Have This Attitude In Yourselves!
By Raymond D. Sopp
Philippians 2:5-8: "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
In my commentary, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me," I wrote of the motive which caused Jesus, the very Son of God, to leave heaven to suffer the excruciating pain of death via the cross. In the Britannica-Webster dictionary, the word "motive" is defined as, "something (as a need or a state of mind) that leads or influences a person to do something." We discovered that the only motive Jesus needed to leave heaven was His awe-inspiring love for mankind. Jesus saw mankind's need for salvation and He became exceedingly motivated to do something about it, even unto leaving heaven and suffering an excruciating death via the cross. There is no other motivation mentioned in the Holy Scriptures which provoked Jesus' awe-inspiring actions except His unfathomable selfless love for mankind!
That being the case, I made the argument that whatever we do as Christians should also have just one motive, an awe-inspiring selfless love for mankind. A love so powerful that we wish for none to perish, but for all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. A love so powerful that we endure all things, setting aside our own wants and desires by crucifying them on our cross. The Apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:10, "For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory." And in Colossians 1:24: "Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions."
The Apostle Paul, born-again and filled with the Holy Spirit, not only rejoiced in his sufferings, but was honored to be a partaker of Christ's afflictions for mankind. Paul became one with Christ Jesus, inasmuch as, he was born-again with the Spirit of Christ -- even the Spirit of God. The only motive Paul needed was his selfless love for mankind, a love placed within his heart by God, the Holy Spirit. Paul wishing for none to perish, took up his cross daily, laid his life aside -- even his desires, to deliver the gospel message to mankind.
"Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus . . ." Now, by the grace of God, I wish to write about the attitude you and I should have, which was also in Christ Jesus. The word "attitude" has to do with position. For example, a plane's attitude is its position relative to some fixed reference point. In the same way, our attitude is determined by the way you and I see our position relative to another person. For example, if we see ourselves in a higher position than someone else, our attitude would reflect a superiority and our demeanor would come across to others as judgmental. On the other hand, if we see ourselves in a lower position, our attitude becomes submissive and our demeanor would come across to others as that of a servant, i.e., a minister. Our attitude has a profound impact on everything we do or say. It will even have a profound effect on our perspective, i.e., how we evaluate any given situation.
For example, I often hear it said in the Church today that if God doesn't judge the USA, He would have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah. In doing so, are we, as God's ambassadors of reconciliation, not acting a little like the Pharisee in Luke 18:10-12, "Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.'"? And if we are acting a bit "holier-than-thou," are we then expressing to the unsaved (the world) the attitude which was in Christ Jesus? Are we expressing an attitude to the unsaved consistent with our role as God's ambassadors of reconciliation? Luke 9:54-56: "And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?' But He (Jesus) turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them.' And they went on to another village."
And if we are standing in judgment, how then can we evaluate, anyone or anything, clearly enough to be God's ambassadors of reconciliation to the unsaved? Luke 6:39-42: "And He also spoke a parable to them: ‘A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit? A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher. And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,' when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother's eye." And in James 4:11-12, "Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?"
On the other hand, I see the situation we have here in the USA as evidence of our (God's Church) failure to be the salt and light we are called to be. Matthew 5:13-16: "You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do men light a lamp, and put it under the peck-measure, but on the lampstand; and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
Could the USA's moral decline be evidence of our light growing dim, or being completely out? After all, we know by experience that darkness can NEVER put out the light, but light will always conquer darkness. If you doubt it, try to go into a lit room and turn on the darkness to put the light out. On the other hand, we can ALWAYS defeat darkness by turning on a light. But if the light grows dim, or goes out, darkness will always fill the vacuum. Therefore, do we continue to blame the darkness, or should we be looking to see if we (God's Church) are putting out any light at all? 2 Chronicles 7:14: "And MY PEOPLE who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."
Therefore, I humbly submit to you that along with motivation, attitude needs to be an equal and active participant in molding us Christians into the image of Christ Jesus. Where motive may be the potter's right hand, attitude is his left. Can you image what a vessel being formed on a potter's wheel would look like if the potter ONLY used his right or left hand? I can image a very lopsided, unbalanced, even a disfigured vessel, which could never resemble the image the potter was trying to produce. Which in our case would be a vessel that would reflect the potter himself. With that in mind, fully grasping Philippians 2:5-8, becomes both pivotal and critical before we can reflect a proper image of Christ to a lost and dying world. 2 Corinthians 5:20: "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God." Therefore, let's take a look at this pivotal -- even critical -- attitude we are instructed to have within us.
"Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped . . ." Yet we (God's Church) are so zealous to lay claim to (grasp) so much just because through Jesus Christ we have been ADOPTED into God's family. And now that we are adopted, do we automatically know good from evil and know all things? Do we no longer have to ask God for His will? I recently heard a minister with a VERY large TV ministry say, "We cannot ask God for His will when we pray, because it would destroy our faith." I don't know about you, but I have not yet arrived to the place where I'm all knowing and all seeing. All of our faith must be directed at God's love and faithfulness toward us, including God's wisdom when dealing with the dilemmas in our daily lives. It is imperative for us to do so, because at best, until perfection comes, we see through a glass darkly. Therefore, using the power of our faith to acquire our will, outside the confines of God's will, would at best be foolish and at worst, Satanism. For even a mustard seed of "ungodly" faith can indeed move mountains.
