I asked Brian Dye, founder and director of Legacy, what was intended with these “Ministers’ Challenge” moments. And he gave me a general answer that was helpful. But my favorite comment on the Ministers’ Challenge was from another brother who shall remain nameless to protect the guilty. He said the ministers’ challenge was a time for me to rebuke you for an hour without interruption! Well, this won’t be an hour long :)!
But perhaps it will be a rebuke for us all. I’d like us to turn to Philippians 2 and consider verses 5-11. It’s a well-known passage that you have expounded or heard expounded in one context or another. It’s exhortation to unity and humility is rightly regarded as one of the sweetest passages of Scripture.
What I’d like us to do is consider this text in application to our context as ministers and public people. In particular, I’d like to open this text and apply it to a context where so many ministers and Christians seem to be after “platforms.”
Here’s the main thought I want to leave you with: The very idea of a platform is anti-Christian. If you seek a platform, your life will be traveling in the opposite direction of your Lord’s.
Consider Paul’s words in Philippians 2:1-11 (my emphases added):
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
The exhortations of verses 1-4 depend on having a certain frame of mind. To do the things listed in verses 1-4, we must think of ourselves and think of life in a certain way. We must have the mind of Christ. In fact, according to verse 5, we already have this mind at our disposal. It is ours in Christ.
What is the mind of Christ? How does the mind of Christ think through the idea of platforms? The mind of Christ is seen in five things:
- The mind of Christ is seen in seen in letting go of status (v. 6).
- The mind of Christ is seen in self-emptying (v. 7)
- The mind of Christ is seen in local, humble obedience (v. 8)
- The mind of Christ is seen in cross-bearing (v. 8)
- The mind of Christ is seen in knowing that Christ is already exalted (vv. 9-11)
First, the mind of Christ is seen in seen in letting go of status (v. 6).
What status did Christ have according to the text? “He was in the form of God” and as such had “equality with God.” Can you think of a higher status than that?!
This is high Christology! Verse 6 paints a wonderful picture of the deity of Christ. To say that Jesus Christ is “in the form of God” and to say that He has “equality with God” is, in fact, to say that He is God since only God can be equal to God or take the form of God.
But what interests us is this question: How does the Lord Jesus think of this status? What’s his heart’s reaction to it? What value does He assign it? Answer: He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped…” In other words, the Lord Jesus had the highest possible status but determined to let it go.
It’s at this point that platform building immediately opposes itself to Christ and a uniquely Christ-like way of thinking about ourselves. Platforms tend toward status-building. Platforms are about grasping equality in reputation or notoriety with someone somewhere who has something more than we do.
Let me put it this way: Why should anyone listen to us? Why should anyone give any attention to you or me? If our answer has anything to do with us, then to that extent we’ve envisioned a status of some sort that makes us at least equal to or better than some other person on that subject. And if we want that status known, we will find ways in some circle or another to build a platform.
But that is simply not what our Lord did. He was far superior to every creature — even equal with God—but He let that status go — the very things platforms try to grasp.
So platforms are for anti-Christs because platforms seek equality where Christ gave up His status.
Second, the mind of Christ is seen in self-emptying (v. 7)
If Christ our Lord didn’t grasp onto equality with God, what did he do after letting His status go? Verse 7: “but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”
You may have a translation of verse 7 that says, “made himself of no reputation…” The text tells us how the Lord did that. He took “the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” That’s how low the Lord of Glory came. The One who was fully God here becomes fully man — born of young virgin, taking the servant’s form. The Creator joined to himself the likeness of the creature.
There are many people who want to go from being man to being God. But the Savior goes from being equal with God to being the likeness of man. The Incarnation is the willing divestment of divine dignity in order to don the carnal vestments of ignobility. In the incarnation, Christ veils His glory with grime, and he limits His omnipresence with space and location. He hides Himself as Creator beneath the skin, scabs, sweat, and smells of creature. The high and lofty One joins himself with the low and fallen ones.
Does a platform do that?
Christ made himself of no reputation. But platforms are all about reputations. The question isn’t even whether the reputation is earned. The question is whether there’s something anti-Christian about a heart that seeks one.
It’s one thing if your gifts make room for you as Proverbs 18:16 says. It’s one thing if you take the lower seat at the dinner party, and the host calls you up to a higher one. But it’s an entirely different thing if we make room for ourselves through self-promotion. I’m afraid to think of how many men and women wanting to make a name for themselves in the kingdom will be told to leave their high places and sit in the back of the Father’s banquet hall.
We’d better be careful of building platforms because we may find they were really scaffolds for the Judge’s hanging. Platforms are for anti-Christs because platforms build reputations when Christ sacrificed his. But the mind of Christ is seen in letting go of status and Self emptying.
Third, the mind of Christ is seen in local, humble obedience (v. 8)
The incarnation of our Lord was an embracing of the local, the specific, the limits of space and place. If the incarnation is Christ taking on our humanity, then to be fully human means we must abandon delusions of omnipresence and embrace the limits of locality.
Platforms are about this kind of disembodied experience. Platforms are about trying to be everywhere at once. They’re about having an influence that reaches beyond our locality to places we’d never travel to people we’ll never meet. And platforms are about doing in those far off places with those far off people what we may not be doing where we are.
Platforms are a kind of proxy for omnipresence, which as you know is an incommunicable attribute of God. Platform may just be a modern word for “god complex.” But human lives are local lives. And what are we meant to do in our local places and spaces?
Answer: We are meant — in our little local places and spaces — to live humble, obedient lives. Notice what the text says in verse 8: “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death….” If having a platform feels like life to us, while being local and unknown feels like death, then we know platforms are drawing us away from Christ. They’re taking us in the opposite direction of Christ in the gospel.
And obedience is vital, beloved. It’s vital as an authentication of genuine faith and genuine for Christ. Romans 1:5 celebrates what it calls “obedience that comes from faith.” And the Lord Jesus asks the searching question in John’s gospel, “Why do you call me Lord and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46). It would seem that one major goal of the Christian life is learning to “live a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:2).
Here’s what I think I see. You tell me if you think I’m wrong. But so many people — including a lot of very young Christians — want national and international platforms when they haven’t yet learned how to live obedient, humble local lives. Why be elevated when you can’t yet stand? The Lord Jesus became obedient even to the point of death and many of us haven’t even become obedient even to the point of difficulty.
But we want platforms. People think that the greater work is done on the platform. But the greater work is done on the ground — at home, with your family, in your prayer closet, your living room, and your kitchen.
Platforms are for anti-Christs because they call us to service in places that don’t matter nearly as much as the particular place and bounds to which Christ has called us.
Platforms are for anti-Christs because they hollow out the Christian life and too often elevate people whose public personas do not match their private persons.
But the mind of Christ is seen in letting go of status, self emptying, local, humble obedience.
You can see Part 2 here.