who knew no sin, in order that we might BECOME the righteousness of God. It’s a divine exchange. In assuming all of our darkness, in partaking of the flesh and blood, He also planted something unique in the depths of our soil. That is, the incorruptible Seed… the Holy Spirit. He realized something for us we could never do. He brought life to the dead. By taking on death, He defeated death, as He rose from the grave, never to die again. It’s a profound mystery.

    So I would add to your beautiful post, Christ not only teaches us the “how” of life, He teaches us the “Who” of life. Being in Christ doesn’t mean I follow His life like a map, it means He is the map. He didn’t offer us the “way” to salvation, wisdom, sanctification, redemption… like so many other religious gurus… He says, I AM The way, I BECAME for you wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. These aren’t “things” to seek after, they ARE ALL a person: Jesus Christ.

    What do I mean practically? Well… maybe practically is where I can get lost sometimes too, because this is a profound mystery to me still… But I think I see something like this… When we are tempted, as you say… we rightly must recognize that Jesus was also tempted (past tense), and as He emptied Himself to receive the Holy Spirit, and be empowered, as a man, to resist… so too can we… Very true. (Do not forget that after His baptism and before His temptation, He received the Holy Spirit, and was blessed by the Father!). And also true is this, He IS (present tense) inhabiting this moment of weakness! He took it on already. He has already inhabited every darkness, sin, sickness, torment… And taking it down to the grave, He rose again into new life! Thus, He HIMSELF is the way out, and the Grace to endure. He completely changed the human story. HE is in the Father, and I am in Him, and He is in me (John 14:20). We are one (John 17). He’s been here already, and He’ll be the power I need. Christ Himself has planted within me everything pertaining to life and Godliness, and will bring the increase of the Fruit of the Spirit.

    I only make this distinction because in the typical “What would Jesus do?” model, we tend to take on in our own strength an impossible burden that He has offered to bear in us, through us, with us. Of course, you mention in your post the need for emptying so we can be empowered by Him, so I think this agrees with what you say. I only hope to add to your thoughts as we all seek to manifest Christ here on earth, to do as He does, walk as He walks, love as He loves.

    Blessings friend!

    Like

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