Section Three: The Lifestyle Characteristics of a Godly Life.
Our current theme: Characteristic One: Having A Servant’s Heart.
Our reading for today: Philippians 2: 1-11 (MsgB)
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand. Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of Himself that He had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, He set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, He stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, He lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted Him high and honored Him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth—even those long ago dead and buried—will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that He is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.
As we discussed last time, serving Jesus in this world of “what’s in it for me?”, will require a different attitude, a different approach to the way you and I have learned to live our lives. From day one, all human beings have an inward motivation to be self-centered and self-focused, looking out for Number One. If you’ve ever been around a group of toddlers, it won’t take long to see this trigger towards selfishness play itself out. You see, it’s human nature to take care of our own wants and needs first and foremost, before ever considering the wants and needs of our neighbor. Those who study the human condition have found that this self-centeredness is actually a much-needed human trait, designed for survival of the fittest.
But here’s the rub.
Those who fail to mature beyond this basic gut-level of self-survival, failing to branch out our lives beyond ourselves, are destined to live a very limited, and many times, very destructive existence.
You see, God has designed the human being to not only live in community with others, but actually thrive when we do so. So as we grow up, moving beyond this primal focus on self, we also have the opportunity to grow into a God-breathed life that is full and complete, where we live and learn the beauty of a life that is shared with others.
Jesus of Nazareth provided us with the perfect model of living a life that is freely shared outside oneself. And the New Testament writers quickly picked up on the fact that the life Jesus shared with us is the same life we Christ-followers, when empowered by the Spirit of God, can share with those who surround our lives.
So when Paul writes to his friends in Philippi…
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if His love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.
…he’s pointing out the fact that those who live and breathe in Jesus will find an inner fortitude to live lives of service that will model a different spirit than the world is used to seeing. You see, living a life where we agree with each other, love each other, and are deep-spirited friends with one another is more than just a good idea. More than just a social-uplift program driven by well-meaning, religious people.
Living the life of Christ-centered servanthood; a selfless, obedient life; is a function that comes from being deeply rooted in the Master and then choosing to live, move and have our being in community with the Holy Spirit.
As I see it, it’s one thing for me to try to be a good servant through the well-meaning intentions of my flesh, yet quite another to be a Christ-centered servant, moving through life by the indwelling, empowering work of the Holy Spirit. In truth, my human attempt at being selfless might start off looking pretty impressive, but over time, my ability to be good begins to wear down, especially when it is combined with the natural self-centeredness of both myself and the ones I’m hoping to serve. In the end, trying to make ourselves live the selfless, obedient life like the one Paul talks about here is no easy task.
Yet, I don’t believe the New Testament would speak of such things if it were not possible. So, let’s try this…
How about rather than going into this day doubling down on our good efforts to live this selfless, obedient life Paul speaks of…how about if we go to the One who successfully lived such a life and ask Him for the in-breaking presence of the Holy Spirit to produce this quality of servant life we hope to find?
Allow me to close today’s blog by praying a prayer my mentor, John Wimber, used to pray when asking God for this level of servanthood…
My prayer: God, I’m just not smart enough or good enough to be the Christ-centered servant You want me to be. I surrender my life of service to You today. Let me become nothing more than a coin in Your pocket today, Jesus. Spend me wherever or however You desire. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: So am I trying to live the selfless, obedient life of servanthood out of my own strength? Am I going into situations where I am called to serve and believing I can make good things happen? If so, how might I change my way of thinking and surrender more and more of my good intentions toward servanthood and allow the Master to simply spend my life today, as a coin in His pocket, in any way He desires?
So what is God speaking to you today as we attempt to live the Christ-centered life?
Over a thirty-six week period, you and I will take a deeper look into twelve key characteristics of a godly life. In other words, we’ll take A Journey into Christian Discipleship. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Journey home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
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