1 Timothy 3:16 says, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh…”
Awe. Wonder. Praise. Profound worship. These are the right, appropriate responses to this amazing condescension of God the Son. He whose glory shines so brightly humbled Himself to walk in a sin-stained earth. He whom angels worshipped was willing to submit Himself to the despicable taunts and malicious abuse of human beings whose very life was from Him. He who needed nothing was willing to pour Himself out in order to give unworthy sinners the greatest of riches. Yes, awe, wonder, worship. But there is another essential response: imitation.
Let me be quick to clarify. We are not eternal God and can therefore do what Jesus did in coming from the Father’s presence to take on human flesh. But, we as His redeemed people are called to follow His example in the holy motives behind this action. Let’s look briefly at two:
Humility: Paul says in the context of Christ’s incarnation that believers are to do nothing through strife (or selfish ambition) or vain glory. Rather, we are to value or esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). This is so foreign to our hearts. We are born into this world, whether externally or internally, promoting ourselves in some way or another. But, Jesus came not seeking some sinful, carnal glory. He came seeking to glorify His Father. Yes, He preached Himself but not in a way that was separate from His Father. Jesus never used His Divine power to “show off” in some way that was distracted from His holy mission. His heart was set on the glory of God. Is your heart’s desire to promote yourself or Jesus? Do you want people to see you for you, or to see the beauty and character of Christ in you? Would you rather give glory to God or receive praise for yourself?
Service: In the same passage mentioned above, Paul instructed, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:4,5). In verse 8, Paul speaks of Christ as taking on “the form of a servant.” He served the Father by coming to do His will in saving those that were given Him (John 6:38). He came to serve corrupt sinners, not by giving them what their sinful flesh wanted, but giving them what they really needed. Jesus came with a heart and perspective of a servant of God and servant of others. It is remarkable, the Lord of glory came to serve. The King came and compassionately gave generously of Himself to minister to the destitute.
Do you have many thoughts about what you want, but very little about how you can bless others? Do you resent being asked to do something to help others? Positively, have you experienced the joy of pleasing God above yourself? Have you had the fulfillment of honoring Christ by serving someone else even when it wasn’t pleasant or your preference in the moment? How we need to pray for hearts that are more God-focused and others-focused than self-consumed. More thoughtful of how to serve in His kingdom and bless others than to live out a selfish agenda.
The beauty of how these lofty teachings of Scripture are supposed to work is just what we are saying here: these truths should lead us to great worship and spill over into shaping what we think, plan and do. Knowing Christ both stretches our minds to the maximum of trying to fathom His great works, but also gets us moving and doing in the trenches of ordinary daily life. The incarnation should lead us to high and sincere praise as we sing about it on Sunday morning, but also inspire us in the difficulty of caring for a child or elderly parent, stepping up to help with a project at church, or reaching out to someone who seems lost and alone.
May God give us grace to worship and imitate.