“… although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross….” (Phil 2:6-8)
As Christmas Day approaches, and preparations for the big day heat up, let’s slow just long enough today to think on the Christ we are preparing the celebrate. Understanding what it means that Christ is the “emptied one” will not only stir up awe for Christ this second week of the Advent season, but it will thoroughly challenge us to follow in HIs footsteps.
FULLNESS PRECEDES EMPTINESS
Colossians 2:9 speaks of the “fullness” of Christ and of God. Christ, as He is in His resurrected, glorified, and exalted state is “full”. In fact, Romans 6:4 says that He was raised from the dead by the “glory of the Father”. After His death and burial, He was filled with the glory of God, and His resurrection was proof of it! Christ’s fullness is His possession of God’s glory in His now-glorified body [the very reason His body is called ‘glorified’].
Yet, long before this happened to Him, in fact, in order to become a human baby… Christ first emptied Himself, Phil. 2:7 (above) tells us.
Last week we learned that Jesus was the Chosen One of God long before He came to earth as a baby! He was the object of God’s love. In this, we too, were chosen and the object of God’s love, because we were in Him. Christ is the Head of His body, His people. We are one with Him!
As the Chosen One of God, and as God Himself, we can ascertain that Jesus Himself was “full” before He ever breathed the air of earth as a tiny infant.
Yet, in Philippians 2 above we are told He did not think about Himself as equal with God! Before He ever came to earth, when He was in full glory in the heavenly places, He counted God as greater than Himself, though they were technically equal… both technically filled with glory!
EMPTINESS HAPPENS BY CHOICE
The next phrase in Phil. 2 says that He actively chose to empty Himself. He emptied Himself. God didn’t do it for Him. Thus, He chose to do so.
I believe we can understand that in the midst of His pre-incarnate, full-of-glory life, He developed, first, a need for approaching God, and therefore, second, a need to actively empty Himself of the glory that made Him equal with God. In fact, Christ emptying Himself of His pre-incarnate glory is the very reason we celebrate Christmas! His choice to empty Himself was His choice to become human, to live in an emptied-of-glory vessel just like ours!
Thank you Jesus for this selfless, wonderful choice on our behalf!
CHRIST COMING TO GOD
But what was the need He needed to come to God for? I suggest to you that Christ was our advocate before He even came as a baby or resurrected from the dead (because we were in Him, already part of His body, His people who come from Him). I believe this verse (Phil. 2:7) is one among other Biblical clues that tell us that He desired to approach God on our behalf (the people identified with Him) in order to seek our release from exile and slavery; and the first step in doing so was to empty Himself, to come into human form. In doing this, He was expressing to God that He accepted and desired whatever God’s will would be regarding us. In other words, emptying Himself was also denying Himself… to gain God’s approval and authority to save us.
What kind of Savior is this?! What kind of King?!
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives… Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Heb. 2:14-15, 17)
EMPTYING FINDS FAVOR WITH GOD
This is where we’re going to camp out today. For just a little while longer. The Chosen One of God, the One who existed in the form of God, emptied Himself. As He prepared to approach God on our behalf, as our High Priest and advocate, He also gave over all He was and desired to God. And the results? He did God’s will even to the point of dying a slavery-breaking death for humanity, was highly exalted (Phil. 2:9) for it, and thus became the One through whom we are set free and live free! In other words, His emptying Himself resulted in God granting the desire Jesus brought to Him… in God’s way… which is always the best way… and Jesus knew it!
Jesus was not so interested in preserving His own life, but ours. He understood that in order to rescue us from slavery and death, He Himself needed to have the favor of God (which of course He already had) to do so.
FINDING GOD’S FAVOR FOR OURSELVES
But how does one find favor with God? Heb. 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.”
As the Savior of the world prepared to approach the Most High King for us, He so deeply trusted that God’s full Glory was only good and love, that He willingly denied His own glory, His own will, thoughts, and plans. He so trusted that God (in His good, loving glory) would bless His trust in Him, that God was indeed pleased to receive Him and give Him His ear. And because the Son was so humble, because He denied His own life before approaching God… He ultimately gained us! The very reason He approached God in the first place!