Genesis 3:2-5: "And the woman said to the serpent, ‘From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.' And the serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.'" Can you image what it would have been like if Adam and Eve had this attitude within them, ". . . did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped."? Why, we could have avoided all of this present-day suffering! Adam and Eve could have said, "Get behind me, Satan! Not my will, but God's will be done!" Having the right attitude is an awesome safeguard from being tempted to do evil, and it will even give us eyes to see through Satan's deception!
We are to have a holy fear (respect) for God, an awesome fear and respect for God's wisdom over and above our own. Have we not heard that we are to lean not to our own understanding and trust in God with all of our heart? How can we have trust and faith in our God, even the God of Jacob, Isaac, and Abraham, concerning our eternity, and yet seem to mistrust Him so effortlessly with our day-to-day lives? God forbid if I do not rely on His wisdom over my own by adding to my prayer, "Yet not my will be done!" Even when I find myself in an affliction that I cannot understand. After all, that is when we find out if our faith and trust in God are truly genuine!
Psalm 78:40-42: "How often they rebelled against Him (God) in the wilderness, and grieved Him in the desert! And again and again they tempted God, and pained the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember His power, the day when He redeemed them from the adversary." All of us Christians have been delivered from our adversary, Satan! And we were delivered with an even greater display of power than God displayed in Egypt. Will we now question God in our wilderness experience? Are we so distrustful of God that we have become afraid to end our prayers with, "Nevertheless, Your will be done."? Would it not have grieved and pained you if you have proven to be faithful time and time again, and yet in a time of crisis, your love and faithfulness were questioned? Psalm 106:13-15: "They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel (plan), but craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them." God's ways will always be higher than our ways! But will we trust God?
Philippians 2:27: "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, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow." By using the word mercy, does that sound like the Apostle Paul both demanded and expected God to heal Epaphroditus? As there can be so many ramifications to one answered prayer (desire), do we really want to take on the responsibility of imposing our own will? Genesis 3:6: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate." Yes, even a desire which seems good, proper, and righteous in our eyes can turn cataclysmic, not only for us, but also for future generations.
"But emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant . . ." Jesus emptied Himself, no one forced Him, His act was completely voluntary. So a nonchristian has nothing to fear, we (Christians) cannot force you to accept Jesus as your savior. So relax! Unless, perhaps, it is the truth itself you fear. The Greek word used for bond-servant is very interesting. It describes one who is in a permanent relationship of servitude to another. The bond-servant's will is altogether consumed in the will of the other. The bond-servant is completely devoted to another's will, even unto the disregard of one's own interests, i.e., not my will, but Your will be done. Dear friends, we Christians are ALL called to be bond-servants to God!
"And being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man . . ." 2 Corinthians 5:2-4: "For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life." Isn't this just incredible and amazing!? We're groaning to be clothed, while Jesus laid all aside to become like us. And Jesus did it for a people, shall we be kind and say, who was somewhat less than alluring. The only way we know if we have this same attitude within us, is if we see the salvation of this somewhat uncomely world as being MUCH more important than getting our own desires and needs fulfilled, i.e., taking up our cross and following Jesus.
"He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." Deuteronomy 8:3: "And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." How do we know when we have the same attitude as Jesus had? When in the midst of our severest wilderness experience, even our severest trial, we forsake the use of all of our God-given powers for our temporal relief for God's eternal purpose. In other words, using none of our power until we see our Father do it first. Yes, asking God for His will to be done over and above our own. Laying down our lives, our will, for His!
Matthew 4:2-4: "And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became (extremely) hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.' But He answered and said, ‘It is written, Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'" What if Jesus had given in and used His power to deliver Himself from hunger? We know Jesus had the power, being the Son of God. But Jesus would not use His power unless He heard from God Himself. If Jesus had given in to this temptation of the flesh, would He have not also used His power to avoid the even greater suffering of the cross? We all know Jesus had the power to extricate Himself from this most excruciating trial via the cross. But if He did, where would you and I be? At the time, do you think anyone understood God's plan?
God forbid that any of us should suffer, because now we have Holy Spirit POWER -- right? WRONG! Allow me to answer this in the same way Jesus did in Matthew 16:23, "But He turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God's interests, but man's.'"
Father, as it is written, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God," help me to have the same ATTITUDE as was in my Lord Jesus. Help me to trust and wait on You, even in my severest trial. Especially when I do not understand! For Your ways will always be higher than my ways. Help me to remember the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, "Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth (and in my life) as it is in heaven." Fill me with faith and power from above so I may know Your will, and be able to place Your will over and above my own. In Jesus name, Amen!
From my heart to yours,
Raymond D. Sopp
All above Bible references are from The New American Standard Bible, (La Habra, California: The Lockman Foundation) 1977.
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