Many of the commercials and advertisements we see today encourage living “the good life.” Get ahead, no matter what it takes. Get to the front of the line any way you can. Make your way to the top and step over anyone who gets in your way. Helping yourself is more important than helping others. This is the message of the world. But the message of the Bible is different. The longer we serve Christ and trust in him, the more it becomes clear that while self-sufficiency is a popular concept, it’s really a lie. Philippians 2 provides an excellent word picture of what the good life really is, and it has a lot to do with our ability to live in Christ.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care—then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand (Philippians 2:1-4, The Message).
Belief and understanding are not the same thing. Followers of Christ can be just as confused by the way God works as those who profess not to believe in him. However, when you believe Jesus is who the Bible says he is, and who he claimed to be, then you operate out of faith rather than understanding. The more we trust him despite our confusion, the more our faith in him grows as we emerge on the other side, knowing that we arrived there only through his grace and care for us.
Philippians 2 reminds us that Jesus showed us how to live by humbling himself in obedience to his Father and became human. He didn’t place conditions on the incarnation. He didn’t ask for special privileges or cling to his equality with God. He simply obeyed. He knew the consequences before he came to earth. He understood the suffering and rejection that awaited him, but he obeyed because he knew it would bring glory to his Father and reconcile us with God. Because of his love and respect for his Father, because he trusted his Father, and because he knew he lived in his Father and his Father lived in him, he obeyed. Let’s take one last look at Philippians 2.
Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God(Philippians 2:14-16, The Message).
On a recent trip to Israel, I was reminded of the humanity of Jesus and what he suffered to bring glory to his Father and fulfill God’s plan to reconcile us to himself. He came to die for us so that we could live in him.
I walked today where Jesus walked, echoes in my mind,
A song from childhood rings new truth with each new step I find.
Worn as they are from centuries of pilgrims passing through,
The stones are firm reminders that my life has been made new.
You walked this land, you taught of love, and yet you had to die
I bow in awe of what you’ve done and cannot help but cry.
For those unworthy, just like me, you offered up your life.
You willingly gave all you were, to put an end to strife.
And yet, so many still don’t see, they don’t accept your gift.
They seek to find another bridge to cross this mighty rift.
They won’t believe you are the way, and see your life as love,
A love beyond that of this world, sent down from God above.
A promised land, where your own blood was shed for all mankind
Is still a land of war and strife, a land where evil blinds.
So many bound in hatred’s grasp and crushed by earthly pain,
While what you sought to show us is that death is but our gain.
Sue Wilson and her husband, Don, have recently retired from Christ’s Church of the Valley in Arizona, a church they started together in 1983. They are now leading a ministry to encourage pastors and wives, to give consultation to church leaders, and to help the global kingdom of God grow through healthy churches.