This post is by Joe Thorn, author of Note To Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself. Joe is the founding and Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL. To see the entire series click here.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but 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. 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 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 2:1-11
The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was more than a historical incident, more than an unjust punishment. It was more than the death of a good man. It was a divine and eternal sacrifice made by God and for God accomplishing perfect atonement for sin, satisfying God’s wrath against evil, and providing redemption for all who would believe in Jesus. The cross is the means by which we are saved, and is therefore the heart of the gospel that we preach and prize.
But the cross is not only the means by which we find peace with God, it is also the means by which God teaches us humility and conforms us to the image of Jesus. In fact, it is fair to say one has not truly understood or experienced the grace of the cross of Christ until they are learning meekness and humility.
The Cross Rescues the Weak
There is no pride in our being rescued from our own sin and the judgment of God. We are weak and wayward, but God has moved in his sovereign love to save us. Here we learn humility by seeing ourselves and our Savior rightly. Do you know yourself to be weak? It isn’t a popular concept. It isn’t a feel-good position to be in. But until you see your impotence and sense your inability to save yourself you cannot find the joy of salvation nor grow in humility. Humility is grounded in the greatness of God and the smallness of man. This does not leave us feeling helpless, but helped. Not lost, but found.
The Cross Saves the Undeserving
Not only does God save the weak, but by the cross he saves the undeserving. We are not only needy people, but unworthy people who have run from God and ruined ourselves. As sinners we do not deserve salvation, nor can we earn it. The forgiveness of sins and eternal life is an undeserved gift. We call it grace. Knowing that what Jesus has done for us on the cross was a gift that stems from the immeasurable riches of God’s mercy produces in us a humble thankfulness. And this does not leave us downcast, but lifted up in God’s favor. We are not left seeing ourselves merely as unworthy, but as deeply and eternally loved in spite of our position.
The Cross Shows Us Humility in Action
The death of Christ does not just cleanse us, it changes us. Jesus died to purify a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Tit. 2:14). Let that sink in. Jesus offered himself on the cross not only to rescue you, but to remake you—to transform you into the person you were made to be. And one of the chief characteristic that must be true of God’s redeemed people is humility. And this is seen most clearly in the person of 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.” We see in Jesus earthy ministry and sacrifice that humility denies self and serves another. And we are not only called to imitate Jesus, but we are empowered to live like Jesus.
Through the cross we are ransomed from sin’s penalty, restored to fellowship with God, and recreated to walk in humility.