Having the Mind of Christ
April 9, 2017
So here we are. Waiting for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ. Preparing for the kingdom of the new heavens and the new earth. Declaring the gospel of Jesus’s death and resurrection to others. Enduring the trials and sufferings for his name. This is the big picture. The grand story that we are a part of.
As we wait for our homeland, we can be distracted by this world. And we can be weighed down by our sinfulness. One of the heaviest of all is the weight of disunity.
The Philippian church was weighed down by disunity. Even though they had a clear sight of the ultimate gospel of Christ, they struggled to get along. Love and humility were down. Selfish ambition and conceit were up. Believers were looking to their own interests above the interests of others.
And so Paul writes a profound command with a magnificent rationale. The command is this: be united in humility and love. The rationale is this: we have the mind of Christ.
Verses 5-11 are some of the most amazing and mysterious words in all of Scripture. For here we get an absolutely clear view of what Jesus was thinking when he came to earth and died on the cross. Though we are merely finite humans who don’t even know our very own thoughts at times, here we have in verses 5-11 a jaw-dropping access to the very thoughts of the third person of the Truine God. We are talking about the Son, the Logos, the Alpha and the Omega, the King of all kings. It is amazing that you have this glimpse to the mind of Christ. And it is equally amazing that this very mind of Christ is yours for the keeping.
Paul begins by saying that the Lord Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. We know from Scripture that God is one in substance but three in persons. We don’t know how this works, but we know that it is true. The Son of God was and is and always will be equal in power and in glory with the God the Father and God the Spirit. And yet, in the mystery that is the Trinity, Jesus did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped. He humbled himself for the sake of our salvation.
Theologians describe this cosmic and eternal moment the pactum salutis or the covenant of peace. Before the foundation of the world, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit made an agreement, freely, as one Truine God, to redeem a people for himself. It was an agreement to carry out God’s plan for history and bring glory to himself. It was in that agreement that the second person of the Trinity, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, lowered himself. He had the full right to glory because he was of the Truine God. And yet, he did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped.
This is amazing. This is the ultimate definition of humility. This is the ultimate starting point of any discussion on how to be a humble person. Jesus the Son of God humbled himself. And as God who is by definition without sin, Jesus had no bitterness or jealousy or anger or competition. There was no selfish ambition or conceit. There were no interests of his own.
Paul continues to say that Christ Jesus emptied himself by taking the form of a servant and being born in the likeness of men. Jesus did not empty himself of his divinity or power. He always remained God. But Jesus did empty himself of his status and glory. And this emptying actually involved an addition, not a subtraction. Our Lord Jesus took on a human nature. He added to his divinity a humanity. He did not stop being what he was. He started being what he wasn’t. He became human.
This act, which we call the incarnation, is an utter mystery. We do not know how Jesus is truly God and truly man at the same time. But we know from Scripture that he is. And we are told that this is a glorious gospel for us to believe. John described this good news like this: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” And so Paul writes that Christ Jesus was born in the likeness of men. He was born from the Virgin Mary. He was a real person. A real baby. A real child. A real man with hands and feet that you could touch. Just ask Thomas. Just ask the woman with the alabaster jar. This is God with us. This is Immanuel. And we must get our minds around this astounding fact: that the Creator who was distinct and separate from his creation emptied himself and took on a specific part of his creation. He added human nature. He literally and physically and truly entered into our world of sin and death. He is mysteriously just like us and yet simultaneously not at all like us.
And you must know that this is actually an act of humility. Our infinite God has taken on finite human nature. Our glorious God has taken on a body that is made of dust. Our high and mighty God condescended and stooped down and lowered himself to our level. Our perfect and blessed God experienced hunger and thirst, fatigue and weariness, loneliness and sadness, tears and pain. This is humiliation of the highest degree. That our transcendent and sovereign Jesus would take on human nature.
And Jesus also took the form of a servant. Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. He rose from supper and laid aside his outer garments. He took a towel and tied it around his waist. And then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and wiped them with the towel that was wrapped around him. Afterward, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” That’s John 13. Can you imagine your parents or grandparents bowing down you to and serving you? In our cultures, that would be unheard of. That would be dishonorable and disgraceful. And yet, if you can imagine that and multiply that over and over again, you would arrive at the fact that our Lord because our servant. In case you forgot the big picture, be reminded that your salvation was an act of service. Your salvation was bought and achieved and secured by a servant. Your salvation belongs to a servant. There is no greater first-class service than this. We cannot Yelp Jesus. And yet, we think that 10% is a good tip.
