Nothing

Might we dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? 

Recently I read a quote by Kierkegaard that took my breath away, until I realized what he really meant: 

“I have only one word to say, but if the power were given me to utter it, that single phrase, so that it would be fixed and unforgettable, then my choice is already made and I know what I would say: ‘Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing; O Christendom, remember this!’” — Søren Kierkegaard, Papers 

“Our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing!!” This statement was startling, even blasphemous, to me at first. But then I remembered these verses: 

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as (think like, direct your mind, seek for, set your mind, have the mind and thoughts of) Christ Jesus:  

Who, being in very nature God (though he was God), did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (grasped, asserted, clung to, exploited),  

rather, he made himself nothing (emptied himself, gave up his divine privileges, made himself of no reputation, without recognition, valueless) by taking the very nature of a servant (slave), being made in human likeness.  

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled (assigned himself a lower rank, abased) himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV) 

Kierkegaard, in Denmark, was reacting, as Wilberforce had done earlier in Englandi, to the prevailing Pharisitic mindset that focused on outward appearances, and believed that all it took to be a Christian was to live in a “Christian” nation, attend the State-approved (acceptable) church, give your tithes, and, even better, have your own noticeable pew dedicated to your family. What you did the rest of the week didn’t matter. Individual responsibility for holiness was unknown or ignored. 

Most of these, especially well-to-do, churchgoers wanted to be “something.” They wanted to be “somebody.” But our worth to God does not come from outward appearances, accomplishments or wealth. In fact, these sorts of “something” may be detestable to God if they become our gods. 

He said to them [the Pharisees], “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight. Luke 16:15  

But Jesus chose to be “nothing,” though he, of all humans to ever walk the earth, had the right to be Somebody – King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But he chose to be of no reputation, valueless, and he is our model. The word describing Jesus’ choice to become “nothing” is the Greek verb kenóō, which meansproperly, to empty out, render void; (passive) be emptied – hence, without recognition, perceived as valueless (Phil 2:7).” ii 

This Greek word comes from kenós, which means “empty, void; hence, worthless (“null”), amounting to zero (of no value, profit).”   

Very few of us choose to be a big fat zero. We may feel like one, but we rarely choose it. Most of us crave the approval, the recognition, the respect of the world. You can only choose to be nothing and valueless in the sight of the world if you have a solid-rock certainty that you are of infinite value to God – and that others also have infinite value. 

And Jesus knew his value to God – “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 17:5). And he knew our value to God, for it beat passionately, faithfully, unending, unchanging in his heart, the very heart of God. And so, he came to be a nothing and to be “obedient to death— even death on a cross” for us. You are of great value to your Father. 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16  

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. 1 John 4:9 

Might I dare to become nothing with him to bring his lost loved children home? What would that look like? It would mean to trust utterly, even to the last breath. 

But he has demonstrated his own love for us … 

“God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say: yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” — Søren Kierkegaard, Journals 

God keeps bringing this theme back to me in different facets. See also Emptied

i A Practical View of the Prevailing Religious System of Professed Christians, in the Middle and Higher Classes in this Country, Contrasted with Real Christianity. William Wilberforce. Fulltext available at Project Gutenberg https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/25709  

ii Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

Image: Detail from Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Emptied

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8 (ESV) 

Jesus “emptied himself.” The word means to make empty, to abase (humble, lower oneself), make of no reputation. Isaiah says it even more starkly: 

He [Messiah] was despised (held in contempt, disdained) and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed (valued) him not. Isaiah 53:3 

Did you ever think that, out of his deep love for us, Jesus emptied and abased himself to become of no reputation, a weak human, taking on our sin, enduring the shame of being crucified on a cross – in order that we might be crucified with him, cleansed of our shame, emptied out of our sin, made pure and holy in him, so that we could truly love others? 

Loving others is what it is all about. Loving others is what I wish I could do. Loving others is pretty much what I fail to do continually. But to do that I have to start at the cross. I have to start with being crucified with him. I have to die, be emptied of self, of all the self-stuff, and let him live in me every day – and that is hard.   

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 

Philippians 2:5 says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” And, in fact, 1 Corinthians 2:16 declares that we do have the mind of Christ. We just have to be willing to yield. I want to be willing – will you make me willing Lord? – to forsake reputation and honor and pride and self-reliance and my own thinking and to have this mind that was in Christ Jesus. Work in me, Lord, to be willing to be emptied and abased, a “fool for Christ,” “the scum of the world, the refuse of all things,” to be crucified with Christ, in order that you can love people through me. That they may know “the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge” (Ephesians 3:19).  

We are fools for Christ’s sake …When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things. 1 Corinthians 4:10, 12-13 (ESV) 

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  Ephesians 2:4-5 

In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him … We love because he first loved us. 1 John 4:9, 19 (ESV) 

He was a man of no reputation  

And by the wise, considered a fool  

When He spoke about faith and forgiveness  

In a time when the strongest arms ruled  

But this man of no reputation  

Loves us all with relentless affection  

And He loves all those poor in spirit, come as you are  

To the man of no reputation — Rich Mullins 

Come as you are Salvation  

Image: Ford Maddox Brown, Jesus Washing Peter’s Feet [1852-6], Tate Archive, image  released under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unported)

Excavation

I’m sure God feels like it has been an excavation project to get through to me.

Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced; burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—it is written about me in the scroll. I desire (take pleasure in, delight) to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40:6-8 (NIV)

In the old testament if a slave came to love his master and wanted to stay and serve him for life, the master would bore a hole through his ear as a sign.

But if your servant says to you, “I do not want to leave you,” because he loves you and your family and is well off with you, then take an awl and push it through his ear lobe into the door, and he will become your servant for life. (Deut. 15:16-17 NIV)

The words in Psalms 40 prophesy the coming Messiah, the one who came to be the Servant Savior, “my ears you have pierced … I delight to do your will.”

God doesn’t long for our sacrifices and all the offerings required by the law, but our love and surrender (not all those who say ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the Kingdom). He wants us to hear his voice and know him, to delight to serve him. The word translated “pierced” in the Hebrew means “to dig, excavate, dig through, to bore or open.”

I think it is kind of funny that it means “to excavate.” I’m sure God feels like it has been an excavation project to get through to me. One of the meanings of excavate is to uncover buried remains – perhaps remains of my first love? The burning passion to do His will? Digging down through the many rocks and bitter roots, to the buried remains of my first love, down to the “fountains of my soul” as Charles Spurgeon wrote in his commentary[i] on Psalm 40:6-8.

Our Lord was quick to hear and perform his Father’s will; his ears were as if excavated down to his soul; they were not closed up like Isaac’s wells, which the Philistines filled up, but clear passages down to the fountains of his soul. The prompt obedience of our Lord is here the first idea. There is, however, no reason whatever to reject the notion that the digging of the ear here intended may refer to the boring of the ear of the servant, who refused out of love to his master to take his liberty, at the year of jubilee; his perforated ear, the token of perpetual service, is a true picture of our blessed Lord’s fidelity to his Father’s business, and his love to his Father’s children. Jesus irrevocably gave himself up to be the servant of servants for our sake and God’s glory.

Yes, Lord, I need you to excavate me. Let the fountains of my soul burst forth again with your spring of Living Water. Grant me grace, each day, to irrevocably give myself up to be your servant. I will delight to do your will.

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 NASB)

I delight to do Your will, O my God. (Psalm 40:8 NASB)

[i] Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Psalm 40 http://archive.spurgeon.org/treasury/ps040.php

 

Image in the Public Domain

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