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Filled with Grateful Joy
There are many commands in Scripture (including commands about our relationships with others). Those who desire to obey these commands are motivated either by religion or the gospel.
Think of it like a balloon. There are two ways to keep a balloon in the air. The first way is to repeatedly hit it upward. This balloon represents people who are motivated by religion. Religion continually “hits” you. “Stop doing this!” “Get busy with that!” Religion tells me what I have to do.
The other way to keep a balloon in the air is to fill it with helium. This balloon represents people who are motivated by the gospel. When you have experienced the gospel, you are filled with grateful joy. The gospel is about what I get to do.
You will never soar as a Christian without daily reminding yourself of the truth of the gospel.
To the Philippians, Paul writes, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vv. 3-4). How can our attitude toward others be changed? By filling our minds with the truth of the gospel.
The word “gospel” means “good news.” The gospel can be summed up with three words: problem, solution, and response. The problem is sin, the solution is Christ, and the response is faith. The gospel is a message about God’s grace.
The gospel rebukes our self-centeredness and stirs us to love others.
Paul connects love for others with the gospel: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (v. 5, NIV).
Jesus “was in the form of God” (v. 6a). “‘Form’ here means the true and exact nature of something, possession all the characteristics and qualities of something” (ESV Study Bible, p. 2283). But Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6b). The NIV says that Jesus “did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage.” Instead, Jesus “emptied himself” (v. 6b-7a). The KJV says that he “made himself of no reputation.” The NIV says that he “made himself nothing.” “Emptied himself” does not mean that he emptied himself of his deity. In other words, Jesus didn’t cease to be God when he came to earth. Verses 7 and 8 explain how he “emptied himself.”
1. The one who is God became a servant.
The one who was in the “form of God” took “the form of a servant” (v. 7). The servanthood of Jesus was dramatically on display during the Last Supper. He “rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5).
The disciples had refused to wash each other’s feet. Instead, they were arguing about who among them should be considered the greatest (cf. Luke 22:24). And so Jesus, the greatest one of all, performed the humble task. Donald MacLeod writes, “The conclusion to which this leads us is that the impulse to serve lies at the very heart of deity” (The Person of Christ, p. 215).
2. The one who is God became a man.
Jesus was “born in the likeness of men” (v. 7). He added humanity without subtracting deity. He is the God-man. “Those who were causing concern in Philippi were suffering from vainglory. They were concerned about their image, anxious to make a good impression and keen to be recognized as people of consequence. By contrast, the one who really was Somebody put himself in a position where people completely misunderstood him and underestimated him. They looked, and saw nothing but a man. There was no halo, no glow, probably not even anything that made him particularly handsome or striking. Not a head would have turned as he walked. He looked utterly ordinary” (MacLeod, The Person of Christ, p. 216).
3. The one who is God was crucified.
Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8). He became a man so that he could die. His death was the ultimate act of service.
Imagine that the Prime Minister knocked on your door this afternoon and asked, “May I mow your lawn?” I’m sure you’d be shocked. But you’re probably right if you’re thinking, “There’s no way Stephen Harper would show up at my house wanting to mow my lawn.” But God himself showed up on earth and said, “I’m here to serve.” And how did he serve us? By dying on a cross for our sins. “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Shouldn’t we be shocked by the grace of God?
How can you and I remain self-centered when we understand what Christ has done for us? “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).
As God Has Been to Me, so I Will Be to Others
In his book Gospel, J. D. Greear includes a four-part “gospel prayer.” The third part of the prayer goes like this: “As You have been to me, so I will be to others” (p. 109). If you’re a Christian—saved by the grace of God—this should be your prayer.
God, you forgave all my sin, so I will forgive others. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32; cf. Col. 3:13).
God, you gave himself up for me, so I will make sacrifices for others. “Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2).
God, you accepted me, so I will accept others regardless of our differences. “Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you” (Rom. 15:7).
If all you have is religion, you won’t have the right motivation for obeying God’s commands. You’ll always be thinking, “Do I really have to do this?” But if you daily preach to ourself the gospel, you’ll think, “I can’t believe what Jesus did for me!” And your obedience will be powered by desire. You will be filled the helium of the gospel: grateful joy.