What To Do When Your Fullness Is Emptiness



Philippians 2:7

[R]ather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.


Let’s begin today by remembering the unfortunate mind of Adam. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. They were human beings by nature. Jesus, a human being, was God by nature. It’s interesting that Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage” (v. 6).

We can’t say the same for Adam. Let’s revisit the scene in Eden.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. (Gen. 3:4-6)

Did you catch it? The serpent said, “You will be like God.” Adam and Eve, the ones created in the very image of God, decided equality with God something to be grasped. And grasp they did.

This fateful decision had the effect of creating just the opposite pattern. Remember, the mind of Christ forms the \/ pattern. The mind of Adam, in opposite fashion, forms the /\ pattern.

The ones who were servants of all of creation determined to be gods. The one who was God determined to be a servant. The image-bearers of God who had been given everything still needed to try and make themselves something. The Son of God made himself nothing.

The Greek term behind “made himself nothing” is kenosis. It means to empty oneself. Why did Jesus empty himself? He did it for love. The one who was full made himself empty so we who are empty could be made full.

In order for sinful people like us to be justified before a holy God, we must simply accept Jesus’ work on our behalf. That is the first half of the gospel. The second half of the gospel, or sanctification, is the process of taking on the mind of Christ. This means emptying ourselves of all we thought would be fullness in order that we might be filled with all the fullness of God.

Because we are born into the mind of Adam we, too, make the fateful choice to grasp for equality with God. We do it by choosing to trust someone (including ourselves) or something other than God. We do this because of our own insecurity. We are not secure in and of ourselves. We were never meant to be. We need God.

Unfortunately, we will trust in just about anything and everything under the sun but God. The result is that we build false security, which becomes a false self. In an attempt to be secure we fill ourselves up with everything but the one thing that will give us ultimate security—God. Growing in the grace of the gospel means a long process of emptying ourselves of all this falseness—this emptiness that masquarades as fullness— that we might be filled with true fullness. We think the way to life is up. It is down. It’s why we say, “Down Is the New Up.” Descent defines the way of the cross. Only in the fullness of God will we find the fullness of our true self.

Who doesn’t want that?

It’s why Jesus was so good to tell us, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24).


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who is the fullness of God. Show us the upside-downness of our lives. Teach us that the way down is the way up. We are so tired of trying to fill ourselves up when only you can do that. Come, Holy Spirit, and lead us in this way of descent, following Jesus in the way of the cross. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


  1. Do you see the reversal happening between the mind of Adam and the mind of Christ?
  2. Have you or are you filling yourself with false security? Do you see the emptiness in that?
  3. Do you have a sense of your own false self—the shadow self you have constructed over the years attempting to make your life work apart from complete dependence on God? Are you ready to take the next step in deconstructing it?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.


  1. I truly get it. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” In other words our entire lives will need to be lived out at the foot of the cross. There is no way around it, no short cut to the “glory road.”

  2. In the “Breastplate of St. Patrick” there is an understanding that used to be more prevalent in Christianity than it is today. in the “Breastplate”, St. Patrick sets around himself the power of God. Then in the middle there is a verse that states, “I have set around me all these powers against every hostile savage power directed against my body and my soul.” He then goes on to list what these “hostile savage powers” are; the last one is “Against all knowledge that binds the soul of man”.

    There is a similar statement in the Heidelberg Catechism.