You’re on a roller-coaster-like journey teeming with concealed twists, turns, and plunges permeated with exciting mystery. Sometimes you cry out with tears of joy and/or fear. On the best of days, the spiritual adrenaline rush satiates your soul. On other days, the ride paralyzes you in dread and anxiety, debilitating your very being. Though this “in-Christ” life is yours to live into and enjoy, you find yourself unable to experience its fullness due to your own limiting brokenness, faulty thinking, and emotional jitters. If not for the transformative resources of the Triune God, you would have no hope.
For you, in particular, the journey of self-emptying continues to captivate you. The reality is that you’ve never before made such efforts to know Jesus Christ as you are now beginning. “Effort,” not in the sense of trying harder but in the sense of prioritized focus, quiet diligence, and consistent commitment. You thought you were making progress when you had a deep desire to know Him, certainly a necessary element in the knowing process. Yet, desire proved to be just the beginning. Truth is, you didn’t know what you didn’t know.
A life lived in union with Christ means experiencing Him in unknown ways including ways uncomfortable to you and unfamiliar. You can’t foresee the twists and turns let alone control them. It’s a fearful thing to plunge into the unknown.
For example, the Great Apostle discloses (Phil. 2.5-7) that to have the “mindset” of Jesus Christ means to know what it is to experience self-emptying. He describes it this way:
Have this mindset in you that is available to you in Christ Jesus
who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God
a prize to be held tightly,
but made himself insignificant,
taking the form of a servant…
Literally, He “emptied himself” –
he became nothing: of no importance.
he became unknown: of no reputation,
he became feeble: of no effect.
You usually don’t think of Jesus in these terms – unimportant, unknown, ineffective. In fact, if pressed, you’d probably deny such a Jesus existed. He was no “boy wonder” or child prodigy making headlines for his miraculous accomplishments as a child, teen, or young adult. Insignificant! You are to do the same. You are to become unimportant, unknown, ineffective: empty, of no reputation, weak…have this mindset in you.
Discover the glory of insignificance. Acknowledge the value of emptiness. Participate in Christ’s nothingness. It’s a thrill ride of divine proportions.
Contrast this mindset with your own of the past few decades. You worked hard to develop a reputation for spiritual uprightness when in reality you developed an insidious self-righteousness. You fancied yourself as theologically astute and biblically grounded when in reality you were doctrinally dismissive, relationally contemptuous, and piously pompous. You put on a good front but inside you were eaten up by smugness.
As a Christian leader, you had to be the strong one, blazing a trail of faith so others would know the right path. Weakness and ineffectiveness were not viable options. Success, impact, and accomplishment proved that God was with you and that others should admire you for your sacrificial service. You learned to hide this deeply entrenched, covert self-importance behind ostensible words and moralistic behaviors that only increased your self-deception. Self-emptying was not for you even though it was clearly spelled out in Christ’s example and scriptural teaching.
Thankfully, for reasons mysterious and unique to you, your darkness is being enlightened; the scales are starting to fall from your eyes. You’re seeing yourself more clearly as you struggle with your pride. You’re learning self-emptying vs. self-expression; self-denial vs. self-satisfaction; self-sacrifice vs. self-interest.
Do you think that you’d be asked by God to do something that wasn’t for your good and wasn’t ultimately glorious? You are to develop a self-emptying mindset like Jesus. Do whatever it takes. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Don’t talk yourself out of it. Make no excuses. Persevere in the effort.
But, how? What does self-emptying look like? You can explore that in your next post.