The Mind of Christ
I’m just going to focus on [Philippians 2] verse five this morning because I believe it’s so important for us to really wrap our minds around this truth. If we don’t wrap our minds around this truth, these verses will not have nearly the impact that they should have and could have. So here we go. Paul has shown us that is impossible for you and I to be unified apart from each of us living with humility, and humility is essential in our ongoing battle against self promotion and thinking ourselves better than others. But as we live in humility, we will be able to count others more significant than ourselves, and we will be able to put the needs of others before our own. So Paul, having called the church of Philippi, to be of the same mind, to be like-minded, now is going to begin to explain this mindset. He’s going to begin to explain this attitude that is available to them because of their union with Christ. There’s no secret here. I want to say this time and time again. This mindset is only available to us because of our union with Christ. It is not something that we have to come up with on our own. It’s not something that we have to grit our teeth and do it. We don’t pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. It is something that is already ours in light of our union with Christ. And because Paul instructs us to have this mind among ourselves, we must be absolutely clear in our understanding of what this actually means.
There’s two things I want to point out this morning. One is just a couple minutes long. First, we need to understand the nature of this mind. Then second, we must understand the meaning of this mind and how it relates to the phrase, which is yours in Christ Jesus. So, what is the nature of this mind? Well, just a couple of very brief thoughts. First of all, Paul teaches us it’s a shared mind. They are all to share the mind of Christ. He says to them and to us, “Have this mind among yourselves” (Phi 2:5). So, each one of them are to have this mindset. Each one of them are to adopt and to exercise this attitude. And of course, this makes absolute sense, in that if we are going to be unified, then we must be like-minded. If we are all going in our own direction or doing our own thing, then we’re not going to be unified. We would say today that we all need to be on the same page. It is possible for us to be on the same page when it comes to the essentials of the gospel and when it comes to the truths of the gospel that we cannot compromise on. We all can be of the same mind because we all share the mind of Christ.
It’s also a corporate mind. We need to remember that Paul has written this letter, not to just one or two individuals, but he has written it to the church at Philippi. He has written it to the corporate body of believers at Philippi. He has written it to this local church at Philippi. And if this local body of believers had any hope of experiencing the unity, which is necessary for the advancement of the gospel, then corporately they must be of the same mind. So what is this mind? It’s a shared mind. It’s a corporate mind. But where we really struggle is understanding what exactly Paul means here. When Paul calls them to have this mind among themselves, he is calling them to have the same attitude, the same mindset, the same disposition, as was in the Lord Jesus. He’s calling them to have the attitude of Christ Jesus. Paul says that when it comes to the important things, when it comes to those things that are absolutely essential to the Christian faith, and when it comes to the essentials of the gospel, we all must be like-minded. We all must think the way that Jesus Christ did. And because you and I are in Christ, we should think about the various situations that we encounter and are faced with in the same way that Jesus did. The idea here is that your will, your affection, and your conscience are all involved here with the mind of Christ.
Now, as we will see as we move through this, Paul’s obviously talking about the way that we think, but this presents a challenge for modern day believers because we live in a culture that really doesn’t prize critical thinking very highly. We live in many ways in what is a mindless culture. We have mindless entertainment. We have mindless social media. We have mindless TV programs. Lots of things don’t require much thought. And we find ourselves surrounded by that kind of attitude. And we, as Christians, are not immune to that. Many of us, many Christians have lost the art of critical thinking. They can’t follow the author’s argument in a book. They can’t follow the pastor’s logic in his sermon. We’re so used to 140 character tweets and 10-second sound bites that anything beyond that is very difficult for us to be able to follow and to comprehend. But, as believers we need to work hard at learning how to think. Alistair Begg likes to say that we need to think it through. But again, it’s hard to find yourself being able to “think it through” when you find yourself immersed in a culture that, for the most part, has been has become an un-thinking one. And in our culture, we are far too quick to simply react and far too slow to stop and think things through.
