What Did He Do?

Though he was God,he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slaveand was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

Philippians 2:6-8 NLT

Here is a thought that occurred to me this Christmas. The very things that God promised to Abraham, Jesus gave up. God gave Abraham a place to call his own, progeny, and reputation. But Jesus had none of those. What’s happening? Is desire wrong? Was God just accommodating himself to an Abraham who was a “babe” in faith? No, God knows and honors our deepest desires, and he proves his trustworthiness by giving them to the man who will (finally) resist the desire to get them for himself. The lesson there is that desire is dangerous and that to master it we have to surrender its fulfillment into God’s hands. In short, we have to die to it.

That is what Jesus is showing us. He died every day of his earthly life. He died to a place of his own; he died to sexual love and children; he died to his reputation. He began all that in the very way he came to earth.  And because he was the master of his desires – killing them, as it were, he was really, truly, alive.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, says that we can only own something that we can honestly consider ourselves as being better off without. Otherwise, he says, it owns you. The same thing applies to desire. If I have to have it, I am in deep trouble.

No, our desires are not bad. Jesus clearly enjoyed life.  But he demonstrates to us that we must be masters of our desires at all costs. In some cases that will go to the lengths of refusing to fulfill those desires. C. S. Lewis says that to be fully human is to have your desires under the control of your will, and your will under the control of God.

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