Let This Mind Be in You
Champions for God
[Presentation 2 of 6] Let This Mind Be in You (Philippians 2:1-5)
Larry Kirkpatrick, Weimar Institute Retreat, Thursday, October 17am,br />
Monterey Bay Academy, Gymnasium.
How to Change Your Past
If time lasts long enough, you will one day look back over your years. You see them run in the hourglass, whipping and blasting in a frenzied gust of apparent confusion. Returning to the beginning of your experience with Jesus, you survey what has followed. What you see seems mostly to be the cheapness, the darkness, the moments in your life out of which you came looking incredibly shrunken. Your failures loom large. Your eyes see a few things you did for Jesus, with Jesus; but as you review the past, your hopes sink. In your whole life you see little good. You are fully conscious of your weakness and unworthiness. [GC 619]. You can't imagine how you've zoomed through so much experience only to come to this. You can hardly see the points of light for the swaths of darkness and gloom. Your life seems to you to be a map of failures and disaster. The last possibilities of hope tremble and you want to flee but there is nowhere to go. Satan presses upon your wilting psyche, wringing it with throes of despair. How did it come to this? Did you permit your Lord to change you? You wish you could go back. You wish you could rewrite the history of your spiritual journey. Surrounded by the enemies of God and with Jesus' arrival absolutely imminent, you feel more alone than you have in all your life. Is it too late? you ask yourself. But there is no response; only the pregnant, damning silence. It is the end, and what mind do you have? The mind of selfishness? Or the mind of Christ?
A day is coming that will test us like we've never been tested before. But it is still coming. That is the future; how far away, we cannot say. What we can say is, the present is an opportunity to rewrite the history of your spiritual journey before it happens. We have an opportunity, just as real, just as literal, as if this really occurred—to travel backwards from that moment of spiritual despair looming at last ahead, and rewrite our history. It can be my-story or His-story. It can be the story of self becoming ascendant in your life, or Christ and His kingdom of righteousness being granted first place.
Which will it be?
Looking on the Things of Others
In other words, which mind will you choose? Whose mind will be in you, whose mind will control you, whose mind will write the script of your life as you come to each step? Join me at Philippians 2:1-5.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
Does Jesus make a difference in your life? Then you will behave that way; so says our first verse. Paul prays that our love and harmony will be palpable, that we would truly unite in the journey home. Let nothing be done through strife and vainglory. Don't seek to be first. The watchword of Jesus is, I'm not first, you are.
When our passage says to look not on your own things but on the things of others, it does not mean to be forceful or nosey or to get into other people's business; any boney-fingered, grim-faced condemner can do that. It means you should keep the spiritual welfare of others uppermost in your mind and heart. That means prayer for them, affection for them, forgiving them, biting your tongue when you would rather bite theirs. Sometimes it will mean in humility confronting someone in private. You will have to lay out what you understand is the reality of a situation in order to help that person see something about themselves they have not seen before. It means if you are their friend, you will tell the truth, but in a way calculated to heal, not destroy.
Now realize, some of us are prone to do part of this already. It does not take a converted heart to bear down on someone else with your opinion about how they've come short or what they are doing wrong. What our Scripture here is suggesting is not that. It is rather the doing of something which requires, can only be done by, a converted heart: it means—sometimes—there may be occasions where you begin to have clarity about some destructive pattern in a brother or sister's life, and in a careful, helpful, private approach you quietly tell them even as you offer ideas to help them onto the pathway of change. It may mean putting relationships at risk. But if your friends can't tell you the truth, who can?
You will notice that all of these ideas are positive ones. They also are all ideas that involve community: your influence upon others, your working with others, your caring for others, your help with heaven in helping others grow. People are delicate. They may put on a pleasant face, a brave mask; but few of us are made of steel girders inside. We need very careful handling. Just past the edge of the eggshell is a lot of gooey liquid ready to drain out and wash away. Humpty Dumpty has many human friends just like himself; don't push him or them off the wall. We're fallen people approaching a holy God. Heaven wants us to heal people, not to crush them. Are you willing to take the risk of looking not on your own things only, the preservation of the status quo? The clock is ticking. The probation offered us in this life is ebbing away. Tomorrow is coming on so much sooner than we realize.
Acquiring the Mind of Jesus
It is the fifth verse though that is our target for this hour, and it opens with this thought: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” It is an imperative—a command. We are commanded to have the same mind as Christ? Now that's very unreasonable of Paul, isn't it? The mind of Peter or Thomas or Jonah, maybe—but of Christ? What does this mean?
There is a word underneath all this, the Greek word, phroneo, which occurs around 30 times in the New Testament. All but three occurrences are in the writings of Paul. In some places the word has the meaning “to think of, to appreciate.” In many places it means to be “united in harmony with another” or with others. In some places it means a willingness to “work together” with others.
About one third of the times he uses this word, Paul writes it into his letter to the Philippians. In Philippians 1:7 it means “to think,” and Paul is basically saying, “it is appropriate for me to consider you in this manner.” In 2:2 it occurs twice, translated “like-minded,” and at the end of the verse, “of one mind.” In 3:15 you have a command again, that we would be “thus minded.” In 3:16 “Let us mind the same thing,” that is, let us have a united opinion. In 3:19 the warning of final destruction on the horizon is for those “who mind earthly things.” The last two are 4:2, where Paul pleads with Eodius and Syntyche to agree with each other, and in 4:10 “at the last your care for me [phronein] hath flourished again.” All these are places where a form of the word phroneo has been used.
