Pursuing the Mind of Christ
Do you feel as if your relationship with God isn’t going anywhere? Are you tired of singing “He’s Still Working On Me” but feeling that it’s just becoming an excuse for making mistake after mistake…after mistake? Well, you’re in good company. My friend, David, has the same problem. Well…I do, too, but not to the extent he does. He messed up his best friend’s marriage by sleeping with his wife. Then his friend got deployed and died in the war. By the way, did I mention that my friend is a real important guy? Yeah, he’s a king, king of the whole darn nation of Israel! And still has trouble staying in good standing with God…
Of course, this little opening that sounds like a late night TV advertisement for the Jerry Springer Show is all for the purpose of discussing one of the often mentioned, but seldom developed, topics of how one pursues the mind of Christ. Paul, in speaking of the ultimate goal, said it this way:
“Let the same disposition (state of mind) be in you which was in Christ Jesus. Although, from the beginning, He had the nature of God, He did not reckon His equality with God a treasure to be tightly grasped (greedily horded). Nay, He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men. And being recognized as truly human, He humbled Himself and even stooped to die; yes, to die on a cross. (Phil 2:5-8, Weymouth Translation, parentheses mine)
Have you wondered if your walk is going anywhere?
Now, there are several attributes illustrated here, concerning the nature of the Christ, to which one should aspire for him or herself. Nevertheless, they are the culmination of a journey, the end product, rather than the beginnings of one. The Francis Weymouth Translation of 1905 is used here instead of the King James to more effectively perceive the point of the passage.
Weymouth renders the Greek phroneo, which the King James translates mind, as disposition or state of mind. This puts the balance of the passage into proper perspective, ie: if one has the same state of mind as the Christ, then his understanding of who he is in reference to Jesus will parallel the Christ’s understanding of where He stood in reference to God. From the beginning of creation, the nature of the Son was the nature of God, but the phroneo (state of mind) of the Christ did not let His understanding of His equality with God exceed the bounds of modesty (Strong’s Concordance, New Testament section, #5426), even though He was justified had He revealed Himself in glory, rather than humble Himself to the cross.
Therefore, in the heights of understanding, when the Christian understands his or her equality with Jesus as a joint heir (Romans 8:14-17) and child of the Living God, this treasure related to salvation should be shared instead of horded, and the equality with the nature of Jesus should invoke a feeling of humility rather than arrogance when the understanding of grace is fully revealed.
Get Ready . . .
However, if this is the implied destination of the journey, then where, one might ask, is the beginning? This is where the focus returns to David and his struggles to overcome his constant battle with sin. The Bible speaks of this important (important because it sets the stage for the birth of Solomon) incident in David’s life in the 11th and 12th chapters of 2 Samuel. One passage in particular which begins this saga stands out from the rest:
“It happened in the spring of the year, at the time when kings go out to do battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him, and all of Israel; and they destroyed the people of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But, David remained at Jerusalem. (2 Samuel 11:1 New King James, emphasis mine)
It is clear from the first emphasis that David should have been leading his army. He sent all of the fighting men (and all of Israel), under the leadership of his general, Joab, but David stayed home! So, he was where he should not have been, watching what he should not have seen. The story is well-known from there, up to and including David’s visit from the Prophet Nathan, ending with the infamous accusation, “Thou art the man!”(2 Samuel 12:7) It is soon after that confrontation when David pens the words known as Psalm 51, and identifies the first step of the journey, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10 NKJV).
This should be the cry of each and every person when sin is confronted. Just as in David’s case, sin leaves a filthy stain on the heart, and again as in David’s case, when one sin leads to another, the whole of the heart becomes unclean. Therefore, the first and most important step in correcting the relationship with God is true repentance and the cry for a clean heart. If the condition of the heart is not corrected, then nothing else matters. Sin in a child of God should cause an overwhelming need for this beginning.
