When the Apostle Paul refers to the “renewing” of our minds, he is not just using spiritual double-speak. This is a real and very important aspect of Christian growth. God wants His people to think like He thinks. This is the great challenge for those who would follow after Him. We are encouraged in Romans 12:2 to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This renewal is explained in Ephesians 4 as being opposite of the corrupting mind of unbelievers—that which grows increasingly corrupt because of lying lusts. Moreover, this renewed mind is that which provides protection against anxiety according to Philippians 4. Nothing brings inner peace more than a mind that is stayed upon the Lord.
One area where the mind of Jesus is emphasized is in Philippians 2. Promoting unity in the local church, the Apostle Paul states that believers should have the humble mind of Christ. Humility is one certain way to know if we are thinking the same thoughts as Jesus—He was the greatest example of humility that has ever been. This humility is vital to our growth and change. The great theologian, Augustine, when asked about the most essential virtue of a Christian responded, “humility.” Asked again, he responded again, “humility.” Modern theologian Wayne Mack defines humility as “the recognition of our own insignificance and unworthiness before God…and behaving in a manner that appropriately expresses this attitude.” This kind of thinking is what God expects of us.
God expects us to think like our Lord Jesus.
The same thoughts that characterized His thinking, should characterize ours as well. “Let this mind,” Paul writes in 2:5, “be in you.” The verb in this text is present passive imperative. That means that the mind itself is not our mind. We don’t think our thoughts. We think His thoughts. This is to be a continual action throughout the day. Moreover, this kind of thinking is non-negotiable. This is how every Christian must think.
How did our Lord Jesus think? He subjugated Himself to the Father’s will. Even though He was God, the second Person of the Trinity, Jesus did not feel as if He had to hold onto His glory. Instead, He made Himself of no reputation. Charles Wesley imprecisely put it this way: He “emptied Himself of all but love” (from the hymn And Can It Be?). While the theology of that sentence is much debated, it captures the essence of what Paul is writing here. Jesus was made in the likeness of men. He took upon Himself the servant’s form. If that is not enough, He embraced the cross. Crucifixion is the most degrading form of execution mankind has ever devised. It strips one of his human dignity completely leaving him physically and emotionally exposed for anyone to see. There is no humanity left for one who has been crucified. It is a truly awful way to die. The writer of Hebrews informs us that in spite of the shame of the cross looked only to the joy of being the Savior of His people. This was the greatest act of love. This was the greatest act of humility. This, theologian D.A. Carson writes, is the “supreme standard of our behavior.”
One cursory glance though John’s gospel makes this very clear.
5:19—I do nothing of myself.
5:41—I do not accept the praise of men.
6:38—I have not come to do my own will.
7:16—My teaching is not my own.
8:42—I have not come on my own.
14:10—My words are not my own.
Jesus did not come into the world to promote Himself. He came to seek and to save the lost. Based upon this example, we can see why Paul argues for humility in our relationship with others. In v. 3 Paul writes that the spirit of rivalry has no place in the local church. Humility is the antidote to strife. It is the cure-all. Strife is always the result of pride on the part of one or both in an argument. How many marriages, how many careers, how many parent/child relationships would be salvaged by just one person in the dispute having “lowliness of mind?” This is why humility is so important to Christian growth and change.
Imagine two adults wrangling over a large, square piece of plastic. Are you tempted to think that’s not possible? You should watch the news more often on the day after Thanksgiving. This is the kind of behavior you would expect to see in a nursery where little toddlers fight over a toy, not in a public place with grown-ups fighting over a $79 television. “Lowliness of mind” lets the other person have it. When we are truly humble we begin to think of others better than ourselves. Like Paul writes in Romans 12, we tend to stop minding “high things” but feel more at ease with those who are of a “low estate.” This is when we are a blessing to others. The thinking of Jesus was continually influenced by His great humility. If we are going to follow Him, we must also be humble. This is how we must think.
1. Reflect on a recent situation where you were at odds with someone else. How would a humble attitude on your part have changed the situation?
2. How often do you think about the importance of humility?
3. Who in your life is there towards whom you struggle to be humble?
4. What specific ways can you grow in humility?
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