“Christ’s Example at Christmas”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.3-11 Christmas Sermon
Philippians 2. It seems that the Christian life is filled with things that we’re constantly going to grow in for the rest of our lives and for all eternity. We little understand for example… the character of God, how He can be eternal, unchangeable, spirit, and infinite. Our minds can’t fathom that.
I don’t know how many times our young family has had a discussion about the Trinity at our dinner table after dessert. “3 in 1, Dad? That can’t be!” Too many times to count.
Our minds also can’t fathom how God the Father and God the Son were separated on the cross and thereby paid the ransom price for our redemption. And speaking of sin, we’re don’t even fully comprehend how bad our sin really is and how holy God is. All of this requires supernatural revelation in our hearts by God’s word through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Just like the hymn writer says …
‘Tis mystery all! Th’Immortal dies!
Who can can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine!
‘Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Angelic minds can’t figure it all out, let alone ours! “Things into which angels long to look.”
And further … we’re celebrating Christmas, the time of year where we focus on Jesus Christ coming in the flesh, which is called the incarnation. God became man. He is one person in two natures: God and man. That’s another truth our little minds have a hard time grasping.
God, our God, has seen us in our plight and distress and has come to rescue us from eternal misery. And He did so, born as a baby and laid in a feeding trough! Unthinkable! A strange design, indeed.
This morning we’re continuing our one another series in a passage that speaks of the mystery of the incarnation and that’s Philippians 2, 3-11. We learn that the incarnation is actually a great example of the kind of heart we’re to have toward one another.
Philippians 2:3–11 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
That glorious day is coming when at the end of time, Jesus Christ is confessed by all to be Lord of all… some willingly, others not so much.
But our attention will be given over to verses 3-8. What we’ll see is the right spirit we’re to have for unity in the church and then we’ll see that right spirit illustrated in the incarnation.
First, the right spirit for unity in verses 3-4.
The Right Spirit for Unity (vv.3-4)
But first, drop back to verses 1-2,where Paul explains the need for unity, notice how he puts it…
Philippians 2:1–2 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Verse 2 is all about unity, oneness of mind and spirit. Paul then explains what kind of heart will give that unity. He gives a series of do’s and do not’s in Verse 3 …
Philippians 2:3–4 3 [to get unity in a church, … do not … ] Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but [the to do] with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, [the to do] … but also for the interests of others.
Paul gives us the do’s and the don’ts for unity. In other words, you can’t have true unity … a “spirit-joined” people without what he’s written here in verses 3-4.
We’re not to do anything selfishly, that is, with ambition. We’re not to be like “I’m going to get this for myself” or “I’m going to assert my will in the church.”
We’re not to do anything from empty conceit, that is, out of a desire for praise. We are not to teach or preach for the praise of men or serve in some capacity in the church to be noticed by them or to be thought of as spiritual. We’re not to be selfishly ambitious to get things or attention and we’re not do so in order to receive praise of men.
And were not to look out for our own personal interests. Self interest creates disunity because it is not Christ focused and others focused.
ILL: C. S. Lewis made this insightful comment: “We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking, there would be nothing to be proud about.”
And we could add, proud of being “more spiritual, more talented, more in the service to Christ”… and trying to one up the other guy … this is looking out for your own personal interests … empty conceit.
TRANS: And none of that will foster unity; only disunity. So, what do we need?
We need humility so that we regard one another as more important than ourselves.
Philippians 2:3 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;
With humility, we are regard one another as more important than ourselves.
Let’s take humility … what it is not and what it is.
Humility isn’t getting down on yourself all the time. And it isn’t weakness either. It’s not a low esteem of yourself, it’s a not esteeming yourself at all! Constantly demeaning yourself is a false humility; it’s pride actually. Because you’re absorbed with yourself.
True humility is not thinking about your own interests, but primarily the interests of others. It’s the attitude of a slave, being there constantly for the service of others, not thinking of yourself.
And Paul’s concern is that humility will empower your unity within the body of Christ.
With humility, you’ll be able to regard one another as more important than yourselves. Not thinking of yourself, your status, your interests, but you are consumed with God’s interests and His plans and desires, His glory in the earth and in the church, and others’ progression toward Him.
ILL: if that is your mindset, you will be like a magnet. Just like a magnet unifies other magnets around him, the humble also unify other believers to themselves and to other believers.
