The Mind of Christ pt I

Other than at a wedding or funeral service, I haven’t seen such serious facial expressions elicited by something I said from the pulpit as I witnessed last week. Unmistakable signs of shock and strong disagreement with me were written all over some of your faces in reaction with my having asked: “Before creating the world, did God chose those whom He knew, would of their own free will, eventually accept forgiveness offered through Christ and then enter the names of those folks in the book of life? What is the bottom line with such an assumption? Well, with this line of reasoning, the sinner becomes saved by their actions, something he or she does in the course of time. That makes the sinner the author of their own salvation. His or her salvation depends on what he or she decides. If that’s true, then it is the sinner’s choice of Christ and not God’s choice of the sinner which is the ultimate cause of salvation. Salvation becomes the sinner’s gift to God and is not God’s gift to the sinner.

Its been my prayerful hope that the following illustration I’ve been able to create will help you to better understand the point I’ve been trying to make. Let’s suppose that before creating His world, God looked down ‘the corridor of time’ and saw that a man named Joseph, would, of his own free-will steal a truckload of iPad’s and wind up in prison. Next God entered Joseph’s name in the ‘Book of Records.’ Who is responsible for his incarceration, God or Joseph?

Now let’s suppose that before creating His world, God devised a plan whereby He would bless a few thousand starving people with an abundance of food. To achieve that end, God planned to arrange circumstances so that a man named Joseph, would, of his own free-will steal a truckload of iPad’s and become incarcerated. Then God entered Joseph’s name in ‘the Book of Incarceration’ Next God spoke His world into existence. In doing so, everything God had planned before the beginning of time was thereby foreordained and predestined to happen. Joseph was now predestined to, of his own free-will commit the crime and wind up in prison, and a few thousand starving people would be blessed with an abundance of food. Now allow me to ask this question, who should those starving people give all the thanks to, God or Joseph?

As I said last week, no Bible believing Christian believes that he or she has saved him or herself from eternal damnation. On the contrary, every one of them believes that God was absolutely sovereign in their salvation. I have never heard a Christian say that he or she saved themselves, have you?  Concerning God’s absolute sovereignty over all of His creation and everyone and everything in it, J. I. Packer writes: “I know that, if you are a Christian, you pray; and the recognition of God’s sovereignty is the basis of your prayers. In prayer, you ask for things and give thanks for things. Why? Because you recognize that God is the author and source of all the good that you have had already, and all the good that you hope for in the future. This is the fundamental philosophy of Christian prayer. The prayer of a Christian is not an attempt to force God’s hand, but a humble acknowledgment of helplessness and dependence. When we are on our knees, we know that is not we who control the world; it is not in our power, therefore, to supply our needs by our own independent efforts; every good thing that we desire for ourselves and for others must be sought from God, and will come, it comes at all, as a gift from His hands. If this is true even of our daily bread (and the Lord’s Prayer teaches us that it is), much more is it of spiritual benefits. This is all luminously clear to us when we are actually praying, whatever we may be betrayed into saying afterwards. In effect, therefore, what we do every time we pray is to confess our own impotence and God’s sovereignty. The very fact that a Christian prays is thus proof positive that he believes in the Lordship of his God.”

As far as your salvation goes “…you know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it. You did not save yourself; He saved you. Your thanksgiving is itself an acknowledgment that your conversion was not your own work, but His work. You do not put it down to chance or accident that you came under Christian influence when you did. You do not put in down to chance or accident that you attended a Christian church, that you heard the Christian gospel, that you had Christian friends and, perhaps a Christian home, that the Bible fell into your hands, that you saw your need of Christ and came to trust Him as your Savior. You do not attribute your repenting and believing to your own wisdom, or prudence, or sound judgment, or good sense. Perhaps, in the days when you were seeking Christ, you labored and strove hard, read and pondered much, but all that outlay did not make your conversion your own work. Your act of faith when you closed with Christ was yours in the sense that it was you who performed it; but that does not mean that you saved yourself. In fact, it never occurs to you to suppose that you saved yourself.”

