“The Emptied Christ” – Philippians 2:1-8

“The Emptied Christ” – Philippians 2:1-8

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Both Tim Keller and C.S. Lewis have deeply shaped how I think about this passage. 


Our text for today comes from Philippians 2:1-8. If you are using one of the Bibles in the pew rack the text can be found on page 980. These are the words of God:

27 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


Paul opens with a string of appeals. “Is this Christianity stuff good for anything?” Then let it drive you into a humility that leads to true relational peace and unity. Now, this entire passage is about the one topic that is more difficult than maybe any other to preach: pride and humility.

Humility: Why do we need it? What is it? How do we get it?


In v. 3 Paul says we’re naturally inclined towards selfish ambition or conceit. And, the Bible says this is the one vice no one can avoid. We hate it when we see it in others, but none of us imagine that we ourselves are guilty of it. People will admit to having a bad temper or that they abuse alcohol—but no one says, “I’m prideful.”

Lewis said that all the other vices such as anger, greed, and drunkenness—they’re all fleabites in comparison to pride – and we’re all guilty of it.

But, what is it? There’s an expression Paul uses in v 3 and the old KJV gets pretty close with “vainglory,” for the word is “κενοδοξία.” “κενο” – to be empty. “δοξα” – glory. We’re all “glory-empty.”

The Bible says that we were not made for ourselves, nor were we made primarily for other humans. You were made for him; to know him and enjoy his glory. Only the infinite, blazing glory and beauty of God can fill the glory vacuum of your soul. And, if you turn away from him, you have an infinite glory vacuum—an infinite validation and approval vacuum, that can never be filled with praise or accolades from finite humans. If you turn away from God, you’ll be cosmically insecure, touchy, and irritable.

So, here we are: all starved for validation and approval. All insecure and starved for respect. And this is why we fight. We’re not sure of our own significance, and whenever we feel that someone is threatening our glory, or our validation, we go on the offensive, because it’s better to have someone angry at us than to be ignored.

Jonathan Edwards (Charity & its Fruits) essentially said that our glory-emptiness manifests itself in 4 ways:

Willfulness – Always right. Often wrong, but never in doubt. Doesn’t listen. Will not receive and act upon wise counsel. It’s a mark of inner emptiness.

Scornfulness – Putting people below you. Courtesy and gentleness is not a sign of being nice, but of being full.

Drivenness – It’s one thing to work hard. It’s another to work habitually.

Unhealthy self-consciousness – To be self-absorbed either by your own perceived greatness, or worthlessness.

Husbands, why do you get angry when your wife disagrees with your judgement. Wives, why do you secretly disdain and scorn your husband when he overlooks you? Why is there so much bullying in young people? Why do we fight? Not because we’re assured of our self-worth, but because we are not.

“Pride is the first sin that ever entered the universe and the last sin to be rooted out.” It’s the sin that made the devil the devil.

Why do we need humility? Because we’re all glory-empty, looking to finite creatures for validation that only God can give us.


The essence of pride is considering yourself. And some people consider themselves through congratulation, others by condemnation, but they share one thing in common: the focus is on themselves.

Notice how Paul goes after pride: Paul doesn’t say to the self-congratulator, “You should be more self-condemning.” To the self-condemner, he does not say, “Start respecting yourself.” Instead, he says to both, “Consider others” The photonegative of being “glory-empty,” in v. 3 is considering others. Humility is not thinking less of yourself—it’s thinking of yourself less.

You aren’t all-wise—so you have to consider the wisdom and opinions of others. You need 2-3 close friends in the church to whom you go for counsel—and they need the freedom to challenge you, and you need to submit to godly counsel.

You who are driven – take a break to enjoy time with family. Consider their need for companionship with you. Don’t delay marriage and children for the sake of being driven in your career.

Who are you serving? Your spouse? Parents? A neighbor? Ask them what their needs are and then fulfill them in the same way you would if they were your needs.

But this call to consider others more important than ourselves introduces a new problem. We all know what it takes to consider others. It takes work. It isn’t easy. We can do it for a little while, but we begin to run dry. We sacrifice until we realize that our needs aren’t being met in return. So, how can we ever consider others when our needs aren’t being met? What hope do we have, when we’re empty, of filling others up? How can we meet the needs of others if our own needs are not met?

