Friday, February 11, 2022

Formed by the Word Week 5: Attitude

Week 5: Attitude

Spiritual formation is often on my mind. I often ponder what it means and looks like to grow in Christ's likeness, for this is the calling - the purpose - of everyone who professes to be in Christ. Every one of us is called to this. I started reading a book by a French pastor, Michel Bouttier, called "Christianity According to Paul". In the opening pages of this book, Bouttier points out something in the book of Philippians that I had not noticed before, even though I have studied Philippians numerous times. In chapter 2 of Philippians Paul shows that conducting oneself in "a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Phil 1:27) will manifest itself in a life of love and humility (Phil 2:1-4). In Christ we have the supreme example of this type of life, and so, Paul calls us to have the same attitude as Christ, which he shows in 2 Philippians 2:5-8. But here is the thing I did not notice before. While Paul gives us Christ's example, he goes on in Chapter 3 to show us his own example of having the same attitude as that of Christ. Paul lives out his admonition to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1), and in doing so shows us how to live in a way so as to have the same attitude of Christ.

First, let's look at Jesus' attitude revealed to us in Philippians 2:5-8.
"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.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death -
even death on a cross!"

Jesus Christ was in his very nature, God. He had God's divine privilege and position and status. Yet, he did not consider - regard or view - his equality with God as something to be grasped - held onto, clung to selfishly, used for his own advantage - or, in American terms, he did not exert his right to his equality with God.  The New Living Translation (NLT) translates verse 6 with this tone: "Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God."

Instead, verse 7 tells us, he made himself nothing. The word "made" implies that this was a vouluntary action on Jesus' part. He voluntarily made himself nothing - in other words, he emptied himself of his privileges and rights and poured himself out. How? By "taking on the nature of a servant, being made in human likeness."

Jesus said to his disciples, "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28. A servant is submissive to the will or needs of someone else. They voluntarily put others needs before their own (Phil 2:3-4). The cross is our example of Jesus putting our needs before His own and being a submissive servant to the will of the Father. How might we put others first and serve them as the Father wills it?

Paul goes on describing Jesus' example in verse 8: "And being found in appeatrence as a man," - taking on man's characteristics and weaknesses, becoming just like us - "He humbled himself". How did he humble himself? "He became obedient to death - even death on a cross!" His obedience and humility were shown most gloriously on the cross. In Jesus' time death on a cross was the lowest and most disgraceful form of death. Yet for the sake of others - for us - and to be obedient to the Father, Jesus willingly went to His death on the cross. He humbled himself for our sake in order to redeem us from the power of sin and death.

"For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." 2 Corinthians 8:9

So, now we look at Paul's example of having the attitude of Christ in Philippians 3:7-9.
"But whatever was to my profit" - Paul had listed some of the credentials that allowed him privilege, position, and status in Philippians 3:4-6. Of the people of Israel, the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews, a Pharisee, a persecutor, legally righteous, faultless. In his day and culture his Jewish roots and his position placed him far up the hierarchy affording him rights and privileges others did not have.

But, he goes on, "I now consider loss." He willingly gave up all that he had. Why? (Vs8) "What is more, I consider everything a loss compared with the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ."

Paul's sole purpose was "to gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness that comes from the law [i.e., earned by status, position, nationality, deeds, or rights] but that which comes through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith." (Vs 9)

Paul lived his life for Christ, imitating Christ's attitude of service, humility, and obedience to the Father's will. It is because he had the attitude of Christ that he could then call others to "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." (1 Corinthians 11:1) 

Our call from God is to to spend our lives, for whatever length of time we have, growing in Christlikeness (Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18). Having Christ's attitude, living His ways, imitating Him. It can be hard to figure out what that looks like in our culture today. Our call is not to have the attitude of the world, the culture, our nationality or ethnicity, or of celebrities, politicians, authors, or political parties, or even of our families or parents. Our call is first and foremost, as children of God, to have the same attitude of Christ. To have His mind. So, like Christ, and Paul, we are called to live in ways where we yield our rights, our privileges, our position for the sake of Christ to serve others humbly, voluntarily, and sacrificially in obedience to the father's will.

As I pray about how to be Formed By the Word this year, this is the direction in which I am exploring. How to live out the ways of Christ; how to have His attitude; how to grow in Christlikeness. Praise God that He has given us His Word to guide us and to show us what Christlikeness looks like.

"Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good." Titus 2:14

I would love to have you to join me in being formed by the Word this year. After reading the above post, do some study on your own. Dig deeper into the verses and passages mentioned and then respond creatively. Share your thoughts and creative responses in the comment section below or on social media with #formedby theword and #wordsartandfaithgroup, and in our private Facebook group for words challenges the Words Art and Faith group.

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