What does it mean in 2:5, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”? Some more clues are found where Paul uses the word in Romans 8:5: “For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” Paul points out that those who live their life like flies zooming in ecstasy around the sweet smell of garbage, those who “are after the flesh,” make their foremost mental value the things of sensation. Again, in Colossians 3:2 the Holy Spirit commands us through Paul to “Set your affection [phroneo] on things above, not on things of the earth.”
Altogether the meaning we might best consider for Philippians 2:5 is that we would with Jesus be united together in the same valuation, the same emotional investment in things, the same weighting of things, in the same moral endorsements, in the same humble, selfless approach toward others, united together in the same spirituality, as Christ. Let me say all that again. The meaning we might best consider for Philippians 2:5 is that we would with Jesus be united together in the same valuation, the same emotional investment in things, the same weighting of things, in the same moral endorsements, in the same humble, selfless approach toward others, united together in the same spirituality, as Christ.
A tall order? yes indeed. But our God is able to fill tall orders—very tall orders. From In Heavenly Places, p. 166:
‘Be ye therefore perfect’ (Matt. 5:48) is God's word to us. And in order that we might obey this word, He sent His only-begotten Son to this earth to live in our behalf a perfect life. We have before us His example, and the strength by which He lived this life is at our disposal. In thought, word, and act Jesus was sinless. Perfection marked all that He did. He points us to the path that He trod, saying, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me’ (Matt. 16:24).
We are to copy no human being. There is no human being wise enough to be our criterion. We are to look to the man Christ Jesus, who is complete in the perfection of righteousness and holiness. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the pattern man. His experience is the measure of the experience that we are to gain. His character is our model. Let us, then, take our minds off the perplexities and the difficulties of this life and fix them on Him, that by beholding we may be changed into His likeness. (Emphasis added.)
Beautiful. And consider this, from Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 324: “When truth is working only upon the conscience, it creates much uneasiness; but when truth is invited into the heart, the whole being is brought into captivity to Jesus Christ. Even the thoughts are captured, for the mind of Christ works where the will is submitted to the will of God. ‘Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 2:5). He whom the Lord makes free is free indeed, and he cannot be brought into servile bondage to sin.
And another, from Reflecting Christ, p. 303: “The character we cultivate, the attitude we assume today, is fixing our future destiny.” And one more, from the same page: “To be pardoned in the way that Christ pardons is not only to be forgiven, but to be renewed in the spirit of our mind. The Lord says, ‘A new heart will I give unto thee.’ The image of Christ is to be stamped upon the very mind, and heart, and soul. The apostle says, ‘And we have the mind of Christ.'’
The question that haunts us here at Philippians 2:5, that pleads for an answer of “yes,” is have we given God permission to make us like Jesus? Really? What does it mean to give Him permission? Is it mere verbal assent? What does it take to be a champion? Notice how the verse begins: “Let.” This speaks of our having an active submission to God's work in us. Another way of saying that, is to speak of cooperation.
What Was in the Mind of Jesus?
Before we finish, we want to see what else is linked with having the mind of Christ. What was the mind that was in Jesus? Well, we know His was a mind that was set on always upholding God's law. And we know that He took on Himself human flesh like our own. For a divine, infinite being to do this was like a painter shrinking down and entering his painting, like a video editor volunteering to have his very being flattened out onto the magnetic surface of video tape or disk drive. Jesus came down from heaven where He had spent eternity, and became a helpless babe. Not only that, but a broken baby, a baby with a sin-nature. It was like volunteering to start your life as a crack baby. How far behind can you get? But Jesus loved us and took the risk of infinite loss. Can you begin to fathom how much He loves you? He didn't do this only for the best people (whoever they are). He did it for each and every soul. Yes, He saw, way down there at the bottom of the barrel that marred and slimed and squished, decaying, deforming, misshapen specimen of rotten apple. You know, the one with fungus growing on it, the one that was so badly damaged that there was nothing left that could be done with it but to hose its stinking mass out of the barrel. That's the one. The apple that was you. He saw you. He looked into this world and saw your life. And He said, “I want her to be with me for eternity.” “I want him to be with me for eternity.” “That person is special to me. I will save if I am allowed to.” But it was no mere mental decision by Jesus. To make it work, Jesus must come here, onto the battlefield of planet earth. He must enter the arena His enemy claimed as his own. He must humiliate Himself, voluntarily abase Himself. He must descend from God-status to human status. He must come and experience for Himself fallen, sinful, degraded humanity—If He would save fallen, sinful, degraded humans like you and I.
But we will look at that part of the story next time.
We want to rewrite our future history now. Today is our day of opportunity. Jesus came down from the Father of lights and showed us how to live. The Holy Spirit is pleading with us to work with Him, to let Him make some serious changes in our value-system. What we need is a changed mind. God wants to make us right inside, and He can't do that if we will not let Him change our purposes, desires, and inclinations. We must actively submit to Him.
We can have the mind of Christ. We can cooperate with Him, actively submitting to His working. He will bring our purposes, desires, and inclinations into harmony with His will.
It's a tall order. Yes, your mind, your dirty, rotten mind; made clean, turned into a temple, receiving the Holy Spirit as Houseguest. He may have reached down to find you at the bottom of the barrel. But He is planning for you to join Him in song in the throne room of the universe.
Through the grace of God, let's be there.