When you’re preparing for takeoff, the attendant explains that when the oxygen masks fall from the ceiling you are to put your own mask on before trying to help anyone else. And the reason is when the cabin loses pressure there’s a void of oxygen. And only if your lungs are full of oxygen can you help others. The same is true here.

The only way you can selflessly serve others without doing it to fill your own approval vacuum is if you are already full.


The only way you’ll be full enough to serve others selflessly, with no thought of how it may come back to you is through the incarnation of Jesus Christ. If you are going to war with pride, the incarnation is the ultimate weapon. Why?

Jesus Christ is the ultimate threat to your vainglory because when you meet the real Jesus you realize that you’ve met someone who in every way is immeasurably superior to yourself. Look at where he is—in heaven, exalted, worshipped by innumerable angels. V. 5 – he’s in very nature, God. This means his true and permanent glory outshines your ephemeral vainglory as the Sun outshines a hand crank flashlight.

And what threatens our vainglory so much is the fact that he’s not threatened. In fact, in the incarnation—he gives up everything we’ve ever wanted—and he does it without a second thought. He’s equal to the father—and he lets it all go. He’s adored by angels, yet he chooses to be scorned and mocked. He says, “Not what I will.” I won’t insist on my own way.

All of us are empty, and we’re killing one another to get glory. Jesus Christ was infinitely full of glory and he emptied himself, even allowing himself to be killed. Why? For you.

We all want validation and recognition and we’d rather someone be angry at us than be ignored. And yet, on the cross, the one who was infinitely glorious was emptied and forgotten. Do you see what happened? At the cross, Jesus Christ went through our worst nightmare. We turned away from God and deserve his turning away from us. Instead, Jesus Christ was cast out so that we could hear the voice of the Father saying, “You are my child. In you, I am well pleased.”

At the end of the Lord of the Rings, Sauron has been defeated, all of the great warriors and kings of the earth have gathered on the field of victory… and in walk these two tiny Hobbits. Here are these two little people standing before the banners and trumpeters of Aragorn.

“And then to Sam’s surprise and utter confusion he bowed his knee before them; and taking them by the hand, he led them to the throne, and [set them upon it]

To our great surprise and utter confusion, the true king of glory has bowed the knee, gone to the cross, and in doing so, has set us upon the throne.

It’s not enough to know this—you have to use it on yourself. You have to daily take it into yourself and let it fill the emptiness until you are full. You can’t validate yourself. No other mere human can validate you. Only the infinite glory of Jesus Christ, seen most clearly in his incarnation and death can fill you so that you overflow in service to others.


“Striving Together” – Philippians 1:27-30

“Striving Together” – Philippians 1:27-30

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Our text for today comes from Philippians 1:27-30. If you are using one of the Bibles in the pew rack the text can be found on page 980. These are the words of God:

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Father Almighty,

We thank you that the Scriptures are your holy and perfect Word. We pray now that your Spirit would teach us, reprove us, correct us, and train us in righteousness. And we ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.


The passage is filled with athletic, military, and political terminology, and all of it is a charge to the church to stand together at citizens, strive together for the gospel, and to suffer together for the sake of Christ.

Philippi was a Roman colony, and its citizens were Roman citizens. Yet, Paul reminds them of a higher citizenship and calls them to exemplify Christ, not Caesar. “Walk in a manner worthy,” is a single political term that literally means, “discharge your duties as a citizen.” This is the “headline” of the passage, and all else is an outworking of this headline. They do this through interconnected relationships: standing firm & striving together (v. 27)

Their attempts to live out their Christian citizenship will inevitably create opposition because they answer to a higher king than Caesar. Nonetheless, they aren’t to bolt like startled horses at the first sign of opposition.

Christian unity and courage in the face of persecution, Paul says, are clear signs that you have been saved and are being saved by God. Christian unity brings together natural enemies. It is other-worldly unity. And Christian courage abandons all the world holds dear for the sake of that which the world despises. (v. 28)

Finally, Paul warns the Philippian believers not to incorrectly interpret difficulty and suffering as a bad omen, when in fact it is a gift from a gracious God. (v. 29) If Paul, who brought them the gospel suffered and faced opposition in order to do it (Acts 16), they should expect the same. (v. 30)

When you come into the kingdom of Christ you gain an identity that runs deeper than every other identity you previously held. Those twin realities, that we are born condemned sinners and that we may be cleansed and redeemed in Christ, cut beneath all other identity roots. And, for this reason, Christians as diverse as black and white, rich and poor, white collar and blue collar—can stand together as one unified church.

