What does it mean to form a heart that is open and receptive to God? Are there things I can do in order to put my emotions, attitudes, and passions in a position to be accessible to God? In Philippians 2, Paul speaks to the church using the example of Christ in order to encourage certain attitudes and behaviors that will open them up to the presence and activity of God and to each other as well.
Paul opens this section by saying:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,” (vs. 1)
In essence Paul is saying something like, “Because you have received the security and encouragement of a new life in Christ Jesus,” then life should now look like this. These four phrases are sometimes a little hard to pin down, but the general sense of them is straightforward. Because there is security in this new life with Jesus Christ, we are in a place to move forward in our lives for God.
Insecurity stunts relationships. If we are constantly at a point of wondering if that friend still likes us or is mad at us, we cannot grow in that relationship until we receive assurance that we are still on good terms. The same is true of our relationship with Christ. We all have our seasons of doubt when we struggle with whether God really loves us, really cares for us, is now tired of us, is mad with us, or has rejected us all together; and in those seasons it is hard if not impossible to enjoy the fullness of His presence and grace.
Paul’s first point to us is that there is security in my relationship with Christ. His love is everlasting, unfailing, and unconditional and he will never leave me or fail me. Embracing that reality puts my heart in a place to embrace God in my life.
The second point is sometimes difficult.
“…in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (vs. 3-4)
Here, Paul has reached the core of this passage. Humility is a difficult virtue to figure out sometimes, but we should look at it like this: being humble is a lifestyle not burdened with my own pride. It is only in this way that I can truly consider you as more significant than myself—truly believe that it is more important for you to be here than me.
Many have mocked Christianity for its virtue of humility and some have even used humility as a weapon against it, but when we understand what Paul intends, we understand that a right sense of humility opens me up to others and to the presence and power of God.
Essentially, humility gets me out of the way. As soon as I am out of the way, then others can come into focus and I can become Christ’s hands and words to them.
To make his point that humility opens me to the activity of God, Paul cites the most shocking example of humility possible. Because Christ, before he came to this earth as a man, considered you as more significant than his place in heaven, not only do you have a chance at a relationship with God, but God has exalted Christ and given him a name that is above every other name.
It is because Christ was humble that I am saved. What is possible in my life if I allow humility to do its work in me?