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Following Jesus' Example

December 21, 2023

-Dr. J. Vernon McGee, from the Philippians Bible Companion

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (2:5). What kind of mind did Jesus have? In a word: humble. Jesus thinks of Himself with humility. He is God, yet He left heaven’s glory where He is worshipped to come to a world that dismissed Him, locked Him out. It’s beyond human comprehension to understand what our Lord did for us. And He did it with delight, no reluctance. He held nothing back but willingly sacrificed for us.

And we can follow His example.

Yet, on our own we can try, but never live with such humility. Left to ourselves, we demand our rights, we insist on our needs being met, and we easily overlook those around us who need God’s grace. We need the Holy Spirit to form humility in us. Jesus showed us what it looks like to empty our lives of all self-serving bents and habits in order to serve other people.

First, Jesus left His Father to come to earth. Having existed throughout eternity past, He willingly came down to where we are without even a thought of what it would mean to leave the wonder and splendor of heaven. He willingly left His Father’s presence and though He remained fully God, He became human so He could be with us and live as we live.

The second step down was when Jesus willingly surrendered His reputation. He didn’t give a second thought to becoming a lowly servant, not demanding people’s respect and worship, but joyfully coming to serve.

Jesus surrendered not His deity, but all the rights and prerogatives He deserved as God. He was 100 percent God when He was a baby sleeping helplessly in His mother’s arms. At that moment He could have spoken this universe out of existence. Why? Because He’s God. There was never a moment when He wasn’t God. (Read John 1:1-3, 14.)

At the end of His earthly ministry, Jesus got His disciples together on His final night on earth and prayed an awesome prayer: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (John 17:5). He wasn’t asking to be restored as God, but instead He asked His Father for His glory to be restored. Jesus gave up His glory to serve us as a human, and now He wanted it back.

In His coming, Jesus didn’t cling to His rights and privileges. Not like us—we are always pushing for promotion, recognition, and applause. Pause for a moment and praise God for such a wonderful example Jesus is to us—He surrendered heaven so you could know His Father in heaven. He gave up all these rights so you could have a relationship with Him.

Next, the apostle Paul described how Jesus took this humble position to its absolute end in order to fulfill God’s purposes. He willingly offered His own life as a sacrifice for our sins by dying on the cross. He chose to come, to be a simple servant, to make Himself a substitute for us. Even in disgrace. Even in all the weak limitations and constraints of the human body. Even with all the frailties of our human emotions. Even willingly as a bondservant, a slave, the lowest of human statuses.

Why? So He could take our place on a cruel cross and pay the penalty of our sin. Someone had to pay—either Him or us. Jesus died in our place.

Death is the most humiliating of all human experiences. Death is not natural. God didn't create humans to die. Death entered the human experience because of sin (read Romans 5:12-21). Death came because one man sinned; because of Adam, death passed down to all humans. Only one man, who had never sinned, could pay sin’s price. Only Jesus could die for us.

Finally, not only did Jesus obey His Father’s directive to die, but He died on the cross. He was executed—like death through lethal injection, in the electric chair, or at the cruel aim of a firing squad. A disgraceful death. He came from the highest glory to the lowest humiliation.

But someday, God the Father will turn it all around. More than anything, His great desire is to put His Son, Jesus Christ, in His proper place. Because of Jesus’ obedience to Him, God will make sure every creature in heaven and on earth will bow in worship before Jesus Christ. On that day, we will join with everything that has breath in calling out praise that Jesus—who once was a bondservant—now is Lord and master of all.

God the Father will make sure Jesus Christ will be glorified in the universe He created and be glorified on the earth where all His creation lives and, ironically, on the planet where mankind rebelled against Him.

God gave Him the highest exalted name, the name of Jesus Christ the Lord. His name will be reverenced in praise and in worship. This is the name in which we pray, the name that satisfies our deepest longings in prayer.

When Jesus’ name is mentioned in glory, every person on earth—from every nation, every tribe, everyone from every language—will bow and praise Jesus Christ. We will worship and adore Him. And even those who will not worship Him, will bow in full surrender and submission to His name.

This excerpt is from the Philippians Bible Companion. Download yours for free.

My Turn

  1. The world around us may not value humility. Do you find it difficult to practice humility when it is so neglected by others?
  2. Much of following Jesus’ example is allowing the Holy Spirit to train our minds to think like Christ. What challenges you about changing your thoughts?
  3. What does it tell us about Jesus that He surrendered His life willingly for our sins?
  4. We don’t have to wait until the day that every person on earth will praise Jesus, we can do it now. What do you personally have to praise Jesus for?
  5. Think about that day in the future when all of heaven and earth will worship Jesus. What do you think it will be like when believers in Jesus Christ from east, west, past, present, and future come together to worship our Savior?