Friends, there were no greater natural enemies than Jews & Gentiles in the first century. So naturally divided were they, that even the Apostle Peter had hang-ups over associating with non-Jews. (Gal. 2:11-15) When Paul confronted him he didn’t use woke coercion and pressure to tamp down his prejudice against Gentiles. What undermined Peter’s prejudiced tendencies? Paul told Peter he was out of step with the gospel.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility (Eph. 2:14)

A Side-Note On Unity

Throughout the history of the church, there is a debate over what kind of unity the church should have. In Ephesians 4 Paul says:

4 There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (Eph. 4:4, 5)

In this sense, there is an objective, invisible, spiritual unity that all believers across time and space share. At the same time, this invisible unity can be more or less reflected in the visible church.

One of the major errors of the RC & EO systems is that they equate institutional unity with real spiritual unity. They equate submission to their form of church government with the real spiritual communion all true Christians share in Christ.

So, while we lament visible divisions in the church, those visible denominations aren’t in and of themselves a contradiction of Christian unity. In fact, this side of heaven, and denominations can be healthy ways to preserve the faith and our own consciences. (Credit for ideas in this section to Aaron Ventura)


Paul is emphatic: the Philippians are not to be frightened by anything. They are to strive alongside one another for the gospel in the face of opposition. Paul was in prison, feeling first-hand the awful opposition of a state opposing Christ. In the years that would follow, Nero would set off nearly 200 years of persecution of the church that would eventually culminate in the persecution of Diocletian. Christians lost their legal rights, and many were executed in places like the Coliseum. Christians in our own nation have already begun to feel the same opposition. I don’t desire to dwell here on the opposition, but instead on our call to “strive together.”

Christians, over the next years and decades, you will need one another. We just came through 2.5 years of egregious government overreach on all citizens, but especially on churches. Never forget those churches were threatened with legal action simply for meeting on the Lord’s Day. Never forget those Christians who were threatened with job loss because they refused to submit to a tyrannical edict from DC.

You will need other Christians who agree with Christ. You will need to share your resources with one another. Many of you will need to help a brother or sister in Christ find employment. You will be called upon to pray for a church member whose job is being threatened because of their religious convictions. This is one of the reasons you ought to get into a community group now. We do need one another. We will need one another.


Suffering for Christ is a constant theme for Paul:

through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. (Acts 14:22)

4 For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, (1 Thess. 3:2-4)

12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, (2 Tim. 3:12)

This is because suffering was a constant theme for Christ himself:

If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:20)

One of the primary ways we suffer as Christians is by receiving many good and perfect gifts from God and then being asked to give them back to him whenever he says so. In fact, this is the entire Christian life: receiving with thankfulness all that God gives and returning all of it to him with thankfulness when he takes it away.

So, what has God given to you? Place it next to the gift of Christ, and trust that if he is good enough to give his own Son, we can trust him with all else.

Repentance Takes Work, But It Isn’t a Work

As Bible-believing Christians, we know that we are not saved by our works. We are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. So, we want to make sure that no one misunderstands what is about to take place.

Each week we confess our sins as a congregation. God requires that we confess our sins—but these confessions do not save us. Our repentance is not a good work that earns us merit or favor. Our faith in Christ is not a work that saves us from God’s wrath. When we say that we are not saved by works we really mean that there is nothing we can do to make ourselves acceptable to God.

Do not believe that your weekly or daily confession of sins earns you anything before God. We cannot, by our confession or good deeds put God in our debt. He is the one saving us. He is the one cleansing us. The Apostle Paul told Timothy that even our repentance—our turning from sin—even that is a gift of God’s grace. Our salvation was the Father’s design. The execution of that salvation is the work of Christ the Son. Our embrace of that salvation comes through the enabling work of the Holy Spirit. And, having been born again by the Spirit, we now confess our sins because we love God and his law. As a result, God receives the credit and glory.