Next, David pleads for God to renew a steadfast spirit. There are two points of major impact to consider in these four words. The first is renewing. This infers that there was something good to begin with. For an attribute to be renewed, there must have been an original nature set in place. With David, there is a relationship with God that goes back to the days of his youth when he tended his father’s flock of sheep, the job usually given to the youngest so the elder sons are free for more important work in the family. In the innocence of youth, David trusted God to stand by him as he slew a lion, a bear, and eventually Goliath of Gath, the champion of the Philistine army.
However, as with all youth, David grew up and the temptations of adult life began to assail him, the incident with Bathsheba just one of several illustrated in God’s Holy Word. But, David always remembered, as in this case, the relationship with God and his trust in Him. This allowed David to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” (Hebrews 4:16 KJV) to obtain the mercy he knew was available to him, and later available to all Believers. Next, there is also the plea for a steadfast spirit, rendered right spirit in the Authorized Version, but yet implying the same attribute. Something that is steadfast does not waver, but is solidly focused on one course, one purpose, and one destination. The journey of the Believer should be just that, pointed toward God and His purpose, never wavering from that course.
Get Set . . .
Nevertheless, through the journey from sin to eternal life, the true Believer will be found on his/her knees echoing this cry a multitude of times along the way. If there is ever the failure to do so, then the way to arrogance has been found, rather than the road to humility. The road to humility leads to a life of sacrifice, as seen in the next passage, identifying the next step toward the final goal:
“I plead with you therefore, brethren, by the compassion of God, to present all your faculties to Him as a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to Him. This with you will be an act of reasonable worship. And do not follow the customs of the present age, but be transformed by the entire renewal of your minds, so that you may learn by experience what God’s will is — that will which is good and beautiful and perfect. For through the authority graciously given to me I warn every individual among you not to value himself unduly, but to cultivate sobriety of judgement in accordance with the amount of faith which God has allotted to each one.” (Romans 12:1-3, Weymouth, emphasis mine)
Again, there are several nuggets of impact in the text. First, there is the plea from Paul for the presentation of a sacrifice, that of all of whom one is, the complete existence of the Believer. Although relieved of the necessity of presenting the blood and burnt flesh of animals, there is still the need for a sacrifice to be presented to God, and it is still one of burnt flesh. Returning to the word of God as written in the Book of Hebrews, there is seen an example of this sacrifice:
“For Jesus during his earthly life offered up prayers and entreaties, crying aloud and weeping as He pleaded with Him who was able to bring Him in safety out of death, and He was delivered from the terror from which He shrank. Although He was God’s Son, yet He learned obedience from the sufferings which He endured; and so, having been made perfect, He became to all who obey Him the source and giver of eternal salvation. For God Himself addresses Him as a High Priest forever, belonging to the order of Melchizedek.” (Hebrews 5:7-10, Weymouth, emphasis mine)
It is interesting to note that it was necessary for the Son of God to learn obedience to His Father’s wishes. Before the question, “Necessary?” is asked, one must remember the several instances of prayer recorded in the Bible leading up to this assessment by the writer of Hebrews, resulting in the opening of the passage concerning the “earthly life” of the Christ. Even though Jesus told His Disciples, in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14:1-17:26), about His need to leave them to set in action the steps leading to His resurrection, yet He still prayed that the task not be necessary (Matthew 26:39). Nevertheless, He was obedient to the cross, and obedient while on the cross not to call angels to save Him (Matthew 4:6). Yet note, even though He was created in perfection, it was the sufferings that taught Him obedience.
Even though He was the Son of God, He was wrapped in the same flesh as the rest of humankind, so it was that flesh that needed the teaching of obedience to God. The example was necessary so there would be a pattern for humankind to follow. Through this, Jesus became the source of redemption to those who offered Him the same obedience that He offered to God, which is the obedience to sufferings leading to glory. Nevertheless, it was the flesh He needed to sacrifice, as it was the flesh that took upon itself the sin of the world.
