This is post #9 of a 26-session blog series entitled Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. It was Eugene Peterson who said that Philippians is Paul’s happiest letter. Join us as we explore this joyful work of Christ as it manifest itself amongst Paul and Timothy, and the early church of Christ-followers in Philippi. Just maybe, we might learn a few secrets to finding true joy in the midst of our lives as well. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Today’s Lectio Divina: 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. Philippians 2: 5-11 (MsgB)
Becoming like Jesus.
Quite a goal in life, don’t you think?
Over the years, I’ve had some of my parishioners push back at such a lofty goal. “Only Jesus can be Jesus,” one man told me, with a frown on his face. “To try to be like Him is far above my pay-grade.”
I smiled, and tried to encourage him by reminding my brother that God is not looking for perfection in our lives, but that it’s in Christ we can arrive at being like Him.
He smiled back, but I could tell that his feathers were still ruffled when it came to this idea of becoming Christ-like.
How about you?
How does the goal of becoming like Jesus settle in your soul?
If you read a lot of the New Testament, it becomes obvious that the early church saw Christ-likeness, becoming like the Master, as a primary agenda for those who had chosen to follow Jesus of Nazareth in the Way, Truth, and Life.
Today’s passage is a good example. As Paul, Timothy, and their comrades in Rome wrote to their fellow Christians in Philippi, it’s obvious here that they were encouraging their readers to look deeper into the life of Jesus and find within it, the qualities of godliness. Qualities that became the gold standard for those of us who desire to live a life worthy of the name of Jesus Christ.
So, how’s your journey toward Christ-likeness progressing today?
If I can be totally honest with you, I believe that so many of the teachings on Christ-likeness that I’ve heard over the years are nothing more than a call to human initiative. Motivation speeches geared at revving up our engines so that you and I will work just a bit harder to achieve our goal of being like Him.
And you know what?
All I believe these pep-talks on Christ-likeness produce in most of us is:
1) More guilt and shame because we’re not reaching our goal, or
2) More pride and arrogance because we believe that we’re achieving our goal.
So, for all of you looking for yet another motivational talk on Christ-likeness, sorry.
What I do want to suggest today, when it comes to being like Jesus, is pretty simple. And what I’m about to say comes from two verses found in today’s Lectio Divina…
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself. (verse 5) Having become human, He stayed human. (verses 7-8)
So, here’s the truth.
Jesus of Nazareth, while divine in nature, laid down that divine nature and became fully human when He walked the earth. He had no special anointings, no divine magic stick, and no super-hero spidey-powers when he said and did all the things that He said and did.
But, as Paul spells out for us in today’s text, there were a few simple qualities that allowed Jesus to accomplish what He accomplished.
First, Jesus knew who He was. He knew that He was one human being, loved by God, and that loving acceptance from above would never be ripped away from Him.
Secondly, He positioned Himself in humility, knowing that it was God’s agenda He was being asked to follow, not to manufacture His own.
Thirdly, He did His very best to stay close to His Father, being obedient to what He needed to do in order to keep His part of this loving relationship intact.
Fourth and finally, Jesus submitted Himself to the in-breaking power of the Holy Spirit. He knew, as a human being, that He needed to defer to the promptings and leadings of the Spirit as He walked through life.
There you have it.
So, let me ask you.
If we could re-define Christ-likeness using these four statements I just laid out for us, how much easier might it be for you and me to walk into being like the Master?
My hope and prayer is that, with God’s help, we begin that trek to Christ-likeness, for His glory today. Amen and amen.
Today’s Prayer: So, Jesus, as I see it, becoming more like You actually means me becoming more human than it does trying to gear myself up to some super-human effort. In truth, it was Your human frailties, submitted fully to God that actually opened You up to the possibility of being all God created You to be. Father God, I repent of trying to position myself in strength so I can become more Christ-like. In fact, as Paul says, it’s in my weakness I find Your strength. So, Holy Spirit, indwell me and empower me to live my human life deferring to Your leadership. For Your Name’s sake and for Your Glory. Amen.
Today’s Questions to Ponder: How have I perceived Christ-likeness over the years? Have I found myself feeling shamed or guilty when I fail to arrive at that goal? Or have I become proud and arrogant when I believe I’ve achieved it? What changes might occur in my life if I re-defined Christ-likeness, seeing it as a human life that is simply and humbly submitted to the love and direction of a holy God?
So, how are you experiencing Jesus as we ponder together on this journey into the Book of Philippians?
Two Joyful Pastors – One Great Work of Christ: A Journey with Paul, Timothy, and the Philippian Church. We hope you’ll enjoy this series of 26 blogs. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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