He Humbled Himself
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He Humbled Himself

From Series: Behind the Scenes of Christmas

Philippians 2:6-8  (ID: 2419)

It took an act of profound humility for Jesus to become incarnate and suffer death for us, especially because He Himself was divine. Alistair Begg shows us that we must carefully look at what the Bible says about Jesus, think through its real meaning, and joyfully apply it to our lives. When we consider the astonishing truth of Christ’s incarnation, we can better appreciate who He is and why He came—and as affection and wonder take root, we too will humble ourselves before Him.


Sermon Transcript:

Gracious God, these are solemn words for us to put in our lips, to say that we pour out our lives to you. At least we want to try as best as your Spirit enables us. And we pray that our very study of the Bible may be in itself an act of sacrifice—the pouring out of our life, the use of our minds to think clearly, the opening of our hearts to receive you warmly, and the bowing of our wills to your truth to obey you. Only you, O God, can accomplish this. No voice of a man is capable of anything even approximating to this. And so we ask that you will accomplish your purposes as we turn to your Word now. And we pray in the name of your Son, Jesus. Amen.

Please be seated. And I invite you to turn again to Philippians chapter 2, to the portion of Scripture that was read for us.

Those of you who have been here in these mornings of December will know that we have set ourselves the task of considering four separate texts from the New Testament which take us behind the scenes, as it were, of the Gospel narratives. And what we read from the record of Matthew and what we read in the record of Luke is predated in the material to which we’re turning in these mornings.

And so, in Galatians 4, we began by looking at “when the fulness of time [had] come.”[1] We turned last time to John chapter 1, to a consideration of the preexistent Word. Next time, God willing, on the day after Christmas, which will come very quickly, we will look at Hebrews 10 and how Jesus came to do the Father’s will. And this morning, in Philippians 2:8a, we consider the fact that Christ in his coming “humbled himself.”

As it turns out, if you take all of those statements from these four verses, or four texts, then they actually make sense cohesively. It reads as follows: “When the fullness of time had come, the preexistent Word humbled himself to do the Father’s will.” And that’s the focus of our time.

Jesus is eternally, truly, and totally God.

Now, this morning’s passage begins where John chapter 1 left us, in a consideration of the eternity and deity of Christ. And if you look at verse 6, you will notice that Paul says, “who, being in very nature God.” We spent our time last Sunday morning driving home for ourselves the fact that Jesus is eternally, truly, and totally God . You need to write that down. You need to store it in your mind. You need to anchor it in your thoughts. You need to have it firmly in the forefront of your thinking as you go through these days, as you move amongst the grocery store inhabitants, as you find yourself standing in the checkout line, as you see U.S. News & World Report introducing us to the mysteries of the Bible, as you turn to television programs that introduce you to Mary and Mary Magdalene and thoroughly confuse you within the course of about fifty minutes, not including the dreadful advertising. You need to keep all of that in the forefront of your thinking: that Jesus is eternally, truly, and totally God. It’s not my purpose to reinforce this, to rehearse it again, but I want you to notice that the NIV gets to the essence of things, in using the phraseology “who, being in very nature God.”

Now, you may have a translation that says, “who, though he was in the form of God.” And some people are unsettled by that notion, “the form of God.” The Greek word is actually morphe, which gives us our English word, for example, metamorphosis. And the form of God is a description of one who possessed inwardly and displayed outwardly the very nature of God himself. That’s why the NIV, in translating it in this way, wants to say that that which was conveyed obviously externally and physically and visibly was a display of that which is essentially, internally, God himself. So that in eternity, the Father and the Son and the Spirit sharing coequally in all that God is, the Son, who is about to become incarnate, was possessed of the glory of God, the likeness of God, the image of God, and the splendor of God. Indeed, everything that makes God God, everything that caused the angels to adore God, was there in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now, the reason that we begin there, the reason that the text begins there, is in order that it might make so obvious to us the staggering impact of what then follows. Sometimes you may see somebody who is doing something of exceptional worth, of kindness, and somebody says, “You know, I tell you what’s quite remarkable about this girl: if you knew where she came from, to come down here on a Tuesday evening and do what she’s doing, it’s really amazing.” The act in itself is quite important and forceful, but what makes it so striking is the fact that if you knew her background, if you knew what she’d left behind in order to be down here on a Tuesday night, then you would say to yourself, “It is all the more remarkable.”

