Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Philippians 2
Before we dig in …..A few observations on humility:
- I think most of us want to be humble.
- I think most of us really don’t quite understand humility.
- Even fewer of us have really considered what it takes to grow in humility.
Philippians 2:1-2: “1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.”
Paul begins by reminding the church of the unity we have in Christ and with each other. He is calling the church to not go at life alone but to pursue like-mindedness and unity in spirit and purpose. We are not meant to do this life alone. We will not make progress in growing in humility if we go at it alone. It is first and foremost important that we know who we are in Christ and that we walk together in unity.
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…”
Note Paul says: Do nothing in PRIDE (self-centeredness). The prison of our PRIDE has us constantly thinking of how we promote ourselves, or make ourselves look good, or save face.
This reminds me of an old Groucho Marx scene: He is going on and on about himself with another guy, and then pauses to acknowledge the lopsidedness of the conversation, and turns to the other guy and says, “I am sorry, I have been talking about me all this time… Let’s talk about you! What do you think about me?”
John Stott writes: PRIDE is more than the first of the seven deadly sins, “it is itself the essence of all sin.”
Why is PRIDE, or vanity the centerpiece of SIN?
- It is “Me-centered”
- It is a direct challenge to God’s glory
Proverbs 6:16-17: “There are six things the LORD hates, …..#1- haughty eyes,”
Proverbs 16:5: “The LORD detests all the proud of heart.”
Let’s take a deeper look at specifically what Paul says we are to NOT practice!
Philippians 2:3: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,”
- Selfish Ambition
Ambition = the pursuit or activity of achieving something for oneself
These are the things we do, dream about, long for that all end up rewarding ourselves. This is an endless maze that deteriorates all life. Why? When selfish ambition rules our lives, the goal of filling our own cup never ends, because there is always something better out there, or something to improve or have more of.
Be honest. How often do you find yourself looking for ways to take your current circumstances and wishing they were “better”? So if you are living with your parents, the improvement for you is to rent a cheap apartment. Once you have your own place, the improvement is to have some cool amenities. Once you have a cool apartment, the improvement is to “own” a house. Once you have a house, the improvement is to have cooler stuff that your house can do or to fill your house with. Once you have a cool house, you want a bigger house. Then a house in a better neighborhood. And on and on. We always are looking to make “MINE” bigger and better!
Now here is how bad it is: take your current living situation and place it in the middle of the raw ghetto. IF you are really honest, your pride says, “oh but I can’t live here! My property value is diminished. My neighbors are dirty and trashy.”
The modern mindset of SELFISH AMBITION has us a long way away from the modeled humble life of Jesus! Jesus had not much more than the thongs on his feet and the robe on his back. Our selfish ambition is a dangerous poison. In the end, it’s really a cup with a big hole in it that we keep trying to fill!
The question is: How can you and I have lasting JOY if selfish ambition is our game, our identity, our dream, our happiness? Do you realize that selfish ambition is completely based on how you are doing next to the other guy? Because we feel good when ours is better and we eel worse when others’ is better. We actually, deep down, celebrate when others fall behind us and complain when others seem to be doing better.
It’s a race, a never-ending competition! Truth is, you can Increase your humility if you are willing to decrease your comparisons.
- Vain Conceit
Let’s look at vain conceit, or more specifically, empty glory! Empty glory is the need to be honored, the need to be lifted up. Our need to be noticed and enjoyed and loved. Our need to feel important.
Empty glory is a form of “secular” self-esteem. In it, we position ourselves around people who will flatter us with compliments that highlight our strengths and will withhold comments that point out our weaknesses. This brings us into a place of feeling entitled, deserving, important.
But let’s stop and observe something: People who live with this high self-esteem based on the world are often
- more judgmental
- critical of others
- more showy
- people who will often use relationships only long enough to advance themselves
- people who tend to struggle entering into relationships because they view themselves as above the rest. No one seems to meet their criteria of worthy.
Is this who you want to be?
On the contrary, those with a humble self-regard are people most of us long to be around. They are people who tend to be
- team players,
- more understanding,
- the kind of person you can simply kick back with and enjoy the moment!
WHY? Because the moment doesn’t have to be about them. This is also the kind of person that tends to be more compassionate and a more loyal friend.
