The Mind of Christ
Our last essay ended with the suggestion that being saved means more than having our sins forgiven. It involves a new life; that’s why it is spoken of as being born again. In John 7:38, Jesus says that if we believe in him, from our innermost being will flow rivers of living water. Water is essential to life. This promise is that we are to be channels through which life from God is to be communicated to others. That’s exciting, but also a bit scary. It implies a closeness to God in every side of our life that means we can no longer live for our own objectives, but that Christ’s kingship is to be central in our lives. That’s what is implied when the Bible talks about the gospel as the gospel of the kingdom.
One of the ways in which Scripture talks about this is found in 1 Corinthians 2:16 which concludes with the words, “But we have the mind of Christ.” Does this mean that we are to think the way Christ does about life and the world? Yes, but it means more than that. One of the most powerful passages on this topic is Philippians 2:5-11, which begins with the words, “Have this attitude (mind) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” But the characteristic described is humility. So the mind of Christ isn’t only a way of think-ing; it’s also a way of being. We are to live Christianly as well as think Christianly. These two sides of the Christian mind can be separated logically, but not practically. If we are going to think in a Christian way, we must also live in a Christian way.
What we have been talking about in these essays has largely been the way we think about life and the world, or our Christian worldview. This time we want to discuss the companion topic of living Christianly. Probably the best way to do that is to look at the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). John Stott, in his excellent short book on the Sermon says, “The Sermon on the Mount is the most complete delineation anywhere in the New Testament of the Christian counter-culture…And this Christian counter-culture is the life of the kingdom of God, a fully human life indeed, but lived out under the divine rule,” (p. 19).
The Beatitudes (the “Blesseds”), which begin the Sermon, don’t sound like an easy way to live. Some Christians have dealt with this problem by saying that they apply to the kingdom during the millennium when Christ has returned to earth, and that they are meant for Jewish Christians at that time, not for us now. But there is nothing in the New Testament that justifies this way of avoiding them. They describe what Jesus Himself was like. In Matthew11:29, when He invites us to take His yoke upon us and learn of Him, He describes Himself as gentle and humble in heart. The reason we shy away from the “Blesseds” is that they are so different from the ideal of life presented by the culture we have grown up in. That life is one of winning in competition, of being successful no matter what that does to others. But if being saved means having a new life, Christ’s life worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit, then we had better pay attention to the Beatitudes as a pattern for our lives.
A caution is essential at this point. We must not look at the Beatitudes as a new set of laws that we must try to keep in order to win favor with the Lord. If we are Christians, we are already favored by God. He loves us just as we are and makes us alive anew in Christ because He loves us. Our effort to live out the Beatitudes is meant to be a loving response to God’s love, not a legalistic effort to become something which will win His approval.
There are eight Beatitudes. The first four speak of our relation to God; the last four to our relations with people. We will look at them in some detail, God willing, in our next essay.