But please understand this. Christianity is a faith of both the head and the heart. It’s a faith of both the mind and the emotions. If you would rather quickly flip to Psalm chapter one. I want to show you something here to kind of illustrate what we’re talking about. Psalm chapter one, verses one and two is familiar. Many of us could probably stand up and quote a large part of it, if not all of it from memory. But it holds an important truth for us. In Psalm chapter one, verses one and two, the psalmist writes, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the council the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.” So, the one described here by the psalmist is the one who delights in the law of the Lord. What is delight? It’s an emotion, isn’t it? It’s an emotional experience. We need to ask ourselves what is the source of his delight? Was it some mindless activity? No. In fact, just the opposite. The source of his delight came from or is that the fact that he meditates, meaning he thinks on the law the Lord continually, both day and night. His delight, his emotional response, came from the way that he was thinking. His delight, his emotional response, came from his meditation on the Scriptures. This delight was fueled by the activity of his mind.
Could that be part of the reason why we have so many unhappy, frustrated people today? They constantly bombard themselves or immerse themselves in mindless activities, and they never give any thought to the deeper things of life. And even Christians fall into this trap. And therefore, we don’t experience joy. We don’t experience delight. But this man here, he understood that as he frequently and continually meditated on the scriptures, it would be a delight to a soul. So, if you and I want to be better Christians, if you and I want to grow in Christ-likeness, if you and I want to see spiritual growth and spiritual fruit in our lives, then guess what we need to do? We must engage our minds. Spiritual growth and spiritual fruit does not just automatically happen. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phi 2:12b). We need to engage our minds. We need to think it through.
Well, let’s go on. The first thing that I want to take note of here is that Paul says to them, “Have this mind among yourselves” (Phi 2:5). He is not making a suggestion. He’s not making a recommendation. He’s not saying, “You know, this would be a good thing for you to do.” It’s not like it’s as if the end of the year was coming up, and Paul knew that they were going to be making their next set of New Year’s resolutions, and he says, “Hey, you might want to consider putting this on your list. It’d be a good thing for you next year to have the mind of Christ.” No, that’s not what he’s saying that all. Paul, with the authority of an apostle of Christ Jesus, commands us to have this mind. “Have this mind” is actually a verb, which means we have to take some action, and it’s also an imperative. An imperative in the Scriptures is a command. So Paul commands them, as well as you and I, to take some action in relation to the mind of Christ. Please keep that in mind. Paul issued a command to all believers at all times in every place, that they are to take some action in regard to the mind of Christ.
So, right away we learn something about humility and unity. What is it that we learn? Both of those items are acts of the will. They are acts of obedience for the Christian, but this is not obedience that is carried out in our own power and our own strength. All of our obedience as Christians is always to be carried out in the power of the Holy Spirit. So, we can look at this from a negative perspective. The Christian who does not live in unity with their fellow brothers and sisters in Christ is not just a crank. They are a sinning Christian. A Christian who will not live in humility with their brothers and sisters in Christ is not just proud and arrogant, though they are, they are actually defying the will of God as revealed in the Word of God. It is not enough to say, “That’s just how I am.” No, God saved you, so you wouldn’t be a knucklehead anymore, if I can put it that way. It is the highest of cop-outs for a Christian who is in Christ to fall back and say, “Well, that’s just the way that I am.” Then please, I beg you, make sure that you have truly been converted. If you are what you’ve always been, the Bible says you’ve got a problem. So, this obedience like all of our obedience is powered by the Holy Spirit. That means if we struggle to live with humility and if we struggle to live in unity, where would be the place to begin? Where would be the place that we should begin to check up on ourselves? We should begin by examining our lives to see if we truly are filled with the Spirit or not.
Are we allowing ourselves to be guided by the Holy Spirit? Are we allowing our thoughts to be controlled by the Holy Spirit? Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us during those times of temptation, confusion, and indecision? Are we depending upon the Holy Spirit or are we going our own way, doing our own thing? Again, this is why it’s so important for us to read the Scriptures, to study, to memorize, and to meditate on the Scriptures. When we struggle to live in unity and when we struggle to live humbly, what should we do? We should look to the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit can and will bring to mind the words of Philippians chapter two. He will remind us. He will guide us as to how we should live, because we are Christians and because of our union in Christ. And we need to fix this through in our minds. This should not be a newsflash to you unless you’ve been under a rock. We live in a very divided world, and it’s becoming evermore divisive each and every day. That’s just the reality of life in the 21st century. We may not be at war with another country, but we are certainly at war with ourselves. We have labeled ourselves. We’ve drawn our sides. We are ‘this’ or we are ‘that’, and “if you’re not with me, you’re against me.” There’s no room for any kind of common ground at all. And if we’re not careful as Christians, you know what will happen? That will spill into the church. So here’s Paul’s preemptive strike, if you will, to help us avoid the tragedy of division, of blowing the church up. And how do we do that? By having the mind of Christ.