How simple a thought to have; and how simple a thought to just toss aside. Just simple words: the sin of the world, but what an impact when the real meaning of those four little words is revealed. Every sin…repeat, every sin that had ever been acted upon, and every sin that was to come poured into that body of flesh while on the cross. Imagine, if you will, every act of adultery, every devious lie, every drug to be thought of, and every addiction until the judgement day poured into the body of the Christ while on the cross. Can one even begin to imagine the agony that He felt, the agony that caused Him to cry out, “Eloi, Eloi, Lama, Sabachthani” (My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me, Mark 15:34)
Imagine the weight of that limitless body of sin. Imagine the agony He went through for the first time in His earthly life. Is it any wonder that Jesus sweat huge drops of blood when He begged the Father to “Let this cup pass from Me.” (Matthew 26:39) He sacrificed the flesh that experienced every sin that was and was to come so humankind would never have to do the same. It is easy to understand, under those conditions, why God expects a similar sacrifice from the Believer. It is a daily sacrifice, just as it was before the Advent of the Christ, but not one of an animal or bird brought to a Priest made by man. Paul called it “dying daily” (1 Corinthians 15:31). The writer of Hebrews explained the situation in detail as,
“…the Holy Spirit by this signifying that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest, so long as the first tabernacle was yet standing. It was a figure for the time then present in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, which could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience, since it concerned only meats and drinks and divers washings and carnal ordinances imposed on them” (Hebrews 9:8-10, emphasis mine)
Before the Christ, the way into the Holy of Holies was only clear once a year, when on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the High Priest entered to offer the blood of the sacrificial goat. Unfortunately, this did nothing for the people, or the Priest, but push the sins forward a year, compounding this by adding to it all of the sins atoned for before. Therefore, the sins of the people were still there. However, verse 11 begins with, “But Jesus came…” Now, it can be seen how heavy the weight of sin was on Jesus if all He had to carry was the sin done away with to that point. It is much easier to understand, through this example, why God considers the offering up of the living body a “reasonable service.”
It was the aroma of the burning flesh of the sacrifice offered up by the Priests that was the sweet savor in the nostrils of God; a foretaste of the time after the Advent and resurrection of the Christ. It is still the sweet savor of burning flesh that draws God’s attention, but not the flesh of sacrificed animals. It is the aroma of the flesh of the Believers as offered up on the altar of repentance each day, the offering up of one more bit of the life that stands between the supplicant and God. The sinful flesh cannot exist in the presence of God, hence the need for the High Priest to wave the censor of incense under the veil to fill the Holy Place with smoke to hide the smell of his flesh.
If the body of Believers is to excel to heights that entertain the presence of Almighty God, then the corrupt flesh will have to be removed. That is why Paul exhorts us to present the flesh daily on the altar of personal sacrifice so that the future will hold the ability to match the confession of Paul,
“For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2Timothy 4:7-9, KJV)
Paul was certain of his place in the kingdom of God because he had done everything in his power, and the power given by the Christ, to insure it, one step being in the passage from Romans 12, the renewing of the mind. However to reach that plateau, one must first make the decision to reject the ways, customs, habits, of the world of flesh around us, hence the removal of flesh by the daily sacrifice to God. The King James Bible says, “…be ye not conformed” (Romans 12:2), the phrase inferring a process of being “molded” or shaped into a likeness of something, in this case, the carnal being. Notice, though, that the credible response does not include a molding, or conformity, but rather, a transformation. God does not require “Jack-Booted Robots” to serve Him. He seeks those that are willing to reject the ways of the world, and love Him from the heart, as He loves us from a heart with love never ending.