And so, in each instance, whether it’s in John 1 or here in Philippians 2, the Holy Spirit wants us to understand where Christ came from. And the hymn writer in the Christmas carol captures it in two lines: the remarkable thing that he should “come from highest bliss down to such a world as this”[2]—that he should “come from highest bliss down to such a world as this.”

Now, there is surprise, isn’t there, when we turn to the Gospel record, and along with the shepherds, we look up into the night sky, as it were, and are struck by “a … company of the heavenly host … praising God and saying…”?[3] Just a routine evening for the shepherds, just going about their normal duties, and suddenly the sky is filled with splendor and with magnificence and with song. And inevitably they would be surprised by this. And there is a measure in which we understand that. But, in light of where this child came from, the real surprise is not in the presence of an angelic throng; the real surprise would be the absence of an angelic throng. What would be surprising is if God could come in a moment in time and do so in a way that wasn’t accompanied in some measure by the splendor of that which had marked him in eternity.

And what the writer makes clear for us is that “in very nature God,” in coming, he “[didn’t] consider equality with God something to be grasped.” In other words, instead of holding onto his own uninterrupted glory, he chooses to set it aside, and although he’s under no obligation to do so, he comes to our fallen, helpless world, and he does so on our behalf. That’s the essence of what is being said here. Again, poetry helps me:

Jesus, my Saviour, to Bethlehem came,
Born in a manger to sorrow and shame;
… It was wonderful—blest be His name!
Seeking for me, for me![4]

Now, within that context and with your Bible open, I want to ask you to do three things with me. Let’s do this together. Let’s first of all look at what the text says, let’s secondly think of what the text means, and then let’s thirdly and briefly seek to make application of the text to our lives.

What the Text Says

So first of all, I want you to look at what it says. It’s very important that you look at your Bible and see what it says. Don’t look up at me all the time. Keep looking down at your Bible to see that whether what I say is actually in the Bible. There’s so many people out there saying all kinds of things; you can’t trust them! You shouldn’t immediately assume you can trust me either. You should always be checking: “Let’s see if it’s actually in the Book. Let’s see what it says.” It’s important that you see what it says.

What does it say? Verse 7: he “made himself nothing,” or literally, “Himself he emptied.” In the King James Version, he “made himself of no reputation.” What does this say? Well, it says that in coming into the world, Christ chose not to arrive in a fashion that was so marked by dignity and by style that it would immediately cause people to say, “Oh, this must be God incarnate.” He chose, in his coming into the world, not to arrive in that fashion.

The Christ child’s sign is not a chariot parked outside but a manger. It’s not a scepter but a stable.

In fact, you’ll remember what the angel said to the shepherds: “This will be a sign to you.”[5] They must have said, “I wonder what this sign is going to be.” “This [will] be a sign unto you; [You will] find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes”—so far, so good—“lying in a manger.”[6] What a strange sign! Not that the shepherds were unfamiliar with mangers. Of course they understood mangers and stables; it was part of their routine activities. But a child in a manger? What child is this that would be laid in a manger? His sign is not a chariot parked outside but a manger. It’s not a scepter but a stable. “ Made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.” Isn’t that what it says? In other words, he became as much an earthly servant as he had been a heavenly sovereign.  

