Nothing

Perhaps the one command the Apostle Paul made we have the most trouble with is, “make yourself nothing.” I know there are those who will say, “Paul never said that!” Oh but he did. He wrote to the church in Philippi that they should “… have the same mindset as Jesus Christ;” (Philippians 2:5). So we have to look forward about what Paul says Jesus Christ’s mindset was. And it was this, “… he made Himself nothing…” (Philippians 2:7).

Now, there is a troubling thought. Our current cultural climate doesn’t even allow us to think about becoming nothing. You can’t invest nothing, you can’t deposit nothing in the bank. There is no self-esteem seminars for nothing filled nobodies. Nothings get laughed at, demeaned, or cancelled today.

But Paul says, “Jesus… made Himself nothing.” This was a willful choice emphasized by His actions. Think for a minute about what this means. All His divine rights and privileges, Jesus cast aside to become nothing… a nothing like you or me… human. How do you measure the height of this descending concept? The distance between God and man has been the subject of thousands of books, movies, plays or poems. But it cannot be measured.

The Creator of all things, of energy, animals, mankind and the universes of heaven, chooses to empty Himself and become nothing, so I can be something. Jesus subjects Himself to obedience as a human child to say, “Yes Dad, and ok Mom.” Jesus gives up the relentless praise of all the heavenly angels, to hear only the constant ridicule of the Jews and humanity. Jesus Christ leaves heaven for earth for a singular purpose and end. The Cross of Calvary.

As if that were not enough, in making this choice, Jesus moves from sinless to sin-filled… filled by the sins of all mankind before and after Him, facing the raging wrath of God’s anger toward sin. But we have to remember something here. Jesus was not forced to do this. He wasn’t coerced or blackmailed. This action was an intentional and conscious decision made in an unwavering commitment to the will of God.

Jesus chose a life of giving Himself away, serving those who followed Him, losing His life on a cross, and dying for all of humanity. He made Himself “nothing.”

This is a hard teaching from scripture and goes against human nature, conventional wisdom, and cultural logic around the globe. Yet, it is what Paul demands that we adopt as our own mindset if we are true Christ-followers. Anyone, any teacher, preacher, or Sunday School leader who has suggested the Christian life is easy, may need to rethink the teaching of Philippians 2, and the call to “nothingness.”

It makes no sense to the lost world. It makes no sense to the religious community. It is non-sense to most people today. But to the true Christ-follower, by the authority of the Apostle Paul, given to him by Jesus Himself, this is a command, not an option. Maybe, this command is challenging you today to rethink everything you’ve ever been taught about what it means to follow Christ. Especially in a world ravaged by the politically motivated, power-hungry “somebodies” who want to tell you what to believe, how to act, what you can and cannot say. Does a nobody even have a voice?

Adopting the mindset of Jesus Christ will speak louder than any silver-tongued politician who thinks themself “somebody” when they are the real “nobodies” when compared to Jesus the Savior.

Trust Him. Follow Him. Descend with Him, into nothing.

Transcendence and Immanence

Yesterday I introduced three basic tenets for why God is Lord (Jehovah) and Jesus is Lord (since They are One):  Control, Authority, and Presence.  If you missed this article, read it by clicking here.  Transcendence and immanence are two terms which describe the God of the Bible, even though they are not terms found in the Bible.  The Bible talks about God being “On high” (transcendence), it speaks of God being “with us” (immanence).

Some teachers/pastors/theologians have misunderstood God’s transcendence. suggesting God is so far away (above) us that we cannot really know Him personally, our language can’t describe Him adequately or accurately, making God nothing more than a heavenly blur without any definitive characteristics.  This view of transcendence is unbiblical, because the Bible teaches we CAN know definite things about God, and even come to know Him personally.

Jeremiah 33:2-3
This is what the LORD says—the LORD who made the earth, who formed and established it, whose name is the LORD: Ask me and I will tell you remarkable secrets you do not know about things to come.

When the Bible uses terms like “on high”, “exalted”, or “lifted up” it does not mean distance, it means the glory of enthronement.  God is King, He is LORD…transcendent above us in His Lordship, being in control and having all authority.

Isaiah 6:1
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.

In this same way, using the term immanence,  should refer to God’s presence among us and within us.  The misinformed speak about God becoming immersed in the world, hidden, so that He cannot be distinguished from creaturely reality, referring to His humanness.  But this is not Biblical teaching either.

Jesus incarnate was neither hidden nor consumed in His humanity.  Yes, He emptied Himself, the Bible says. Yes, He didn’t think holding on to His eternity-based God-ness was something to be held onto, the Bible says.  What He did say was “I’m going to prepare a place for you, so that where I am you can be too.”  [Philippians 2, John 14]

So, here’s the thing.

Transcendence and immanence are not that difficult when you think of it this way…

God is not so far away that He doesn’t know you exist, or what you’re going through.  And He isn’t so far above you that you can’t know Him personally.  In fact that is His plan exactly, for you to find Him and know Him, as Lord (transcendence).

To make this easier for you, He came to earth Himself (immanence – Jesus) to implement the plan of God for humanity to be saved.  His Spirit is right next to you now, leading you to this truth.  And when you trust in Jesus as LORD, embracing His saving power in your life, this same Spirit comes to reside inside of you… His presence never leaving you.

Next time:  Who is God?