Essence

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  Philippians 2:5-7.

It really struck me as I read Vine’s take on the word “attitude” (translated as “form of” in the KJV) that God can have a different outlook on everything since He made it.  He lacks nothing, accomplished everything and never needs to be ambitious for power because He’s the source of it.

Jesus’ very essence is God, so trying to be God holds no attraction for Him because He already has it in the bag.  Instead He took on the essence of a servant, the very nature of one, and became what He was not to make us what we are not by nature anymore:  Children of God.  Yet as out of character as this move may seem, Paul informs us it’s just God’s MO—you know, modus operandi, mode of operation, that sort of thing—1 Corinthians 1:27-28 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him.

Taking on the nature of a servant is not out of character for God.  O, the enemy of our souls might want us to believe that but it isn’t true at all; His nature is exactly the opposite.  Think of everything that breathes, creates something or has energy one can read with a meter, that’s God’s power radiating from it all.  Jesus has this very power in Himself because He’s part of the united authority we call “God”.  John 5:26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. Thus He serves us by keeping everything running and alive.  In another place, Jesus explains to the Jews,  “My Father works on this day (the Sabbath) as well.” Finding a place where God doesn’t constantly supply the basic energy and very existence of anything is quite impossible, so He knows what service is.

Look at the wording of our text in the NIV and you’ll see it says but made Himself nothing, which in the KJV is translated but made Himself of no reputation.  The gist of both is that Jesus didn’t want any advantages by the world’s standards in the contest for human hearts so He saddled Himself with a handicap.  Just so you know, He won even with all the disadvantages…Still, what He set out to do was not to make Himself noticeable for anything except for who He is.  That’s quite a feat if one can pull it off, which Jesus did.  He showed us by His life that substance wins over abundance of wealth, esteem, power, beauty or anything else humans value without knowing what’s behind the veneer.

Jesus came in weakness to shame the strong; uneducated by the standards of the day to shame the wise; lowly and despised (though He was worshiped and adored by all creation) to cancel what was in existence already.  All this to show us where the true power lies.  Paul pleaded with God to remove a thorn in his flesh three times, but the Lord just said no My strength is made perfect in weakness, My grace is sufficient for you.  We mess up when we think somehow we have to have this or that to make God’s work move forward.  God doesn’t need us perfectly sinless to work through us—in fact, I think it’s to His advantage if our rough edges are visible right alongside of our devotion so that people can witness first hand the miracle of change His Spirit brings.  It also stands to reason that if God could use a cross to bring about salvation, the grossest death imaginable and one of the cruelest, He can certainly use me in my stumbling, bumbling attempts to work for Him.

Another passage claims Jesus laid aside His divinity to become man.  I don’t think this means He wasn’t divine or that His nature left Him, rather He left it alone and depended on the Father’s power instead of His own.  Knowing you have the means to rescue yourself but choosing not to use it takes self-control, which I know I don’t have in abundance as yet.  Still, He set aside His power in order to demonstrate to us what the power of God is able to do in our lives as well.

The entire message of salvation hinges on relationships—human to God, God to human, and human to human.  This text in Philippians points us to what God desires in all three directions.  Without the relationship between God and us settled both ways, we won’t be able to know a healthy one with other human beings.

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