Stephen R. McLean
Associate Professor of Mechanical and Environmental Engineering
University of California Santa Barbara
Because the Word comes to us from God to reveal who He is, it is like no other piece of literature. His Spirit works through the written word, making it new every time we read it, speaking to us where we are. Lately I have been drawn to the following passage from Paul's letter to the Philippians. The word Christian means to be Christ-like. These words call us to follow Christ and to seek to be like Him.
"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed-- not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence-- continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."
If I am to follow Jesus, am I to make myself nothing,
to empty myself?. This does not come naturally to me. Don't I have rights?
Because of my limitations, my world revolves around ME. Everything that
I see, I see in MY context. But God is calling me to step outside of myself,
to consider others better than myself. This runs counter to everything
that society teaches. Humility does not come naturally. My brother likes
to joke about the book he wrote: Humility and how I achieved it!
But I truly have so much to be humble about. Even though by many standards,
I have lived a good life, I fall so short of what it could be. I have missed
the mark so many times. God, through Jesus, is the very definition of good.
He deserves all praise, all honor and has nothing to be humble about- nothing!
Yet I see Him making Himself nothing for me, so that I can share in His
glory. He died the death that I deserved and He will be the only one in
heaven with a blemish- my sin! I owe a debt that I can never pay, but I
can try. He has given me life forever, in exchange he asks me to give up
my temporary, feeble life, to let Him work in me to His good purpose.
In comparison to the reward that waits, this is nothing, why do I struggle
so much? This passage says that I must work out my salvation with fear
and trembling. I don't know exactly what this means, but I know from other
scripture that my works do not earn me salvation. I think that what God
is saying is that when I put on Christ, I was called to follow in His footsteps.
What that means is that I have to make hard decisions every day. It takes
faith and it requires me to step outside my comfort zone. But the rewards
are so great. Every time I act in obedience to His call I am rewarded with
a deeper sense of His presence in my life, and with that comes a marvelous
sense of peace and joy, knowing that He is in control and no matter what
happens He is waiting for me with open arms. Sure there is fear and trembling,
but every day there is more and more peace and joy and love. God is an