Now, perhaps the best cross-reference for this—and I’m only going to give you one or two today—is in John chapter 13. And if you have got a moment to turn back there, to John 13—I can’t imagine where you’re going right now—so, turn to John chapter 13. It’s seventeen miles an hour out there, visibility of half a mile, and feels like two degrees Fahrenheit, so just relax and turn to your Bible, John chapter 13.

The phrase, we’re looking at what it says: he “[took] the very nature of a servant.” Now, where does that work itself out? Well, it works itself out in all of his life, but quite remarkably, we see it here in John chapter 13. Look at John 13:3: “Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God.”

And if your Bible is still open in Philippians 2, you look back and it seems a wonderful parallel to verse 6, doesn’t it? “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” He “knew … that he had come from God,” that he “was returning to God.” Then notice the link in the beginning of verse 4: “So”—in light of this—“he got up from the meal, [he] took off his outer clothing, and [he] wrapped a towel around his waist. [And] after that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”[7] “Taking the very nature of a servant.”

Thirdly, “being made in human likeness.” We’re just looking at what it says. Look at what it says: “made in human likeness.” What does that say? It says that he became what he had never been before. He became a man, and he looked just like other men. That’s where you get to, at the beginning of verse 8: “And being found in appearance as a man.” From all appearances, he seemed to be nothing more than a man.

All right? Now, we don’t need to get any further into it than that. We’re just looking at these phrases, looking at what it says: “Himself he emptied,” or “made himself nothing,” “taking the very nature of a servant,” “made in human likeness,” and “being found in appearance as a man.”

What the Text Means

All right, we’ve looked at that; now let’s think. This is the harder part. Looking’s fairly straightforward; the thinking part’s a little more demanding. Think of what it means. Yes, what it means. I’m not asking you to think about what it means to you. If you were introduced this week to the constant barrage of advertising for the Life Application Study Bible, you may be forgiven for assuming that the reason the Bible was written is in order that we might know what it means to us. Well, no, the real issue is not what it means to us, because you can take the Bible and make it mean all kinds of things to you. I’ve spent twenty-nine years of life in pastoral ministry counseling people out of their application of the Bible to their lives—all kinds of silly applications, all kinds of jumps and skips and loopholes: “Well, this is what it means to me, Pastor. And, of course, if this is what it means to me, this is what it means.” No, no! First of all we need to know what it means. Once we know what it means, then we can add “to me.” Until we know what it means, then “to me” is irrelevant.

So I say to you again, look at what it says and then think of what it means. What does this mean? Do the hard work. What does it mean, “himself he emptied”? What does it mean, “made himself nothing”? Well, you’re sitting there saying, “Well, I hope you’ve got some idea on it, because that’s why we’re here, in part. The reason you’re here is in order to try and help us.” That’s all right. I’m glad to do so.

Think about it: “made himself nothing” can’t be taken literally, can it? People say, “Well, we always take the Bible literally.” Well, you take this literally, you’re up a creek. Because if he “made himself nothing,” and he was literally nothing, then he couldn’t possibly be man. So it doesn’t mean “nothing” nothing. It’s not rein.

Well then, does it mean that in becoming man he ceased to be God? Because we’ve heard that being propounded: that he was God, and that he made himself not God so that he could become man, and that after he had finished being man, he went back to be God again. You’ll find variations of that since the early centuries and presently espoused in various cults that are growing in influence around the country.

But no, it can’t mean that he ceased to be God either, because Matthew tells us in his wonderfully Jewish Gospel—the key to understanding Matthew is realizing how many times he uses the phraseology “Now, all this took place to fulfill…” If you read Matthew, you will find that he does this again and again. And what he’s saying is, “I want my readers to understand that what happened here in this moment was in fulfillment of what had been said back there in the prophetic word.” So for example, “[Now,] all this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: … ‘They will call [his name] Immanuel’—which means, ‘God with us.’”[8] Isaiah the prophet had spoken in this way, on tiptoe, looking forward, as it were, to a fulfillment that he wouldn’t see. And now Matthew picks it up, and he says, “When Isaiah said this back there”—in chapter 7 or 9, I can’t remember at the moment—“but when Isaiah said that there and when this happened here, this happened here to fulfill what was said back there. ‘God with us.’ Not somebody who appeared to be God with us, but actually God with us.”

