By this time, having looked at five ingredients that Paul assures us make for complete joy, we have revealed one of several things about ourselves. Either we have begun (or continued) adopting the scriptural ingredients from the recipe for joy, or we have exhibited the fact that we do not really believe the Scripture or that we covet our own will and temporal desires more than the will and joy of the Lord. Having come this far, there remains one ingredient essential to the realization of complete joy. Paul exhorts us to “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). The attitude found in Christ was expressed primarily in two voluntary actions, which we ourselves are to take.
6th Ingredient: Adopt the same attitude that “was also in Christ Jesus.” First, He “emptied Himself” (v. 7). The Spirit of God, through Paul, does not leave us to guess the nature of His “emptying.” His emptying began with a remarkable attitude: “He . . . did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). Who can enter the mystery of this statement? Christ did not value His duly held privileges and perquisites as much as He valued His Father’s will. Whatever the cost, He esteemed His Father and His Father’s will. We, with no right to anything, scrabble and scrap for riches, rank, and privilege. The Son freely divested Himself of all those. That attitude led to His holy action of “taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (v. 7). He, Who had created the angels, suddenly found Himself “a little lower than the angels” and subject to the all the weaknesses, infirmities, and ignominies (apart from sin) inherent to us as humans. The omnipotent One became a frail man. The One Who had created angels suddenly required their ministry and intervention to strengthen Him. The One Whose Presence had filled the universe found Himself doggedly trudging dusty paths to get from place to place. The One Who created and owned heaven and earth found Himself without a place to lay His head. In short, a lowly servant.
Second, He “humbled Himself” (v. 8). As with the first action, this one is wholly voluntary. And not only did the Lord humble Himself voluntarily, but He did so with great joy. If it seems that nothing more terrible and ignominious could happen to the Lord than that which has already been described, then we need to discover how Scripture explains this self-humbling: He became “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (v. 8). Christ’s self-humbling entailed much more than momentary shame or embarrassment or some exposing of a natural weakness: His humbling required dying the painful death of a convicted criminal, but infinitely worse, enduring the wrath of God against sin that is our rightful due. The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, became the Servant of Jehovah and, in a very real sense, the Servant of those whom God would call to salvation: He labored to the point of suffering and dying in order to deliver lost sinners from the clutches of Satan and hell.
We cannot suffer as Christ suffered, nor is it in God’s plan that those who know Him do so. But if we want complete joy, then, as exemplified by Christ, we must both empty and humble ourselves. The first involves taking God’s view of us, namely, that apart from His grace we are helpless, lost, depraved sinners meriting only God’s wrath and eternal hell. Self-esteem has no place in a life seeking the joy of the Lord. The second involves taking up our cross and following the Lord—not in order to work out our own salvation but in order that we might submit ourselves to the Lord and do His will.
As with any natural recipe, the list of ingredients, though valid, will only produce something worthwhile when combined and implemented. Though Christ came that we might have joy and have it abundantly, joy does not spring forth full-bodied of its own accord. It requires the submitting of our wills, desires and purposes to the Lord and doing His will in His way. Then we will know the joy of the Lord.
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