“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This post is actually number three in a series in the power of the cross in the life of the believer and the church. You can read the other two installments here:
Knowing Your Identity – W.W.D.M.D.
Knowing Your Identity – Zombie or Christ?
I work in the field planting organic churches in the United States and overseas. Recently, I witnessed something in a group of believers that I have believed in and taught for over 22 years. The cross of Jesus Christ. What I am referring to when I say that is not the substitution of the Lamb of God for our sins for redemption. Instead, what I am referring to is the work of the cross in the life of the believer and in the church. This is the opportunity that you and I have all the time to lay down our lives for the Lord and His Body. It means to put the Lord’s interests and others interests before your own.
Paul says in the scripture quote above that this is the mind (or attitude) of Christ Jesus. He emptied Himself of His rights and privileges of deity in order to become a servant, the lowest kind of servant, a bond-slave. He did this for us; His body, bride, family, and house. This is the life of the cross.
Recently, I witnessed an astounding example of this emptying for the sake of His purpose. Two brothers came to a meeting of the church and lowered themselves by asking the church to forgive them for some unintentional misunderstanding and hurts that had taken place through some things they did and said. Of course, they had no intention of hurting anyone and causing offense. They were not even aware that the offenses had occurred. But once they were made aware, they were more than willing to humble themselves before the body.
First of all let me say that this is not an easy thing to do. When you are confronted with such a thing, your flesh wants to immediately justify your actions and defend yourself. To admit that you were wrong (even when you may not have been) does major damage to the power of the flesh. And what does much more damage is taking the next step and apologizing for what you said or did.
Many believers are into the so called “power of the Holy Spirit” and power gifts with miracles and signs following. But this humbling of oneself. This lowering and emptying of oneself brings the most powerful results you will ever see!
“For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 1:18
Let me tell you, when those two brothers lowered themselves before the body in that meeting it was an incredibly powerful event. In fact, the whole atmosphere of the meeting changed after that. It was lighter and the only way I can describe it was that the life of the Lord was released in the group in a whole new way. Forgiveness flowed that night. It was definitely a breakthrough meeting for this particular group. The walls of separation came down and something major happened that night. The group has not been the same since. The intensity of the life and love of the Lord has tripled since then!
The Power of the Cross
This shows us the incredible power of the cross in the life of a believer. This emptying or lowering of ourselves for others is to be the normal way of life for the body of Christ. We should always be preferring and deferring to others. Not out of some sense of religious duty, but as an outflow of the indwelling life of Christ. 1 Cor. 13 (the love chapter) is not some prescription for loving one another properly. It is a description of the very life of Christ! This life is the actual Person of Christ Himself. And this Person lives inside of us!
We have no ability whatsoever to lay our lives down for one another. But the indwelling Christ has been laying his life down for the Father in the Spirit for all of eternity. If we take the higher road and allow this Christ to express Himself through us, we will see this wonderful self-giving and self-sacrificing life be lived out in human flesh.
The Spirit if Willing But the Flesh is Weak
However, if we resist this work of the cross in our lives we will not see the power and restoration and healing of resurrection. In order for there to be a resurrection there must be a death first!
On the other hand, I have seen other groups of believers where there was no one, or at least not very many, who were willing to go to the cross, so to speak. They were not willing to forsake their own interests and lay their own lives down for one another. But rather they wanted to justify and defend themselves when confronted. And it’s very sad, but these groups don’t make it for very long. They end up biting one another and devouring one another.
“But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Part of walking by the Spirit is having this same attitude in you which was in Christ Jesus. I have said it many times and I will continue to say it:
Organic church has never worked and will never work without the embracing of the cross of Christ!
I have found this to be so true in my own life. There was a time when I was in business for myself and once in a while I would have a customer confront me on something and insist that I had made a mistake and should therefore reimburse him for his payment. My first impulse was always to defend myself. But after many years I learned to pause before I did or said anything. Then, I would apologize and refund his money. Except for one case, this always completely turned around my customers attitude and my apology softened their heart. Many of them remained my customers for many years because of my response to them.
“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.