Advent Reading: December 3
5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
This Advent text looks back on the coming of the Son, the second person of the Trinity. The “coming in the likeness of men” refers to the Incarnation; the Son’s taking upon Himself a human body and nature at His Advent. The statements about the Advent are introduced with a command to “let this mind [emphasis added] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” What we are told about the Advent is to result in an attitude in us that reflects the attitude of the Son. So we are forced to think a bit about what verses 6-8 tell us about Jesus’ attitude. It is important that we get this right. We certainly want to imitate the right attitude, not the wrong one.
Sadly, there has been a general confusion in evangelicalism at just this point. All too often, we are told that the Incarnation was an exception, something out of the ordinary for God’s character. The text is misread to say something like “in spite of Him being God, He emptied Himself of His godly nature and instead came to die for us.” This leaves us with a distorted view of God, implying that Jesus acted different from His basic Divine Nature. We end up thinking that God is usually not of a mind to serve others, but did this one time because sin had messed up things so badly. God will, in really tough times, have a mind to serve others, but we are led to believe this is not His normal mindset.
This mistaken view of the text has a direct result on our sanctification. We are told in Psalm 135:16-18 that men take on the characteristics of the gods they worship and trust. If we think that God only occasionally and exceptionally acts in sacrificial service to others, then we will be like that sort of God. We will think of serving others as an exception to our normal lives. Isn’t that, after all, the Divine Nature?
No. The facts of the Advent are prefaced with a simple declarative statement that Jesus is God’s Image-bearer. He possesses the Divine Nature, and this explains what follows. The first thing the text tells us about the Incarnation and Advent of Jesus is that it is a result of Him being God. Because He existed as God, because He has the mind of the triune God, He is by this Divine Nature moved to not to seek His own glory, but rather, to seek the well-being of others. Because He is God, the text tells us, He became human, and then humbled Himself to die for sinful men.
The Incarnate Son’s mind of self-sacrificial service was not an exception to the Divine Nature. John 1 tells us that Jesus came to “declare” the Father. The Greek word translated “declare” is the origin for our word “exegete.” The Son has come to exegete the Father, to show us the sort of God it is that we worship and whom we are to imitate. John’s Gospel climaxes with the death of Jesus, the great revelation that we serve a God whose mind and nature is to self-sacrificially serve others. This is the mind of Christ Jesus that we are to have as well. We are to see all of our lives as ones of service to others. This is the great message of Advent, according to Philippians 2:5-9. God has come, He is indeed love, and we are to be like Him.
—Pastor Dennis Tuuri, Reformation Covenant Church, Oregon City, Oregon
Gracious Father, please forgive us for believing Satan’s lie that you are selfish, and not loving towards us in all things. Thank you for the wonderful message of Advent. May our Advent celebrations inform our minds, attitudes and actions not just in this joyous season, but in the balance of our lives. May we be self-sacrificial image-bearers of our blessed Savior, in whose Name we pray, AMEN.
Help the individual members of the family think of practical acts of service to others this Season, and to commit themselves to these actions in prayer. Additionally, select one project this week for the entire family to perform in self-sacrificial service to others.