I want to emphasize this. Unity and humility are not options for us as believers. To do anything other than that is to deliberately go against the will of God. By the way, what is your will? What is your will? Your will is not a freelancer, out there doing whatever it wants on its own with no other outside influence. Again, people say, “Well, that’s just the way I am.” Well, hang on a minute. What is your will? The will is simply your mind acting. That’s it. Your will carries out the desires of your mind. I don’t care if it’s for the smallest fraction of a millisecond, you always think of what you’re going to do before you do it. Therefore, to control your actions, where do you start? You start with your mind. Your mind controls your will. So you have to make a choice. You can choose to either count others more significant than your yourself and put the interests of others before yourself or you choose to operate from a position of selfish ambition and conceit. That’s just the reality.
So when Paul uses the word “mind”, he sends a clear, strong signal to us that he’s confronting our patterns of thought. Paul is calling us to exercise a certain attitude. Paul is calling us to exercise a very specific mindset. And what is that mindset? It is the mindset of the Lord Jesus. Now, here’s the important part. He is not calling us to come up with this on our own. He’s not saying, “Listen, you need to call a committee meeting. You’ve got to have a meeting of the minds and figure out how you on your own in your own strength, in your own wisdom, how you can come up with the mind of Christ.” That is not what he is saying at all. He’s not throwing out there a 40-day challenge and saying, “Hey, I want you to go out there and create this mindset on your own. Develop some kind of mindset that mirrors the mind of Christ.” Do you know what he does? He points us directly to the mind of Christ. He points us to the mindset of Jesus. He points us to the attitude that the Son of God demonstrated when He came to earth and took on human form. Paul is simply saying, “Listen. there’s no reason for you to fall back into your old ways of thinking. There’s absolutely no reason for you to fall back into your old patterns of thinking.” And he says, “If we’re going to live in unity, if you’re going to live with humility, it’s imperative that you and I have the mind of Christ.” Now, I understand that you understand that Paul’s not referring to the literal mind of Christ, but he is referring to the literal attitude of Christ. He is referring to the way that Jesus thought about Himself, he’s referring to the way that Jesus thought about the Father, and he’s referring to the way that Jesus thought about others. So, how can we know if we have the mind of Christ? How can we know if we are exercising the mind of Christ? It’s not difficult. We simply have to examine our actions and see if our actions are following the pattern of the life of the Lord Jesus.
But here’s the big question. Where does this mind come from? This is so important. If you haven’t heard anything else, smack yourself in the face and wake up. Where does this mind come from? Notice carefully, Paul says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5). But what does that mean in practice? What does Paul mean when he says, in particular, “which is yours in Christ Jesus”? There’s three possibilities. The first possibility is that Paul is encouraging us to look at Jesus as a model. We look to the life of Christ. We see how he lived. We see how he treated others, and then, we do our best mimic Him, imitate Him, and look to Him purely as an example. He becomes our model for this. That’s one possibility. Another possibility is that we have the mind of Christ through our union with Christ, and because we are in Christ, this mindset comes from our union with Christ. So, we could say something like this. Let your attitude or your mindset arise out of your life in Christ. That’s the second possibility. Here’s the third one. The third one is simply a possibility. Because of your salvation, this mind and this mindset has been made ‘possible’ because of your salvation. So, one could say it this way. “Let this mind be in you, which was made possible when you were placed in Christ when you were saved.” So, we have three possibilities. One, the mind of Christ is a model for us to follow. He’s an example for us to follow, or it is a reality that flows from our union with Christ, or the third possibility, which is just that. It’s a possibility. You may do it, you may not do it.
So, which is it? Well, if you’ve been paying attention at all to the number of times I’ve said this morning about our union with Christ, it’s the second. This mindset is a product of our union with Christ. So we could say it this way, “Let this mind be in you, which you received when you were placed in Christ.” So the thought is this, as you think about each other, let your perspective be formed by your shared identity in Christ. Let’s pay close attention to what Paul says here. We have this attitude, he says, “which is yours”. Now, what does that mean? Ask any child what the word “yours” means, and they’ll tell you, “It’s mine. That’s mine.” Paul is saying, “It’s yours.” Someone says to you, “Do you have the mind of Christ?” You say, “It’s mine. Hands off. It’s mine,” which is yours in Christ Jesus. We have it. We have access to it. Therefore, it is imperative to exercise it. Dennis Johnson comments and says, “This reminds us that unbreakable cords of grace bind believers to our Savior so tightly that Christ conveys His mindset to us through His Holy Spirit.”
