Read Philippians 2:1-11, Deuteronomy 6:1-9 here.
May the mind of Christ my Savior live in me from day to day
By his love and power controlling all I do and say.
These are the words of the hymn we’re going to sing after the sermon. They echo the words of our memory verse for today from Philippians 2:5: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 2:5
Memorizing scripture is one of the things I think of when I think of using our minds. That’s our topic for this week in the last week of our series about the ways Jesus is making a difference in our lives. This week – our minds.
The process of memorizing is different for each of us depending on our learning style. Some of us need to see it, some of us need to hear it, and some of us need to have a more kinetic (active) involvement in order to get it set in our minds. My learning style is a mishmash of all three, but my dominant is kinetic, which means that I need to be physically involved in some way with the information. That could mean writing by hand, coloring, or doing something creative with the information.
There are all kinds of ways, but what I have found is most important is to keep working at it every day, until finally one day I discover that the knowledge has finally clicked into place.
This is why I resonate with Moses’ words to Israel about how to remember the commandments that he’s brought to them from his meeting with God up on Mount Sinai:
“Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” –Deut 6:7-9
Moses gives them a recipe for hearing God’s words often, seeing them often, and interacting with them often. Daily. Even multiple times a day.
The discipline of daily looking at the words of the Bible is something we talk about often. This helps us to remember, but we will remember best those things with which we have formed an emotional connection. That’s what Moses tells us, too. He says we need to “write them on our hearts.” Writing on our hearts happens best when we care about the words or ideas that we’re trying to remember.
Let the words of Christ dwell in your richly. –Colossians 3:16
How many of you have a favorite scripture? What made you want to remember that scripture? Why does it mean something to you? The answer to that question is often a great story about how Jesus is making a difference in our lives.
With those favorite scriptures, many of us do exactly what Moses has suggested, and we have scripture incorporated into the decorations in our houses and in our offices. We have jewelry that contains some of the words. Some of us have tattoos of our favorite scripture. Scripture is just one of the many bits of data tucked away in our brains. God gave us an amazing gift when he gave us these powerful brains. Our minds are arguably our greatest asset, but theycan also be our greatest obstacle because those things in our memories can bring us joy and also pain. And sometimes we overthink things.
There’s an extreme example of this in the TV show called The Good Place, a sitcom about life in the afterlife. One of the characters is Chidi. Chidi has a PhD in ethics and moral philosophy. He knows so much about philosophy that he can talk at length about how each of the great philosophers would respond to a particular situation or question. But Chidi cannot ever make a decision, even a simple one. He goes to the hot dog stand where the vendor asks whether he’d like ketchup or mustard on his hot dog. He agonizes over the decision for so long that he eventually gives up and walks away hungry. He’s too busy weighing the implications of every decision to take the next step.
Chidi is an extreme example of how our brains can become obstacles. He thinks too much. And although that hangs him up in simple everyday decision making, he is a good teacher, and he uses his knowledge of ethics and moral philosophy to help the other characters on the show learn how to make better decisions in their own lives. In the simplest terms, he’s teaching them how to know right from wrong.
That’s what Moses is teaching Israel, too. God gives Moses the Ten Commandments to teach them how to love God and our neighbors. Moses, by the way, was the first person in history to download information from the cloud onto a tablet. Those ten commandments are summed up in the one commandment:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. –Deuteronomy 6:5
Jesus repeats this commandment in the Gospels, when someone asks him the question “What is the greatest commandment?” Jesus makes it clearer by adding the word mind. It’s there in Moses’ version, too, as part of the word “heart.” In Moses’ time, the heart meant the center of a person. To love God with all your heart meant the inner self. Heart and mind.
Paul is encouraging us to do this as well when he encourages us to have the mind of Christ.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… –Philippians 2:5
I like the way the Message version makes it even simpler:
Love God with all you’ve got! –Deuteronomy 6:5 Message Version
With all we are. With our whole selves.
Our hearts and our brains are connected. Physiologically, we need both parts working well for our bodies to function well. Similarly, in the psychological sense, we need both our thinking and our feeling to be working well.
Over the course of this eight-week series, we’ve looked at different aspects of our lives that all contribute to our total health. In your bulletin insert, there’s a list of them. All these things are important parts of our lives, and areas in which following Jesus needs to make a difference.
But it’s our mind that drives the bus. Our thoughts affect our lives. That’s why listening is important. Proverbs is the book in the Bible that’s full of wise sayings. Proverbs talks a lot about listening and about the connection between hearing with our ears and with our hearts.
Treasure my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your hearts to understanding. –Proverbs 2:2
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future. The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established. –Proverbs 19:20-21
When Solomon first became King, he went to the tabernacle to pray. God told King Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom, and of course God granted his request. (2 Chron. 1, 1 Kings 3) But Solomon was already wise, because what he asked for was a listening heart:
“Here’s what I want: Give me a God-listening heart so I can lead your people well, discerning the difference between good and evil. For who on their own is capable of leading your glorious people?” –1 Kings 3:9 Message
Listening is important.
This past week, the author of the Message version of the Bible, Eugene Peterson died. In one of the many articles that came out this week about his life, one tells about a turning point. He was the pastor of a Presbyterian church in Maryland, and like most pastors he had evening meetings. One night when he was leaving home to go to a session meeting, his then five-year-old daughter Karen asked him to read her a story. He told her he couldn’t because he had to go to a meeting. She said, “This is the twenty-seventh night in a row you’ve had a meeting.” So when Peterson got to that session meeting, his answer to that was that he resigned. He told them about his conversation with Karen, and said:
“… it’s not just Karen. It’s you too. I haven’t been a pastor to this congregation for six months. I pray in fits and starts. I feel like I’m in a hurry all the time. When I visit or have lunch with you, I’m not listening to you; I am thinking of ways I can get the momentum going again. My sermons are thrown together. I don’t want to live like this, either with you or with my family.”
