“The Manger and the Incarnation” The Christmas Story: Week 3 (Luke 2:1-7)
Jesus came by humble means and a great way to celebrate Him this time of year is by living a humble life.
- What Does Being Humble Look Like? (Phil. 2:3-4)
- Embody the Humble Attitude of Christ (Phil. 2:5)
- Emulate Christ’s Humble Thoughts and Actions (Phil 2:6-8)
- Humble Yourself and God will Lift you Up (Phil 2:9-11)
Now, Luke is a wonderful historian. What I believe he’s trying to do by mentioning Caesar Augustus and this census that was taken around the world is he’s trying to help us understand that Jesus is not only over history, but Jesus was in and a part of history. See, the Bible is not just some sweet story that you read your children that may or may not be true and really you just apply it to their lives so they’re a little better children around the house and at Walmart when you go out. No, this is a real story that happened in history. Luke says I want you to know that because it came about in the days of Caesar Augustus. He was a real Roman emperor. What did he do? He says a census must be taken around the whole world. Now, the whole world, in this particular passage, doesn’t mean every single person on the planet. It meant the whole Roman world. Why would they want to take a census? They wanted to take a census, the Roman Empire did, so they could see where everybody was. Then, they could levy taxes on them and collect that money.
It says it was this Caesar that they called Augustus that was in charge. Now, when you go back and look up Caesar Augustus, he has a very interesting rise to power, just some neat history. Before he was Caesar Augustus, he was this made named Octavian. He was actually the great-nephew of Julius Caesar. You’ll recognize his name. When Julius Caesar was murdered, crazy times, his great-nephew was named the sole heir of the title Caesar, but here’s the problem with that. Before he could obtain that title, there were two other men he had to share his authority with. Octavian had to share his authority with a man named Mark Antony. You may recognize his name as having a love affair with who? Cleopatra. Then, another guy named Lepidus who was a military general under Julius Caesar. There was this power struggle. Lepidus, he didn’t really want to be in power, and he couldn’t really do it, so he got out of the way real quick, but then there was this real intense almost civil warlike power struggle between Octavian and Mark Antony.
Ultimately, it was Mark Antony’s love affair with Cleopatra that came to bring this civil war to its pinnacle. Octavian and his forces overthrew Mark Antony and his forces. Then, Octavian was named by the senate Caesar Augustus. Luke says it was that guy, a real man in history, that says, “I want a census of the entire land.” That’s what sparked the journey of Joseph and Mary from Nazareth and Galilee 90 miles all the way to Bethlehem, some five to seven miles outside of Jerusalem. Church, I tell you all that to say that this is history. You need to understand that. At the same time, we can’t look at Bethlehem and the birth narrative, especially when we looked at Matthew chapter two last week, and not see the awesome power of God.
Do you remember last week in Matthew chapter two as he was quoting Micah chapter five verse two? It talked about the prophecy of the Messiah being born as both a shepherd and a king or a ruler in the city of Bethlehem, the city of David. God orchestrated the entire universe to show a star to these magi. They’re hard to understand, so they would make the long journey from the east, wherever they were from, all the way through Jerusalem to Bethlehem to fulfill Micah chapter two and to show that the Messiah king was born in the city of David, Bethlehem. Is God not amazing? This week, again, we see God, in his mighty power, using the whole Roman Empire as a chess piece to get this prophecy fulfilled again in his Son, Jesus, in the womb of Mary, all the way from Nazareth to the city of David, Bethlehem.
I look back on these scriptures every year, and it hit me especially this year. I thought, “Look at what God does. Isn’t God amazing?” He’s so powerful to orchestrate whatever he wants to get whatever he wants done done. A question that may come up to your mind as Joseph and Mary are traveling these 90 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, “Why, if Jesus grew up in Nazareth, why, if Joseph and Mary were already living in Nazareth, why did they have to go all the way back to Bethlehem to register for the census?” It’s a pretty practical answer. Because that was where his hometown was, the home of his family lineage. Remember, we learned last week that Joseph was in the bloodline of David. Bethlehem was the city of David. Now, he may have owned land there, had some family there. Either way, he knew that he had to register for the census in his hometown of Bethlehem, so off they go.