Now, you can grow in humility and not just through trial and turmoil. But through His word! He knows how to give you grace and help you to be humble. Read His Word and ask Him for humility and to be a unifying influence among us.
The reason why humility works to unify believers is because, v. 3, it is with humility that you regard one another as more important than yourselves. To regard one another as more important than yourself is to esteem them. Esteeming others and valuing them unifies with them.
We are not to be self-centered, but we are to shift our attention to others.
ILL: I feel like I keep picking on them, but that is what the Corinthians needed. As we already know. .. they were schismatic and divisive. And Paul says to them, “let no one seek his own good, but that of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24). This is exactly what love is as he tells them in 1 Corinthians 13 that love “does not seek its own.”
ILL: Cameras are flashing, a huge crowd all dressed up. There is a walkway sectioned off for the celebrity to walk through into the building. A limousine pulls up… and with all the cameras flashing … you … you in all of your glorious … humility you step out … of the trunk … And then you pull out the red carpet from the trunk and you roll it out for the person that everyone is actually here to see, and you open the door and bow and out he comes.
That’s regarding someone else as more important than yourself.
Be humble in mind not esteeming yourself, but put a high value of importance on others and roll the red carpet out for each other.
APP: esteem their service in Christ. Value highly there insights and thoughts. Value their discipling of others and their witness for Christ. Place high importance on their leading of their family. And tell them!
What a joy it is and a refreshment … when this is true of a church!
TRANS: Now, why all this talk about regarding others as more important than myself? I thought this was Christmas, I mean, I want to open presents!
Ok, here’s the Christmas part, ready? … This humility and high regard for others is what empowered Christ to condescend and to consider us when He came to earth.
Philippians 2:5 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
Christ had this same attitude in himself that we just studied in verses 3-4.
Philippians 2:3–5 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
Be humble and highly regard others just like Christ. So, Jesus Christ is “exhibit A” of what it means to have this kind of humility and high value for others.
And now in verses 5-6, we see the height at which Jesus was humble and how He Himself didn’t do anything out of selfish ambition, but He looked out for the interests of others. And He did that in the height of His glory!
His height of humility: His existence as God not clung to (vv.5-6)
Philippians 2:6–8 6 [Jesus], although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
EXP: Humility says, “You are worthy of my service even if I’m in a higher social class, which I esteem as nothing. You are worthy of my service, even if I have more education than you, more money, more talents, more leadership abilities, or whatever … you are worthy of my service. Nobody is above another in the church. Even if I’m the president of the world, in the church, I serve the lowliest of the low.” That’s humility.
That’s Jesus…He’s the King of Glory over all the world! And He humbled himself…
For all eternity Jesus is truly God, equal with God. But he did not regard that equality with God as a thing to be grasped… He did not regard his being God as something to use for his own advantage, for his own personal interests, and to selfishly push his own agenda. He did not regard it as a prize to cling to.
He wasn’t proud of Himself all up in His glory, he did not have selfish ambition about it and cling to it … nor did He turn up His nose at us, His inferiors.
He’s humble and highly esteems others even though He is the one who will come again one day with the clouds, he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last… He’s not selfish even though He is the Almighty … He it is whose train of His robe fills the temple, girded across his chest with a golden sash, his head and his hair like white wool like snow, His eyes like a flame of fire, His feet like burnished bronze and His voice like the sound of many waters… In His right hand seven stars and out of His mouth comes a sharp two-edged sword… Who’s face is like the sun shining in its strength
And He sits on a throne lofty and exalted, a throne ablaze with flames, its wheels are like burning fire and there is a river of fire flowing coming out from before Him.
And to Him has been given all dominion glory and the kingdom… That all the peoples nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
And in glory there are the Seraphim who stood above him each having six wings and one Seraph calls out to another Seraph “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” And the foundations of the thresholds shake at the voice of him who called out, as the temple fills with smoke.
The living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever and the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”
There are many angels around the throne and living creatures and the elders and the number of them are myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them will one day say in unison…
“To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures keep saying, “Amen.” And the elders fall down and worship.
This is what the Son of God, Christ Jesus left in glory … this magnificence is what He didn’t cling to, nor did He express any selfishness over. But He left it all out of love to enter our space and time…the King of Kings and Lord of Lords … and on His heart…
Sinful humanity, worms such as we, deserving of eternal punishment having sinned against an eternal being…we who literally hated Him, millions of people at that time who shook their fist at God and humanity and billions yet today who continue to do so.
