To the Word

Reflections on the call to live by the Word of God

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Location: Mud Creek, Tennessee, United States

Thursday, July 27, 2006

“But we have the mind of Christ”

1 Corinthians 2
Preached Sunday morning, July 23, 2006,
Lexington Church of Christ, by Milton Stanley

One of the most frustrating situations in Christian ministry is trying to help fellow Christians in whose lives the gospel has never seemed to take hold. It’s a problem in nearly every congregation: how to motivate carnal or worldly Christians. Why do some men and women proclaim their belief and repentance and are baptized into Christ but then go on living like they’re still part of the world? As we continue to make our way through 1 Corinthians, this second chapter gives us part of the answer. It also shines light on how to make discipleship more real. Here’s a clue up front to the answer: weakness.

Did you notice Paul’s description of himself when he came to the Corinthian Christians? The answer is in verses 1-5. As the apostle Peter told us, there are some parts of Paul’s letters that are hard to understand (2 Pe. 3:15-16). Christians still discuss what some of Paul’s statements really mean. But how much plainer could these verses be at the beginning of chapter 2? When Paul came to the Corinthian Christians he didn’t impress them with the quality of his speaking skills (v. 1). He brought them a simple message (v. 2). He came to them in weakness, fear, and a lot of trembling (v. 3). What kind of picture is that of a Christian leader? A fool. A weakling. And he was proud of it.

Why is it that Jesus’ apostles, the first leaders of the church after the Lord himself, were all weaklings of one sort or another—and yet we want our leaders today to be strong? Why do want our elders and especially our preachers to speak well, look good, carry themselves confidently, have a firm handshake, be well educated, be sensible, drive a nice car? That’s not the picture Paul presents. He even brags about his foolishness and weakness.

That attidude isn’t sour grapes on Paul’s part. He wasn’t one of those men who never bothered to study and then went around saying knowledge isn’t important. No, Paul had been one of the Pharisees, a group of Jews who committed their lives to knowing and doing the Law of God. Paul had studied under Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), one of the most famous Pharisees of his day. Paul told the Galatians, “ I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers” (Gal. 1:14). Paul could probably quote Scripture from memory better than anyone we know. And we see from his sermons in Acts that Paul could use classical rhetoric when he wanted to. Yet he wanted to be known for his weakness.

Do you have any idea why Paul would brag about his weakness? Wouldn’t it be better to brag about his accomplishments? Wouldn’t the good things on his resume make a bigger impression on the Corinthians and cause them to pay more attention to his words? You would think so. It certainly makes sense. Yet Paul knows what he’s doing. He’s putting into practice here what he wrote about in the last chapter: the foolishness and weakness of God’s Kingdom. Paul is willing to count himself as nothing, because he has something much better to tell them than about himself.

Paul has the mind of Christ. There’s a wonderful, supernatural power in sharing in Christ’s mind, Christ’s heart. There’s power in that fellowship. And the wonderful news is that it’s available to every Christian. Of course, like Paul, we don’t find that strength by puffing ourselves up. Only when we confess our own weakness and quit making ourselves the message can we proclaim Christ not only in our words but in our lives. That’s true, healthy, godly, humility. That’s the kind of discipleship God wants of his people. That’s the way we ought to live.

And we shouldn’t expect anybody to praise us for living that way. There’s a great deal of misunderstanding about Christian discipleship. A lot of folks think that if they live like Christians, it will be a feather in their cap socially. Being in church becomes part of the good life: making good money, dressing well, being polite, going to church, volunteering for the United Way. In this scenario, being a Christian is part of showing the world we have our act together. But all that’s only a half-truth that neglects a very important fact: living like a Christian will expose our weakness and make us misunderstood by the world. If we really live like disciples of Christ, those around us will think we’re weak, naive, unrealistic. Some may even think we’re crazy or dangerous. Why would they think that?

Because the wisdom of Christ is not the wisdom of the powers-that-be. See verses 7-8: “But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” The wisdom of God looks like foolishness to the world. The world can’t understand the wisdom of God any more than we can speak ancient Anatolian or Hittite. It’s amazing that Christians want to be seen as respectable. It was the respectable folk who crucified the Lord of Glory (v. 8).

God calls Christians to live differently from the rest of the world, to take on the discipline of a Kingdom where the rules are different from the world around us. I struggle as a preacher to know how to motivate people to want to take on that discipline: to want to draw near to God, to become better disciples of Christ. If we already want to draw near, then the Word we proclaim will help us. But if you don’t have a heart’s desire to draw near to God, you won’t hear it. You’ll only notice how bald or fat I am, how I stumble over my words. Maybe you’ll listen only to find fault with something I inevitably say poorly. You’ll notice the clothes and the perfume of those around you. Or maybe you’re thinking only about how many minutes till the closing prayer and lunch with the family. In other words, if you don’t have the Spirit of God, then the Word is only words.

