Christ as the Pattern

Make my joy full, that you think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking the one thing, doing nothing by way of selfish ambition nor by way of vainglory, but in lowliness of mind considering one another more excellent than yourselves; not regarding each his own virtues, but each the virtues of others also. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider being equal with God a treasure to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, becoming in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, and that the death of a cross. Therefore, also God highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name. That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:2-11

It seems an ironic and interestingly odd thing that the very first lie the devil ever told was to himself! This lie, marketed and sold to a third of the angels and Eve in the garden of Eden, continues to be perpetuated through the indwelling sin in every single man’s flesh. How many times has this lie been repeated? How much has this lie been propagated within the hearts of humanity? It’s one of self-promotion, self-expression, and self-seeking, or more simply put, good ole pride. When Lucifer, stopped looking to God and started gazing at himself, his heart was lifted up because of his beauty and he corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness (Ezek. 28:17). The lie he convinced himself and even humanity of, was that his form was higher than it actually was! He considered himself to be equal with God! He believed that his life was a treasure to be grasped! In Isaiah 14 five times he said “I will”, with a final declaration that “he would make himself like the Most High”. This is the very source and beginning of selfish ambition and vainglory, of regarding one’s own virtues versus those of others. And what was the result? What was his “therefore”? His outcome was not exaltation and cost him even his name. “How you have fallen from heaven…. How you have been hewn down to earth” (Isa. 14:12). Now maybe because rebellion begets rebellion or maybe because misery loves company; this accuser, slanderer, tale-bearer, and father of lies brought all of humanity into his conspiracy. A plan which culminated at the tower of Babel, where the whole earth joined in rebelling against God, even attempting to reach the heavens and make a name for themselves (Gen. 11:1-4).

This is the antithesis of what Paul speaks in Philippians 2 and what we believers are called to know and experience today! It’s here that Paul shows us a pattern of one whom we should regard, one whose mind we should allow to be in us. This pattern is the God-man, Jesus Christ, who because of His consideration and emptying has been exalted to God’s right hand as both Leader and Savior (Acts 5:31). However, what did He actually do in order to be highly exalted by God and bestowed with the highest name? What is the mind that we should allow to be in us? If we’re not careful, and have only a superficial understanding of the person and work of Jesus Christ then we might analyze what the Lord did, and why He did it, from a shallow view.

Firstly, let us look at what the Lord actually did. The Lord existed (and still does) in the form of God. He was in the beginning, not only with God, but was God (John 1:1). He is the effulgence of God’s glory and the very impress of His substance (Heb. 1:3). He is the location where all the fullness of the Godhead is pleased to dwell (Col. 2:9). He as the only-begotten Son of God, the second of the Godhead in the divine trinity, through the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God and His will (Acts 2:23, Eph. 1:11) became flesh and tabernacled among men. (John 1:14). Do we really see this humbling? Can we relate in anyway? The infinite God, the self-existing and ever-existing I AM, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, and the One whose goings forth are from eternity, became a finite man.

Now in your natural concept or lack of comprehension we might think – what’s so difficult or wrong with that, I’m a human. The Creator not only became one of His creatures, He took on the lowest possible form. He didn’t merely empty Himself in order to come in the likeness of men, but also as a slave! What an emptying, what a humbling! Our God did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for the many (Mark 10:45). But why? Why would He do such a thing, especially when His form was actually something worthy to be grasped? Certainly, in order to accomplish redemption God had a righteous requirement that needed to be fulfilled. Romans tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). In order for each of us to be justified freely by His grace there was the need for God to set forth Christ as a propitiation place through His blood, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Rom. 3:24-25, Heb. 9:22).

But is this what Paul is speaking about within these verses? Surely because of our redemption we appreciate what the Lord did. We can and should have a love for the Lord because of His willingness to suffer death, and that the death of a cross. However, and I don’t say this lightly, or sarcastically – Is that all that He did? Is the mind that we need to allow to be in us one that we continue to appreciate the redemptive sacrifice of the Lord over and over again because we continually fall away from Him (Heb. 6:6, 10:29)? How many gospel messages can we or have we heard yet still provide no power to overcome sin and the flesh? Even within these verses there is a window to more, that actually starts with the word “even”. The verse doesn’t say that He was obedient unto death or obedient at or during death, but that He was obedient even unto death, i.e. there was more that He was obedient to than simply His death on the cross! So, what did the Lord do that was so much more worthy and so much more of a treasure?

If anyone had the ability to live a perfect and sinless life, it was the Lord. He came in the likeness of the flesh of sin, but didn’t have sin. He was the pure and spotless lamb of God, without any defect whatsoever, who took away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is our great High Priest who was tempted in all respects like us, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Because of this He could have regarded His own sinless humanity, but didn’t. He could have, just as Peter naively thought, my life is worth saving, worth preserving, worth uplifting; but what was His response? Get behind me Satan! Get behind me prideful one. You are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of men, on the concepts of fallen man. He then goes on to say that if anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself and whoever wants to save his soul-life shall lose it. (Matt. 16:22-25). Do you really believe that the Lord would ask His disciples to do something that He Himself was not willing to do, or better yet, not already doing?

