CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Called to Conform
The Messianic Mindset
By Denise M. Kohlmeyer
Called to Conform
An in-depth series on the practical outworkings of Christ-like Conformity
A Messianic Mindset
A Heart Like Jesus
The Obedience of Christ
A Life Poured Out
Conflict and Suffering
The Unregenerate Mind
(Romans 8:6-7, ESV)
In my teen years, I was filled with anger, bitterness, and a profound dislike for one of my siblings that bordered on hatred. You see, this sibling was addicted to drugs, and their erratic behavior wreaked untold havoc on our family. I just wanted normalcy; I wanted a family that wasn't constantly disrupted by dysfunction. So rather than thinking compassionate and sympathetic thoughts towards my deeply-troubled sibling, my mind was filled with mean, hateful, and vengeful thoughts.
Such was my warped and wounded mind 35 years ago — before Christ took it over. But I could not have helped the way I thought back then. My mind simply followed its natural course: carnal (sarkikós, "fleshly, earthly;" other translations render it "natural, unspiritual, depraved").
In its raw, unredeemed state, the mind — just like the soul — is dark, depraved and spiritually dead. An unspiritual mind cannot know God, who is Spirit. It cannot discern the things of God nor can it please God (Romans 8:6, 8; 1 Corinthians 2:13). In fact, everything associated with God the carnal mind cannot comprehend; therefore, anything spiritually-related is foolishness to it.
The depraved mind also lacks filters which would strain out the filth of this world. Wrong becomes right, right becomes wrong. An unregenerate mind's judgment and discernment are sadly warped and dangerously impaired. We have only to look at the news and reality TV shows to see how this type of mind thinks, then behaves: with envy, jealousy, lust, hatred, anger, bitterness, murder, addictions of all kinds, stealing, licentiousness, bitterness, selfish ambition, sexual immorality, impurity, slander, malice, greed, deceit, lying, strife, identity confusion, quarrels, divisions, and divorce — and the list goes on (1 Corinthians 3:3, 6:18; Ephesians 4:31, 5:3; 1 Peter 2:1).
And those who think wrongly — and subsequently practice wrongly — are destined, as Romans 8:6-7 says, for death. Eternal death.
The Cure for the Mind
(Ezekiel 36:26a, ESV)
The first area that needs to be conformed to Christ, then, is the mind, because how we think greatly influences how we behave. For instance, when I thought unlovingly about my sibling in the past, I subsequently acted spitefully at times.
A dead and darkened mind, therefore, needs to be brought to Light and Life, and that happens at the moment of our conversion — when we repent of our sins (metanoia, "a change of mind") and appropriate God's free gift of grace through faith in Jesus Christ. At that moment, God graciously implants a new heart and a new spirit within us, and that includes a new mind.
The cure comes from Christ's redemptive power. It is only through salvation in Jesus Christ that we can even begin to think like Him, then behave like Him.
But while salvation takes a nanosecond to receive, conforming one's mind to Christ takes a lifetime to achieve. It is after our conversion that the Holy Spirit begins His wonderful transformative work in our unspiritual minds — with our cooperation, of course. He begins to slowly exchange our darkened thinking with Christ's enlightened way of thinking to the point where we no longer have a "mind of our own" but we have "the mind of Christ" (1 Corinthians 2:16).
The Course for the Mind
(Romans 12:2a, ESV)
So, practically-speaking, how does that look? How do we begin to cultivate a mind like Christ's? How does the Holy Spirit begin to transform and renew our minds? Through the life of Christ. Our "course" for conforming our minds is to study those Scriptures that reveal what Jesus' own mindset was: about Himself, about His ministry, about others (good and bad). From there, we allow the Holy Spirit to implant those truths into our minds, which will then be "rewired" to think in terms of those truths, which will subsequently "adjust" our character and our behavior into Christlikeness.
How Jesus thought about Himself, God, His ministry, and others can be summed up in Philippians 2:5-8, which also tells us how we are to think as well:
though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be
grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the
likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by
becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
(Philippians 2:5-8, ESV)
Even though Jesus was fully God — enjoying all the privileges of Deity — He laid it all aside ("emptied Himself") to become fully human — a human of the lowest rank in the ancient social order nonetheless: a servant.
In ancient times, a servant had no rights, no privileges, no life of their own! They were owned by others, at their beck and call day and night. Amazingly, Jesus chose this status: "He humbled Himself."
While others may think of themselves as "gods" who rule their own destinies, Jesus did not, although He of all people could. What irony! Instead, Jesus chose to serve others in amazing and humble ways:
• by washing the dirty, disgusting feet of His disciples (John 13:12-17);
• by physically touching the untouchables (Matthew 8:3);
• by associating and even celebrating with the lowly outcasts of society: prostitutes, tax collectors, sinners (Luke 7:34);
• by giving of His power to perform miracles, signs and wonders (John 20:30);
• by giving of His time and energy to teach, preach and heal (Matthew 11:1);
• by giving up sleep to spend time communing with His Father and most importantly (Matthew 14:23; Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16);
• by lovingly, graciously giving up His own life so that others could live (2 Corinthians 5:15; 1 John 3:16).
No, Jesus didn't think of Himself as too high-born to do any of those things; He was humble in how He thought of Himself, about what He had come to do, and for Whom He was to do it.
As God's children adopted into the Divine Family, we too must think and thus act like our older Brother. We too must "humble [our]selves before the Lord (James 4:10) and "in humility count others more significant than [our]selves" (Philippians 2:3), not being "haughty, but associate with the lowly" (Romans 12:16), and, if need be, demonstrating our sacrificial love for others by "lay[ing] down one's life for one's friends" (John 15:13).
If this is how Christ thought while on earth, then so too must we!
Image Credit: clmcghee; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Biblical-Salvation | Biblical-Truth | Jesus-Christ | Witnessing-Evangelism
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Published on 4-17-17