“As you look back, you take to yourself the blame for your past blindness and indifference and obstinacy and evasiveness in face of the gospel message; but you do not pat yourself on the back for having been at length mastered by the insistent Christ. You would never dream of dividing the credit for your salvation between God and yourself. You have never for one moment supposed that the decisive contribution to your salvation was yours and not God’s. You have never told God that, while you are grateful for the means and opportunities of grace that He gave you, you realize that you have to thank, not Him, but yourself for the fact that you responded to His call. Your heart revolts at the very thought of talking to God in such terms. In fact, you thank Him no less sincerely for the gift of faith and repentance than for the gift of a Christ to trust and turn to. This is the way in which, since you became a Christian, your heart has always led you. You give God all the glory for all that your salvation involved and you know that it would be blasphemy if you refused to thank Him for bringing you to faith. Thus, in the way that you think about your conversion, you acknowledge the sovereignty of divine grace. And every other Christian in the world does the same.” (A) I hope those insightful comments have been helpful

Now I would like address the other excellent Guest Book posting that I wasn’t able to get into last week. The following are some excerpts. “I read your sermon ‘Walking With Jesus’ and I don’t think I like it. I know what you are saying is true; however, it would be nice to have a nice up lifting, positive sermon. Not everything that has ‘slime balls.’ I just feel most of the messages have grim and glum.” By way of explanation I offer the following. I preach in the manner I do because I’m compelled to, just as much as an alcoholic or addict is in drinking or doing drugs. However, unlike some folks who, of their own free will, deliberately choose to ingest alcohol or imbibe in drugs, is a slave to his or her alcoholism or drug addiction; I did no such thing. In other words, something similar happened to me over which I had no control. Had the choice been mine to freely make and then think about the spiritual condition I was in at the time, I know I wouldn’t have done so. In fact I couldn’t. What I’m getting at is contained in the following passages of Scripture.

“…these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 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. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ, 1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (ESV).

William Barclay explains: “There are certain very basic things in this passage. Paul lays down that the only person who can tell us about God is the Spirit of God. He uses a human analogy. There are feelings which are so personal, things which are so private, experiences which are so intimate that no one knows them except a man’s own spirit. Paul argues that the same is true of God. There are deep and intimate things in Him which only the Spirit knows; and that Spirit is the only person who can lead us into a very intimate knowledge of God.”

“So in verse 14 Paul speaks of the man who’ ‘…lives as if there was nothing beyond physical life and there were no needs other than material needs, whose values are all physical and material. A man like that cannot understand spiritual things. A man who thinks that nothing is more important that the satisfaction of the sex urge cannot understand the meaning of chastity; a man who ranks the amassing of material things as the supreme end of life cannot understand generosity; and a man who has never thought beyond this world cannot understand the things of God. To him they look mere foolishness. No man need be like this; but if he stifles, “the immortal longings” that are in his soul he may make himself like this so that the Spirit of God will speak and he will not hear. It is easy to become so involved in the world that there exists nothing beyond it. We must pray to have the mind of Christ, for only when He dwells within us are we safe from the encroaching invasion of the demands of material things.” (B)

Now lets turn to the following scripture’s “… let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] 6 Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God,  God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained, 7 But stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity], so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being. 8 And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross! 9 Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name, 10 That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Philippians 2:5-11 (AMP) Please keep the following two verses in mind and then I will quote Alexander Maclaren.

