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About this series
I Choose Love
How to Build Lasting Relationships
One of Jesus' last commands, and one of God's greatest delights is that His children, those who call Christ Lord, would love one another. But we all know loving other people doesn't come naturally, and it's not always easy. In this series, Chip teaches us, from the book of Philippians, Chapter 2, how to choose love and build relationships that last.More from this series
We tend to think about love is a romantic feeling or an emotion and I am all for those. But the kind of love we are talking about requires a choice.
And there are some things that work against us being loving people. And they are not necessarily bad, but they can distract us. And I’d like you to think, just right now, when was the first time, just as back far as you can go, when you really thought to yourself, I want to be great at something?
See, here’s what I want you to know. Open your notes. The quest for greatness is universal. Everybody wants to be great. Everyone wants to be successful, esteemed, valued, admired, significant, known, appreciated, accomplished – right? We want to look our best, do our best. We want to achieve.
And, by the way, I don’t think that’s wrong. I think we want to be great because we are made in the image of God. When you look at the galaxies, they’re great. When you look at the earth, it’s great. When you look at beauty, it’s great. We are the pinnacle of God’s creation.
But desiring to be great is one thing, but then in our humanness, we start deciding: Well, how are we going to measure greatness? How do you know if you’re really great?
And whether it’s basketball, climbing the ladder of success, business, music, relationships – historically, about five ways, I’ve put them on your notes, we tend to say: “This is what makes you great.”
First is power. Who and how many people do you control? And I of course mean control in the best sense of the word. But it’s that idea that you have the final say, that you have either a formal or influence that just you’re a somebody.
The second way is possessions. Possessions provide freedom. Buy what you want, go where you want to, do what you want. And we just tend to think the people with the most possessions are really great. In fact, sometimes we buy things we don’t even need so that other people will understand how great we are.
Third is position. Our rank in the pecking order. Your rights and your privileges and they say, “Okay, will all the business class passengers; will the VIPs,” there’s this pecking order and you start out as an intern and then you get a job and then here and then here. And we all have this little pattern of power, possessions, position.
And then prestige. How many people look up to you? That inner security that, These people admire me. I’m a somebody. I have this many followers on Instagram. I have this many likes on Facebook. I’m a star. I have three million followers. I have a bazillion followers – right? You’re great because of what other people think of you.
And then, finally, productivity. What do you produce? How good is it? And how much of it? And no matter how much, it can be better and it can be more. And new! And innovative! See, what productivity provides is a visible proof of your greatness. It’s games won, buildings built, children raised, deals done, work accomplished, companies developed, accolades and awards.
Now, Just before you start feeling like I’m going to give you the left hand hook and smash you and say, “How terrible of you to measure your greatness that way,” I don’t think in and of those things, any of those are bad.
But the problem is there’s a way that we become great in God’s eyes and there’s a way that we become great in the world’s eyes. And what we are talking about is genuine love and so, notice, how do you obtain greatness? I’m going to suggest there are two pathways and they are very distinct. Pathway number one is ascending, right? You climb the ladder of success. And no matter where you are, there’s one more rung.
That’s the world’s mode. And you can love God with all your heart and He can bless and you can go up that ladder. You just have to remember who brought you there. I love the little picture of the post – have you seen this? There’s a fencepost and there’s a turtle on top of it. And the byline is, “I didn’t get here on my own.”
And being great and having all these things that, if you can really recognize you’re that turtle on the fencepost, more power to you. But we live in a world where there’s a lot of pressure to ascend in the world’s mode.
The second way we become great is by descending. This is what we are going to see is that the apostle Paul is going to be speaking to a group of people. And when you want to be great, you tend to compare. And when you compare, you try and get better than other people. And when you compare and want to get better with other people, you put them down and put yourself up.
And what we learned last week is the “me-set” mindset, the only way to really be great in God’s eyes and to have unity in relationships, you have to declare war on selfishness and you have to attack image management. Because a lot of all this greatness, you know what? At the end of the day, it wasn’t about a scholarship. It wasn’t about how many points per game. It wasn’t being a great basketball player. It was about Chip’s ego wanting to be a somebody. It was about: I’m going to prove I’m okay! Probably mostly to me and maybe more to my dad.
And Jesus is going to say true greatness comes with humility. And the way is you descend into greatness. We are going to find that Jesus will be the supreme Ruler of all creation and the Creator, and then He’s going to take on human flesh, and then He’s going to become a servant, and then He’s going to sacrifice His life, and then He is actually going to die, and then He is going to have the death on a cross of absolute humiliation and shame.
And because He descends into greatness, then God will highly exalt Him. Mark it down: God blesses and rewards humility. And humility is the pathway to deep, abiding relationships.
True greatness is defined by: “Do not think only on your own things, but also on the things of others,” does that sound familiar?
“Do nothing from selfishness or pride or vain glory, but with humility of mind consider others more important than yourself.”
Here’s the acid test of greatness, are you ready? It’s how well do you love? The greatest people in the world are the people who love others the best.
At the end of the day, the greatest people on earth, the greatest people you will ever know will not have anything to do with how famous they are, how much money they have, how much power they have, how many likes they have on Facebook. It will be love.
Now, open your notes, because I want to walk with you through how God is going to teach us to achieve true greatness. How do you get there? How do you experience true greatness? One word. You got it, don’t you? Can you write it down? Humility.
By the way, humility is not thinking too high of yourself, it’s not thinking too low of yourself. It’s self-forgetfulness. It’s not thinking of yourself at all. There’s a focus on God and there’s a focus on others. The most humble people in the world actually don’t think they are humble, because they are not focused on themselves.
