Merry Christmas everyone!
Today is a day when many people celebrate the birth of Christ. Jesus did SO much for us when He left heaven to come to earth and become a human being like us. Today I would like to share a devotional I wrote last year entitled “The Cycle of Christian Growth”. I hope that someone will be blessed by this devotional. 🙂
The Cycle of Christian Growth
Philippians 2:5-11 are stunning verses. The verses reveal just how much Christ humbled himself in order to save us. There is a pattern in these verses, and as I see it, it is the following: great honor, humiliation, desperate humiliation, exaltation, greater/greatest exaltation.
Jesus was “in the form of God…” He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”. He was in a state of great honor. Then He “made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:(verses 6-7).
And being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross”(verse 8). Jesus died for sins He did not commit, at the hands of those whom He created who were falsely accusing Him of sins He did not commit. He was the King of Heaven, One who knew power, glory and wealth such as the richest people on earth have never known, and yet He was crucified. Being killed is shameful – and crucifixion was a shameful way to be killed.
If a top lawyer, (who had not accepted Christ’s strength and who was not allowing it to enable him to respond appropriately to the hardships he faced), were to loose his job as the result of being falsely accused, and then was to gradually become poor and move into low income housing, this would be a horrific experience for him. Taking this scenario a step further, if the lawyer, now living among the poor in low income housing, were to be falsely accused of committing a rape/murder by a man who actually committed the act, and was also falsely convicted of committing a rape/murder by a judge who used to be a lawyer working under him, this would be terribly difficult to withstand. Taking this a step further, if the lawyer were to be put on death row, and then killed by hanging by people for whom he had served as defense lawyer when he was practicing law, this would be outrageous.
This story is very hard for me to swallow, and yet Jesus suffered far more humiliation than this hypothetical lawyer did, and willingly, not as the result of misfortune. We cannot comprehend the humiliation Jesus subjected Himself to- willingly- for people, many of whom would only spite Him in return and even seek to undermine Him and His goodness.
But Christ’s story has an incredible ending;” Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (verses 9-11).
Great honor, humiliation, desperate humiliation, exaltation, greater/greatest exaltation. This was the experience of Christ, and in the lives of Joseph and Daniel, we see miniature versions of this experience played out in the lives of human beings such as ourselves.
The story of Joseph is not a carbon copy of the life of Christ, but it does bear some striking similarities. Joseph was the favored son of a wealthy man named Jacob- great honor (Genesis 37:1-3). His brothers threw him into a pit- humiliation (verses 4-24). After this, his brothers pulled him out of the pit-only to be sold to Ishmaelites and taken to Egypt -deeper humiliation ( verses 25-28).
While in Egypt, Joseph gained favor in the eyes of his master, Potiphar- exaltation. However, after being wrongfully accused of sexual assault by Potiphar’s wife, Joseph was put in prison (Genesis 39:7-20). But while he was in prison, his good character earned him respect in the eyes of the “keeper of the prison” (Genesis 39:22 in the NKJV), and this man put Joseph in charge of all the other prisoners-exaltation. After Joseph interpreted 3 dreams-(one of a butler in prison, the other of a baker in prison, and the third of the Pharaoh) and gave advice which seemed sensible and was pleasing to the Pharaoh, he was appointed as a prime minister of sorts at the age of 30- the same age at which Christ started His public ministry-greatest exaltation (Genesis 40 & 41).
The story of Daniel also follows, with some variation, a pattern of great honor, humiliation, deeper humiliation, exaltation and finally greater exaltation. Daniel, who was of royal Israelite blood (great honor), was captured by the Babylonians and carried off to Babylon- humiliation (Daniel 1: 3-4) While in a Babylonian school, studying to become a wise man, Daniel was faced with the test of whether he would eat the king’s food and wine or whether he would risk the potential consequences of asking for a healthy diet and water to drink. Daniel made the right choice, and God honored him with health and wisdom- exaltation (Daniel 1:8-16). When Babylon was conquered by Medo-Persia, Daniel, who was by this time an officer in the Babylonian government, was transitioned into a leadership position in the Medo-Persian government (Daniel 6:1-3). However, other government leaders found a way to find unjustly find fault with Daniel and he was thrown into a lion’s den as a result(humiliation). God miraculously protected Daniel and he was brought out of the lion’s den and remained in leadership in the Medo-Persian government -great exaltation (Daniel 6:4-23).
Now that I have covered the pattern of great honor, humiliation, desperate humiliation, exaltation, greater/greatest exaltation, I will seek, by the grace of God, to apply it to the Christian experience that every follower of Christ must undergo.
The natural, unconverted human heart either thinks it is, or else aspires to be, in a position of power and great honor (Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 12:3). Everything revolves around pleasing itself. We hear this sentiment everywhere: “Well, you’ve got to do what you love. You have to make you happy etc .”
In reality, until a person surrenders their lives to Jesus , and is broken, humbled and transformed by Him, he or she is living in darkness and sin. After this necessary humiliation, repentance and transformation has begun, an individual continues on a journey of surrender to and cooperation with God which leads to a new, ever holier way of life. Bad habits are cast off and replaced with new, good ones (4 T 286). The characters of those who are experiencing this work of sanctification are being exalted. The Christian journey of all true followers of Christ leads to greater and greater exaltation (John 17:17-26). True Christians become like Jesus in character and will someday soon go to live with Him in heaven. Being in heaven as a surrendered, humble, obedient, others-centered and happy Christian is the height of exaltation.
Seeing all of this, my friends, please “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus…”( Philippians 2:5 (KJV) ).
Note for the one scriptural selection taken from the NKJV, used under the “Gratis Use Guidelines” : “Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved. https://www.harpercollinschristian.com/sales-and-rights/permissions/#1