What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.5-8

“The Humility that Unifies the Church Illustrated”

Philippians 2:5-8

INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.5-8

Philippians 2. Once upon a time there was a boy born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was rich and was the sole heir to inherit many lands and nations. He was raised in the finest home, with the finest education. He only associated with the finest people in his land. And then, as a grown man with only the finest of health and strength and dignity, with a great act of humility he willingly boards a ship and goes to the poorest of his lands and for 33 years makes himself a servant of a single mom and her daughters feeding their pigs.

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That little story is a feeble attempt to illustrate the humility of our Lord when he came to earth for 33 years.

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[1]We think of the billionaires of our day and we view them as proud … well, some can be viewed humble. For example, the billionaire founder of IKEA says he drives a 15-year-old Volvo and always flies economy class.

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Cofounders of Aldi’s, Karl and Theo made billions as owners of the grocery store chain. They remained true to the vision of frugality that drove both their stores and their lives. When Theo was kidnapped for 17 days in 1971, his brother negotiated a bargain ransom of $4 million — which he then wrote off as a business expense.

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And Warren Buffet, whose net worth is $46billion, is chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He still lives in the Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought for $31,500 more than 50 years ago.

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But is this really humility? What does humility look like and what does it actually do? Is humility simply not extravagant? Well then what does it look like; what does it do?

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Well, in Philippians 2, Paul’s shows what humility does: humility unifies the church.

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And you have to remember that this section starts back in 1:27. We learn in the next verse, 1:28, that the Philippians are experiencing opposition, persecution to their stand for Christ. That kind of opposition needs addressing.

How should the Philippians respond? Paul says they need to stand firm in one spirit, 1:27 and strive together for the faith of the gospel.

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But for that kind of spiritual tenacity to become a reality, Paul knows right well, it’s going to take unity. That’s why Paul emphasizes unity in chapter 2. To take a stand for Christ, you’re going to need the unified support of the local church.

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But for unity to become a reality, Paul knows right well, that’s going to take humility. You can’t remain steadfast underneath spiritual opposition without unity in the church. And to get that unity is going to take humility. And so Paul writes…

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Philippians 2:3-8 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.

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What does Paul invite our attention to so that we might be humble, which will promote unity, so that unity will help us remain steadfast in the face of opposition? He invites our attention to the greatest example of humility to found anywhere, the humility of the Christ. We need humility to remain unified so that we’re steadfast under persecution.

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Whether or not individuals experience opposition, we too must have humility in order to have and maintain unity. Each of us must have a flavor of Christ’s humility to have unity in the church and in our relationships. And where there is not unity, pride will rear it’s ugly head.

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TRANS: To help us appreciate the humility of Christ, Paul first describes Christ in glory. So first, in verse 6, … the height of Christ’s humility: His existence as God not clung to.

  1. His height of humility: His existence as God not clung to (v. 6)

    We could word at this point, “the height at which Christ was humble.” What is that height? His Godness in glory. What is that humility? He does not cling to it. Look at it again …very end of verse 5… and verse 6

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Philippians 2:5–6 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,

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EXP: Have this attitude in yourselves … Let’s remind ourselves of what attitude we are to have in ourselves. It is humility. Recall, humility is not demeaning yourself or discrediting your talents and gifts … No, it’s not a thinking of yourself at all. It is the attitude that says to someone, “You are worthy of my service even though I might have been born with a silver spoon in my mouth and am the fairest of all the lands, I’ll serve the poorest of the poor”…you don’t think about your high station in life…

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Humility says, “You are worthy of my service even if I’m in a different social class than you are, 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, 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.

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EXP: We’re to have this attitude in ourselves … This attitude of humility.

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This is the same attitude Paul says that was in Christ Jesus. “Who,” he writes verse 6, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”

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The word form does not mean that he simply appeared to be God in glory but He really wasn’t. That is not what it teaches. No, Christ Jesus was in the form of God for all of eternity because He really is God.

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ILL: The word form can be illustrated this way. I’m in the form of a human right now. Why? Because I am human.

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The form of God simple means that He is God, not that He had only the outward appearance, no … He was in the form of God because that it was really the case. The outward form because of the inward form.

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And so the word refers to who Christ really is, His essence, His nature. His nature is that He is God! … You could even translate it this way, “Although He existed as truly God.”

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EXP: The next phrase clarifies Paul’s point … did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,

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Jesus is equal with God.

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EXP: Equality is the word from which we get our phrase isosceles triangle. All you high schoolers out there who’ve studied geometry know that an isosceles triangle is a triangle that has two sides of equal length. Iso … which is the word in the text and … [sa-lees] sceles meaning legs. An equal legged triangle. Jesus is equal with God.

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It’s the same word used to describe the dimensions of the New Jerusalem. Revelation 21:16 The city is laid out as a square, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, fifteen hundred miles; its length and width and height are equal.

