Pride is one of the most insidious sins a Christian will ever face in this life. It grows deep, it grows fast and it grows fruit. It is a root sin – a sin from which many other sins grow. Because of this, it is often hard to see it in ourselves unless given the eyes to see it by the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.
Pride is a misplaced hope in and adoration of ourselves. We like to rule ourselves, we like freedom to make our own decisions, to obey our own pleasures, and to be recognized for being good people. We like to do things ourselves because we feel we know best how to do them and cannot trust someone else to do them as well or as thoroughly.
Because pride is inherently comparative, we must be careful to whom we compare ourselves. We cannot compare ourselves to other people; we must compare ourselves to Christ.
How do we do this? Paul – in his exhortation to the Philippian church to cultivate unity and humility in their life as a church body – gives us what we need to kill pride at the root.
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.”
Let’s consider how Paul breaks down the example of Christ and seek to apply it to ourselves.
1) The Mind of Christ
2) The Life of Christ
The Mind of Christ: “He made himself of no reputation.”
“Let this mind be in you,” Paul says. A lowly mind, a humble mind, a mind that does not grasp at power, a mind that doesn’t scheme for position and acclaim.
“He was in the form of God…” This statement declares His divine nature. Christ is God. As God, Christ deserves all praise, adoration, glory and honor. He is due all of it. He has every right to it.
And yet, He laid down his rights. “He made himself of no reputation.”
Remember the temptations of Jesus in the wilderness in Matthew 4? All of the temptations are appeals to Christ’s divinity. “If you are the Son of God…” – own it, demonstrate it, you deserve it. And yet Christ – identifying with our humanity and following the Father’s plan and timetable – does not give in. Though He has the power to turn stones into bread, though He has angels at his command, though He has the right to be recognized as a King and to take up a kingdom, Christ resists. If He did not then we would have no hope and have every reason to be mocked and pitied.
It was not the Father’s time to reveal Christ in glory in the 1st century. The Son of God had every right to demand that every knee bow before Him the moment He took on human flesh and He had the power to bring about that response in people. But the Father’s plan was for Christ to be humbled so that the debt of the sin of His people could be paid and the Father’s reputation as being just and merciful could be upheld.
Indeed, the Father has declared that there will be a day when the whole earth will see Christ in glory (Philippians 2:9-11). Christ’s reputation now, even after his resurrection and ascension, is still paltry compared to what He deserves. And yet, even now, Christ is pleased to have it thus. How do we know? “Nevertheless, not my will, but Yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)
The Life of Christ: “He became obedient to the point of death.”
It is easy for us to be obedient to the point of life – meaning, it is in our best interests, oftentimes, to obey. We can avoid strife in relationships, avoid the penalties of law-breaking, and avoid the sting of being thought of as law-breakers. It may not be easy, but we can do it. We can keep up appearances if it gives us the life we want.
But Christ’s obedience is so different.
“Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)
“My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to finish his work.” (John 4:34)
Christ’s obedience was so essential to who He was that He considered it as food. It filled Him, nourished Him, and satisfied Him. Why? Because He was thought of as righteous by others? No – in fact, He was often despised for it because His obedience ran counter to some of the man-made rules the Pharisees had put up.
He was a bondservant of God and the end point of His obedience to God was His death. The Bible says if we are to follow in Christ’s footsteps – if we are Christ followers – then we must die as well. We must die to our desires, to our pleasures, to our dreams, to our reputations, to our schemes, to our self-esteem, to our will and our desire for self-rule. We must put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13) and take up Christ’s yoke (Matthew 11:29).
If we were honest with ourselves and were to look at our lives, could we say that we look like Jesus at all? I’m not talking about sinless perfection, but is there a pattern of humility before God and a sincere and deep-rooted desire to have that fruit of the Spirit cultivated in us? Do we want to follow Him when it comes to our thinking about ourselves?
Could this description be carved into our tombstone as a summary of who we are and what we did in our lives: “He became of no reputation and he was obedient unto death.” Do we wish it could be a summary of our life? If not then we may call ourselves lots of things, but we are not Christians.
The frightening thing about pride is that it thrives in religion. Religion is a great incubator and mask. Religion allows us to find our identity in good things. Someone might identify as the person who always cooks meals for the sick, or the one who always volunteers to give a Saturday to repair a church member’s car or house. Someone might identify as a preacher or teacher in the church. The setting and occasion do not matter as much as our heart.
Are we lowly in mind? Do we have the mind of Christ?
If our reputation is built on doing good things – if our identity and purpose are taken from being good people – then we do not know this lowly mind. We do not have Christ’s mind. We are simply as the Pharisees – doing our charitable deeds to be seen by others (Matthew 6:1). We are living for ourselves. Cleaned up, socially acceptable, sacrificial versions of ourselves, perhaps – but we are living for ourselves all the same.
Whether we have been believers for a long time or recognize that we have never known the Christian life that the Bible describes, our response is the same. Repent and believe!
Remember Christ. He was equal with God and – out of love for the Father and submission to His will – gave up His divine rights so that sinners could be made right with God.
Follow Christ. He is our hope but He is also our pattern for life and godliness (1 Peter 1:3). If He was dependent upon the Father for His identity, direction and purpose, how much more must we depend on the Father?
Obey Christ. Because he is God, He carries all the authority of God when He gives us a command. “You shall not be as the hypocrites.” (Matthew 6:5)
He has given us an impossible task – but He gives us the grace to obey Him if we cry out to Him as the tax collector in Luke 18 – “Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner!”