Follow the Example of Jesus

Day 3 Devotional

The teenage years are critical, formative years of life. In fact, you develop more quickly in your teens than at any other point in life – physically, emotionally, intellectually, socially, and maybe even spiritually.

Growth occurs naturally, organically, and quickly, whether you want it to or not! But as you develop physically, you're also trying to build your sense of self socially and spiritually too – what you think makes you, you.

Have you thought about that? Most of us tend to focus on that “thing” that “sets you apart” from everyone else and makes you feel special and unique. What would that “thing” be for you? How, where, or in whom do you find your deepest sense of significance, security, and satisfaction?

Where we find our self-worth is a deeply spiritual pursuit. Where and how we establish our sense of self-worth is what we really worship in life. Where we find our significance has less to do with people, places, and things and has more to do with God vs. ourselves, pride vs. humility. In other words, where we find our self-worth can either ruin us or rescue us.

"taking the form of a bond-servant"

Humility vs. Pride

READ Philippians 2:1-11

As you see in these verses, Jesus found His identity and self-worth not according to the world's metrics, connections, and things, but in God's love for Him. We, too, can find our true sense of significance, not in self-love and what we bring to the table (pride), but in God's love for us and what Jesus accomplished at the Cross (humility).

Verses 1-4 describe a life of humility. Pride, however, is the very opposite. A life of pride means jockeying and competing against everyone. There is no sympathy, only jealousy and envy. Pride means developing our “self” by comparing and contrasting how we measure up or stand out from the crowd.

Did you notice the common thread in all those thoughts? It's "I." Interestingly, the word “pride” describes what it is – “I” is at the very center! Finding our sense of self in the things of the world—like a high GPA or follower count, accomplishments or accolades, romance, or resume—is building our identity on the pride of life. Doing so will stunt all spiritual growth. Why? Because it puts "I" in the very place where only God deserves to be - at the center.

Humility means the very opposite: it means allowing God to BE God in our lives. Humility means, "I agree with God that I am not what I accomplish or how I'm accepted; I am not where I go to school or who I'm connected to; I am not my wins or sins, fears or failures, strengths or scars. I am who God says I am. I have self-worth from the only One whose opinion really matters."

Jesus models precisely what that looks like, living in humility before God. Even though Jesus was divine, He did not live in the power of self (i.e., His natural status or ability or accomplishments.) He found His significance, security, and satisfaction in His relationship with God the Father, instead.

In effect, we can find our identity vertically with God or horizontally with others. Pride is the most significant growth blocker to our spiritual development. It causes us to deny or mask our own deep insecurities instead of coming to God to provide our only true security and significance.

"taking the form of a bond-servant"

Learning to Shine

READ Philippians 2:12-18

When our identity is based on pride in our accomplishments, accolades, achievements, or appearance, we are putting ourselves on display and boasting in ourselves.

But for the Christian, the deepest and most authentic thing about us has nothing to do with us; instead, it has everything to do with God. God gives us the ability to shine like lights in the world because we celebrate and reflect the greatest gift on earth.

In Jesus Christ, we have a hope, peace, and joy that come not from our work, effort, circumstances, or accolades. They come from God's love for us, His promises to us, and an identity in Him that is greater and better than anything the world could ever give us.

Do you feel exhausted from “building” your self-worth in your resume? Do you feel tired from constantly maintaining an image or needing to prove yourself? If so, why? Only God’s love for you can give you a secure identity, freeing you from the pressure of basing your identity on anything else – or anything less

"taking the form of a bond-servant"

Living In Community: You Are Not Alone

As we continue to read, we'll see that Philippians 2 now changes gears—no longer talking about our identity, but instead talking about our community. This next passage calls us to find people who will remind us of God's love, lead us back to God's Truth, and help us find our identity in Jesus anew.

READ Philippians 2:19-24

To provide some background, the church in Philippi previously had a handful of selfish leaders who didn't care about the members of the church, but instead cared only about what they could gain from being leaders.

These “leaders” were more like parasites, not partners, sapping the time, energy, and resources out of the people.

Do you know anyone like this in your life? Does this person act like your friend, but is really only interested in what he/she can get out of the relationship? They look to you simply to meet their own needs, or to cover their insecurity.

The Apostle Paul says that he knows someone named Timothy who is a genuine friend because he loves and serves others simply because he loves people. Timothy does not ask for anything in return. Timothy has no ulterior motive.

Pause momentarily and consider the following question: Are you a friend like this? If someone were to think of a genuine, loving person would you come to mind?

"taking the form of a bond-servant"

READ Philippians 2:25-30

In these verses, Paul mentions another person that the church of Philippi ought to recognize: a man named Epaphroditus. Paul states that Epaphroditus has been a great friend to him—a true partner, a trustworthy confidant, with him through thick and thin (v. 25). Epaphroditus even risked his own life helping Paul in his ministry (v. 30)!

In fact, according to Paul, Epaphroditus is such an “others-focused” person that it distressed him to learn that people were distressed over his sickness! Epaphroditus was sick and close to death, so people mourned the thought of losing him because he greatly enriched their lives.

Here's why Epaphroditus was ultimately such a good friend: he regarded the burdens of others as his burdens. The pain of others became his pain. Their longings and needs became his longings and needs. Epaphroditus walked beside others in such a way that their own pain and pleasure, problems, and peace - became his very own. Epaphroditus found his identity in God's love for him. And because of that, Epaphroditus was not envious, jealous, or bitter with others. Instead, he was selfless, gracious, and kind.

Galatians 6:2 says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." What does this mean? Jesus bore our harshest burdens of sin, guilt, and shame on the Cross. As Epaphroditus made the welfare of others his priority, he thereby modeled the “law of Christ.”

Is there someone you are walking alongside? Whose burdens are you carrying? Whose life is “easier” and “less heavy” because of you?

Timothy and Epaphroditus, however, are not just good examples to follow; they also point us to Jesus and His friendship with us. Like Timothy, Jesus is not a parasite, looking for ways to leech from and leave us. Jesus is a genuine friend who seeks to partner with us throughout our lives. Jesus does not love us because we can give Him something He doesn't already have. And Jesus certainly does not come to us because we are a means to an end. Jesus loves and serves us—simply because we are valuable to Him and because He loves us.

Like Epaphroditus, Jesus walks closely with us. He is God with us, Immanuel. Jesus came from heaven to earth to experience and suffer all that humans suffer and experience, but He did so in love so He could empathize with us. Epaphroditus would have willingly risked his life for others, but Jesus would give His life for us. In fact, on the Cross, Jesus would take upon Himself the very worst of us - our darkest pain, deepest sorrows, dirtiest sins - and die in our place so that we could be forgiven, cleansed, and brought into a right relationship with God and live in the light.

Oh, what a friend we have in Jesus! Are you a friend to others, like Jesus is to you? Do you have a “Timothy” and “Epaphroditus” in your life? Are you a “Timothy” or “Epaphroditus” to others?

"taking the form of a bond-servant"

Find your identity in Christ. Form a community that loves Jesus and you. Be the community that loves Jesus and others.
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