Well then, if it doesn’t mean that he literally became nothing, if it doesn’t mean that he ceased to be God, how are we to understand “made himself nothing”? How are we to understand “himself he emptied”?

Well, you know, if you look again carefully at the text, you’ll get a hint of the answer. Verse 7 has a comma after “nothing,” and then you’ve got another verb, in the present continuous. But “made himself nothing, taking”—“made himself nothing, taking.” Now, there is some link here between “nothing” and “taking.” Alec Motyer, a wonderful scholar and a good friend of mine, suggests that we will be helped by asking the question not “Of what did he empty himself?” but instead “Into what did he empty himself?” If we ask “What did he empty himself into?” rather than “What did he empty himself of?” we will be closer to getting to grips with it.

“He emptied himself, taking the very nature of a servant.” In other words, it’s a fantastic paradox. It’s a wonderful, marvelous paradox. In other words, it was what the Lord Jesus took to himself that humbled him, not what he laid aside. It was in taking to himself humanity that he became “nothing.” 

Of course, that doesn’t really appeal to those of us who are stuck on ourselves, who think that man is the apex of it all, that we can’t imagine anybody who wouldn’t be absolutely excited to be a man. Well, if you were God, to come down a natural birth canal, to be born in this way, to be in a manger, to live as an outcast, to die as a stranger, to bear the abuse and curse of the law—sounds like “nothing” to me.

Now, there’s no analogy that really comes close to expressing this notion adequately. Nothing really can, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. And this is the best I can do: Andrew Martinez—those of you who follow professional golf will know that Andrew Martinez has been a caddy on the PGA tour for a long time. He’s caddied for Johnny Miller, he’s caddied for Tom Lehman, he’s caddied for the guy from Columbus whose name I’ve just forgotten. He is well known amongst his friends. He’s intelligent; he’s athletic; he is, in his own right, a good golfer; he’s a better tennis player; and he’s an even better backgammon player. Andrew as Andrew is a somebody in his own right.

But on the occasions that I’ve been with Andrew, when he has made the transition from “Andrew, friend and companion” to “Andrew, caddy”—when we have driven to the golf course, he’s got out of the car and reappeared, when he reappears in these white overalls—he has poured himself into something, he has emptied himself by taking. He’s still “Andrew, athletic,” still “Andrew, the golfer,” still Andrew in all of his essence as Andrew, but by taking to himself, he has emptied himself. He who is a somebody in his own right has now become essentially something of a nobody in order that he might serve others. So it’s not by a diminution that he makes himself nothing; it is by an addition that he makes himself nothing. He doesn’t cease to be what he is, but by wearing those jolly overalls, by pouring himself into this, he constitutes a completely different entity.

Christ comes and pours himself into flesh, pours himself into humanity, without giving up his deity, assuming a human nature, fully God, but also truly man.

And that’s the picture here: that Christ comes and pours himself into flesh, pours himself into humanity, without giving up his deity, assuming a human nature, fully God, but also truly man. 

“Well,” you say, “if he’s also truly man, why does it say in verse 8a that he was ‘found in appearance as a man’? Doesn’t this sound as though what the writer is telling us is that although he looked like a man, he wasn’t really a man; he just had the ‘appearance’ of a man?”

Well, again, we have to think. What Paul is not saying is that although Jesus was not a real man, it looked like he was. What he is saying is this: that to all appearances, he didn’t seem any different from his disciples. To all appearances, if you had come across him in a crowd out on the grassy slopes of the Sea of Galilee, if you’d come across Jesus in the midst of the crowd, you wouldn’t have said, “Oh, that must be the incarnate Son.” There was no halo over his head, there was no supernatural glow to his skin. If you’d spent twenty-four hours with him, you would have said, “Could you pass me the water? I’m thirsty.” He said, “I’m thirsty too. I can’t believe how long it took us to get here, and I can’t believe how dusty it is. Give me a drink of water. Boy, am I tired! Why don’t we just lie down and sleep here for a while?” He ate, he drank, he worked, he slept, he relaxed, just like everybody else.