Now, let me prove to you to the best of my ability why the mind of Christ is not something that we in our own strength should try and imitate. Keep in mind, I’ll say it again, we have this mind because of our union with Christ. Now, if you were like me, and you were raised on the King James Version of the Bible, the King James Version of the Bible translates this verse this way, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5;KJV). Now, the ESV, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5; ESV). Do you see the differences right off the bat? One version begins with the word “let.” Another version says “have this mind.” Now, when I think of the word “let,” I think of permission, like I’ve got to give permission. Someone knocks on my door and says, “Let me in.” It’s up to me whether or not I let them in, right? If I don’t know you, I’m not letting you in. “Let this mind”? Do I have to get permission here? Or perhaps, “Let this mind” tempts me to believe that I’m not in possession of this mindset. I’m tempted to believe that this is a mindset that I must somehow develop on my own. I read that, and I think, “Well, I have to allow this mind to be in me. I need to give it permission.” And there is a certain amount of truth in that too. Please don’t misunderstand, but many have read [Philippians 2] verse five in the King James Version and understood it to mean that it’s a mindset that I must do my best to imitate. The emphasis is on me, doing my best imitation of the mind of Christ. Do you see that? “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5; KJV). “All right. You know what you should be doing. Now, get out there and do your best.” Does that seem reasonable? Here’s why I don’t agree with this translation at all. I’m not a Greek scholar nor the son of one, I’m just telling you from the plain sense of the text. Knowing what we know about the entirety of Scripture, does it seem reasonable that when we understand just how important the unity of the believers is to God the Father and God the Son, for God to leave the creation of that mindset in our hands? Does that seem reasonable? Are we wise enough? Are we strong enough to be able to do that? For something that important and something that the Lord Jesus prayed and asked the Father for, I find it hard to believe that God’s going to leave that up to us to figure it out and implement it. That would seem inconsistent with Scripture.
A verse like Second Corinthians 5:17 helps us here. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” Here’s the important question. This new creation, is it total or partial? In other words, did God just ‘overhaul’ you? Did He do a ‘fix and flip’? Did He renovate you? No, He did more than take you down to the studs and replace the wiring. He brought in a bulldozer, knocked you down, tore up the foundation plowed up the ground, and said, “Here, let’s start over.” Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation.” The old is gone. The new has come. So, when you were placed in Christ, according to Paul, you were made a new creation. And whatever was associated with the old self or the old creation is passed away. It’s been replaced by the new. Paul writing to the believers in Ephesus said this, “and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24). What is this new self? For sure, we know one thing. It’s created after the likeness of God, so there’s not a single part of the old us or the old self that’s fit for the new self, which is created in the likeness of God. Again, let’s go to Galatians 2:20. “I’ve been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live…” It doesn’t say, “Part of me lives,” does it? “It is no longer I who live.” Not a single part of me survived. “…but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).
So, we need to ask ourselves a couple of questions. First of all, do you believe that Christ lives in you? Do you believe that Christ lives in you? None of the rest of this is going to make any sense or make any difference in your life if you do not believe what the Scripture says that if you are in Christ, Christ lives in you. And if you don’t believe that Christ lives in you, again, I challenge you to check up on your conversion. So, do you believe that Christ lives in you? Then ask yourself this question, is it possible that the life that I’m now living by faith in the Son of God is a mindless life? I don’t think so. And what is it that controls our actions? It’s the thoughts we think. And what do we think with? Our minds.