The next question arises. Not only did he have to register in Bethlehem, we knew that he had to get there, but why would he take his pregnant wife, Mary, with him? That always boggles my mind. Well, when you think about it for a second and put yourself in the place of Joseph, it makes a lot of sense. God has already told you that Jesus is going to be your son. You already know that he’s not your blood son, that actually he’s God in the flesh. When the God-man is born into your family, you want to be there. He didn’t want her to be in Nazareth by herself, so, yes, probably in her third trimester, Joseph and Mary, through God’s magnificent orchestration of the universe and the known world, they traveled to Bethlehem. I started thinking, “What if I asked Tammy to travel a week and a half away from home in her third trimester?” I didn’t ask her, but if I did, I can think it would be quite a conversation at the very least.
We often imagine Mary kind of riding the Cadillac of donkeys from Nazareth to Bethlehem. We don’t know that to be true. The donkey may be in your manger scene, but we don’t see that she or Joseph were just crazy wealthy enough to have a donkey. Likely, they probably walked a week to a week and a half, about to have a baby boy, from Nazareth to Bethlehem. They arrived just in time. The Bible tell us through the historian Luke that when they arrived, the days of her pregnancy were completed. In simple terms, she was about to pop. When they arrived, God-man, Jesus was born. The text tells us there was no room for them at the inn, and they wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger. Now, that’s the text. What we have in Christmas pageants, what we have in your nativity scenes at home, I don’t want to blow it up for you, but it may not depict the scene that Jesus was actually born into. You know what? That’s okay. Because you asked these questions and there’s articles everywhere, let’s just discuss the manger scene for a second because that’s where I’m going to draw this humble implication for your life today from.
When Jesus was born, it says there was no room for him in the inn. Now, you need to get Holiday Inn Express out of your mind. There’s always this poor guy at the counter in the pageant or this poor innkeeper at the door that when Jesus and Mary, so poor they had nobody to stay with, they come knocking and the sign flashing, right, “No vacancy.” Well, it wasn’t exactly like that. This term inn has been, other times in scripture and probably is here, describing the guest room of somebody’s home. Joseph was from where? Where was his hometown? Not Nazareth originally, but through his family lineage, it was where? Bethlehem. When Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, I wonder if he had any relatives there. Probably so. Even if he didn’t, all he had to do was walk through his lineage, going all the way back to David, and someone would have probably welcomed him and his pregnant wife into their home.
I don’t know where we get this mad innkeeper from. Okay, let’s say he was there. Probably wasn’t, but this guest room of their home was probably already full because other people were in town for the census as well. Most Palestinian homes at the time had an upstairs, they would keep the guests there, and then a downstairs. Now, here in Texas, where do we keep our animals? In barns, you know, hundreds of yards so we don’t smell them in the barn made of wood. If there’s some kind of feed trough there, it’s made of wood. First of all, when you go to Jerusalem, you go to Israel, you know what there’s not a lot of? Not a lot of wood. There’s a lot of stone, got some caves. It probably wasn’t this barn out next to the house. It could have been a cave next to the house, that’s okay, but very likely it could have been this downstairs open area of someone’s home because there was no room for them in the guest room. They had to stay there with the animals. That we can pretty much ascertain for sure.
Why do we think there were animals there? Because what was the King of Kings’ first royal bed? The Bible tells us it was a manger. That’s what we know for sure. A manger is simple described in your mind or it should be described in your mind as a feed trough. Probably wasn’t made of wood. When I went to Israel, all of the mangers that I ever saw were just carved out of stone. It was probably a cold bed for the King of Kings that first night. Let’s pause there. I know your nativity scene at home has these three magi. We know that they didn’t probably come until later, but that’s okay. Let them worship Jesus too like today. It’s good. There were shepherds there. That probably actually happened. Mary and Joseph, yeah, they were probably there. There was probably some animals there, some hay in the manger, and dung on the floor.
Don’t get caught up in what exactly did the inn look like. Think about it for a second, but don’t get stuck there. Don’t get stuck in whether the manger was made of stone or whether it was made of wood. Do some theological study for science if you want to in your own head for that, but don’t get stuck there. Here’s what I want you to think about. Where do you think Jesus, the creator of the universe, the great I Am, the beginning and the end, the King of Kings, where do you think he should have been born is the question. Probably in a palace or at least at big Baylor in Jerusalem, probably on the VIP floor where the big donors stay when you got lots of money. That’s where this King of Kings should have been born, but where was he born is the point. That’s why Luke doesn’t get caught up in all those other details. He was born in a feed trough surrounded by animals and likely family.