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Just like that city which God’s people will be living in for all eternity has equal dimensions of length width and height, … Just like that, Jesus is equal with God. Jesus is God.

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A step toward humility

EXP: Now we have an expression of his humility. “He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.” His status as God, His position as God was not something to be grasped. KJV says, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God”

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What that means is that He didn’t regard equality with God….He didn’t regard that reality … equality with God…as something to use for his own advantage … He did not regard it as a prize to cling to. He wasn’t proud of Himself all up in glory, he did not have selfish ambition about it and cling to it … nor did He turn up His nose at his inferiors.

But He is not going to consider Himself in all of who He is, in all His glory and He’ll come to earth! He doesn’t regard His equality with God as something to cling to and to use for His own advantage…

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ARG: Let us consider who the Christ is … He is God… and consider what He has left to come to glory.

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He is the one who will come with the clouds, he is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and last… He is the Pantakrator, 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

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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.

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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.

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And in glory they 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.

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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.”

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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.” 13 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…

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“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.

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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 … on His heart is sinful humanity who literally hate Him, millions of people at that time who shook their fist at God and humanity continues until today.

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APP: This is the height of His humility. This is the heights at which He possessed humility … not regarding this as something to be clung to and used for his own advantage. What position, which you know, pails in comparison … what position do you have that you shouldn’t use to your own advantage? Many a pastor has fallen into the trap of high position…a trap filled with glory, gold, and girls … The status of standing up in front and being witnessed and noticed, receiving praise of men …

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What about you? Your place in your business, your status in the community, your skills, giftings, looks … whatever it is, you must not cling to whatever status you have and learn to understand that the lowliest of the low in our church and outside, are worthy of your humble service.

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This is Christ’s height of his humility, He didn’t cling to His high position to use for His own advantage. So what did He do? Verse 7 to the first part of verse 8…

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  1. His humble act: He emptied Himself (v.7-8a)

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Philippians 2:7–8 7 [He didn’t cling to His high position to use for His own advantage] 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…

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This is His humble act: He emptied Himself (v.7-8a)

EXP: He didn’t cling to His own high position; no He emptied Himself. His emptying of Himself relates back to His not clinging to His high status of deity. He didn’t cling to it; He emptied himself.

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Theologians wrestle and wrestle over what he emptied himself of. So if you had to answer that it would be related to His status in glory and how He did not cling to it and use it for His own advantage. He emptied himself… of self in a sense.

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The focus of the text is more not what he emptied himself of but what he emptied Himself into. He emptied Himself by taking on the form of a bondservant. He emptied Himself into a bond-servant, into a self-made slave. Someone who sells Himself into slavery …

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ILL: And so that beloved Charles Wesley’s hymn we sang before the message “And Can it Be” in the original has the line, “Emptied Himself of all but love.” That line has caused confusion. Thankfully our hymnbook as we sang it this morning has changed that line to “Humbled Himself in matchless love.”

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EXP: Because He didn’t empty Himself of deity, but emptied Himself into a self-made slave. He emptied Himself by taking on the form of a slave.

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He took on a slave’s form. This is the real essence. This is the same word used in verse six says that he existed in the form of God. He took on the real essence of a bondservant, truly man. Truly God and truly man.

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Trans: But surely he’d keep some remnant of an exalted state, right? No …

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Paul goes on to point out that He was made in the likeness of men … But this likeness was, as Rom. 8:3 says, not sinful flesh, but sinless flesh. He became man, a perfect man without sin, so that He could effectively die for the sin of man.

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And the big point is that He really is a man. Most people today wrestle with whether or not Jesus is God. But those closest to that time in the first century, His being God was much more clear. They saw His miracles, they heard Him speak, they saw Him die and saw Him after the resurrection. It was clear that He was God. So the earliest controversies over the person of Jesus was whether He was really a man. And this passage is clear He is truly man. And we know from the Scripture that He was thirsty, He hungered, that He could become tired, and that He died. 100% man and 100% God.

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ILL: The first disciples record for us their own lack of understanding of the incarnation. 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.”

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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.”

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.” to be continued, we’ll later if they actually get it …

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APP: Even the Son of Man didn’t come to be served. How much more you disciples shouldn’t insist on being served? Remember what the Lord gave up for 33 years?… Could you give anything up for 33 years? Even chocolate? Cars, houses, lands…? Is your all on the altar?

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You say, “Well, He gave all that up because He knew that we were His inheritance … He knew He was coming to die for His people to receive a kingdom.” Sure, and we can’t yet look around at the churches and brag about the visible glories of that kingdom, now can we? Do you consider yourself such a prized possession?

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And yes He did come for His kingdom and He gave up for 33 years for it … And surely if you give up and deny yourself and take up your cross and follow him He’ll give you 100 times as much, as he promised.

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Christ gave it all up for 33 years to come to this sinful earth… We can at least empty ourselves and give up our menial status of this life and submit our giftings unto the Him and commit to serve with Him with those giftings as even the Son of Man did.

