Spiritual Success or Distress?
Quarter 1, Lesson 7

Lesson Seven

Jesus: He Surrendered To Serve

Text: Philippians 2:5-8

Our human tendency is to minimize the sacrifice of another person. The more a person's sacrifice occurs outside my personal experience, the more likely I am to minimize it. Consider: a person makes an enormous sacrifice. However, his (or her) sacrifice was made in an area completely foreign to my experience. Nothing in my life makes it possible for me to relate to his (or her) sacrifice. Because I cannot relate to his (or her) sacrifice, I tend to regard the sacrifice as simple, easily made, or more appearance than substance. My experiences do not equip me to understand. I cannot comprehend or appreciate the magnitude of that sacrifice.

Jesus' sacrifices are under-appreciated by Christians. To a degree, we can relate to the sacrifices Jesus experienced in his betrayal, trials, and painful death. We do not relate to the sacrifices Jesus' experienced in becoming a human.

Context of Philippians 2:5-8:

The congregation at Philippi struggled with relationship problems. That struggle is an understandable problem. Among their first converts were Lydia and the jailor (see Acts 16:11-40). Though Lydia was from Thyatira, she maintained and staffed a home in Philippi. She sold an expensive fabric. The cloth she sold was affordable only to the rich and to royalty. Lydia lived and moved among the elite and the wealthy.

In contrast, the jailor imprisoned and guarded people committed to his charge. He associated with people who were (a) vile or (b) rejected. The nature of his responsibility typically made a man uncaring and hard.

The every day worlds of these two Christians shared little in common. It is likely that only conversion to Jesus could create a context for the two to associate.

The evidences in the letter of the Philippians of relationship struggles include these:

  1. The news Paul wanted to hear concerning them was that they "stood firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together" (1:27).

  2. They could make Paul's joy complete by "being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, [being] united in spirit, [and being] intent on one purpose" (2:2).

  3. Some were contentious, conceited, and full of a sense of self importance (2:3,4).

  4. They needed to be challenged to develop humble minds (2:3).

  5. Some grumbled and argued (2:14).

  6. Two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche, who were especially helpful to Paul and his companions, did not live in harmony (4:2).

On what basis did Paul appeal to them to (a) create an attitude of mutual respect, (b) develop the willingness to serve each other, (c) maintain mutual love for each other, (d) be united in spirit, and (e) focus on their common purpose (2:2)? He challenged them all, as individuals, to follow Jesus' example.

Paul's instruction: "Develop the attitude of Jesus Christ." Jesus did each of these things. Discuss each of them.

  1. He did not cling to "equality with God."

  2. He "emptied himself" when he, the preexistent Word, became the creature He created. (Also see John 1:1-3.)

  3. He willingly assumed the lowest, least respected role of human existence. He lived as a servant.

  4. In human existence, he experienced the ultimate disgrace--execution as a criminal.

    Christians are motivated to develop the attitudes that willingly assume the humble, selfless existence of a servant when:

    1. They see Jesus as their Lord and Master.

    2. They allow Jesus' earthly existence to be their example.

Only when we see Jesus as a servant will we learn to be servants. Only when we see Jesus as a servant will we choose to use our lives to serve.

State your three greatest expectations about your life in heaven. These would be the three things that you most desire in that existence. When you get to heaven, when you live in these continuing experiences, for what would you willingly abandon them?

Jesus loved us enough to abandon the total existence and experiences of heaven willingly. He had everything we want and left it all for our benefit. Before he became our Lord, he lived as a human to provide us the example of how to live human life.

Only by being a servant could Jesus accomplish God's will. Only by being a servant can we accomplish God's will. Because Jesus was a willing servant, God could achieve His purposes through him. When we are willing servants, God can achieve His purposes through us.

Even before he was born, Jesus totally surrendered himself. He surrendered to serve.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 1, Lesson 7

Copyright © 1999, 2000
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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