If I could choose one word to describe the birth narrative, here’s what it would be: humble. Jesus, our King and Savior, was born into humble means. As we step back and we kind of lay the life of Jesus out in our study of the gospels from birth all the way to Calvary, does that not fit his whole life as well, this term humble? From the manger to the cross, what kind of attitude did Jesus have? An attitude of humility. From the manger to the cross, what kind of thought process did Jesus have? A humble thought process. From the manger to the cross, what kind of actions did Jesus show to the world? Humble actions. Therefore, I want to take this concept of humility right out of the birth narrative, and I want us to travel together now. Turn in your Bibles to Philippians chapter two.
Paul has some suggestions on how this implication of humility can be walked out in your life today. You know, at Christmas, we give gifts, don’t we? We have these white elephant gifts. We have ornament exchanges. When your children wake up on Christmas morning like mine, they are going to be bombarded with lots and lots of gifts, and that’s good, but when we look at Luke chapter two, who do we see receiving the gifts? Yeah, humanity if you want to be really theological about it, but Jesus. When the shepherds came in this particular passage in Luke two, they brought Jesus the gift of humble worship. Later, as Jesus was a little older and the magi came, they brought what? Three gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but also their worship. May I ask you a question at Christmas this year? What are you giving Jesus at Christmas?
I love what you’re going to get for your children. I want to hear about the Xbox. I want to hear about the phone. I want to hear what you’re getting for your wife, but I’m really interested in this particular question. What are you going to give Jesus at Christmas? As you’re thinking about that question, may I be so bold as to make a suggestion? Would you consider giving Jesus a humble life starting this Christmas, a humble attitude, a humble thought process, and letting your actions be dripping with humility? You know what great gift that would be for Jesus as we celebrate the Christmas season? As we think about that particular gift, let’s stand together and read Philippians two starting verse three. We’ve seen the manger. Now, let’s look at the implications of the incarnation, God becoming man, for all of us today.
Paul suggests, “Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit.” Your translation may say vain conceit, “But with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look to your own personal interests but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude.” What attitude? A humble attitude, “In yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Instead, he emptied himself, taking on the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in the appearance of a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted him and bestowed upon him the name which was above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” This is his word. Please be seated.
Church, Jesus came by humble means. May I suggest a great way to celebrate Christmas is by giving Jesus the gift of humility and how it’s shown in your life? Paul, in Philippians chapter two, is talking to this church in Philippi about humility. This whole passage is so that the church will be unified. That would be a great result of this passage for us as well today. He starts here in verse three and four, and he basically answers the question, “What does being humble look like in an everyday sense?” The answer is that in verse three and four. Then, later, as he travels from verse five through 11, if you want an example of what humility looks like, he’s saying, “Look no further than Jesus.” What does humility look like? Start in verse three again all the way through verse four. Let me sum it for you. Don’t be selfish. Instead, travel the path of humility. As Paul’s talking about humility in Philippians chapter two, it’s not just a one-time thing. It’s not just a one-time gift you give to Jesus. It’s more like a lifestyle you live. It’s more like a path you travel. If you’re going to travel a path following Christ, humility must be a part of it.
All of these clauses in these two verses, they kind of push back against selfishness and they promote selflessness. If I think about it real hard about most of the struggles that I go through in this world, either with myself or with other people, it boils down to pride showing itself through selfishness. At the Christmas season, we can see this especially true, can’t we? None of your families are like this, but maybe some of those other families. When they gather together at Christmas, does it not sometimes, when you’re observing them, maybe your own family, does it not get tense? If it does get tense and all of this struggle and strife that we have at what’s supposed to be the celebrative time of Christmas, doesn’t it really boil down to selfishness?
