Philippians 2 challenges followers of Jesus to “count others more significant than yourselves,” (v. 3) by embracing the mindset of Jesus.
Though Jesus was (and is) of the same substance and nature as God, he did not cling to his status and rights but instead “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant.” Jesus followed a downward path from heaven to earth, to Bethlehem, to an unresponsive people in Israel and finally to the cross. You can visualize the pathway of Jesus with the downward arrow of the incarnation representing his condescension to the limitations of a fully human body, the humble service of his life and ministry and the sacrificial suffering he endured that ultimately led to his crucifixion.
But at this point in the text the active agent changes and God the Father takes over from the the Son, restoring Jesus to his rightful position as the supreme ruler over all things before whom all people will one day bow. That is the path Jesus walked and it is the path all Christians are called to follow, for “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled but whoever humbles himself will be exalted” (Matthew 23:12).
The alternative, and the consistent path taken by our culture today, is to follow the way of Lucifer. Though he was the most glorious of angels, he wanted even greater power and recognition. So he staged an uprising and tried to overthrow God. “You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high… I will make myself like the Most High.”
This is the path of self-exaltation that seeks to avoid service and suffering, that looks for a way around the cross. This is the path of self-indulgence so often glorified today as “following your heart.” But notice the warning in Matthew 23:12 and the outcome for the devil. “You are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit… you are cast out… like a dead body trampled underfoot” (Isaiah 14:13-14,15,19).
Which mindset will we choose? The mind of Christ who relinquished his rights and laid down his life or the mind of satan who demanded more than his rights and sought to overthrow God?
Let’s step back from our daily life to see ourselves clearly in the light of the glory of God. Next to other people you may look pretty impressive.
But next to Jesus, we are all microscopic specks of dust. 1.3 million earths can fit into the sun. Jesus created the sun in the same moment he made all of the stars in the heavens, simply saying, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens” (Gen. 1:14-18). If we can see ourselves for the finite, fleeting and fallen creatures we are… If we can appreciate the all-surpassing glories of Jesus and all he has done for us… then we can begin to obey Philippians 2:3, “In humility count others more significant than yourselves.”
Whose path will you follow today?