So why is it then that society so often chases after the self-centered person? The famous, the glory hogs, the pretty and the popular. Why is it that we look at humility as weak and needy and wimpy? When in fact the people we like the most are humble people!
Let’s look at humility!
Philippians 2:3b-4: “but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
What is humility?
John Calvin wrote: “It is evident that one never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.” A biblical worldview of humility would then be: Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in the light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness.
Another definition: Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.
Another definition: Humility is being exactly who God made you to be.
Pride looks to attract the attention of others. Humility attracts the attention of God! Isaiah 66:2: “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”
I love the great example of humility in 1 Samuel 18.
The Background of this text is:
There is a great friendship between David and his friend Jonathan. This is before David was king. The profit Samuel says to David, “you will be the next king of Israel”. The problem with this scenario is that Saul’s (the current King of Israel) son was not David, but Jonathan. Now being the heir to the throne is the goal of a lifetime, a prize like no other. But watch Jonathan’s response to the news that David instead will be King:
1 Samuel 18:3-4: “And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt.”
This is a symbolic gesture saying: I give up my glory to you! I make myself nothing that you might become something. I become poor that you might become rich. I become a “nobody” that you might become a “somebody.” This is the essence of LOVE, or other-centeredness.
It is self-donation! Do you see: The less kingly he acts, the more like a king he becomes.
The world’s pursuit of greatness is the opposite of this. It is a self-interested, self-motivated, pursuit of personal glory that leaves us pushing others away when we are not using them to get further ahead. Humility is truly a characteristic of a godly life! It is something God has always had within the Trinity and longs to have with us.
So, how does one move from Me-centered to other-centered? From vain, selfish, and prideful to serving, loving, and humble? You might be saying to yourself, “Someone show me how to get off this merry-go-round.” There is one who can clearly show us, inspire us, and make it possible for us to be humble: Jesus!
Philippians 2:5-8: “5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
To kill the poison of pride we have to embrace a life in humility. This is only attainable if we are healed and redefined by JESUS!
Instead of SELF esteem, we need to esteem IN Christ alone!
The amazing Grace of Jesus is his humility in saving us. Jesus lost his esteem in order to give you a lasting esteem in him. What we have spent our entire lives running from; the feeling of not being noticed, the possibility of not getting picked, the horrible feeling of not being loved, Jesus ran straight toward! The only way to look away from self so that you can truly look towards others is to first look to JESUS!
The Good News is God humbled himself to put on flesh and walk among us; to be ridiculed by us, to be picked on. Because of his humility he didn’t stand up and level them with his truth. His mission was to FREE them with his sacrifice.
God Humbled himself
- for the corporate executives, for the glamour queens;
- for the arrogant husbands, and the vain wives;
- for the “always judging back-talkers” and the “stubborn in their ways” dominators;
- for those who use their bodies to be noticed and those who use their minds to make others feel dumb;
- for those who use money to buy power and those who use their skills to remind others they fall short.
Jesus humbled himself to death so we could finally be humbled in the gift of life! How can you and I be liberated from the dominating power of the world’s empty definitions of greatness? JESUS! How can you and I experience the lasting joy of being fully known and still fully loved? JESUS! How can you and I experience the satisfaction of Christ’s definition of who we are and no longer long after the world’s definitions that never leave us satisfied? JESUS!
Jesus is the true Jonathan, who took of his robe (that was rightfully his) and put it on us! So that we might have life; so that we might have JOY. Everything that you and I stand to gain is because of what Jesus gave up.
To close, I want to look at the very beginning and the very end of the this passage as they are amazing bookmarks of GOOD NEWS for us today.
Philippians 2:1: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ…” In Christ. What does it mean to be “united with Christ” or better yet to be “IN CHRIST?” It essentially means that you have given up your pursuit of your significance, your dreams, your success, your need to prove yourself to God, and you took on Christ’s significance; his dreams, his success! It means: what is true of Jesus is true of you. You have received Christ. You are IN CHRIST!
What was Christ’s success? Look at verses 9-11: Philippians 2:9-11: “9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
If you are united to him, you are destined to GLORY! So, let’s stop the self–centered pursuit of empty glory and pride and CLOTHE ourselves in humility! As we do this, may we, the Soldiers for Jesus MC, endure together for all God has before us as we look to make much of him!
By His grace and for His glory,
-Shepherd / Soldiers for Jesus MC / Bakersfield CA