Let’s wake up on Christmas morning together and think about that child, that selfish and spoiled child that’s probably not in your home, but maybe in somebody else’s home, when they wake up and it doesn’t matter the gift that they rip open, they’re not satisfied if they did not get the pony that they asked for. None of you, well, maybe a couple of you are promising ponies, but let’s say maybe they’re not satisfied until they get the PlayStation 4 or the Xbox One X or the new phone. Don’t you just despise that look on a child’s face when they rip open that gift and they get this awesome pair of socks or maybe it’s a toy but it’s not that one thing that they wanted? They go like this, and they toss it to the side. That makes me want to grit my teeth and get angry, I’ll be honest with you. That’s terrible. What does that boil down to? Selfishness. If this child exists in your home, it’s not just their fault. It’s your fault, mom. It’s your fault, dad. It’s your fault, grandma and grandpa. You know what that child needs? They don’t need the Xbox. Let me help you out this morning. They need a firm hand of discipline. I’ll let you choose how you do that. Okay, let’s move on. I’m getting fired up there.
The next thing that really gets me … See, I get to preach so I just get to talk. There’s things that bother me, so maybe they bother you, but it’s selfishness. What about that teenager? You get the whole family together. Maybe they’ve traveled from another country. Maybe they’ve traveled from another state or another part of Texas, and we all get together, but they won’t look at you. That teenager won’t talk to them. Why? Because they’re on that phone. They can’t stop it. It’s like, “I got to text my friends over and over again.” What is that? Selfishness. Makes me want to take that phone and crush it. I’m proud of a dad in our church, probably shouldn’t say this, but I’m going to anyway. This was happening in his home. He took that phone, and he put it in the driveway, and he put it underneath the tire of his car, and he run over it. Then, he pulled forward and ran over it again. He backed over it, and he ran over it again. He says, “No, no. Don’t touch that phone. Don’t throw it away. I want to leave it in the spot where it is like a head hanging on a stake to remind you of what’s important.” I’m sure he bought that phone, and I’m sure he had to pay for it again, but that’s not a bad idea if you see that at Christmas.
Maybe it’s a little bit more serious. Maybe it’s the college brother or sister that come in town, but they say, “I refuse to come home or come over unless you let me bring my new boyfriend or girlfriend. They’re the love of my life.” You’re thinking as a parent, “Yeah, the love of your week,” but they’re selfish. They won’t come unless you let them have this one thing. Maybe it’s a little bit more serious. It’s that family member where you’re thinking, “Can you not go eight hours without getting drunk? Can it be just one family gathering without you just getting totally wasted?” Maybe it’s that mom or that dad that refuse to share their family traditions with you and your new spouse. We could go on, couldn’t we? Isn’t this alive and well? What does it all boil down to? What Paul says here, selfishness. He goes, “I got a suggestion for you at Christmas or any time of the year. Don’t be selfish.”
If the first thought that comes through your mind before you take an action is, “What will this give me or what will this do for me?” you’re probably walking the path of selfishness and not like Christ, which should be the path of humility. You know what else you could translate this word to mean, this Greek word, selfish? It can also be translated to strife. I think that’s a great translation for what we’re talking about here. Does selfishness not lead to strife because you say, “This is what I want. You know what I want?” Now we got an argument. All this happens in church too, not just in the home. You know, it could have happened over this new building. I’ve seen crazy stuff like that split a church before. You know, the team that was responsible for putting that thing together, we didn’t always agree. What could have happened, we could have disagreed so much that strife erupted. “I want this.” The other person says, “Well, I want this this way.” “No, I want it this way.” “Well, I want it this way.” The next thing you know, church members are leaving.
Churches have split over such nonsense, but that didn’t happen. Why? Because, praise God, he put a humble spirit in that team who saw his glory as greater than our own desires. When we got to those moments, and they happened every week, where someone says, “I like this,” and sometimes that was me, and the other person says, “I like this.” God put a spirit of humility. We thought of what Paul says here, other people instead of just ourselves. Don’t be selfish. Don’t do anything out of pure selfishness. If you do, you’re not going to find joy. You’re going to find emptiness. That’s exactly what Paul says next. “Do nothing out of selfishness or empty conceit.” Your translation may say vain conceit. This is the same idea as not being selfish. Paul just chooses different words.
