Imitate Jesus

…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage
;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-7

Paul tells us that though Jesus was God in the flesh, Jesus did not use His divinity as something He “used to his own advantage.” In the Greek the word here means “to take by an open display of force like someone seizing a prize or bounty.” In other words, rather than openly displaying the power of His divinity, Jesus instead set His divinity aside and “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.”

Paul learned this truth from Jesus Himself:

For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. 

John 5:18-20

We see in this passage in John the same two truths that are articulated in Philippians 2: 1) Jesus was God in the flesh, and 2) Jesus made himself completely dependent on the Father, not operating out of His divinity but rather His humanity. If Jesus was operating out of His divinity it wouldn’t be true that “the Son can do nothing by himself.”

Instead, Jesus operated as a human who was fully connected to the Father and completely filled by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1), walking in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:14). By doing so He became our example, not just our Savior.

If Jesus operated out of His divinity, Christianity becomes a spectator sport where we get to say, “Well, yeah, but Jesus was God!” We never have to take up the call to imitate Jesus because that seems impossible. But by Jesus operating completely out of His humanity, we don’t get that excuse. We are now invited to fully connect to the Father and be completely filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus modeled and just as the first century Christians attempted.

When Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons and raised the dead, He did so as a human who was fully connected to the Father and fully empowered by the Spirit. Then He turns to His disciples, who are in no way divine, and commands them to do the same things (Matthew 10:1-8; Luke 10:1-21; Matthew 28:19-20). And we see the disciples do what Jesus had been doing. They just needed the authority of Jesus (Matthew 10:1; 28:18; 2 Corinthians 5:20) and the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 2:4, 43) in order to perform some of the same signs and wonders.

All of this leaves us without excuse. The whole, “Yeah, but Jesus was God” excuse doesn’t really work. Jesus is our example, and we are to imitate His life. Paul put it this way, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ”(1 Corinthians 11:1). He also said, “Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children…”(Ephesians 5:1).

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