Yet although he was “in appearance as a man,” he was not merely what he appeared to be. There was something more about him.  Isn’t that what we discover, even when we read the Gospel records and we see how the disciples themselves are beginning to build a picture of who this individual is to whom they’ve committed their lives?

Out on the Sea of Galilee, in familiar territory, at least for some of them—for Peter and for John—and the squall coming up, threatening their very existence, the possibility of the capsizing of the boat, and them saying to one another, “Isn’t it remarkable that Jesus is just asleep here in the stern, his head on a pillow, sleeping like a baby in the middle of all of this? Doesn’t he care that we’re about to capsize and drown? Why doesn’t somebody go and waken him up?” And they waken him, and they said, “Master, don’t you care that we are drowning?” And Jesus stands up, and he rebukes the winds and the waves.[9] And then they said, “What manner of man is this, that even … winds and [waves] obey him!”[10] In other words, he appears just to be like the rest of us, but none of us can stand and calm the sea. None of us can heal the lame. None of us can restore sight to the blind.

H. G. Wells, remarking similarly on this, says, “I am a historian. I am not a believer. But … this penniless preacher from Galilee is irresistibly the center of history.”[11] “I’m a historian. I am not a believer.” Some of you may not even be able to say, “I am a historian,” but some of you are able to say this morning, “I am not a believer.” You do not believe in Jesus; you are not resting in him as your Savior and your friend and Lord. You’re not a believer. But you have to be honest and say, “Here we are, two thousand years on, and he remains ‘irresistibly the center of history.’”

No matter how hard people may try to set aside the Bible, no matter how much they may seek to change “Before Christ” and “Anno Domini,” no matter how many attempts may be made to drive the record of his life into oblivion, still, here we are this morning, confronted by this more than a man.

See, it all has to do with the fact of his deity and his humanity. Some of us are in danger of so deifying Christ that we don’t have a human Christ at all. That’s been a problem throughout the centuries. Some of us are so preoccupied on his humanity that we lose sight of his divinity. The Scriptures hold it in perfect tension.  

So Mary Magdalene is not right when she sings in…

And he’s just a man,
Just a man.
And I’ve seen so many
Men before;
In many different ways,
He’s just one more.[12]

Well, he appears to be. He was “found in appearance as a man.” But there’s more to Jesus than meets the eye. That’s what we need to say to our friends: “There’s more to Christ than meets the eye. Have you considered this, have you thought about this, have you sifted the evidence, have you read a Gospel, have you examined the facts?”

How the Text Is Applied

Well, we curtail our thoughts there. Let’s go to our final point. Having looked at what it says, having thought of what it means, as least in part, let’s then make two points of application to our lives before we leave.

You’ll notice the context here as it was read for us, beginning in verse 1. Paul is exhorting the Philippian believers. He’s encouraging them to make sure that they have a tender heart and a compassionate spirit, that they are working with one another in a way that is marked by “love,” that is setting aside “selfish ambition” and “conceit,” an approach to life that “consider[s] others better than yourselves.” At the very heart of it, it is a call to humility—a call to humility. And then he says, “Let me just say that your attitude should be the Christmas attitude. Your attitude should be the Christmas attitude.”

Jesus did not approach the incarnation asking, “What’s in it for me?” Jesus did not approach the incarnation asking, “What do I get out of it?” Jesus approached the incarnation—in coming to earth, he said, “I don’t matter. I don’t matter.”  