Busyness and worry were getting in the way of listening, and Peterson wanted to be a pastor who listened to God and to the people. He wanted to be a pastor who prays and reads and who is able to have unhurried conversations. Listening is important for a pastor, but it’s also important for anyone who seeks to have the mind of Christ.
Listening is important for anyone who seeks to have the mind of Christ.
Listening is key to loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. We show our love through obedience, and we need to listen to know what to obey. Like loving, listening involves our whole selves. One of the verses in Proverbs that talks about listening includes both heart and ears:
Apply your heart to discipline and your ears to words of knowledge. –Proverbs 23:12(NASB/NKJV)
That word heart means more in Hebrew than it does in English, so other translations say:
Apply your mind to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge. –Proverbs 23:12 (NRSV/CEB)
What it’s really telling us is that we need to apply our whole selves to seeking God and listening to him. As you look over the list of topics in this series (here), the different areas in our lives in which we want Jesus to be making a difference, consider whether one or more of those is an area in which things are keeping you from being a listener.
It helps to identify those things that get in the way of listening. It also helps to know what motivates us to be good listeners – love. At the core, having the mind of Christ is about love.
Jesus came to show us how much God loves us. Jesus told us this in his words to Nicodemus, the religious leader who came to see Jesus one night. Nicodemus was having trouble understanding who Jesus was. Jesus told him to have faith:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” –John 3:16
That’s a scripture you probably recognize and maybe even have memorized because we keep coming back to it. It’s the essence of the gospel. God loves us. Jesus gave his life for us. Our belief is the key to eternal life.
It’s about love at the core. Jesus wanted to make sure we understood that. In his last night of teaching his disciples, the night he was arrested, he told them:
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. –John 15:13
And that’s how Paul tells us about having the mind of Christ in Philippians 2. Having the mind of Christ is about loving enough to be willing to give up everything for the sake of another like Jesus did. Jesus…
…who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death —even death on a cross. —Philippians 2:6-9
Jesus willingly humbled himself by becoming human, becoming a slave, becoming obedient to the point of death.
Having the mind of Christ is about love, and because of that love being willing to humble ourselves.
In the 1980’s “… the philosopher Philip Hallie wrote a book about a remarkable French village, a town whose people. . . engaged in the dangerous practice of sheltering Jews from the Nazis during the German occupation. The name of the village was Le Chambón, and Hallie went there to try to discover what led those simple villagers to do such an extraordinary thing. What he discovered was that they weren’t particularly heroic or extraordinary people… not even politically enlightened.
“In fact, what he found was that the largest part of their education had come from the teachings of the village church and from its faithful pastor, André Trocmé. Each week Pastor Trocmé proclaimed the Word, and each week the members of the parish studied the Scriptures, and each week they came to understand something of what it meant to be called to discipleship and faithfulness. Over time, week by week, the people there came, by habit, to be people who knew what to do and who also developed a willingness to do it. When the time came for them to be courageous, specifically when the Nazis came to town looking for Jews, the people of Le Chambón quietly did what was right—they sheltered their Jewish brothers and sisters from harm.
“One elderly woman, who faked a heart attack when the Nazis came to search her house, said later, “Pastor always taught us that there comes a time in every life when a person is asked to do something for Jesus. When our time came, we knew what to do.” Another woman, when asked why she would risk her life for the sake of these total strangers, replied, “For what else was I born?”
For what else indeed. This is similar to the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism:
“What is your only comfort, in life and in death? That I belong—body and soul, in life and in death—not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ.” –Heidelberg Catechism (1563)
We belong, body and soul, in life and in death to Jesus. We are called to love God with everything we’ve got, to listen with our minds and hearts, and to humble ourselves before him.
One of the ways of physically showing humility is to bow. When we are about to pray, we often say “bow with me” or “let’s bow our heads.” The depth of the bow correlates to the degree of humility. Jesus, in humility, surrendered his life to God, and God lifted him up from the grave.
Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. —Philippians 2:9-11
Where the mind goes, the body and the life follow.
Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus… –Philippians 2:5
For what else were we born.
Closing Hymn “May the Mind of Christ My Savior”
May the mind of Christ, my Savior,
live in me from day to day,
by His love and pow’r controlling
all I do and say.
2 May the Word of God dwell richly
in my heart from hour to hour,
so that all may see I triumph
only through His pow’r.
3 May the peace of God, my Father,
rule my life in ev’rything,
that I may be calm to comfort
sick and sorrowing.
4 May the love of Jesus fill me
as the waters fill the sea.
Him exalting, self abasing:
this is victory.
5 May I run the race before me,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as I onward go.
6 May His beauty rest upon me
as I seek the lost to win,
and may they forget the channel,
seeing only Him.
 Matthew Boffey, “Eugene Peterson Was a Listener, and That’s Why We Listened” Logos Talk: The Logos Bible Software Blog https://blog.logos.com/2018/10/eugene-peterson-listener-thats-listened/ accessed October 25, 2018.
 Dunham, R. E. (2011). “Loving God with all our minds: a reminder for preachers.” Journal for Preachers, 34(2), 19–24. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lsdar&AN=ATLA0001824096&site=ehost-live
 M. Craig Barnes discusses the meaning of the catechism beautifully in Body & Soul: Reclaiming the Heidelberg Catechism (Kalamazoo: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2012): “The comfort the gospel offers is more than consolation or empathy for our worries. It is redemptive. It restores us to our position as humans made in the image of God, crowned with dignity and honor.”