This week I was reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and as I was reading it, I was so captivated by Paul’s mindset throughout the letter. I’d encourage you to sit down and read the whole letter (it would probably take 10 minutes) and just listen to some of the things Paul says about himself and his mindset towards his own life.
It’s a mindset that every Jesus-follower is supposed to have, but it’s also one that many of us today have not developed, and so it’s easy for us to just view it as too radical or not realistic.
For example, listen what Paul says in the following two verses (Philippians 3:7-8):
“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ…”
We read these words and we hear him say these things and let’s just be honest, most of us aren’t on the same page as Paul just yet. Some of us can’t say what he says here. Some of us feel like Paul is so far out there and so radical that we just can’t even relate to what he’s saying here at all. But hopefully there’s some of us in here who are at least thinking, "I wish I was like this and I wish I could say these things, but I’m not there yet."
How did Paul get to this place in his own life? How did he develop this kind of mindset and view towards his own life?
His life had been completely transformed by Jesus. His worldview and the trajectory of his life was completely changed by Jesus. And Paul understood that the only way to respond to what Jesus had done for him is to become like Jesus — to imitate Jesus.
What do I mean by that?
Paul understood that living as a follower of Jesus is seeing your own life-story as a living expression of Jesus’ life-story. The very nature of the idea of following Jesus implies that you will begin to imitate Jesus in the way you think and live your life.
That’s the central point of this entire letter. Paul wrote a poem in chapter two of this letter that is the center-piece of everything that he’s teaching in the rest of the letter. It’s a poem worth memorizing if you can, and we read it in 2:5-11 where Paul says:
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
This poem expresses Paul’s convictions about who Jesus is, and it offers the example of Jesus as a way of life that his followers are to imitate. Jesus willingly gave up his status and privileges in order to love and bless us. And Paul has pointed out how he has given up his status and privileges in order to love and bless others too. And so, Paul is simply instructing the Philippians and us today to follow his example as he is following the example of Jesus.
Imagine what would happen if more of us were living examples of Jesus’ life story?
How much of an impact would we have in this game and in our communities if we were willing to give up our status and privileges and become servants like Jesus who sacrifice ourselves in order to love and to serve and to bless others?