Humility is the channel, underline the word channel, through which the supernatural power of God’s love flows to heal our deepest hurts and restore our most important relationships. Can you think of anything more important than your hurts or the hurts of someone else? We all have dysfunctions, we all have struggles, we have all been betrayed, we have all hurt, right? But someone, humility is someone who cared enough to get off of thinking of themselves to invest in us and love us and as they did that, the Spirit of God, His love came through them and wholeness occurred so that – what? we could do the same.
So I want to take you on a journey following Jesus into greatness. And as we do, I have to tell you that all of Scripture is God-inspired. All of Scripture is very important. But there are some passages that I think rise up to the pinnacle of the truth, the majesty. We are going to go to a holy, holy place where what we will see about the Second Person of the Trinity is so mind-boggling, so counter-intuitive.
And for those of you who have been Christians for a long time, my prayer is that you would see this with fresh eyes. We are going to talk about One who is in the pinnacle of glory and myriad angels are worshipping Him. And He sits on the throne: God the Father, God the Holy Spirit. He owns everything, He controls everything, He has the utmost position.
Colossians 1, He spoke and the galaxies came into existence. By the word of His power, He holds everything and He will take on human flesh and then He’ll become a servant and then He will sacrifice His life. And then He will die. And then He will actually die on a cross, which was the most shameful, humiliating way. A Roman citizen could never be crucified because it was so lowly.
And it will be out of that humility that you and I and whosoever would believe could have life. And what he is going to say is: here’s the path. Paul is going to say, “There is bickering between you all and there is persecution and pressure without. You have to,” are you ready? “You have to become humble so there’s healing and there’s life.”
I’ll walk through the model rather briefly, because then I want to get to the end and apply it for all of us. Notice, humility flows from a specific mindset. Hear the command.
“Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Circle the word attitude, if you will. Literally, it’s: let this mind be among you.
I talk about reading the Scriptures, I talk about meditating, I talk about putting good things in your mind. We are the product of our thought life. This passage, literally, is: your mindset, how you think, how you view yourself, how you view money and position and power and prestige, how you think – have this mindset in you all that was in Jesus.
And now he is going to tell us what the mindset is. We achieve true greatness when we embrace, not just agree with, when we embrace Christ’s mindset toward power and possessions. How did Jesus view power? He had all the power, He was the ruler. How did He view possessions? He owned everything!
Notice what the text says. “Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Put a box around the word form, and then put a line under did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.
Literally, that phrase is: as something that must not slip out of His hands. The word form here is morphe. We get our English word morphed. The meaning of the word is: the inner, essential quality of a thing or a person. In other words, when it says that, “Although in the form of God,” we think of form of something exterior. He’s going to use a different word for exterior in a minute. Form of God is the essential inner nature. In other words, although He and the Father and the Holy Spirit all have the same morphe, God, He didn’t regard His equality with God something that He had to hang on to.
In other words, He was going to take His power, He is going to take His rulership over positions, and He is going to let them go and start descending downwardly, out of His love for you and His love for me.
Notice, next, we must become truly great when we embrace Christ’s mindset toward positions and prestige. “But He emptied Himself.” So, instead of holding onto this position, “He emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant and being made in the likeness of a man.” Underline the word emptied, put a box around formed – it’s the same word – and then underline bondservant, and a circle around likeness of men.
And if you’re here thinking, My gosh, I didn’t even bring a pen, well, bring one next time. Well, what I want you to see, these words, the theology is so rich, it’s so mind-boggling.
In other words, He was equal with God. When it says, “He emptied Himself,” for Bible students, the word is kenosis. Literally, it means He made himself nothing. Well, what that means is, about two or three things.
Number one, He had pre-incarnate glory. If you would have met the pre-incarnate Christ, the light emanating from Him, you’d be gone! And so He veils His glory by putting on human flesh. Then He limits the independent use of His attributes. See, sometimes we think of Jesus like Superman. He had this toga on, but when it got really hard, He just ripped off the toga and there’s a big, instead of an “S” there’s a “G.” “I am God! I’ll overcome this!” He didn’t do it that way.
He limited the independent use of His attributes. And He took on a body, are you ready? permanently. Have you thought about that? Jesus, sits at the right hand of the Father, He has a resurrected body. When you see Jesus, you can see, a bit later, those of you who are followers of Christ, you want to see the holes in His hands? It’s a sacrifice that’s unbelievable.
And what He’s doing is He is saying, I was in the form, the very essence of God. I make Myself nothing, never ceasing in any way, relieving Himself of any deity. He is fully God, fully man. And then notice what it says: “Taking the form,” not just the acting, the form, the essential nature, not just of a servant, but of a bondservant.
A bondservant in Jewish and in Roman culture had no rights. You might have a number of servants in the house, the bondservant is the guy who picks up the doo-doo, he is the guy who empties the trash, he’s the guy who has zero rights, no anything, anywhere, at any time.
Could you just pause for a moment? Could you imagine? When you think of how we cling to our rights – “How come they didn’t do that for me?” “Don’t they know who I am?” Can you imagine the Creator of the universe taking the form of a bondservant?
And it says He is made in the likeness of a man. The word likeness is our word schema. This is the word that means just the outward fashion of, the appearance of. And He was fully human, except He wasn’t like all other men. There’s no sin nature. Jesus, everything He did He said, “Follow Me. Model this.
I can do nothing apart from Him.” His entire life was: “I am dependent on the Father, and in the power of the Holy Spirit to live this life so you can follow behind Me and you be dependent on the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit.” And He did that because He loves you. He did that to rescue mankind. He descended into greatness.