Making ourselves nothing
Do nothing out of
selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others
better than yourselves. …
Your attitude should
be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature
God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as
a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death —
even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8, NIV).
A young minister was
invited to give his first sermon. When the moment arrived, he
walked proudly to the pulpit with his head held high, radiating
self-confidence. But he stumbled reading the Scriptures and then
lost his train of thought halfway through the message. He began
to panic, so he did the safest thing: He quickly ended the message,
prayed and walked dejectedly from the pulpit, his head down, his
Later, one of the godly
elders whispered to the embarrassed young man, “If you had
gone up to the pulpit the way you came down, you might have come
down the way you went up.”
With His life, Jesus
taught us tremendous lessons about humility. Paul tells us in
Philippians 2 that Jesus made himself nothing.
Jesus refused to parade
His superiority. Instead He taught, “The Son of Man did
not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a
ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus made himself
nothing by becoming a servant. He demonstrated this in John 13.
The disciples had come to eat the Passover meal, and there was
no servant to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus took off His
outer robe, clothed himself in a towel, took a basin of water,
and began to wash their dirty, smelly feet. Imagine the awkward
silence that filled the room. Peter broke the silence by refusing
to let Jesus wash his feet. Jesus assured him this was part of
God’s plan. So Peter relented. Jesus finished all 12 disciples
— including Judas — and returned to the table. Jesus
was saying we should make ourselves servants — to touch
people’s lives and meet their needs.
God: Strength and Encouragement for Troubled Times
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Walked with the Savior
here or call
Jesus was not after
position. He was the Master … they were students.
Can I willfully serve
those who may appear to be below me on some ladder of social importance?
Jesus was not after
recognition. Our ego will sometimes use humility as a means of
self-promotion. Jesus never practiced this. There was no award
for washing feet.
Am I willing to serve
without expectation of recognition?
Jesus was totally secure
in who He was. The key to Christ’s ability to wash feet
is: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under
his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to
God” (v. 3). Jesus understood where He came from, where
He was going, and what He had. That’s a good formula for
overcoming insecurity — understand that our worth has come
from our Heavenly Father, that we are going to spend eternity
with Him, and that He has entrusted us with His authority. With
that sense of understanding we can be free to wash feet.
Jesus made himself
nothing by refusing jealousy. In Mark 9, we get an insight into
Jesus’ view on competition. The account begins with the
disciples feeling a little concerned that someone is cutting in
on their operation. There is a person who is not one of the chosen
who is going around casting out demons in the name of Jesus. The
disciples tell the man to stop. John informs Jesus that they have
taken care of this fellow.
Much to John’s
surprise, Jesus does not give him an award of merit but a rebuke.
Jesus says, “Do not stop him” (Mark 9:39). Jesus was
thrilled that the kingdom of darkness was losing and the kingdom
of heaven was advancing.
Here’s the test
for you: Do I rejoice when others are blessed?
A few years ago I struggled
with this question when a pastor in my area was experiencing tremendous
growth. I was working hard and this new kid on the block was blowing
everything away. His church was twice the size of mine in less
than two years — I had been working for five years. Then
God told me I had to start praying for this brother to be blessed
even more. I disagreed with his philosophy. It took months for
me to be able to honestly pray for God to bless him. The lesson
was painful but effective. When I learned to honestly rejoice
in his growth, God began to bless our work as well. The war with
jealousy is never won — there are always new battlefronts.
That’s why I must keep a daily prayer closet. Humility and
jealousy can never coexist.
Jesus made himself
nothing by refusing to be judgmental.
This is illustrated
in John 8, when men interrupted Jesus’ teaching by bringing
in a woman who the religious leaders said was caught in the act
of adultery. Case closed; she deserves to die. It is right there
in the Law. What do You say?
Jesus writes in the
Come on, Jesus. What
should we do with someone caught in the obvious act of sin?
Jesus speaks. “If
any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a
stone at her” (v. 7). Jesus goes back to sand writing.
Awkward exit of accusers.
Jesus stands. Looks
around. Speaks. “Woman, where are they?” They are
gone. “Then neither do I condemn you!”
is in Luke 9:51-56. Jesus and the disciples are on their way to
Jerusalem. Jesus sends some to a Samaritan village to get things
prepared. The people of the village refuse to welcome them. James
and John are indignant and ask permission to call down fire from
heaven to destroy the village. Jesus rebukes James and John and
simply goes to another village.
There have been occasions
in my ministry when I knew that vengeance belongs to God, but
I wanted to be His hand extended. There were people who were saying
things and doing things and needed to be set straight. I felt
I should be the one. But God hasn’t yet released me to be
His spiritual enforcer. Humility
means I don’t have to correct everyone.
Jesus made himself
nothing by trusting the Father’s timing. Back in Philippians
2, Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death; then God
highly exalted Him. Travel with me to the cross. Suspended between
heaven and earth is the Son of God. Unjustly tried and sentenced,
He is brutally pinned to the wood by three nails. His body is
beaten and torn. Each breath is a painful struggle. He gathers
enough strength for one last statement, “Father, into your
hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). And then it is over.
The key word is “commit.”
According to Strong’s Bible Dictionary, the word
can be translated “to deposit as a trust or for protection.”
Jesus was saying to the Father, “I deposit myself as a trust
for You to protect.” Jesus chose to trust the Father with
Self-ego often wants
to help God out when it seems that nobody notices our sacrifice,
service or efforts. Yet Jesus showed us that true humility can
trust God for the outcome.
One day many years
ago I sat in a cafeteria with my father sharing some unpleasant
news. I will never forget his words: “Darius, your number
one job is keeping your heart right with God. God will take care
of who is right and wrong.” I was learning that day to trust
Have you learned to
humble yourself before God and trust His timing in your life?
In an age when
everyone seems to demand his or her rights, the life of Jesus
provides a dramatic contrast. It is time to return to Christ’s
example — we must lay down our robes of pride, jealousy
and prejudice. Then we can learn to trust God with the outcome.
The world is waiting to see Jesus through us.
Johnston is pastor of Christ Church Assembly of God in Fort Worth,
Adapted from Living
Like Jesus, compiled and edited by Ken Horn and James O.
Davis (Springfield, Mo.: Onward Books, 2001). Reprinted with permission.
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