“Oh, Jesus, you’re going to be laid in a manager.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Jesus, you will have nowhere to lay your head.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Jesus, you will be an outcast and a stranger.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“Jesus, they will nail you on a cross, they will say unkind things about you, your followers will even desert you.”

Jesus says, “That is okay. That is okay.” Why? Because of what he was coming to do.

Now, if you reckon on that there, which is what it says, and then you think about the average local church, where does the problem come in fractured and splintered relationships in any church family? Every single time, what do you trace it to? A somebody. A somebody who is very concerned, she’s very concerned to let it be known who she is, who he is, what he’s done, what he’s achieved, what he might expect, what she has every right to know. And as a result of the very antithesis of “I don’t matter” being replaced with “I matter supremely,” the relationships amongst God’s people are fractured and splintered, spoiled and destroyed.

When Augustine was asked, “What are the central principles of the Christian life?” he replied, “Number one is humility, number two is humility, and number three is humility.”[13] And when you think this morning about the application of this—if you like, the Christmas factor applied to our lives—the Christmas story, no matter how much we might say it, is largely a goner. And our children are convinced that it really is all about them. And although we may try, with a little nudging or something, to say, “You know, this is really not about you; this is about something else entirely,” then they only pay lip service to it. How can they be in any other position when we ourselves are so self-focused?

In the prayer letter from the Yurkoviches this month, they tell us that in Prague there are telephone booths around the city where you can phone up the baby Jesus and put in your request for what you want for your Christmas. So you think it’s bad here with Santa Claus, that’s a step up from where they have it in Prague! Because in Prague, Christianity is a mythology, Jesus is a joke, and if you phone this special number, he may be able to get you something that you would like for your Christmas.

He who was somebody became a nobody so that we who are nobodies might in Christ become somebody.

But if you think about it, it’s not so far removed from the way some of us treat the Lord Jesus in any case: as a means to an end, as a justifier of our own preoccupations. And what the church requires, according to this, is not that it would be filled with somebodies, but that it would be filled with nobodies who have crucified their egos.  Can we paraphrase 2 Corinthians 8:9, “Though he was rich, yet for [our] sakes he became poor”? Does this work, at least in part: “He who was somebody became a nobody so that we who are nobodies might in Christ become somebody ”?

Finally, and the principle is vital not only in terms of our attitude towards others, but the principle is vital when it comes to our acceptance of Christ. Unless we get to this point in our lives attitudinally, we will never accept Christ. Listen to Jesus’ words: “I [thank] you, Father”—this is Luke 10:21—“I [thank] you, Father … [that] you have hidden these things from the wise and learned.” This is the things of salvation, the story of how to know God. “I [thank] you, Father … [that] you have hidden these things from the wise and [the] learned, and [have] revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.” That’s a staggering statement.

And it’s a real problem for some of us. Because our whole thing, our “somebody” factor, is directly related to our intellects. And this is how we dismiss the Christian message: “Oh, I’m sure this is okay for old ladies that need a blanket over their heads, or for people who’ve come to the end of their broken dreams, or for individuals who somehow or another have got lost on the highway of life and they’re looking for a map to get them back on track, but for somebody like myself, somebody who’s been trained, and who can think, and who is engaged in the sort of greater things of life…” You know what? God has actually hidden his truth from Mr. Wisdom. God has actually purposefully hidden, concealed, the truth of the gospel from little Miss Learned. So that the very thing that we seek to use as a mechanism for keeping it all at arm’s length is actually been supplied to us by none other than God himself. And when we add into that our reputation—oh, how could we possibly bend our knees to this manger scene? After all, what would our friends have to say?