A good understanding of vanity is this word empty. Vanity can be described as excessive pride in or admiration of one’s own appearance or achievements. Basically, vanity means looking at yourself only and never looking at someone else. I wonder if that makes sense. Does anybody own this piece of furniture in your house? It usually has a stool in front of it, usually ladies get it. It has a mirror on it. It’s usually beautiful. You got makeup drawers here and there. You put on your makeup or you comb your hair. What do we call that piece of furniture? A vanity. Now, I’m not mad at you for owning it, but I think that’s a great description of that piece of furniture, because what do you do the whole time that you’re sitting there? You’re looking at yourself.
Now, I don’t suggest you sit there all day, but that’s what it is. It’s a vanity where you’re looking at yourself. Church, if you live a life of vanity and all you’re doing is looking at yourself, you’re going to be empty and you’re going to be lonely because who likes being around a very, very vain person? Nobody. That’s not the attitude that Jesus wants in you. He says, “I want to see humility and selflessness.” Do you know that trying to fill yourself up with your own desires, your own thoughts, and your own attitudes, it will leave you empty? The more you try to put in just for yourself, the more empty you’ll become. That’s why we see such empty people in our selfish society. It says, “I want to look out for number one. It’s all about me.”
There’s even books that say, “Hey, if you just watch out for number one, if you just do what you want to do and don’t worry about everybody else, you’re going to find happiness and riches.” I want to tell you, yeah, you might find riches if you make every decision not based on everybody else but based off of you and you alone. You know what you won’t find? True joy. You won’t find true happiness. See, vanity is like giving a man who is dying of thirst an empty glass of water. He’s going to look at you and be like, “Thanks a lot. I don’t need a glass. I need water.” Living a life of vanity is like drinking that empty glass. It will never satisfy you. Not only is it what Jesus wants because you call yourself like Christ, a Christian, but it won’t lead to happiness either way.
Paul goes on, “With humility, consider other people better than yourself.” This sounds crazy, doesn’t it, in our society to say that out loud, to consider other people better than yourself when the world’s telling you, “No, no. You got to get yours. If you don’t get yours, nobody else will.” How often do you hear, maybe even from mentors in your life, say, “You know what? No one’s going to look after you better than you’re going to look out for yourself”? Paul says something crazy here. He says, “You know what? No, no. Consider others as better than yourself.” Now, I’m not saying that these other people are actually better than you, but Paul is suggesting that when you’re considering somebody, they should be considered above you. What does this sound like? Sounds like Jesus, Matthew chapter 22 verse 37, when Jesus was asked, “What’s the greatest commandment?” He kind of gives a rank order. Number one, to love God, that means with your thoughts, your actions, your attitudes, with everything that you have. Then, what’s the second? Love your neighbor as yourself. What I’m telling you is, at best, you’re in third place. God one, others as more important to you. You give them priority. Then, finally, you can come to you.
Just in case you’re not catching what Paul is throwing down, let’s look again at verse four. “Do not merely look out for your own interests but also the interests of others.” Again and again and again Paul is saying humility is thinking about people out there, not focusing on, “What can I do for me in here?” If you’re thinking at this point in the text, “Well, Pastor, when is Paul or God going to tell me to take care of me? When is Paul going to make the suggestion that I actually need to look out for number one?” If you’re waiting for him to do that, you’re going to be waiting a long time. Paul’s not going to do that. God’s not going to do that. Why? Because you already look out for you. You were born in and you live in a state of selfishness if you’re anything like me. You have to fight against that. That’s why the Bible says love other people like what? Like you love yourself. God already knows you’re going to love yourself and feed yourself and care for yourself. He doesn’t have to tell you to do that. What he has to tell you to do is start thinking about other people.
He goes on to say, “I get it.” Basically, this is what he’s doing starting in verse five. You may say, “Pastor, I get it. I get that humility is me not thinking about me but thinking about others. I get it. I need to serve others in my attitude, in my actions, but, you know what? It’s easier said than done.” Paul knows that. That’s why he says, “If you’re looking for a real world example for how to live a life of humility, I’ve got the answer for you. Look no further than Jesus.” Let’s look with him at Jesus starting in verse five. The first thing that he tells us to do is embody the humble attitude of Christ. Then, he’s going to tell us to emulate the humble thoughts and actions of Jesus Christ. Then, he’s going to tell us, “Don’t lift yourself up. Humble yourself, and God will lift you up.”
