The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

Gerard_van_Honthorst_-_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_(1622)We are getting ready to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the moment when God became man and stepped into human history. The theological term used is “incarnation”. God became flesh. He became like His creation. God came to His creation to be a servant. Jesus Christ came in the flesh to set an example to follow. In order to follow His example, we have to surrender the leadership of our lives over to Him. This is the lesson that the Apostle Paul worked really hard to teach the church in Philippi. In order to understand this concept, we are going to turn to Philippians 2.

In verse five of chapter two, Paul commands the Philippians to have the same mind/attitude that Jesus Christ had while He walked this earth. Let’s find out what that attitude was and see the manifestation of that mind in the daily life of a follower of Jesus Christ.

I. The Attitude/Mind of Christ

The focus is Christ. He is the only One who can live out His mind/attitude through the believer. This is why it is important to understand Christ’s attitude.

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. (Philippians 2)

The first thing that we learn from this text is that Jesus Christ is God. He is, always was, and always will be equal with God the Father. In the redemption of mankind (buying back mankind from the slave market of sin) God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have different and distinct roles. Having a different role does not make One superior or inferior to the Other. Man and woman were both created equal in the eyes of God, but, they have different roles in marriage. Their different roles do not make one superior or the other inferior. The leadership role is no more valuable (or less valuable) than the suitable helper role. They work together to accomplish a divine goal. The same is true for God the Father and God the Son in the task of redeeming mankind. God the Father takes a leadership role while God the Son takes the role of submission and obedience. They are still equal, just occupying different roles. Here is the attitude of Christ manifested. He did not hold on to His role of leadership. He released it to take on the role of humble, obedient servant. Jesus became a man, born of a woman like the rest of humanity, yet, with one major difference. Jesus did not inherit Adam’s sin nature. There was nothing in Jesus that would respond to temptation. Jesus carried out His role of obedient servant to the end. He died a humiliatingly painful death on a cross. Jesus was at the highest of highs and He willingly chose to humble Himself to the lowest of lows for the sake of others (mankind). This mindset is in direct contrast to the mindset of Satan. Let’s take a look at Satan’s attitude.

12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations!
13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north.
14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
15 “Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol, To the recesses of the pit. (Isaiah 14)

Satan was almost at the highest of highs, yet, he wanted more. He did not think of others, the way that Jesus did. He only thought of himself. Notice how many times the phrase, “I will” is used in the above text. Satan had much but wanted more. Jesus had it all and was willing to let it go in order to serve humanity. By birth, because of our sin nature, we align more with Satan than we do with Jesus. The word, “I” is our favorite word because it is all about me. By default, we have the attitude of Satan. If we do nothing, just wake up and go with the flow, we will follow the mindset of Satan. God has to intervene for us to be able to have the mindset of Christ. God did intervene via the incarnation. What does it look like when a person has the mind of Christ?

II. The Christ imitating believer

In order to see what a follower of Christ with the mind of Christ looks like, take a look at verse 1-4 in Philippians 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.
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 first thing that happens when a person has the mind of Christ is he or she becomes an encouraging person. An encouraging person is a person who is others oriented. This person seeks to build up others instead of focusing on building up himself. Satan focused on himself. We are selfish by nature. When we surrender control to the leadership of Jesus, we become encouraging people, others oriented, others focused. The second aspect of the mind of Christ is consolation of love. This is manifested by coming along side someone and calming and comforting that person. In order to do this, you have to be others oriented and others focused. The third manifestation of having the mind of Christ is seen in the sister words, affection and compassion. Affection means that you feel with the people around you. You are aware of their situations, their pain and that affection leads to action. This is where compassion comes in to the equation. Affection without compassion is not helpful to others. It is really not others oriented. Affection leads to compassion (action) from the person who has the mind of Christ. Is this a lofty goal that we set for ourselves or were there actually people during Paul’s day who lived this way? Let’s find out.

III. Three examples

The Apostle Paul uses three examples in Philippians two. The first example is his own example because for this to resonate with the Philippians, they needed to hear, “do as I say, as well as, as I do”.

17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.
18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me. (Philippians 2)

The Apostle Paul, at one time in his life, lived for himself, according to his sin nature. He did not care about others at all. In fact, he was a murderer. God transformed Paul and he was born again. Paul received the mind of Christ and began to live it out day by day. Paul viewed his life as a drink offering to the Lord. He was poring his life into the lives of the Philippians, for their benefit. This is exactly what Jesus did during the incarnation. He poured out His life into others. He served others and then died on the cross to pay the sin debt for all mankind. Paul wants the Philippians to do the same. Now, in doing this, Paul was beaten and thrown into prison. In fact, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians while in chains for preaching the Gospel. Jesus came and poured out His life into serving others and as a result, He was mocked, beaten, and murdered. The second example that Paul uses is his child in the faith, Timothy.

19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, so that I also may be encouraged when I learn of your condition.
20 For I have no one else of kindred spirit who will genuinely be concerned for your welfare.
21 For they all seek after their own interests, not those of Christ Jesus.
22 But you know of his proven worth, that he served with me in the furtherance of the gospel like a child serving his father. (Philippians 2)

Paul poured his life into Timothy and now Timothy is using his life to pour into others. He serves Paul and is ready and willing to serve the Philippians. Timothy seeks after the interests of Jesus Christ in all that he does. The third example used by Paul is Epaphroditus.

25 But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need;
26 because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.
27 For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, so that I would not have sorrow upon sorrow.
28 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.
29 Receive him then in the Lord with all joy, and hold men like him in high regard;
30 because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was deficient in your service to me. (Philippians 2)

Epaphroditus put his life on the line in order to invest in others. He suffered as a result of being others oriented. If having the mind of Christ and being others oriented causes you to spend your life in investing in others, living in humility and suffering as a result, why would I want to do this? What motivation do I have to do this?

IV. The Results

Satan wanted to exalt himself and as a result, he fell to the lowest of lows. Jesus wanted to serve others and as a result, He humbled Himself to the point of humiliation. Will there be a reward for this?

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. (Philippians 2)

God highly exalted Jesus at the right time. God will highly exalt those who have the mind of Christ and are others oriented, but, He is going to do it in His timing. Are you willing to humble yourself and wait for God’s timing? The choice is yours. There are two paths set before you. There is the path of Satan, the one that comes naturally to you and to me. It is a selfish path that leads to you being forced to bow your knee to Jesus as Lord. When that happens, it will be too late. The other path is Christ’s path, a path that is others oriented and lead to exaltation in God’s time. This path does not come naturally to you or to me. Which path will you choose this Christmas season?

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