Nehemiah's Call

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Eyes to See and Ears to Hear

Eyes to See and Ears to Hear

March 4 , 2007

What Does The Shepherd Look Like?

Philippians 2:7

But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant and coming in the likeness of men.

1 Corinthians 9:18

That when I preach the gospel, I may present the gospel of Christ without charge, that I may not abuse my authority in the gospel.

1 Corinthians 7:31

For the form of this world is passing away.

These three sets of Scripture are useful to measure today’s culture to the truth of God’s word. The spirit of the age entices us to the possibilities of life without God making running our own show a reality. So what is found in these New Testament passages that can alert us to the truth found in Jesus alone?  What does Jesus really look like?

A glimpse into who Jesus really is can be found in this important passage in Phillipians. The New King James version does not translate the original Greek consistently as other translations with the key verb kenoo. This word is most often translated emptied. The Harpers Study Bible has this background and further definition of kenosis—

Kenosis is the theological name often used in connection with Christ’s incarnation. He emptied Himself or stripped Himself or divested Himself of his divine powers and prerogatives as God the Son when He took upon Himself the form of a servant. He assumed the human limitations inherent in His becoming a true human being. It was a voluntary, self-imposed limitation. Christ in human form was both God and man- two distinct natures united in one person. Yet Scripture does not make clear the full implications of the kenosis. There are aspects of mystery connected with it which the minds of finite men are not able to fathom.

A. T. Robertson has this to say of this word ekenose— “Of what did Christ empty Himself? Not of his divine nature. He continued to be the Son of God. Undoubtedly Christ gave up his environment of glory. He took upon Himself limitations of place, space, knowledge and power, though still on earth retaining more of these than any mere man. He was without sin, though tempted as we are. Robertson also characterizes the word form as the characteristic attributes of a slave. His humanity was as real as His deity.”

The Bible says that he who is born again is a new creation in Christ. This new creation would begin to look as Jesus would look. The old man is full of his own desire for worth. The old man relies on the lusts of the flesh and carnality for sense of being. However, to make empty as in the biblical sense is to limit oneself to a more narrow purpose. What are the boundaries of our own purpose? The answer to this marks the beginning of the quest for true peace. For to be like Jesus is to have the same relationship He had with the Father. The requirements are the same for us today as they were for Jesus. To become like Him is to surrender all our dreams, ambitions and ideas to conform to His purpose for creating us. It is only in this voluntary emptying that we find true peace in our world that is passing away.

Our Western Culture by and large does not voluntarily put limits on what we can do. Our own American Constitution espouses the pursuit of happiness as man’s highest attribute, not self emptying. This is contrary to who Jesus really is as found in Philippians 2:7. This is why global missions can be the opposite of our current mainstream culture. The narrowing of purpose and leaving the safety here to go afar is self emptying in many ways. The limiting of our already busy schedules for Kingdom matters and pastoral ministry is another opportunity. Requiring our children to choose one activity may be another. Defining a family mission statement could bring clarity to hectic lifestyles.

For those who flow in the business world and professional service sectors, like myself, have found these places to be highly rewarding. The businessman can flow unhindered to implement strategic plans toward marketing and sustaining gross margins. The professional can build efficient and helpful practices benefiting others. Yet at the end of day are we flowing in a self emptying mode? Are we choosing to limit ourselves voluntarily? When is enough “good things” truly enough.

As Dr. Myron S. Augsburger has been teaching us in our Virginia Mennonite Conference sponsored Winter Bible Study; our culture entices to bend our ears to its causes. Myron has encouraged us that a greater mission is for us in Christ. He is calling for more evangelists to be called out by God. As tempting as our own causes may be, even when spun by others, at the end of the day our quest for true peace goes on.

In my practice of public accountancy and tax planning I have chosen to work extremely hard for five months of the year and work harder at the self emptying part the remainder of the year. I have found it is difficult to say no to good work. Yet to be obedient to this step of maturing in Christ may mean to say no. I want to encourage us all who are transitioning into this next season to pray that our eyes and ears would be open to experience the Great Shepherd in His fullness. To display who He really is.

Written by

Lawrence R. Yoder - Director
Harrisonburg, VA

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