(Philippians 2:1-5) Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
In my last post we began to explore the biblical meaning of having “the mind of Christ” (I Corinthians 2:14-16; Philippians 2:1-10). Towards the end of that post, we discovered, that laying hold of the mind of Christ is a simultaneous work, where in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, we assimilate God’s word into the function of our mind.
We discovered having the mind of Christ, moves us progressively into greater selflessness and dedication to God, where we discern life and our responses to life, by God’s word, as it is illuminated by the Holy Spirit. In this action of thought, we take an active role in avoiding sin and walking in obedience. We also trust and receive His provision being thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This work is simultaneous, in building the mind of Christ, as our minds are gutted of our old patterns of thinking, which are contrary to God. This is often where our trouble begins, because not only is attaining the mind of Christ disciplined and prayerful work, so is the difficult work of demolishing patterns of thought from our old man. The New Testament is thorough in calling us to this work.
(2 Corinthians 10:3-6) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
I Peter uses another metaphor to illuminate the need for us to complete the work of attaining the mind of Christ, by dealing with ungodly ways of thinking that may be dangling around our lives as a trip hazard.
(1 Peter 1:13-16) Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
If we are to attain the mind of Christ to any degree, we must not only identify wrong patterns of thought, but understand where they arise from.
Below are three detrimental characters of mind, which can damage our faith and practice in relation to Christ’s call upon our lives. All three are diametrically opposed to the mind of Christ, and every believer has a proclivity towards at least one.
THE NATURAL MIND
(1 Corinthians 2:14-16) But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
The natural man has a mind, untouched by God’s Spirit. Sadly, this can be a person who has called themselves a Christian but has a heart like the hardened path in the parable of the Sower.
God’s word cannot penetrate, because they exclusively trust their old rational patterns of thought, based on the things they have always been told. They are generally dismissive of buying into religion and religious practice, although they may sit through church meetings for decades. Going deeper in the word of God is not needed in their view.
THE CARNAL MIND
(Romans 8:5-8) For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
This lines up with the shallow soil and thorny soil of the parable of the Sower. Remember in both there is penetration, but the life began is killed, by remaining shallow or overgrown with the cares of life, deceitfulness of riches, and other things (Matthew 13:1–23, Mark 4:1–20, Luke 8:4–15).
The person who’s thinking is dominated by the carnal is driven by emotions, affections, and desires; all of which we are to exercise dominion over by self-denial and obedience to the word of God.
These thinkers can appear to be very spiritual and religious, like solid Christians, but they are deceptively self-centered. They take God’s word and fit it into their carnal mind framework and seek to remain in control, rather than the LORD being in control “not subject to the law of God”: God’s word.
We must be very careful with this mode of thinking, because it dominates many “Christian” minds and invariably leads to the worst conditions of the mind, apart from the mind of Christ.
A MIND FALLING AWAY IN UNBELIEF
(Hebrews 3:12-15) Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said: “Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
The first two will end up here, but even those who truly desire to have the mind of Christ and limit how much our Father must “put up with” us (Acts 13:18). Those with an “evil heart of unbelief” are “departing”, which means they are “withdrawing” from and “falling away” from the Lord, even though they believe themselves to be right with God.
The reason for this is that falling away is as imperceptible, at first, as jumping off a building. Think about it, when a person falls back, it almost feels as if you are floating as you slowly pick up momentum. When one falls backward, this is the case, until the tipping point. Then you realize you are picking up speed until terminal velocity.
Remember, our God and Father will not let anyone take us out of His hand, but He never promised to keep us there against our own will. Remember that “withdrawing” and “falling away” happens imperceptibly (like the drifting of Hebrews 2:1-4), when we may see ourselves as in good standing. Consider the good church atmosphere of the Ephesian Church in Revelation 2:1-8, where Christ commended them doctrinally and practically, but warned them to repent, because they had “left their first love”. To leave Him, as their first Love, is to withdraw to a degree, no?
How does this occur?
Because God is patient with us and gives us the opportunity to right the ship or continue in “the deceitfulness of sin”. In this context the deceitfulness of sin is very specific to what Israel did to exhaust His mercy… “Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your heart as in the rebellion”.
We can understand this easily considering Pharaoh. God spoke a command to Pharaoh that was easy to follow, “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness”. This was God’s word, Pharaoh heard, but did not do. This hardened his heart and refusing to obey the next time was easier.
Put that in the context of Israel. They heard the word of God in the commandments and the law, understood, and even professed they would do what the Lord said, but did not. Quite simply, an evil heart of unbelief, departing from God, means even while declaring He is your Savior, and hearing His word and affirming it, we do not put it into practice (James 1:22-23).
Every time we hear His command, precept, or direction and do not commit to doing it NOW, we risk hardening our heart. Should this happen repeatedly, we believe the lie of profession, and are not trusting in, nor obeying the LORD. This tries His awesome character, and although He “will put up with our ways” there is a time when we cross a threshold. At this point we may be in the state of “departing“ from His grace and “falling away”.
Yes, falling begins almost imperceptibly, when we may even believe we are flying high with Christ, but soon speeds up and continues until terminal velocity or the point of no return unto death. We are warned against this, often in the New Testament.
Do you hear God calling you to do what His word says?
Do you obey immediately, or put it off “hardening your heart“, making Him “put up with your ways”?
If you put Him off, confess it as the deceitfulness of sin, “Today”, don’t harden your heart further.