Over the past five months, we have looked at five aspects of humility from the book of Philippians which add value to our parenting. They are:
1. Only live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
2. Empty yourself.
3. Be concerned about others’ interests above your own.
4. Have a servant attitude.
5. Willingly bear the burden of others' sins and weaknesses for Jesus’ sake.
The sixth aspect of humility revealed in Paul’s letter to the Philippians may be surprising. On the surface, it might seem prideful, but as you consider what Paul did with the church in Philippi, you find just the opposite – humility.
Aspect #6: “Follow my example.”
Having explained the attitude of humility necessary to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and the goal of his life to know Jesus Christ, Paul called the believers to follow his example. He wrote, “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us” (Philippians 3:17).
Although a proud man could want people to look at him, I’m more inclined to believe humility upholds Paul’s admonition to the Philippians to follow his example. To say to a group of people, “Watch me live and walk humbly with my God and with you,” requires a tremendous dose of humility. Let me explain.
Humility acknowledges that everything one has comes from God.
The apostle had confidence in the Spirit of God at work in him. His confidence was not in himself. He had written, “We are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (3:3). Paul had been a proud man who boasted in his pedigree, knowledge, religious rectitude, and accomplishments. He probably had wanted people to follow his example as a Pharisee. But his encounter with the living Jesus Christ had redefined his life. Instead of boasting in himself, he realized there was only One worthy of glory and honor. From that point forward, his confidence in life centered on what Jesus had accomplished at the cross. To the Galatians, he wrote, “But may it never be that I would boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). As he matured, he realized everything he had in life was from God and came to him as a result of the meritorious, glorious work of Christ on Golgatha.
Paul had encouraged his readers with this statement: "For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure." Surely he believed that about himself. This begs the question: are we confident that God is at work in our lives and willwork His good pleasure in us? I hope you can see that humility produces a confidence in God’s power working in our lives.
Because we have humility – confidence in the life of Christ working in us – we should say to our children, “I want you to watch how I live in a manner worthy of the gospel, and follow my example.”
There is a pattern to follow.
Perhaps now you can see the logic behind Paul’s letter and invitation to follow his example. He lived to know Christ by experience. He had learned the attitude of Jesus’ that had made his salvation possible: humility. There is a pattern, an example, a standard revealed in the attitude of Christ that believers are to imitate. He had explained that pattern he and his companions were exemplifying to the Philippians. As Jesus accomplished our salvation He…
1. Emptied Himself for others
2. Regarded others as more important than Himself
3. Humbled Himself to serve and willingly bear our sins, offenses, selfishness, and weaknesses.
We’ve talked about this pattern in the previous articles, so there’s no need to give further explanation. This is what humility looks like. We are to follow this example.
Leadership provides an example.
Paul was definitely a leader. He knew he was sent from God to minister the gospel to the Gentiles. They needed to see that he was submitted to Christ and followed His example. As a disciple-maker, Jesus had said repeatedly, “Follow me.” Perhaps more to Paul’s point in Philippians, Jesus said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24). Now we can see why Paul would say believers should have the same attitude as Jesus when He went to the cross.
Jesus called us to follow His example, therefore Paul thought it necessary to call his disciples to follow his example of following Jesus’ example. Being an example comes with the responsibility of leadership. I’m suggesting this is an act of humility that adds value to your parenting. Providing your children a testimony of humility by following Jesus’ pattern of humility will powerfully impact them. The power of the impact comes from God who works in and through you for their benefit.
Let’s think about the humility it takes to ask others to watch you and follow your example. Paul was saying to the Philippians,
1. I’m asking you to join me because you believe in Jesus and that’s the gospel that saved you. That’s the attitude of Christ that we believe was lived out so we could be forgiven of our sins and live together in unity and love.
2. I want you to watch how I live my life, and as you do, you’ll discover there is a pattern I’m following.
3. Follow my example.
But what if I fail?
It’s a humbling and fearful thing to ask others to watch us. It is like putting targets on our backs! They are going to see us fail, stumble, and sin at times. Exactly! Why is this important? We want our children to see that our confidence isn’t in the flesh, but in the cross of Christ. When we fail, admit it. We should confess our sin and selfishness, and then glory in the righteousness of Christ and the power of His work at the cross on our behalf. Isn’t that humbling? Yes, it is, and that’s good. It’s good for us and it’s good for our children too. They are going to fail, stumble, and sin at times, and we want to provide an example for them to follow. So when you are selfish and offensive, quickly humble yourself, confess it, and make the correction. That will draw them not only to the gospel, but to you. You’re being a good example!
Asking others to follow your example is a form of submission.
When we lead, we walk in a manner worthy of the gospel by providing an example of applying the gospel in our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others. When we ask others to watch us and follow our example, we humble ourselves, and in a sense, make ourselves accountable to them. That’s what Paul was doing with the Philippians. By inviting them to join him in following his example, he was submitting himself to them. Submission to others is an expression of humility, and that’s what you are doing when you say to your family, “Join me in following my example.”
What is the alternative?
The verses immediately following Paul’s admonition to follow his example in living out the gospel, give the only other alternative. You are going to provide an example and your children are going to follow you. How sad if the example isn’t worthy of the gospel. Paul wrote, “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things” (Philippians 3:18-19). To live for self and this world is to be an enemy of Christ and the cross. This caused Paul to weep as he considered that there would be anyone in the church who provided such a poor example.
What example are you providing to your children and others who know you? What defines your life? Who are you?
Apparently, one’s desire to provide a powerful, rich example of Christ for others to follow is based on one’s understanding of his or her identity. To whom do you belong? Or where is your citizenship? That’s how Paul saw it, for he continued, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself” (Philippians 3:20-21).
Humbly, stand firm in the Lord because you love Him.
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved” (4:1). Dear reader, if you have been loved by God in Christ, stand firm in the way your Lord has loved you by humbling yourself as He did. Stand firm in the experience of His love, humble yourself, and ask your children to follow your example.
I like what Paul declared about Christ in this verse, “the Lord, my beloved.” What should motivate us to stand firm in the Lord, humble ourselves, and provide an example for others to follow? Love for the Lord is the motive. “He is ‘my beloved,’” said Paul. Let us love the Lord in this manner and with great humility and joy. Remember this sixth aspect of humility: “Follow my example.”
1. Humility acknowledges that everything you have comes from God. His life in you in your confidence.
2. There is a pattern to follow in Paul’s life and a pattern for us to exemplify.
1. Empty self.
2. Humble self and serve others.
3. Willingly bear the sins of others to know Christ.
3. Lead by example.
4. If you fail, humble yourself and apply the gospel as an example.
5. Asking others to follow you is a form of humble submission.
6. The only alternative is to exemplify selfishness and be an enemy of the cross.
7. Humbly stand firm in the Lord because you love Him.
Merry Christmas! Alma and I pray that you will have a very meaningful Christmas season as you celebrate the humble arrival of our Lord into this world. It’s an amazing story, the impact of which continues to this day through our lives.