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Christ gave it all up … The birds of the air have nests and foxes have holes, but the Son of Man has not where to lay his head.

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APP: If the Lord Jesus was at such a height and came to such a depth, can’t we? Kill your fleshly mind that thinks you’re so high and mighty. You’re not above delivering newspapers, washing dishes, or cleaning urinals.

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ILL/APP: I remember working custodial and cleaning toilets, I think for about $7.50/hr. Around that time I had launched into a detailed study on humility. And I remember thinking how humbling cleaning toilets was, and I was thankful and thought, “if only all seminary students were required to do this.” I’m not above cleaning your toilet nor you mine. You’ll never be above cleaning toilets. Let alone using your gifts to serve the least among us, even the smallest child, not your own.

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TRANS: His height of humility; his humble act, now His humble obedience.

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  1. His humble obedience: He died (v.8b)

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Philippians 2:8 8 …He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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His humble obedience: He died! Not just by becoming man, as if that weren’t enough, he stooped even lower … by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

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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.

Let’s take this a step further … 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.

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…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.

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Jesus died with his hands and feet pierced through with rough iron, nailed to jagged wood. It was the most dishonourable death imaginable. It was typically reserved for slaves. Most corpses on crosses were not allowed to be buried and were left to decompose and be scavenged by animals.

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Soldiers all around mocking, the crowds jeering, the disciples fleeing, the Father turns His face away, “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?”

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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 cross strips me of all my selfish ambition.

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CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 2.5-8

One wonders what it would take to humble someone. Some of the most intelligent minds of our age look through the most scientific telescopes to observe the most luminous distant galaxies, and they say, “There is no god.” Others have plumed the depths of the oceans or looked into the smallest most complicated cells with the most advanced microscopes with no real thought of the Creator.

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Disasters strike: floods, hurricanes, 9/11 … people consider God for a while, but then the thought perishes. Instead, take a long look at Jesus.

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Well, the disciples finally arrived in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, they still don’t get it. “Whoever would be great among you…” James, do you remember?… Passes right over them. Watch as Peter and John find the room for the Passover as Jesus miraculously directed them. They perhaps conveniently forgot about the foot washing. Walking all that way in 1st century sandals in the dusty Middleeastern climate, Jesus and the apostles would have had the dirtiest of feet. As they reclined to eat the Passover, no one seemed willing to take up the dirty, smelly, humbling task. You can hear the voice of Jesus echo in the disciples hearts … “Whoever would be great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Do you get it?

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With their feet stretched out behind them, they eat the meal. Watch as the God of glory, knowing that His hour had come to depart out of the world to die the death of the cross, and knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God to receive the glory that He had with the Father from the foundation of the world … He got up from supper, removed His outer garment having just a towel, servant style, wrapped around His body. Having poured water into a bowl… He washed the disciples dirty smelly feet wiping them with the towel around His waist.

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Listen as the water trickles down into the bowl and watch as the disciples have the most humbled looks on their faces…as Jesus moves from one disciple to the next.

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“If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

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If it is true that the greater Jesus can wash your feet, surely you the lesser can wash a disciples’ feet. [2]

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He stripped off his robe that filled the temple in glory and here, He stripped off his outer garments as a human to wash dirty sinners’ feet. And days later he would hang on the cross, pour out his life blood, and be laid in borrowed tomb.

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Stand at the foot of the cross, Look there he is… The crimson blood flows there for your cleansing… That thorn-crowned brow, whipped back, see His hands and feet pierced with iron, mocked and scorned by all, God-forsaken of God…

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Is there any pride left now? Any status, any ambition? You’ve counted the drops of blood, haven’t you? If that does not humble you and cause you to fall flat on your face before that cross, you are just like disciples of Jesus … and you do not get it. Someone who has been in the presence of Jesus has been humbled, and if there is any seeking of status in the church… Can you really know Him, who left all His glory to come and be shamed by a cross?

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You were so filthy and defiled, miserable poor blind and naked… That nothing could save you except the sacrifice of the God of all glory.

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Where is politics in the church … when viewed from the foot of the cross? Where is fighting in the home…with a view from the foot of the cross? Where are divisions in the assembly of God’s people looking up at Him on the tree? As Spurgeon put it, “Pride cannot live beneath the cross. Let us sit there and learn our lesson, and then rise and carry it into practice.”[3]

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Bow for prayer.

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I wonder if there are any here and you as of yet “don’t get it” and you’ve been seeking your own pride and status and you really aren’t yet a true disciple of Jesus. Have you seen Him on the tree dying there for you?

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  1. http://addicted2success.com/news/15-super-rich-billionaires-who-stay-grounded-humble/

  2. Hughes, Kent R.. Philippians: The Fellowship of the Gospel (Preaching the Word) (Kindle Locations 1325-1328). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.

  3. Morning and Evening June 3.

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