Paul continues to say that Jesus humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. We know very well that Christ obeyed the law for us and credited us with his perfect righteousness. But do you realize that such obedience is a humiliation for Jesus? Jesus is the king. Jesus is the lawgiver. The law is his law that he requires us to obey. We owe him this obedience. This was the covenant of works. And yet, in the new covenant of grace, Jesus Christ humbled himself and made our obligation his. He humbled himself and obeyed the law that we were supposed to obey. The lawgiver became the lawkeeper. The test maker became the test taker. Our Lord Jesus Christ humbled himself by becoming obedient.
And he was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Jesus did not just live the life that we were supposed to live. He also died the death that we were supposed to die. Death was a humiliation for our Lord because death, if you remember the book of Genesis, is a curse for sin. Death is a penalty. It is the misery of all miseries. And yet the Lord humbled himself and became liable for the guilt of his people. He became personally responsible for our sin and he personally substituted himself for our punishment. In the words of Isaiah, he bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. The wrath of God was poured down upon him at Calvary. He drowned in the flood of horrifying judgment. Though he knew no sin, he became sin. The Lion became The Lamb. And Jesus died and was forsaken and buried for three days. This is humiliation of the highest order. For what God dies a mortal death for mortal sinners?
But Jesus did not die looking good. He did not die with the honor that you see in the Hollywood war movies. Jesus died, and he died in the worst way possible. He died on a cross. Only the worst of people died on crosses. Crucifixion was designed by the Romans to maximize both pain and shame at the same time. And it was reserved for criminals. What a humiliation it was for Christ to be stripped nearly naked and hung on a cross before a laughing and mocking crowd. For several hours, he struggled to breathe, having to pull his arms and deal with the nails ripping at his hands and feet for each and every breath. Maximum pain and maximum shame. These days, people wear the cross fashionably. And don’t worry, it’s not wrong to wear a cross on a necklace or what not. But make no mistake. The cross is really a scarlet letter. And to die on a cross means that you were the worst. The scum of the earth. The lowest of the low. If you died on a cross, it meant that you were despicable to society. Death on a cross was embarassing, shameful, disgraceful, degrading, dehumanizing, and ugly. And yet, our Lord Jesus Christ was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Why did Jesus do all of this? Why did he not count equality with God a thing to be grasped? Why did he empty himself and take the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men? Why did he humble himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross? The answer is this: he counted you more significant than himself. He looked not to his own interests, but to your interests. He loved you. He did what was best for you. He put you first in his life. He did not have to do this. He should not have done this. You deserve none of this. Yet in him you have all of this.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Jesus is the best.
Brothers and sisters, everything in this sermon so far has been gospel. But now here is the law. I command you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to have his mind. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Think like Jesus thought. And then watch what happens to your heart and will when your mind starts to make decisions and conclusions that you never thought possible. If you are married, then in humility count your significant other more significant than yourself. If you attend school, then do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. If you have a job, if you have family or friends, if you consider yourself a member here at Highland Church, then empty yourself by taking the form of a servant.
This can be hard. It is hard to stop thinking of what we want to say and instead just listen to others. It is hard to arrange our lives around the lives of others. It is hard to love people. But remember that this mindset is yours in Christ Jesus. And - please don’t take this personally - but just… get over yourself.
The San Antonio Spurs are a hugely successful basketball franchise. And a big part of their success is their culture and the type of mindsets that they look for in players. Gregg Popovich, the head coach of the Spurs, put it like this: “For us, it’s easy. We’re looking for character, but what… does that mean? We’re looking for people — and I’ve said it many times — [who] have gotten over themselves, and you can tell that pretty quickly. You can talk to somebody for four or five minutes, and you can tell if it’s about them, or if they understand that they’re just a piece of the puzzle. So we look for that.”
In light of Christ’s person and work, get over yourself. In light of Christ’s sacrifice and service, get over yourself. In light of Christ’s obedience and death, get over yourself. In light of Christ’s humility and love and exaltation, get over yourself.
This can also be hard because having the mind of Christ means losing your old mind. You cannot have two minds. It is not good to be double-minded, just as it is probably not good to have both Android and iOS on your phone or root for both the Bears and the Packers or love the forgiveness of God while withholding forgiveness for others. It is written in Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind…” So in addition to getting over yourself, lose your old mind and have the mind of Christ.
Brothers and sisters, let us be a church that is humble. True humility is not rocket science. True humility is achieved by having the mind of Christ. And if we all have the mind of Christ, then we also get true unity. Unity is not going to happen primarily through community or shared experiences. Unity cannot be manufactured by mission statements or value systems. Unity starts and ends with having the mind of Christ. The Philippian church needed to know this. And so do we. Let us be a church that is humble and unified in Christ. He is returning soon. So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete the joy of salvation by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind, as we wait for Christ’s return.