For by grace you have
been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 WEB

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Our God in the Heights

Jesus: The Man Going Down

Jesus came down from heaven to be with us as one of us. That we can easily see. But His descent didn’t end there—with becoming like us. He descended further and became what we had always been meant to be. Then He descended even further to become what we had never been meant to be. We, on the other hand, can hardly wait to rise higher. We all too often hate and fear the descent, even though it is life-saving and soul-transforming.     

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him. Philippians 2:5-9 ESV

The Man Going Up

The Bible is full of ironies. Picture this one: Saul storming across the Syrian plains towards Damascus, “hell-bent” on crushing the infant sect of Nazarenes there.[1] Holy indignation over their Jesus: The Man Going Down: The Kenosis of Christ: Divine Descentreligious error inflames his zeal. Unholy ambition to make a name for himself spurs him on. Then, from out of the blue, a totally unexpected revelation literally knocks him off his “high horse.” Saul has been persecuting the very God he believes he is serving! Until this moment Saul is a man going up, blinded by pride. It's only when he meets the "Man Going Down" that his spiritual eyes are opened. His life will never be the same. He, too, becomes a man going down.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ. Philippians 3:7-8

What is it about Jesus that can produce such a change? Many things, no doubt, but for now let’s focus on this one: His perfect humility.[2] This is one of His most endearing characteristics, but it is also one of the least expected. Let us remember that none of the ancients would ever have thought to see humility in their gods—those exalted beings (demons really) demanded obedience, respect, worship and service worthy of their high rank. Not Jesus. He didn’t come expecting to be served.

"For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  Mark 10:45 

We should have been willing to live for Him and die for Him, our Creator and our Supreme Lord. He could have stayed in heaven where He belonged. Instead, He chose to live and die for us. He descended in order to rescue us. Seeing this about Him crushes our self-centered blindness. In conversion we see our sins: that humbles us. We also see our Savior taking our place: that humbles us even more. We see in Him what we should have been and what we now desire to become.

Saul wasn’t the only man going up. All of us, men and women, have been going up into pride ever since birth. This primary temptation underlies all of our temptations: to become “like God” in our own little worlds—just as Adam and Eve were tempted before us.[3] Part of what this means is that we enthrone our own opinion as Truth and then use our wills to act independently of God. As “gods” with Self stubbornly set on the throne, we are restless, un-trusting and resentful under the conditions and limitations of our humanity. 

The Divine Reversal

Jesus never “grasped at” god likeness as Adam and Eve did, though He had every right to do so. Ironically, Jesus was the only person ever born who was willing to become fully and only human. Paul says that He “emptied Himself” of His divine attributes in order to become man.  This mysterious and marvelous event is called the kenosis of Christ.[4]

If Jesus had not done this, He could never have been a genuine human representative who could legitimately die in our place. Neither could He become an Example we could follow.  It is only because He lived within the conditions of our humanity that we can hope to follow in His steps. Consider this carefully lest old-fashioned, “super-human” ideas of Him still prevail in the back of your mind: All that Jesus did on earth He did in His Humanity.

1) He lived by trusting the Father with His life—a faith-life same as ours.

2) He did only what He believed God desired Him to do—a faith-walk same as ours.

3) He was anointed by the Holy Spirit for all of the works—a faith-empowerment same as ours.

Consider also, what true humanity meant for Jesus. Jesus “came down” into all that it means to be “merely” human.

Dependence
Weakness
Limitations 
Hunger and thirst
Temptations
Humiliations  
Sorrow   
Suffering    
Mortality

We are told by Paul in Philippians that Jesus humbled Himself further by becoming “a slave” to the Father’s will. Then, He went down further still, carrying his obedience “to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross.”[5] Ultimately, and most terribly, He sank into the lowest depths our humanity ever reaches, when He was “made to be sin”—our sins—and suffered our punishment.[6]

 

The Way Up

Now watch this: First the Father raised Jesus up from death and the grave and then the Father highly exalted Him.[7] The way down was in reality the way up. Going down is the way to be Poseidon Adventure Living Illustration: Going Down Anyoneraised by God! He always raises those who go down into true humility.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you. 1 Peter 5:6

What going down means for us:

1) Go down into your mortality, completely accepting that you will die yet trusting God to raise you one day to heaven, and you will be raised from all fear of dying even now.

2) Go down into your weaknesses and make peace with the fact that you will always have weaknesses in one form or another, but you will also always have a Helper to call on, and you will be raised and sustained by His supply of strength.

3) Go down into your physical being and totally accept the body God has given you and you will be raised above all vain concerns about your body.

4) Go down into your lack of knowledge and accept that there will always be many things that you don’t know and you will be raised to the higher wisdom of trusting God rather than your own understanding.

5) Go down into your sinfulness, be honest about how bad it truly is, and you will be raised to a greater realization of His mercy and love.

6) Go down in surrendered obedience to rightful duties and they will become a path of life, raising you into integrity and joy.

7) Go down in humiliation before others, looking only to God, and God will raise you into the unassailable reality of His acceptance and love for you.

May this mind be in us that is in Him!

More to Explore

His Terrible Death  No one could see it at the time. Jesus had to descend into the abyss of suffering and sin without a guide to lead Him through it, or a friend to cheer Him on. How it must have looked like a colossal mistake, a ghastly travesty of justice. In reality it was the most noble and valiant conquest of a hideous foe—all that is fallen and corrupt in our nature. The innocent Victim became the invincible Victor—even before He died!

The Sacrifice of Christ: The Power of His Blood   According to the Lord’s own instructions to Israel the power of an atoning sacrifice is in the blood that is shed. Many moderns typically become squeamish at the thought of a bloody sacrifice and question its necessity. Being willing to shed that world view allows us to see through the lens of scripture what is in the Mind of our Maker. Knowing and believing what Jesus’ Blood means can establish your faith like nothing else.

Scriptures on the Humility of Christ

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7 ESV

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: "I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isaiah 57:15

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9 ESV

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 ESV



Scriptures and Foot Notes

[1]  This amazing story is told in Acts 9:1-18.
[2]
  "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29 ESV
[3]
  “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5 ESV
[4]  In Christian theology, kenosis (Greek: κένωσις, kénōsis, lit. emptiness) is the 'self-emptying' of one's own will and becoming entirely receptive to God's divine will. The word ἐκένωσεν (ekénōsen) is used in Philippians 2:7, "[Jesus] made himself nothing ..." (NIV) or "...[he] emptied himself..." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenosis
[5]  But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! Philippians 2:7-8 AMP
[6]
  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
[7]
  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11 ESV