One of the first verses of the Bible my oldest daughter memorized when she was young was Philippians 2:3. We read in Holy Scripture,
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.Philippians 2:3
Philippians 2:3 is a verse that challenges the inclinations of every individual. A person’s tendency is not to be concerned about God and others but with the self. Yet, we admire an athlete or movie character who demonstrates a remarkable level of self-sacrifice. Likewise, our military is honored for its self-sacrifice. Thus, we see glimpses of self-sacrifice, but it isn’t easy when we are personally faced with an opportunity to place others before ourselves. So why does the tension exist? And how does a person lay down self-interest for the sake of others, and more importantly, for God?
The Nature of Man: Sin
Every person born into this world has a sinful nature (Genesis 3). Because of sin, every person has an insatiable desire to put their needs and wants before others and God. For example, marriages that break down can often be attributed to a selfish desire. Siblings might fight over a toy, not because the toy is interesting, but because the other person has the toy. Sin corrupts the heart and can make a person hyper-focused on the self. If all this is true, how can someone begin to live out Philippians 2:3? How does a person put the needs of others before the self?
The Path Toward Self-Sacrifice
After you read Philippians 2:3, we are told to take on the mind of Christ (v. 5). Taking on the mind of Christ means following the self-sacrificial humility of Christ. Consider for a moment how Jesus modeled self-sacrifice through humility. Jesus knows about your sin, and he took the hard path to the cross to forgive your sin and set you free from the power of sin. If you are a Christian, Jesus died on the cross in your place. If you keep reading Philippians 2, you will read this glorious verse about Jesus.
And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.– Philippians 2:8
Philippians 2:8 is the good news. If you are a Christian, you are called, every single day, to lay down your desires, wants, and needs for the sake of others and the glory of God. Christians are called to emulate Christ.
These characteristics seem like sensible advice:
- Taking on the mind of Christ.
- Living humbly before God and each other.
- Looking out for the interests of others before your own.
But when you consider that Christ humbled himself by dying on a cross and Christ put our lives before his own, and this is what you are to model, the task seems insurmountable. And apart from God, it is. But with God, you can live out these life-giving words. With the Holy Spirit working in your life, humbly putting the needs of others before yourself is a joy.
As you ponder the joy of self-sacrifice, think of one person you can serve. What are the needs of that person? How do you demonstrate Christ to that person by humbly laying down your needs for the other? When a person has come to your mind, along with the need, take time to act. Be like Christ.
Yet Not I But Christ Through Me
This devotional was written for Agape Pregnancy Resource Center in Des Moines Iowa. Learn more about Agape at agapedsm.com. To hear more about what it means to be pro-life, church out the podcast, Why We Are Pro-Life.
Shawn Powers is the lead pastor of Redemption Hill Church. You can follow him on Twitter at shawn_DSM.