There are many things that I love about the Lord but one thing that never ceases to delight me is how when I ask a question - even ones that I've forgotten I've asked - He doesn't and He is faithful to answer in His time!
I am reading Philippians in the Amplified Bible right now. It's one of my favorite books! I like to dialogue with the Lord in the margins. Sometime over the past three years, I had written in the margin of Philippians 2:8, "Lord, what does extreme obedience look like?" and then, no doubt, went on with my day. This time, the Lord revealed the answer like it was jumping off the page!
Just like Jesus "humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!" extreme obedience for us is humbling ourselves and dying to our selfish desires and ambitions or, as some have put it, living the crucifed life. Now as I sit here in the mornings, it is my desire to live wholly for Jesus. Many times in the moment of choice, I don't walk that out but I truly do want to bring God glory by living His way. So He teaches me. This is what I learned through the early verses of Philippians chapter 2...
Stop Trying to Play God!
(vs. 6-7) Speaking of Christ Jesus, "Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being." Jesus had God's credentials to His Name yet He set them aside and obeyed the Father as God. I try playing God of my own life all too often and the messes that I get myself into prove my credentials are sinfilled! If I want to walk like Jesus I have to stop acting as God of my life.
Remember Who it is That Is Speaking to You!
(vs. 10-11) That in (at) the Name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father." How many times in my day, do I hear the mind of Christ telling me how to think and act and yet dismiss it the very next second because I did not stop to acknowledge Who it is that is offering direction? All too often, the dialogue in my mind has me responding "yes, but..." or "maybe later..." without ever pausing to realize that the One who loves me most is holding out to me the best path. It is absolutely critical that we become aware of our thoughts and acknowledge Who it is that is speaking to us through the power of the Holy Spirit! Once we realize that, it is easier to confess Jesus as Lord and bow our wills to His.
Actively Participate in the Process - Much is at Stake!
(vs. 12b) "work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). There is a wealth of knowledge in this verse that far exceeds my mind but let me scratch the tip... In light of the awesome gift of salvation (see Ephesians 2:8-9) through Jesus Christ and the many blessings that God has instore for His children (see Ephesians 1:1-12), let's choose to cooperate in the process of our sanctification (becoming more like Christ). Let's quit trusting ourselves and be cautious, watching for temptation and shrink away from the things that might offend God and discredit the Name of Christ. The blessings that the Lord desires to pour out upon our every step of trusting obedience are so vast and the natural consequences of the sinful alternatives so unsatisfying!
He Is Faithful to Complete His Work!
(vs. 13) [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight. We can learn lessons the easy way or the hard way. Often, we find things hard because our desires are at war within us. We desire to choose right and yet we're tempted to choose wrong. God is constantly at work on our desires, helping them fall in line with the things that are for our best and our blessing. You can trust Him to energize you and give you the power to walk in obedience to His desires for your life and you can be assured that His will for you is good, pleasing and perfect. (see Romans 12:2)
An Additional Thought...
(vs. 14) Do all things without grumbling and complaining and faultfinding and complaining [against God] and questioning and doubting [among yourselves]. As a parent, I can appreciate this one, though my behavior can sometimes be childlike. Obedience accompanied by grumbling and complaining doesn't make us a fun companion for anyone.
Receive this blessing in your spirit...
Spirit... be blessed in the name of the One who is life. Your Father is pleased that Jesus His Son lives in you and His Spirit makes His home in you. Choose the abundant life of Jesus in you (John 10:10)... God pledges the full faith of His great Name to you. His Word says in 1 Samuel 12:22, "For the sake of His great Name the LORD will not reject His people, because the LORD was pleased to make you His own." You have the pleasure of the Lord. He is pleased that you are His. You belong to Him. You are precious in His sight. You are a divine choice. Celebrate your chosenness. You are an expression of the embrace of the everlasting love of God. By His grace, seize your opportunities every day to choose life, to be life, to give life. Choose against what distracts you, confuses you, and puts in jeopardy the life of the Beloved in you. Choose to life from the heart of your Father.
Spirit, be blessed in the encouragement that comes from being united with Christ. Receive comfort from His love. Be blessed to choose fellowship with the Spirit. Bask in His tenderness and compassion. Make His joy complete by receiving His unshakable purpose for you in your Father. You have not read the final chapter of His plans for you. He has written a future and a hope for you. In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, "I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." This verse was written to people who were exiled and captive ina foreign country for seventy years. god kept His promise, and they returned to the land He gave them.
...be blessed with hope for your future in Him who chose your lfie. Choose to believe in hope that He who called you is faithful. It is your choice. Spirit, be blessed with trusting His thoughts and plans for welfare and peace, for your good an not for evil. **
Be blessed in the Name of the One who humbled Himself to extreme obedience on the cross for you that you may die to self to really live in Him! Amen.
** (c) 2008 Sylvia Gunter, "You are Blessee in the Names of God", pg. 33