Let’s start here in verse five. He says, “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” If you’re sitting there thinking, “Okay. I want to be humble, but how do I live a humble life?” My answer to you would be this. Do it like Jesus did it. Look at how he interacted with other people. Look at how he was never prideful with his friends. Look at the compassion he had for the sick. Look at the love he had for the brokenhearted. You see the attitude of Jesus in humility by the way that he always had time for other people, but he was a busy man. I don’t ever read in the New Testament, in the gospels, when someone came to Jesus and he’s like, “I ain’t got no time for you,” when people come to Jesus, he says, “Get away from me. I don’t want to see you right now.” We see him giving himself to people again and again and again.
Remember in Mark chapter two when Jesus was teaching in Capernaum? He was teaching in his home. Like most of his days when he was teaching, people came by the droves. The house became so full that people were literally pouring out the front door. There was nowhere for you to sit and nowhere for you to stand. Do you remember these four guys? I think they have a great picture of humility as well. They were coming with their paralyzed friend. Who were they thinking about that day? Not themselves. They were thinking about him. I’m sure that they had issues that they needed Jesus to deal with as well, but they were thinking about their paralyzed friend. They bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus, but they couldn’t get in. What did they do? They climbed up on the house, they dug a hole in the roof, and they lowered this paralyzed man down to Jesus.
What did Jesus do? He had an attitude of humility. He didn’t give him the right hand of “I don’t want to talk to you right now” fellowship. He didn’t say, “I don’t have time for you.” He forgave him of his sins, and he says, “Go away healed.” You can embody this humility of Jesus in your attitude by making time for people who need it. I’m not saying everybody at the same time, but I am saying when you have time, take one, not everyone, but take one and give them what they need. Then, later on, if there’s another one, take another one. Give them your time. Give them attention. I heard a long time ago from a pastor, “It’s one, Pastor, one at a time, not everyone.” We can’t do everyone at the same time and give to them what they need from us, but we can take one at a time. Just because one doesn’t mean everyone, it also doesn’t mean none. Making time for people is how you show the humble attitude of Jesus. We must move on.
Not only do we see this in verse five, but also as we travel to verses six through eight, Paul is telling us to, not only embody the humble attitude of Jesus, but emulate his humble thoughts and his actions. Why am I telling you to do this today? Because I think it’s a wonderful gift to give Jesus at Christmas, but also because you bear his name. Church, I’ll just be real straight with you, I want you to wear it well. I want to wear it well. I want to represent him well. When I was in the air force as a security forces officer, I would hammer this into my guys. They were the ones at the bays that would wave you in, they would check your ID, they had the rifle on their shoulder and the gun on their hip. What we would do every morning, we’d have a thing called guard mount.
Basically, it was making sure you had all your gear, and it was a uniform inspection. I would tell them when they went out, “Wear your uniform well.” Why? Because you’re not just representing you. You don’t go out there looking like a bag of smashed potato chips for yourself, but you also represent me. More importantly, you represent your commander and the whole United States Air Force and the United States military. I’d say, “Wear it well.” I’ve got the same message for you this week, church. I don’t care what your haircut is or how long your beard is. You bear the name of Christ when you leave here. Let me encourage you today to wear it well. If you want to wear it well, it starts with a humble attitude, and it also starts with a humble thought process.
Look at the thought process of Jesus. Paul gives us some insight here in verse six, “Although he,” meaning Christ, “existed in the form of God, he did not regard in his mind first equality a thing to be grasped.” This is a pretty complicated verse. Let me break it down for you. Jesus was the one man who probably could have been arrogant and prideful. He was born a man. That was one part of his nature, 100% man, but he was also born God. You have the dual natures of Christ here. He was a man because he was born, but he’s also God in the flesh, 100% God and 100% man. That’s what Paul’s saying here. He was God. The word form here means the exact representation of. You can go to John one or you can go to Hebrews chapter one and see that Jesus was God, but just because he was God, he did not use his divine nature or see equality with God a thing to be grasped.
