Proper 21
Philippians 2:1-13

Not too long ago I was engaged in a friendly-but serious-theological discussion with a dear friend. We had both outlined our points and kindly presented our cases from our respective vantage points. After ending in a stalemate, as these things often do, I wanted to ensure that my motives were pure and I had properly communicated my feelings. I proceeded to relay the entire conversation to my wife, presenting all my convincing points.
In an effort to communicate my motives to her, I shared that I was completely humble during the entire conversation. At that point, she stared at me and lovingly asked, “If someone is humble, does he really have to point it out to others?” It began to set in that she had a valid point, and I began to laugh at the folly of my statement.
But isn’t that the way it is with humility? We strive for it because it is the embodiment of who Christ is, but we realize we can’t produce it on our own strength. So when we finally do exhibit some measure of humility toward others, we find our sin nature rearing its head, nudging us to proclaim that we have attained it. Maybe that’s why it’s still hard to grasp the very nature of Christ’s humility.

I. What entitlement (Philippians 2:6)?
We live in a society that is rampant with entitlement. Throughout time and history, many individuals from younger generations have had the expectation that they should immediately have the homes, houses and lifestyles their parents possess, not realizing that it took their parents several decades of hard work, dedication and commitment to arrive at that point. As a society, a large majority of us simply expect something to be given to us: titles, authority, income, etc.
Perhaps that’s why it’s difficult to fully comprehend that although Jesus was God, it never dawned on Him to share any of His Father’s glory, nor to expect it. He never entertained the idea that it was something to be grasped or held onto. He never once asked, “What’s in it for Me?”

II. Becoming Nothing (Philippians 2:7)
Jesus didn’t simply choose to become “less than His Father.” As if His lack of desire for the limelight weren’t counter-cultural enough, He chose to become nothing.
The Greek word here for becoming nothing is kenosis. It means “to empty” and is used in connection with Jesus being fully God and fully man. He emptied out anything that would equate Him with glory and prestige.
On career day at your local elementary school, among the dreams of being a firefighter, doctor or professional athlete, how many children express a desire to grow up and empty themselves of all titles, notoriety or fame to the point of being considered nothing? Jesus’ example of the simple life, becoming nothing, was just as counter-cultural in the first century as it is today.

III. He was a servant (Philippians 2:7).
Perhaps the most well-known example of Jesus’ servant-nature comes from John 13:1-17. As you reflect on that passage, think about how shocked Peter was when Jesus began to kneel down and wash the dusty, dirty feet of the disciples. He was amazed that a king would serve His own followers. His amazement might have rivaled the same shock the Apostle Paul expressed, prior to his conversion, when he heard stories of a supposed Jewish king being born in a barn.
It’s hard for us to comprehend that Jesus had the freedom to choose what type of kingdom He would have, and yet He chose to serve, not to be served.
The longer the world exists, the more things repeat themselves. Just as it was in the first century, abdication of entitlement, emptying one’s self, and serving others is counter-cultural today. But that’s where the story of Jesus and His teachings speak volumes to those in our society who are seeking a better life. When we model a lifestyle of humility by serving others without any desire for personal glory, we present a compelling picture that there is a better way to live.

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About The Author


Aaron Bryant is the Campus & Teaching Pastor at Avenue South. He previously served at the Brentwood campus as the Young Adult Minister and the Kairos Pastor (2005-2013), leading a congregation comprised of young adults and college students. Prior to that, Aaron was the Middle School Minister (2002-2005), as well as a student minister at Riverside Baptist Church in Helena, Alabama.

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