The “incarnation” (literally the “in-flesh-ation”) is the conviction that the eternal, infinite God became a human being in Jesus Christ. Paul addresses this foundational belief of the Christian faith, not just to teach it, but because of a problem which arises in the church. Divisions and conflicts had arisen in the church of Philippi. There’s something in our hearts that inclines us towards conflict so, Paul cited the powerful bonds that can and should pull Christians together (v. 1-2). The incarnation is the solution. Paul begins by describing the heart that fights, then the heart that makes peace, and finally, he shows us how to obtain that kind of peaceful heart.
 The heart that fights is controlled by selfishness, empty conceit, pride, and self-interest (v. 3-4). Our English translation “empty conceit” comes from the Greek word kenodoxia. Kenos means “to empty” and doxa means “glory”, so the literal meaning is “to be glory-empty”—to be yearning for respect and honor. We desperately want to be honored and respected, and we’ll fight to get it! The pursuit of success is our response to glory-hunger, but it’s like a drug: no matter how much you take, eventually you get diminishing returns. We hunger for respect, for attention, and we lash out at others to get it. As a result, some say: “You have to decide to love yourself. You don’t need the validation of others. You bestow it on yourself. All that matters is what you think of yourself.” That sounds good, but it doesn’t work! The Bible tells us we are glory-starved because we were made for God, but we’ve turned away from Him. If you turn away from God, if he’s not the center of your life and the source of your joy, you have this infinite-size vacuum in your soul, and you will try to fill it with other people’s approval, with awards, money and success.
 The heart that makes peace is humble, gentle, and modest (v. 3-4). Paul presents humility as counter to being glory-starved: “Don’t be controlled by empty conceit, but rather be humble.” Humility refers to some kind of inner fullness. Humility and its opposite, pride, are determined by what you habitually look at. If you habitually look at yourself—“Am I getting what I deserve?—you’ll be empty. But when you’re “full” on the inside, you have the emotional and spiritual bandwidth to consider others. Humility is opposed to drivenness, scornfulness, willfulness, and self-consciousness. The Bible commends hard work, but drivenness often results from trying to prove something. To be “scornful” is to disrespect or mock others (think “sarcasm, disdain, and contempt”). Courtesy and gentleness flow from humility—which in turn is opposed to willfulness. The willful person doesn’t listen, doesn’t take advice. He says, “I have to be right, and you have to be wrong.” Finally, humility is also opposed to self consciousness. The domineering person is always reciting his accomplishments. As C.S. Lewis put it: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it’s thinking of yourself less.” No one can validate himself.
 The peaceful heart is gained through Christ’s incarnation. The answer doesn’t involve some psychological hocus pocus. Instead, the solution is to have the same mind-set that motivated Jesus to take on human flesh and die for humanity (v. 5-11). Jesus was equal to the Father in wisdom, power and love (v. 6). But Jesus “emptied himself” (v. 7). In the incarnation, Jesus humbled himself by taking on an additional nature—becoming human—and even more: a human who was a servant (v. 8). The divine, preexistent Christ did not regard the advantage and glory of his deity, as grounds to avoid the incarnation. On the contrary, he was willing to regard himself as nothing by taking on human form. Then he further lowered himself in servanthood by obeying God to the point of a humiliating death. Jesus emptied himself not by subtracting his deity, but by adding humanity.
Paul tells us to have that same mentality. We look at what happened outside of us (via Christ’s substitutionary death), and we use it inside of us. We were “glory-empty”, but Jesus “emptied himself” (v. 7; it’s the same Greek word, kenosis). On the cross, Jesus embraced our worst nightmare—being ignored and rejected by the person whose approval matters most (Mark 15:34). God turned his back on Jesus so that he can welcome us with open arms! No one can validate himself—but through Christ we not only have God’s smile, because it’s not based on anything that we’ve done, we cannot lose it! As C. S. Lewis put it: “To be loved by God…to be delighted in as an artist delights in his work, or as a father delights in his son— it seems impossible, a weight or burden of glory which our thoughts can hardly sustain. But so it is.”
APPLICATION / CHALLENGE
To gain a peaceful heart, embrace God’s love in Christ and then live as Christ lived—humbly considering others more important than yourself.
TAKE ONE STEP
Each week, write down one doable concrete step of obedience, small or large, that you will put into practice this week. (James 1:22: “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.”)