“… let this same attitude and purpose and [humble] mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus: [Let Him be your example in humility:] Philippians 2:5 (AMP)

“… For who has known or understood the mind (the counsels and purposes) of the Lord so as to guide and instruct Him and give Him knowledge? But we have the mind of Christ (the Messiah) and do hold the thoughts (feelings and purposes) of His heart, 1 Corinthians 2:16 (AMP)

Maclaren explains that, “The purpose of the Apostle in this great passage must always be kept clearly in view. Our Lord’s example is set forth as the pattern of that unselfish disregard of our own needs, and devotion to the needs of others, which has just been urged on the Philippians, and the mind which was in Him is presented as the model on which they are to fashion their minds.” “The broad truth which stands crystal-clear is that the Incarnation, Life and Death are the great examples of living humility and self-sacrifice. To be born was His supreme act of condescension. It was love which made Him assume the vesture of human flesh. To die was the climax of His voluntary obedience and His devotion to us.” “The whole strange conception of birth as being the voluntary act of the Person born, and as being the most stupendous instance of condescension in the world’s history, necessarily lies with the clear conviction that He had a prior existence so lofty that it was an all but infinite descent to become man.” “To rescue men, and win them to Himself and goodness, and finally to lift them to a place [Heaven] from which He came down for them, seemed to Him to be worth the temporary surrender of that glory and majesty. We can but bow and adore the perfect love.”

“The scene in the Upper Chamber [Heaven] was but a feeble picture of what had already been done behind the veil. Unless He had laid aside His garments of divine glory and majesty, He would have had no human flesh from which to strip the robes. Unless He had willed to take the ‘form of a servant,’ He would not have had a body to gird with a slave’s towel. The Incarnation which made all His acts of lowly love possible was a greater act of lowly love than those which flowed from it. Looking at it from earth, men say, ‘Jesus was born.’ Looking at it from heaven; ‘Angles say, ‘He emptied Himself.’” “But how did He empty Himself? By taking the form of a slave, a slave to God.”

“Jesus as He ‘emptied Himself’ in the act of becoming in the ‘likeness of men, humbled Himself,’ and all along the course of His earthly life He chose constant lowliness and to be ‘despised and rejected by men.’ It was the result moment by moment of His own will that to the eyes of men He presented ‘no form of comeliness,’ and that will was moment by moment steadied in its unmovable humility, because He perpetually looked ‘not on His own things, but the things of others.” (C)  I must confess that, although I received the mind of Christ when He converted me in the early 1970’s I didn’t put very much of it on until just before the end of that particular decade.

It’s been my prayerful hope that I have given each of you folks enough spiritual ‘food for thought’ to hold you over, until, Lord willing, I return and attempt to add to our God given faith additional knowledge about ‘The Mind of Christ.’

As I was developing my illustration about Joseph, the following passages of scripture came to mind. You may find them helpful–Mike

3Then Joseph could not restrain himself [any longer] before all those who stood by him, and he called out, Cause every man to go out from me! So no one stood there with Joseph while he made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept and sobbed aloud, and the Egyptians [who had just left him] heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard about it. 3 And Joseph said to his brothers, I am Joseph! Is my father still alive? And his brothers could not reply, for they were distressingly disturbed and dismayed at [the startling realization that they were in] his presence. 4 And Joseph said to his brothers, Come near to me, I pray you. And they did so. And he said, I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt! 5 But now, do not be distressed and disheartened or vexed and angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me ahead of you to preserve life. 6 For these two years the famine has been in the land, and there are still five years more in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. 7 God sent me before you to preserve for you posterity and to continue a remnant on the earth, to save your lives by a great escape and save for you many survivors. Genesis 45:1-7 (AMP)

(A)  Evangelism And The Sovereignty Of God, © 1961 by Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship, England. First published in this format in 1991. Pgs. 11-13.

(B)   The Letters To The Corinthians. Revised Edition © 1975 by William Barclay. Published by The Westminster Press ® Philadelphia, Pa., Pgs. 27-28.

(C)  Expositions Of The Holy Scripture, Corinthians, by Alexander Maclaren, D. D., Litt. D. Pgs.253-257.

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January 23, 2011 Posted by Categories: Uncategorized 8 comments

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