Philippians 2:5-11 Having the Right Attitude
MAIN POINT: This is having the right attitude: to get up you have to go down.
The world teaches you to get up to go up. Jesus teaches us that in order to get up you have to go down. Christ’s humiliation and exaltation are presented as cause and effect.1
Not many of us want to be servants, do we? And those who have the notion that Christianity centers in service need to realize that there is a vast difference between the kind of serving most of us do and the willful decision to become a servant. Most of us serve by choosing when and whom and how we will serve. We stay in charge.
Jesus calls for something else. He calls us to be servants, and when we make this choice, we give up the right to be in charge. Then, amazingly, we experience great freedom.2
“Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 2:5, HCSB)
Paul reminds us to have the same attitude (or mind) as Jesus. So we are called to have the same mind-set, mentality, attitude about our life as Jesus did.
“who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.” (Philippians 2:6, HCSB)
It is crucial for us to understand that in doing this he did not cease to be God. God cannot cease to be God! He rather laid aside the glories and riches of heaven and ‘the independent exercise of authority’ and added our humanity to his deity so he was at one and the same time fully God and fully man.3
When He was on Earth, He did not use His God-powers to take advantage of the situation. Jesus did not use His divinity to go up. He used His humanity to go down.
A reporter was interviewing a successful job counselor who had placed hundreds of workers in their vocations quite happily. When asked the secret of his success, the man replied: “If you want to find out what a worker is really like, don’t give him responsibilities—give him privileges. Most people can handle responsibilities if you pay them enough, but it takes a real leader to handle privileges. A leader will use his privileges to help others and build the organization; a lesser man will use privileges to promote himself.” Jesus used His heavenly privileges for the sake of others—for our sake.4
He did not get up to go up, like the world wanted Him to do.
“Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form,” (Philippians 2:7, HCSB)
It says that Jesus emptied Himself. He poured out His divine nature so that God would be glorified. This phrase in Greek is kenoo, or, literally, “he emptied himself.” Jesus emptied Himself. Of what? Of His divinity? No. When Jesus came as a Man, He was still divine. Then of what did He empty Himself? He emptied Himself of His divine powers.5
His attitude was to go down – to serve, to save, to be like us.
Have you noticed as you read the four Gospels that it is Jesus who serves others, not others who serve Jesus? He is at the beck and call of all kinds of people—fishermen, harlots, tax collectors, the sick, the sorrowing. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28). In the Upper Room, when His disciples apparently refused to minister, Jesus arose, laid aside His outer garments, put on the long linen towel, and washed their feet! (John 13) He took the place of a menial slave! This was the submissive mind in action—and no wonder Jesus experienced such joy!6
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life —a ransom for many.”” (Mark 10:45, HCSB)
What an example for us as Christians. We need to learn that we can serve others with joy. How do you know if you’re a servant? There’s a very simple test: You’ll know if you’re a servant by how you react when people treat you like one.7
“Tell Daughter Zion, “Look, your King is coming to you, gentle, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”” (Matthew 21:5, HCSB)
During this last week on Earth, Jesus even came in humility. He rode on a donkey. He revealed His humility to humanity. They worshiped Him as their King. However, this attitude eventually got Jesus killed. The people turned on Him. Why? Because the world’s nature, the sinful nature, the human nature is to exalt ourselves. We promote ourselves. They wanted a king to exalt them above the Romans. They wanted to go up first. They had the wrong attitude. When Jesus wouldn’t do it that way, they killed Him.
The same is true today. People want you to lift them up first. Then they get mad at you when you don’t think of them first. There is a reason why “selfie” became 2013’s word of the year.
“He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death— even to death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8, HCSB)
He humbled Himself by going down to death, even a death on a cruel cross. Jesus had the right attitude: He went down….down to death…down to death on a cross. He went from serving to sacrifice. Going down before you go up requires a sacrifice.
It is one of the paradoxes of the Christian life that the more we give, the more we receive; the more we sacrifice, the more God blesses. This is why the submissive mind leads to joy; it makes us more like Christ.8
Some things have to die in my life for me to experience a resurrection. If I am going to show God to other people, I have to die in order for them to really see God.
It is the image of one who places himself in the very midst of the world of sin and death, who takes on the needs of human flesh, who humbly submits to God’s wrath and judgment over sinners, who remains obedient to God’s will in suffering and death; the one born in poverty, who befriended and sat at table to eat with tax collectors and sinners, and who, on the cross, was rejected and abandoned by God and human beings—this is God in human form, this is the human being who is the new image of God!9
Is it costing you anything to be a Christian? Is there something you are going to give up so that God show His image to you? Are you ready to go down so that God can bring you back up?
“For this reason God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name,” (Philippians 2:9, HCSB)
So God said that Jesus had the right attitude: Jesus went down, so God lifted Him up.
Now that is interesting because all over the Bible there is this contrast between pride and humility. This attitude contrast. The Bible says that God wants us to go down so that He can lift us up. Let me just read you these verses. I have listed them in your handout.
“You rescue an afflicted people, but Your eyes are set against the proud— You humble them.” (2 Samuel 22:28, HCSB)
“Look on every proud person and humble him; trample the wicked where they stand.” (Job 40:12, HCSB)
“He mocks those who mock, but gives grace to the humble.” (Proverbs 3:34, HCSB)
“Better to be lowly of spirit with the humble than to divide plunder with the proud.” (Proverbs 16:19, HCSB)
“Be in agreement with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation.” (Romans 12:16, HCSB)
“But He gives greater grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, HCSB)
“In the same way, you younger men, be subject to the elders. And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Peter 5:5–6, HCSB)
What God did for Jesus, He will do for every Christian. He will change our humility into a glorified body. He will do it with the same power He uses to keep people humble to worship Him.
If we humble ourselves, God will exalt us in the end.
“He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (Philippians 3:21, HCSB)
“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth —” (Philippians 2:10, HCSB)
Carl Jung told of a man who asked a rabbi, “How come in the olden days God would show Himself to people, but today nobody ever sees God?” The rabbi said, “Because nowadays nobody can bow low enough.” Let this mind be in us which was in Christ Jesus, who bowed low, emptied Himself, and became a servant—then we will see and know and share with God!10
When Jesus calls you, are you ready to bow to Him? Because everyone will bow to Him, whether you wanted to or not. Those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth (dead and in hell). Everyone from everywhere will bow to Jesus.
“and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:11, HCSB)
You don’t want to confess to Jesus that He should have been your Lord. You don’t want to be forced into service to Him. God clearly states that the proper attitude is to “go down so that God can lift you up.” The time to bow and commit to Jesus is now, if you haven’t done so.
1 W. C. Fields, “Philippians,” in The Teacher’s Bible Commentary, ed. H. Franklin Paschall and Herschel H. Hobbs (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1972), 750.
2 Maxie D. Dunnam and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon, vol. 31, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 279.
3 Roger Ellsworth, Opening up Philippians, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2004), 37.
4 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 74.
5 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1279.
6 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 75.
7 Jon Courson, Jon Courson’s Application Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 1279.
8 Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1996), 76.
9 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship, ed. Martin Kuske et al., trans. Barbara Green and Reinhard Krauss, vol. 4, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works (Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2003), 284.
10 Maxie D. Dunnam and Lloyd J. Ogilvie, Galatians / Ephesians / Philippians / Colossians / Philemon, vol. 31, The Preacher’s Commentary Series (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1982), 279.