Having a Humble Mind

Our passage from Philippians gives us one of the most sweeping overviews of the work of Christ in the whole Bible. It begins in heaven, and then takes us through the incarnation, the atonement, Christ’s exaltation, and into the future glory where every knee bows and every tongue confesses Jesus Christ as Lord.

And at the beginning of this passage is an exhortation from the Apostle Paul, instructing us to have the same mind among ourselves that Christ demonstrated throughout this journey. Notice that he actually speaks to the church mind: share this mind together. Paul is imagining a church filled with people who have abandoned their old mindset, and replaced it with that of Christ.

And what sort of mind is it that we see in Jesus? Paul points us to two things: humility and obedience. Self-emptying and submission. A Christlike mind is one that lets go of the need to make much of itself, and instead gives itself away for others. A Christlike mind is one that submits to the will of God in complete obedience, even when that will includes death. A Christlike mind says these two things: “I am here to serve others” and “Death is better than disobedience.”

This is not the mindset that people are born with, which is why thinking like Jesus requires a transformed mind. Your old mind says, “I worked hard to get here, and I deserve the respect and recognition that accompanies my status.” When someone disrespects you, even if you act like it’s no big deal, you feel offended. But that’s right where Paul goes – to your inner life, the life of the mind. The problem is not your proud actions; that’s the symptom. The real problem is in your proud mind, so let that mind be crucified with Christ, and instead, adopt His mind.

Having the mind of Christ means that when you feel annoyed or angry that someone has disrespected you or treated you as less important than you consider yourself to be, you commit to emptying yourself at that moment. Give yourself away. Don’t grasp for your privileges; let them go!

Once your mind is renewed, the actions of humility start to become more natural, and the natural expression of humility is obedience. We see the mind of Jesus working just this way: first came the humility, the commitment not to insist on honor and privilege, and the obedience unto death followed. Disobedience says: “Not your will, but mine be done.” It is an assertion that your wishes take precedence and outrank the wishes and commands of others. Obedience says just the opposite: “Not my will, but yours be done.” Humility shows itself in glad obedience.

And this is what humbling yourself in obedience looks like: children, your mindset should be this: what my parents ask me to do is more important than what I want to do. Students, consider the work your teacher assigns to be more important than how you would have chosen to spend your time. Employees, if your boss asks you to do something, by definition it is not unworthy of you. Christian, you instinctively think that you should be in charge of your spiritual life, but God tells you to obey your leaders who keep watch over your soul. Whatever station in life you find yourself in, having the mind of Christ means emptying yourself, and obeying those in authority over you.

When think deeply about what these verses say, desperation should set in pretty quickly. We aren’t born with sacrificial, self-emptying minds that direct us towards the path of obedience; we have self-interested, grabby ones that tell us to serve ourselves. But here’s the good news: have this mind which is yours in Christ Jesus. You don’t need to earn it, and you can’t manufacture it. It’s yours as a gift of grace, because you are united to Jesus Christ.

Finally, notice the reward of humility: Therefore, that is, because Jesus thought and acted this way, God exalted Him to the highest place. Do you really think that by emptying yourself and obeying God that you will end up losing out? Paradoxically, God knows that emptying yourself is the only way to find fulfillment. Humble yourself, Scripture says, empty yourself, submit to God in joyful obedience, and He will lift you up.

Posted on Wednesday, April 16, 2014 by CJ Bowen