This term here for grasp means to be used for selfish purposes. Jesus was God when he was born. He didn’t give up his God-ness as he lived his life. He had it with him the whole time. He just chose to use it not for himself but to benefit you. I wonder if I was Jesus if I would do the same. I don’t know. I’ll be honest with you, if I was getting beat down with the cat o’ nine tails, if I was having thorns pressed on my head, if I was being mocked and turned away by my family and friends, I’m not sure I wouldn’t just get a little righteous anger and step up and say, “You’re done. I don’t know what that means, but I created you. I can create you again. Bye.” He didn’t do that. He didn’t use it for his own selfish benefit. From the manger to the cross, he says here he emptied himself, which is a nice word. It’s the Greek word kenosis. It basically means this: self-sacrifice. It doesn’t mean he stopped being God. It means he sacrificed himself by thinking of you and me all the way from the manger, all the way to the cross. When he was crucified and he rose from the dead, he used it for our benefit and not his.
Church, if we would have this kind of selflessness and attitude, this kind of selflessness in our thought process, I believe our actions would follow suit just like his did. Remember mark chapter 10 verse 45 tells us that the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. CS Lewis reminded me this week that the Son of God became a man to enable men to become sons of God. That’s an awesome message in salvation, but it’s also a message in example. The Son of God, how did he live his life? In humility. He became a man so that you and I could also be sons of God and live that life of humility for the world to see. Basically, he’s talking about self-sacrifice and service towards others.
I wonder at Christmas if you would consider following the example of Christ and using your greatest qualities in your life and your greatest gifts, instead of exalting yourself and making more money for yourself and more whatever for yourself, and you consider using your greatest qualities and your greatest gifts to serve others. What a great example that would be of Christ living today through you. I want to ask you another question. If you’re considering being like Christ and sacrificing yourself for others, especially this time of year, in honor of him and the reincarnation, my next question would be this: How far are you willing to go for them? Before you answer that, let me tell you how far he was willing to go for you. Look at verse eight, “Being found in the appearance of a man,” that was a pretty far descent, by the way, God becoming a man. Next, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross.”
I’ve heard it many times, and I’ll tell you again, how far did Jesus go for you? He went this far. I’m not trying to measure it with my hands. He went this far as his hands were nailed to the cross and his body gave way from life to death. That’s how far he went for you. How far are you willing to go in obedience to him for somebody else? I get asked this question all the time, “Pastor, how long do I have to put up with my husband? How long do I have to put up with my wife? How long do I have to put up with my father? How long do I have to put up with my mother? How long do I have to endure this and sacrifice myself for them?” I’m going to let you answer that question for yourself, but just want to ask you again: How far did Jesus go for you? It may give you some insight in how far you should go for them. Just in case you’re asking, I want to give you verse nine and 11. I’m not going to spend long here. I could spend sermons here.
If you’re wondering, maybe it’s a quiet voice and you’re afraid to say it out loud, but maybe you’re wanting to ask, “What about me? Is God going to take care of me as I’m pouring my life out to others?” Let’s just see what he did for Jesus. “For this reason,” meaning the humility of Christ, “God exalted him,” that’s the word hyper-exalted, “to the highest place and bestowed upon him the name which is above every name. At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow of those who are in heaven and on earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Jesus humbled himself, and God exalted him. Let me make the suggestion to you today. If you humble yourself, you don’t have to worry about you. If you humble yourself, God will lift you up.
Jesus did not live his life wondering, “What about me? When am I going to get mine? I got to look out for number one.” No, he looked out for number, I don’t know, whatever you were. He looked out for you the whole time. He never wondered about himself. You know what God did? He exalted him to the highest place. I don’t know what God’s going to do for you, but I promise you this. If you humble yourself, you poured out for Christ in the sake of service to others, he will lift you up when he sees fit and how he sees fit. Let me also remind you in this passage of scripture if you’re sitting there puffed up in your pride and arrogance, stiff neck towards God, say, “I’m going to do what I want to do,” be careful because that might work for an hour or two. Nobody may like you. You may not care.
That might work for your lifetime, but one day, Paul says, one day a day is coming that if you don’t humble yourself in life, God will humble you in judgment. May I make the suggestion that you humble yourself now before God humbles you later? As we’re approaching Christmas, let’s kind of tie it all together, would you give Christ this gift of a humble life? Would you see that humility is not self-serving, but it’s thinking about and serving others? When you struggle for an example of that, just turn to Jesus. Look at his attitude, look at his thought process, and look at his actions. Then, let your life follow the example of his. Don’t worry. God will exalt you in the way that he sees fit.
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