He it is who has actually came to us!
APP: This is the height of His humility. This is the height at which He possessed humility … not regarding all of this as something to be clung to and used for his own advantage. So, applying that to us … whatever position you may have pales in comparison … whatever skill you may have, whatever clothes you may wear, whatever good looks you may possess, … whatever you have is not to be used for selfish reasons or be conceited against another believer … If Christ had such a height of glory and humbled Himself to come to save us, we can also regard others as more important than ourselves.
What status do you have that you shouldn’t use to your own advantage? Many a pastor has fallen into the trap of a high position…a trap filled with glory, gold, and girls … The status of standing up in front and being witnessed and noticed, perhaps even receiving praise of men …
What about you? Your place in your business, your status in the community, your skills, giftings, wisdom, skills, looks … whatever it is, to cling to it is spiritual disaster for you and the church. Not to cling to it is life and peace for yourself and others.
To emphasize this same point, Paul continues the story of Jesus’ life in Verse 7-8.
His humble act: He emptied Himself (v.7-8)
Philippians 2:7–8 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Jesus Christ emptied himself. He did not cling to his own high position, high as it was… He did not cling to it, but instead he emptied himself. Somebody asks, “how did he empty himself?”
He emptied himself by taking the form of a slave, a willing slave. So in a sense, he emptied himself of self. Not cling to his own glory whatsoever.
And further down we go…[stair step] …
Philippians 2:6–8 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Death on a cross! Jesus came to earth for the purpose of death on a cross. Let that be an example to you!
Not just by becoming man, as if that weren’t enough … God became man … he stooped even lower … by becoming obedient to the point of death, …wait, a little lower … even death on a cross.
His humility took Him to that point … to the point of death. The Son of God in all of His most splendorous glory…lived a life without a home on earth … dirt poor and now…to death.
And not just any death, a death on a cross. Crucifixion was a method of execution used by the Romans for only the lowliest of criminals. In fact, the word cross was a vulgar term in ancient Rome, a crass word, not something you talked about in polite company.
…so much so that the cross only became a Christian symbol much later….EXP: Today we have accepted the glamorization of the cross. Around our necks and on top of our churches serve as ornaments, but really don’t bring us to a real grasp of crucifixion.
Jesus died with his hands and feet pierced through with rough iron, nailed to jagged wood. It was the most dishonourable death imaginable. Most corpses on crosses were not allowed to be buried and were left to decompose and be scavenged by animals.
Soldiers all around mocking, the crowds jeering, the disciples fleeing, the Father turning His face away, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”
See Him the glorious Son of God, taking on Him the wrath of God for you and for me. Taking on the shameful death for only slaves and criminals… ”and I want status, money, position or power?” No, No! The incarnation and the cross strip me of all my selfish ambition. And if you are following Christ, it strips you of all pride, too!
ILL: But the incarnation and the example of great humility didn’t impact the first disciples. They record for us their own lack of understanding. James and John don’t get it. You remember James and John who came up to Jesus and asked Him, “Teacher, do for us what we want.”
Jesus replies “What do you want me to do for you?” And they say, “Grant that we may sit, one on your right and one on your left in your glory.”
How is that for emptying yourself? Does that sound like two men who don’t cling to status to use it for their own advantage?
Jesus responds, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink my cup and be baptized with my baptism?” Meaning His death.
They over confidently reply, “We are able.” Jesus humbly replies “You will drink my cup, but it is not for me to give that.” But then the other disciples are angered against James and John.
Then Jesus gives this counsel… He calls the disciples to Himself and He says to them, “The rulers of this world lord it over them, dominate their subjects. Great men exercise authority over their subjects. But it’s not this way among you. “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
APP: Even the Son of Man didn’t come to be served. How much more should we disciples not demand being served?
Christ gave it all up … from the glories of heaven to this: The birds of the air have nests and foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has not where to lay his head, and then to death, even the death on a cross.
APP: If the Lord Jesus was at such a height and came to such a depth, can’t we by the grace that He gives, do that in microcosm, in small form? We’re not above doing any menial task for others.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.3-11 Christmas Sermon
Philippians 2:3–4 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
The Lord had this mind in Him when came to earth. May the incarnation of God the Son empower us all the days of our lives to regard one another as more important than ourselves.
A fitting hymn is number…
103 What Child Is This?