Christians, don’t be complacent on this matter. Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism. But we can grieve that Spirit if we choose to let our hearts be shaped by the Lord of this world rather than the King of kings (Eph. 4:30; 6:12). Woe be unto us if we become complacent in hearing the Word of God. The Spirit comes only by faith (Gal. 3:2), and that faith is a whole lot more than an intellectual belief. It’s more than simply saying at some point, “Well, this gospel business may be right. I don’t want to go to hell, so I think I’ll be baptized to be on the safe side.” Don’t be one of those who goes to get baptized and only gets wet.

It’s faith that opens our lives to the Spirit of God. It’s faith and the Spirit that open our minds to the Scriptures. It’s faith that makes us want to do the things of God. It’s faith that saves us. You’ve heard Christians say, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). That’s how hearts change: the Word of Christ crucified. I used to simply preach “be baptized, stop doing these things and start doing these other things.” All that has its place, of course, but we’d better take care where we place our emphasis. We don’t need the Spirit of God to manipulate people to do what we want. We can use guilt and fear just fine to persuade folks to be baptized and come to church. But you can get in the water, attend every week, give up a thousand sinful practices and still be lost. That’s because if you have no faith, you have no Holy Spirit and therefore no hunger for righteousness, no joy, no hope. The only way we’ll have any of the blessings of salvation is through faith, and faith comes from this illogical word of Jesus Christ crucified.

I want all of us here to be changed, to be transformed by the Word of God. But bear in mind that the church isn’t called to preach a tame message, a polite salvation. A news magazine this past week ran a picture of a teenage boy wounded by a train bombing in India. One side of his body had taken the force of a bomb. His shoulder was badly injured, and blood had turned one of his sleeves from white to red. While that photograph is of a young man many miles away in a situation strange to us, it is in many ways a picture of souls all around us, of people in this room right here. Our souls, in varying degrees, have been wounded by the world around us: by what we’ve done, by what others have done to us. In many cases those wounds are filled with dirt and infection, with the pus and swelling of bitterness and unforgiveness. We try to live our lives as if those wounds weren’t there. We smile and say, “I’m fine” while infection oozes from our flesh. And nothing will heal our souls but the power of the Word.

Each Lord’s day I stand here and try to bring the word of life, of healing, of salvation through Jesus Christ. Sometimes I feel like I’m holdling a fire hose just spraying out the Word of God, the message of Jesus Christ and him crucified. And as poorly as I or any preacher proclaim that message, it has the power to change things. What can wash away my sin? Jesus Christ and him crucified. What can clean the damage and infection of my soul? Jesus Christ crucified. What can help me lay aside rage and anger, bitterness and resentment, spite and revenge? Christ crucified. The word of the cross is the power of our message, and it is the power to change lives.

Let’s look at 1 Cor. 2:12: “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” Does that prospect excite you, encourage you, comfort you? If the Spirit of God is working in you, it should. If not, then all I know to do is keep aiming the hose! If we have received the Spirit of God, we have the power to do what we never could before. We can understand the Scripture (with effort, of course). We can better understand life, the world, ourselves and others. We have the wisdom to discern right choices.

So how do we develop this mind of Christ? Is it simply a matter of being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and then, “Whoo! I got all the answers now!” No. Having the mind of Christ, although it’s for all Christians, is not automatic. Look again at verse 12. It doesn’t say we have received the Spirit and so now we understand. It says we have received the Spirit “so that we might understand.” The Corinthians were Christians, but they still needed instruction to begin thinking and acting like they were. And they needed more than just facts. Paul, after all, knew the facts when he was still a Pharisee, and it didn’t help him until God broke into his life. And even after that, Paul spent years studying and growing in faith before he began writing the letters we still read today.

So we develop the mind of Christ first of all, like Paul, by receiving the revelation of God’s Word. If we have heard the Word proclaimed, it has to break into our lives to quicken our hearts toward God. That’s a gift from God through his Word. And once our hearts have been inclined toward God, we have to know the Word so much that it becomes part of us. Most of us here don’t study as much as we’d like. I don’t say that to shame anyone, but to encourage us. If the Scriptures aren’t a joy for you to read, then please pray that they will be. And then read them! Get to know the Word. Set aside time each day to read the Scriptures. If you have trouble understanding what you read, then get copies of the Bible on tape. Set quiet aside time not only to read the Bible, but to consider in prayer and meditation what it means. Get to know the Word, not so that God will love you more, but so that you will love him more.