I read yesterday, just in passing, chunks out of the biography of Steve McQueen. What an amazing life, and what a sordid life in many ways. But somewhere along the journey towards the end, just before he gets cancer, a faithful pastor gives him the gospel, and he bows down and trusts in it. And his life ebbs out with him attending seven o’clock Bible studies on a Thursday morning, attending worship regularly in the local church. For three months, after he is converted, for three months he attends church; in the church, he sits there, and nobody even knows that he’s in the building. Nobody knows that this famous Hollywood actor is right there in the building. He’s just consumed with the wonder of the fact that although his life was shredded, his marriages were pathetic, his morals stunk, his addictions were out of control, that this God has made himself nothing in order that he who thought himself something would discover that he was nothing, and in the discovery of his nothing he might then become something. It’s a great story; it’s the story of the gospel.

Listen to Augustine, and with this I finish. This is from a sermon by Augustine in 396 AD:

So let the humble hold fast to the humility of God, so that this wonderful support may, like a beast of burden, lighten the burden of their weakness, and they may arrive at the heights of God. As for the wise and [learned], they aim at the loftiness of God without believing in his humble lowliness; and so, by overstepping his humility and not reaching his loftiness, they have remained, empty and weightless, inflated and elated, dangling, as it were, at a windy middle level between heaven and earth.[14]

It’s a masterful picture. Do you see what he’s saying? The wise and the learned say, “Well, no, if I’m going to know God, I’m going to know God on my own terms. I mean, I’m going to get to him through my own approach.” No you’re not! “Well, do you have to become mindless?” No. “Do you have to become childish?” No. You have to become childlike. The wise and the learned aim at the loftiness of God, overstep his humility in the incarnation, and so neither meet him there nor meet him there, and are left dangling in the windy middle.

And some of you, that is exactly where you are this morning: dangling in the windy middle between heaven and hell. And God has taken the initiative and come to you. He hasn’t asked you to get a PhD to know him. He hasn’t asked you to run around the building forty times to gain acceptance with him. He hasn’t asked you to fulfill all the obligations that religion places upon you. He has asked you to do one thing, and that one thing you refuse to do: humble yourself. Humble yourself. 

Like C. S. Lewis in [1929], in the [Trinity] Term at Cambridge, he says, “Finally I knelt down by my bed, and I admitted that God was God: perhaps the most reluctant convert in the whole of England,”[15] but he finally got to the point where he took his massive ego, and he brought it down before the wonder of God in Christ. How about you today? “Unless you become as a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[16] I urge you, by the mercy of Christ, “Be reconciled to God.”[17]

Father, help us, then, so to look at what it says, to think of what it means, and by your Spirit to apply it to our lives. Bring us to the place where we accept you, and get us to the place where we accept one another, considering others better than ourselves.

And may the grace of the Lord Jesus, the love of God our Father, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit rest upon and remain with each of us, today and forevermore. Amen.


[1] Galatians 4:4 (KJV).

[2] Edward Caswall, “See amid the Winter’s Snow” (1858).

[3] Luke 2:13 (NIV 1984).

[4] Anonymous, “Seeking for Me.”

[5] Luke 2:12 (NIV 1984).

[6] Luke 2:12 (KJV).

[7] John 13:4–5 (NIV 1984).

[8] Matthew 1:22–23 (NIV 1984).

[9] See Matthew 8:23–27; Mark 4:35–41; Luke 8:22–25.

[10] Matthew 8:27 (KJV).

[11] Attributed in Vaughan Roberts, Turning Points: Is There Meaning to Life? (Carlisle: Authentic Media, 2003), xiii.

[12] Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” (1970). Lyrics lightly altered.

[13] Augustine, Letter 118, trans. Wilfried Parsons, FOTC 18 (Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1953), 282. Paraphrased.

[14] Augustine, Sermon 184, reproduced in Proclaiming the Christmas Gospel: Ancient Sermons and Hymns for Contemporary Christian Imagination, ed. John D. Witvliet and David Vroege (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 30.

[15] C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy (New York: HarperCollins, 1955), 279. Paraphrased.

[16] Matthew 18:3 (paraphrased).

[17] 2 Corinthians 5:20 (NIV 1984).

Copyright © 2019, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.