Back to our wills, our wills do not act independently of our mind. Jonathan Edwards said, “The will is the mind choosing.” Whatever we do at any point in time is simply the overwhelming desire of our mind. “The will is the mind choosing.” Therefore, for the will to make the proper choices, we must change our minds. We must renew our minds. We must think it through. Remember when your mom and dad would say something like this to you when you were a kid, “Hey, use your head.” Right? Everybody’s laughing because everybody at some point in time has had their mom say that to them. “Hey, use your head.” In other words, they’re saying, “Hey, would you just stop and think about what you’re doing?” Paul said in First Corinthians 2:16, “‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.” So, we have to ask ourselves this. Do we or do we not have the mind of Christ? According to everything that I’ve read here in the Scriptures, we do have the mind of Christ. If we don’t have access to the mind of Christ, then the Bible is pulling a ‘bait and switch’ on us. The Bible is not pulling a ‘bait and switch’ on us. So, how do we have the mind of Christ? Through our union with Christ, we have the mind of Christ. We have access to the mind of Christ because Christ lives in me. “And the life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God” (Gal 2:20).
Back to Philippians 2:5. If we go back to what Paul originally wrote in the Greek, this is a literal translation of Philippians 2:5: “This think in you, which also in Christ Jesus.” That’s kind of strange, isn’t it? And the point is, though I wouldn’t recognize it and I wouldn’t expect you to either, Paul doesn’t supply a verb. He expected them to fill in the blank spot. So, the translators of the King James Bible inserted the word “be”. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phi 2:5; KJV). Again, this leads us to believe that we are to imitate the mind of Christ. But the way the ESV translates Paul’s words helps us to understand that what we are to do is to exercise the mind of Christ, which is communicated to us through the Holy Spirit. You have this mindset, which is yours through your union with Christ. In other words, Paul is pointing to a reality, not simply a possibility, which means if you think that is up to you or that it’s on your shoulders to follow the example of Christ, to mimic the example of Christ, or to come up with this mindset on your own, it’s going to be a burden you cannot bear.
Philippians 2:5 is not meant to be a burden to bear, but rather a privilege we share. We share in this because of our union with Christ. Dennis Johnson again says, “When Christ Jesus left the bliss of heaven for the miseries of earth for you, His purpose was not only to rescue you from sin’s just desserts, though it was that, it was not only to set you an example of humility, though it was that, it was also to reconfigure the inclinations of your heart, so that His mindset, that is His joy in selflessly serving others, is becoming your mindset.” God saves us. He changes our hearts. He changes the inclinations of our hearts. He gives us new desires. So, how does this become your mindset? Through the ongoing renewal of your mind by the Scripture as it is applied to our lives by the Holy Spirit.
In reality, what we are talking about here is a part of our sanctification. It’s part of our spiritual maturity. The more mature we are, the more we should display this mindset of Christ. Just because we’re a new Christian does not give us a license or liberty to blow the thing up. No, at that point, we just accept the commands of Scripture, and we obey. The farther along that we are in our walk with Christ as we grow in our sanctification, His mindset becomes our mindset. And you can see this in your dealings with people. Do you deal with people on the basis of grace or is it always dropping the hammer on them? Something to think about it. Your response to situations, particularly an adverse situation or a situation that causes you grief, worry, or concern, is a placard of your spiritual growth and spiritual maturity. Listen, I understand that there are times in our lives when we are so frightened, we blow our top. I remember when Matt was just a little shaver. We went to Chuck E. Cheese, and we thought we’d lost him. We thought he was gone. Our hearts sank. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life, and the little knucklehead was standing in front of a big kid shooting hoops. The joy when we found that guy! But do you know what the tendency is sometimes when we find them? Drop the hammer on them. “How dare you? Where have you been, you stupid kid? Where have you been? How dare you do this to me?” No, the mature response is thanking God for the grace that He’s shown and showing that child grace. Matt didn’t know what he was doing. He was just watching some kid play basketball.
The sign of our sanctification is in evidence of our growth. So, how do you know if you’re exercising the mind of Christ? We’ll take a look at that in much greater detail next week in verses six through eight. but in verses six through eight, we do see the mind of Christ in action. Let me give you three things that we learn from the mind of Christ, and we’ll wrap up for today. Number one, He had a mind to be humble. We’ll see this next week. Number two, He had a mind to let go. Number three, He had a mind to give Himself for the sake of others. That’s the mindset of Christ. That was his mind, his attitude in action. If you and I are going to live in unity, it’s imperative that we have this mind. And the reason you can have this mind is because you are in Christ Jesus. It is our union with Christ which makes all this possible. Our union with Christ provides all the necessary resources, all the necessary access, and unlimited ability to have the mind of Christ among ourselves. When we display the mind of Christ, our joy will be full, the gospel will be advanced, and God will be glorified.