So again, we come back to, what is the mind that we need to have in us and what is the pattern that we need to experience – It is to live by another life! One of the most marvelous things that the Lord did was not live “His” own life! Every action the Lord took, every word He ever spoke, every element of His human living was a life that was not His own, but of the Father. The gospel of John confirms this time and time again. It tells us that He spoke the words of God (John 3:34). His food was to do the will of God (John 4:34). He didn’t do His own work or anything from Himself (John 5:17-19). He didn’t come in His own name (John 5:43) and He came not to do His own will (John 6:38). His teaching was not His (John 7:16) and he didn’t speak from Himself (John 12:49). This is true obedience, an “even unto death” obedience. All the time, for His entire life, He lived by another life. He lived a life of obedience, of submission and of dependence on God.

Because He was sinless, He actually could have lived a life that was in complete righteousness before the law of God out of Himself by His own life. However, that is not God’s plan, His economy. His goal is to make sinners into sons of God and to that end He has predestinated us unto sonship through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will (Eph. 1:5). How could He be the fulfillment of the prophecy through Abraham that through his seed all the nations of the earth would be blessed unless the Lord as the reality of the seed or grain of wheat didn’t fall into the ground and die? If not, then while He would have met the objective standard of God’s holiness and righteousness through the law in Himself, He would have abided alone (John 12:24-27). This is the reason God actually rewarded, uplifted and exulted Him. It was for what He didn’t do rather that what He did. Here we can see the real nature of what our Christian life should be, and the real matter of how God views sin and the flesh. No matter how good or how bad, no matter how right or how wrong, if God didn’t and wouldn’t exult Jesus for his true ability to live a perfect, moral, sinless life; then how will we ever attain to the standard of God’s requirement?

Although your righteousness to Him is like soiled garments and your iniquities, like the wind, carry you away (Isa. 64:6); let’s for a moment pretend that we could meet all of the requirements of the law in our flesh. Do you believe that would satisfy God? I don’t pity an answer of yes, but I’m also not sure we really understand the purpose of God’s creation of man along with what transpired in the garden during his fall. Only those who have eaten of Christ (John 6:53-54) as the reality of the tree of life (John 1:4, 15:1) and apply Him as their pattern by denying their soul-life can ever please God. Only those that learn to live by the life of God can truly bear His image and have His dominion. Replay the scenario as many times as you want. Input ourselves with all our virtues and how excellent we consider ourselves and we still would have failed! Even though the Lord Jesus was a Son, he still learned obedience from the things which He suffered (Heb. 5:8). How much the more do we need to have His power perfected in our weaknesses. (1 Cor. 12:9-10) It’s through the many experiences of not only success, but even more failure, of discerning our own mind versus the mind of Christ, of dividing the soul and the spirit (Heb. 4:12) that we are able to consistently tell out the virtues of Him who has called us (1 Pet. 2:9).

Now we can see how to let this mind be in you! The Lord is now the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). Also, he who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor. 6:17) and through the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ He can be expressed and magnified in our lives today (Phil. 1:19-21). Practically we can do this by openly confessing that Jesus is Lord by calling on His name (Isa. 64:7, Acts 2:21). This is a clear agreement with God’s exultation of Jesus and a heavenly reminder that we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer we who live, but it is Christ who lives in us, and the life that we live, we live in faith, faith of the son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us (Gal. 2:20). To call on the Lord’s name, to confess His name is to not only remember Him and worship Him, but it also is to agree with the reason, the rationale that He was uplifted. In our Lord Jesus Christ, God finally found a man in whom He delighted, in whom He could trust, in whom all authority in heaven, on earth and even under the earth could be given. So, may we remember and worship this kind of man! Not “what would Jesus do” but what life did He live. It’s not about trying to imitate the life of the Lord but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:2, Eph. 4:23) so that we can have the very mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2:16). It’s not simply that God is on the throne, but that a man is on the throne. It’s not in the name of God or of Lord, that every knee will bow. It’s in the name of Jesus! “There’s a man in the glory whose life is for me”. This man and His living a life that was one with God and absolutely for God is the reason for His exultation. So even though we do not see all things subjected to Him, we see Jesus, who was made a little inferior to the angels because of the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor (Heb. 2:8-9).

This is our pattern. This is the way for us not only to be saved, but to much more be saved in His life (Rom. 5:10). No wonder Peter saw the precious blood not simply in relation to sin but also related to our vain manner of living (1 Pet. 1:18-19). Only by the daily application of denying ourselves and learning to live by another life through rejoicing in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4) will we be able to satisfy God. It is through our unceasing prayer, unceasing exaltation of Christ in our daily life that we by the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ can take Him as our pattern. No wonder that Paul said “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). This knowing and experiencing the Lord is such a way is to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12) and will cause us to duplicate the living of the God-man Jesus Christ again. May all those who love the Lord in incorruptibility be graced to be freed from selfish ambition and vainglory and to be like-souled with the other members of the church, which is His body.

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