This comes, once again, from a process of “renewing” the mind which, again, infers there was a willing mind to begin with. One might ask, though, how a body filled with sin, far from God, could have a mind willing to change. This situation is explained in a passage from 1 Peter, chapter one, the passage concerning the work of the Christ, and quoted here,
“Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.” (1 Peter 1:22-23, KJV)
“Now that, through your obedience to the truth, you have purified your souls for cherishing sincere brotherly love, you must love another heartily and fervently. For you have been begotten again by God’s ever-living and enduring word from a germ not of perishable, but of imperishable life.” (Weymouth Translation)
Both translations of the passage here include the mention of the involvement of something that does not die, but is immortal, watered by the word of God. It is this “non-perishing” or “incorruptible” seed that leads the sinner to repentance. One must remember that humankind is created in the “image of God.” Of course, this is not a physical, “look like God” image, but rather the image of His nature. One must also remember that God knew each person, “before I formed thee in the belly…” Jeramiah 1:5, KJV). The person, or personae (Greek), that God knew was the image of Himself placed into the physical form when the time came for manifestation (birth) on the earth. This is the image, or seed, that is constantly pressing the individual toward God and the renewing back to the form that when with God leads to righteousness. Answering the call of the “seed” is the activity that leads to salvation and the path to everlasting life, or as Weymouth so succinctly puts is, “the life that surpasses the ages.”
Go! . . .
Which brings the circle back around to the mind of Christ. However, attaining the same mind that was in the Christ is to attain the mind of God. Returning to Philippians highlights a section of the passage that warrants further scrutiny, “… He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men. And being recognized as truly human…” (Philippians 2:7-8a emphasis mine). The section emphasized an aspect of the Christ that can, indeed be, and is, copied by the acceptance of salvation and rebirth. The Believer has struggled for centuries with being joint heirs with the Christ (Romans 8:17) and usurping a place of equality with God. However, Jesus abrogated any guilt through the message of the passage in Philippians.
“Becoming a man like other men…” and “being recognized as fully human…” places Him in a manifestation to which one can attain. Listen, He was fully human by His birth through the womb of woman, yet fully God by His conception in the Holy Spirit. This is exactly the process of salvation. Consider the words of John, “Jesus answered Nicodemus, "I can guarantee this truth: No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit.” (John 3:5 God’s Word to the Nations Translation). Just as the Christ was born of the womb of woman, so is the Believer, hence “born of water.” Now, listen clearly to this next statement. Just as Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, so is the Believer. Having trouble with that? Then, consider the precursor to John 3:5, “…except a man be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”(John 3:3 Weymouth) Therefore, somewhere in the process of redemption there is a process of rebirth. Paul explains this concisely in Romans where he states,
“And do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Well, then, we by our baptism were buried with Him in death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from among the dead by the Father’s glorious power, we also should live an entirely new life. For since we have become one with Him by sharing in His death, we shall also be one with Him by sharing in His resurrection. This we know — that our old self was nailed to the cross with Him, in order that our sinful nature might be deprived of its power, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin; for he who has paid the penalty of death stands absolved from his sin.” (Romans 6:3-7, Weymouth)
One is denied the absurdity of Nicodemus in the passage from John where he expressed his amazement that a man might be reinstated into his mother’s womb by the answer from the Christ quoted above, i.e.: “born of water and the Spirit.” In Paul’s teaching to the Roman church, it is seen how the Spiritual birth is obtained. When one dies to sin by repentance and baptism, the way is paved for a new birth through the Spirit. Therefore the criteria is met for one to be personified the same as the Christ; the “old you” that was conceived by the seed of man is replaced by a “new you” conceived by the Spiritual seed of God.
It is through this Spiritual conversion that one obtains access to the “mind of the Christ,” or, in comparison, the mind of God. Jesus never took credit for anything He either said or did. Rather, He always attributed it to God. “Not My works, but the works of the Father who sent Me… The words I speak are not My words but… If you believe in Me, believe in the Father…” These are but a few, and paraphrased, examples of Jesus denying Himself and exalting God. If one searches the words of Jesus in pursuit of His “mind” (persona, character, attributes), then one seeks the very essence of God.
One must seek to please God in everything. The prayer to start each day should be, “Father, let me spend this day in pleasing you.” If this is done, no opportunity to glorify God will be missed. Oh yes, there will be stumbles and there will be out-and-out falls, but the Believer seeking the mind and character of the Christ, who spent His life seeking to please God, will get back up, ask forgiveness, and continue on the way. “Seek ye, first, the kingdom of God and His righteousness…”