Oh the many pages I so desire to write regarding all that I’m unfolding here! But I’ll save those words and pages for ‘Walking in the Light’. Know this though—the great big story is ravishing! It’s gorgeous. It’s wondrous! It’s insanely GOOD! But for our purposes here today, we need to now turn our attention to a scenario in the book of Mark:
29 And [Jesus] continued by questioning them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said to Him, “You are the Christ.” 30 And He warned them to tell no one about Him. 31 And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And He was stating the matter plainly. And Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. 33 But turning around and seeing His disciples, He rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan; for you are not setting your mind on God’s interests, but man’s.” 34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. (Mark 8:29-35)
AN UNPRECEDENTED EXCHANGE
This is exactly what our Lord Jesus did in order to gain favor with God to rescue us! And here, Jesus is calling for those who would like to live the Christ Life, who would like God’s favor (grace) and ear and power and freedom in their own lives, to deny themselves too. To surrender the self-life, the old man, the flesh-life, the slave-life, believing Christ took it to death on the cross, and instead, submit to and receive Jesus’s will, thoughts, glory, choosing to follow His every thought instead!
It is truly an unprecedented exchange!
To gain our lives, to gain our freedom from slavery as we walk this broken sod of Earth, that is, to gain God’s power over our slavery, we must deny the vessel bound in slavery—the flesh—in which we live. The thoughts of the natural man are not the same as the thoughts of God, nor are they set on the thoughts of God (Is. 55:8-9, Romans 8:5-8). In fact, those functioning from “the realm of the flesh cannot please God” (Rom. 8:8, NIV)! Why? Because by default, functioning from the “realm of the flesh” does not involve faith/trust in God and His glory. Without faith (trusting Him instead of ourselves) it is impossible to please God! Trusting ourselves, that is, living from our natural man, is the exact antithesis to denying ourselves… to walking by faith… to gaining God’s favor!
CONSIDER THE ‘EMPTIED ONE’ THIS CHRISTMAS
Friends, this Christmas Season, as you consider Jesus, consider His choice to empty Himself in order to gain us. Consider the great, profound love in this. Both love for God, and love for us! Oh HOW He loves us!!
And as you consider Christ’s forfeiture of His own will in order to gain God’s, and ultimately to gain us, consider what you will gain this Christmas if you forfeit your own will/thoughts/life to God. Friends, forfeiting is simply trust in God! And God will never leave you empty-handed (rather, empty-hearted)! No! He will reward you with more abundant life inside of you than you can fathom—He’ll deposit His own glorious Life in yours!
“For whoever wishes to save his [own] life will lose it; but whoever loses his life [empties her/himself] for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:25).
AUTHORITY TO BE CHILDREN OF GOD
Not only will God give you HIs glory/will/thoughts, He’ll give you the power and authority to live above slavery to the darkness! Christ not only emptied Himself to receive God’s will/thoughts in place of His own, but with the intent to gain God’s authority to rescue us from this present darkness, this slavery we’re all in! In the same way, if we willingly set ourselves aside (emptying ourselves), trusting, receiving and submitting to God’s own high and bright and good glory—to His way regarding the reason we approach Him, He’ll indeed grant us mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
“Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:16).
In closing, take some time to slowly read romans 8:13-18 (below), then meditate on the the blessed wonder of emptying ourselves of our own will, desire, passion because by faith we believe God’s glory to be higher and more wonderful than ours. And in so emptying ourselves, think of the wonder of becoming (or having become) possessors of God’s glory through the Spirit in us! As if this weren’t enough, meditate on what this verse says is necessary to be co-heirs with Christ Jesus Himself, as one with Him… (that is to share in His sufferings, which result in emptying of ourselves, in order to live from the His Life.) Think on all that has been afforded us through Jesus—not only rescue from slavery, but the Life of God in us. Not only the Life of God in us, but through living by His life, we will get to inherit forever what Christ has!
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. 14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. 15 The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. 17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. 18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.
Happy Christmas Season one and all! As Christ emptied Himself and gained everything, if you empty yourself, you’ll gain everything with Him! Celebrate this scandalously extravagant exchange with God this Christmas!
All my love and joy to you today!