And take time to worship God in the communion of saints. Worship is a duty that’s good for the soul. I sometimes hear worship taught as something we’d better do but without considering the blessings to us: “Don’t miss worship or you’ll lose your salvation.” That’s a fear approach, not a faith approach. It’s forcing behavior rather than encouraging faith. Prayer, Bible study, worship, obedience are not only commands, they’re blessings to those who participate in them. And yet why do so many Christians not participate in them with joyful hearts? Why do some of you not take advantage of these blessings? Simple. You still have a worldy mind, not the mind of Christ.

One more point to consider: If we have the mind of Christ, we’ll have the life of Christ. That’s a life of obedience and of joy. It’s also a life of persecution. As Paul told his spiritual son Timothy, “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). That’s another side of the cross: not only did Christ die on the cross for our sins, he calls us to take up our crosses and follow him (Luke 9:23). In other words, Christ died to save us from our sins, not to save us from the cross [1].

If you have fought a successful battle to keep the Spirit from working in your heart, the idea of carrying a cross is foolishness. But if we have the mind of Christ, it’s pure joy.


NOTE
1. Piper, John. “The Present Power of Christ Crucified.” Online sermon text at www. desiringgod.org.


(c) 2006, A. Milton Stanley

18 Comments:

Anonymous Ruth in Rhode Island said...

Thank you for sharing this sermon. I was looking for thoughts on "having the mind of Christ" for a women's Bible study on Phillipians, and there you were online with this. Praise God.

7:23 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Glad to hear it. Thanks for sharing your words of encouragement.

9:09 AM  
Blogger Tracey said...

Thank you, Pastor.
Your words really resonate with me. It is only by living by the Spirit that we can put to death the deeds of the flesh. Right on and amen!

5:29 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for saying so--glad to hear something has been helpful to you.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your teaching. God spoke to me this morning about havind the mid of Christ and it finally clicked- after 18 years of being a Christian. Praise Jesus!

2:09 PM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Very glad to hear it. Thanks for letting me know.

2:50 PM  
Anonymous Christopher Dart said...

If I have the mind of Christ, will I take the time and endure the sacrifice and buffeting of the body to fast and pray as Moses?
Is drawing nigh unto the thick darkness (where God was) not for the Christian? Only something for some sage of 1960 years ago or before?
If I have the mind of Christ, can't I maintain affections as others in the world?
Will my concern be mainly for souls? Will I pray things like, "Thy kingdom come, O God. Let my will be yours?"
I'm just asking.
Since the mind of Christ is unfashionable with most of the church, I'm repulsed by what proclaims to be the Church. Episcopal, Baptist, Pentecostal, you name it. Prayer isn't taught in church because it's painfully obvious the leaders don't practice it.
Dwelling in the Secret Place of the Most High is not something most pastors I know have time for.
Most contemporary Christian music doesn't come from the mind of Christ, either. The blood of Christ is seldom mentioned, nor the cross and certainly not the penalty of sin.
Preach the cross, with love, wherever you go, for 21 days and watch the response.
Watch who is drawn to you and who shies away.

Walk in the Spirit,

A Guy on the Sreet
www.christopherdart.blogspot.com
www.christopherrdart.blogspot.com

5:21 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Christopher, and for the links. I'll be clicking over shortly.

11:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I have a goal this year to "have the mind of Christ" and was looking for guidance, this was very very helpful. God bless you richly!

11:33 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

You're welcome. Thanks for letting me know.

1:50 PM  
Blogger R.V.Windfield said...

If we have heard the Word proclaimed, it has to break into our lives to quicken our hearts toward God. Most of us here don’t study as much as we’d like. I don’t say that to shame anyone, but to encourage us. If the Scriptures aren’t a joy for you to read, then please pray that they will be. And then read them! Get to know the Word.

You it the nail on the head here. I could only add Joshua 1:8
>This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success.<

Meditating, rolling over, ruminating on the Word is the key to the renewing of the mind.
Meditating, rolling over, ruminating on the Simpsons, video games, worldly goals will do the same thing.

Nice work Milton!

10:20 PM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Amen, R.V. Thanks for your kind words, and thanks for adding to the discussion. Peace.

8:42 AM  
OpenID onedaringjew said...

Hi.

You say "Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit at our baptism," but then go on to say that without faith we cannot have the Holy Spirit" and that merely getting into the water does nothing.

11:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the blog. I'm using it (with attribution) in my Sunday School class today.

Eddie M

5:23 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

I'm honored, Eddie M. Thanks for letting me know.

9:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Glory be to God"nothing but the Blood is of Jesus can save you.

12:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was writing to some of our brothers in Christ and I wanted to tell them about putting on the mind of Christ in EVERY situation...simply think before you respond to any situation 'how would Jesus Christ handle this'... Thanks ,brother,for allowing yourself to be a great vessel unto the Lords message....

8:40 AM  
Blogger Milton Stanley said...

Thanks for your kind words, Anon, and thank both of you Anons for reading.

2:11 PM  

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