At one time we were created in the image of God. We lost that part of our God-likeness that had to do with true righteousness and holiness. Jesus came to earth in order to restore that likeness. We are to be like God. What is that like? Jesus! We are to be like Jesus. He is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3).
To be like Jesus we must first know Him. One of the obvious characteristics of Jesus is His humility; He patterned and taught it. Let’s examine this pattern He left for us to emulate.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death¾even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV)
The pattern began when He left heaven and continued downward to end at the cross. It was downward all of the way. While Jesus was here He gave some specific examples and teaching concerning humility, or voluntary slavery.
“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:13-17 NIV)
Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NIV)
We are His followers; therefore, we are to be servants. In order to be like Jesus, the path is downhill, toward voluntary slavery. To our knowledge the path will not turn around this side of Glory. It certainly did not turn around for Jesus.
Apparently, humility can be attained by choice. In fact, it is the only way because although coerced serving may be humiliating, it is not humility. Choosing to be a servant and continually choosing to do so is to follow Jesus.
Jesus came up with the same conclusion. He told two different stories, in Luke 14:7-11 and in 18:9-14, after observing egocentric behavior. Both conclusions read the same:
For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)
It is what one does with himself that determines whether he is following Jesus. If he exalts himself, he is following the enemy. If he humbles himself, he is following Jesus.
Webster’s Dictionary defines humility as the “absence of pride or self-assertion.” You may not be “neutral” with yourself; either you will exalt yourself or humble yourself. We must demonstrate our sevanthood by action that springs from a humble heart.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)
(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)