Merry Christmas, dear reader! It’s that time of year again, when Christians across the globe take time to celebrate the day the Savior of the World, the Son of God himself, was born into this fallen world to take away the sins of his people through his sacrificial death on the Cross. It is my assumption that you, if you are reading this blog, are likely among them. If that is true, I’d like to ask you a question.
Is your remembrance and celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God, making you a more humble person? Are you growing in humility as a result of knowing that over two millennia ago, God came into this world as a true and living human being?
Some recent study and meditation I have been doing in Philippians 2:1-11 has me asking that question of myself. There in that great Christ-hymn, the Apostle Paul celebrates Christ’s incarnation and calls the Philippian church to follow after the pattern of self-sacrificial humility that Jesus embodied in his willingness to be born as a baby and then lay down his life as a man for sinners on the Cross.
Specifically, Paul says this:
5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:5-8 NASB)
There in that wonderful passage, God makes it clear: Perhaps the best way to measure the depth and quality of a person’s belief in the incarnation of the Son of God, is growth in sincere God-centered humility that manifests itself in sacrificial love for others, because that is precisely the attitude that Jesus perfectly embodied in his first coming.
Though himself God, possessing all the perfections of God, the Son of God did not use his divinity to his own advantage, but instead poured himself out into the vocation of a servant; a servant of God and of people whom he had created (and who would reject him), and he served them to the end, all the way to his death, even death on a Cross where he paid for the sins of his people in full.
And knowing that, God says, should make those who follow Jesus the most humble people on the planet.
I believe this may be an especially important reminder for those of you who may be pastors, or seminarians, or theologians; those who are reading this post and are well able to explain the meaning of the hypostatic union; who can spot an errant theory of the kenosis from a mile away; those to whom the word Chalcedon means something significant and who understand why it is so critical to confess that the Lord Jesus is “consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood”; those who hear the name Eutyches and immediately experience a rise in blood pressure; along with those who have considered naming a child Athanasius.
If these things describe you in any way (and even if they don’t, since you do not need to know any of these terms to believe that Jesus was/is God incarnate), can I ask you; is all your knowledge of the wonderful mystery of the incarnation of Christ making you more humble?
Are you becoming less concerned about your personal importance and personal rights, knowing that the One who was “in the form of God” (Phil 2:6 – i.e. possessing all the perfections of God) did not consider his equality with God a thing to be used to his own advantage, but as a thing to be used for the glory of God and the good of sinners?
Are you becoming more willing to sacrifice personal glory and personal gain, so long as Jesus is being made known through your life and ministry? Like Jesus, are you pursuing the glory of God by way of voluntary personal sacrifice? As one pastor recently said, “Useful servants [of Christ] are satisfied when no one applauds them, as long as everyone applauds Jesus.” Does that attitude describe you in any increasing measure?
Are you becoming more concerned for the good of the people around you? People like your spouse, your kids, your fellow church members, and lost souls that need to hear of your humble King. Are you treating them as having surpassing value over yourself (Phil 2:3)? See, if the “one who was in the form of God” humbled himself to serve sinners, there is no one too low for you and I to serve ourselves.
And are you becoming increasingly aware of your sinfulness and growing more convinced of your great need for the Son of God to incarnate himself that he might serve as your substitute on the Cross?
Simply put, is your knowledge of the incarnation of Christ leading you to become a more humble person? That is the real test of whether your understanding of this great mystery is worth anything of value. So, in all our remembrance and celebration of the day our Savior was born for us, let us not forget to examine ourselves to see whether our lives reflect the humility he embodied from his birth to his death. And let us confess our pride to him in haste, because there is nothing less Christmasy than a sinner who thinks highly of himself.