Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Mind of Christ

 Isaiah 58:1-12)
Shout out, do not hold back! Lift up your voice like a trumpet! Announce to my people their rebellion, to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness and did not forsake the ordinance of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments, they delight to draw near to God. "Why do we fast, but you do not see? Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?" Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, and oppress all your workers. Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to strike with a wicked fist. Such fasting as you do today will not make your voice heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush, and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The LORD will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.

1 Corinthians 2:9-16
  As it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the human heart conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him"  these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God's except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God's Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else's scrutiny. "For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.
          Monk was a television detective series that ran for several years.  It was all about a quirky man who was obsessive compulsive, who was always washing his hands, straightening crocked pictures, making sure everything was balanced.  But this fictional character had a brilliant mind.

          In one episode, the police captain was telling a police lieutenant about his first day as Mr. Monk’s partner.  This character, Captain Leland Stottlemeyer tells Lt. Disher, “We were the detectives assigned to what looked like a routine matter.  A hooker was found dead in the hotel room.  She shallowed a bunch of promazine, horse tranquilizers.  I said suicide.  Every cop on the scene said suicide. The Medical examiner said suicide.  Monk walks in, and in two seconds he says murder.  I looked at him like he was crazy.  Monk looks at me and asks, “Where’s the water?  How do you swallow that many huge pills without water?”  It was simple.  Eight people in the room and nobody saw it.  Except Monk.  I wish I had his mind.”

          You ever look at someone – either fictional or a real person – and think, “I wish I had that person’s mind”?

          To have the mind of Albert Einstein and to be able to understand the mysteries of the universe and mathematics.

          To have the economic mind of Steve Forbes, or the inventive mind of Steve Jobs, or the creative mind of JK Rowling. 

          Paul says, we are to have the mind of Christ. 

          What does that mean?

Focused on God

          First of all, Christ has a very focused mind, and his mind was always focused on God.  For us to have the mind of Christ, it means that we need to be focused on God.

          Most of us are focused on God for only short periods of time.  We get distracted.  Like the driver who is trying to text while driving, here we are driving forward in life, trying to do God’s will, but other things are distracting us and we lose our focus on God.

          And life is full of distractions.

          Work.  Family.  School work.  Taxes.  Sex.  Money – or the lack of it. 

          Hebrews 12:2 says, “Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.” 

          You see, life is not a 50-yard dash; it is a marathon. We have to stay focused right up to the finish line.  Christ was focused on God.  We must stay focused on God.
In dog obedience training, they put a dog at one end of a room and its master at the other end of the room, with a plate of food in the middle. And then the master calls the dog. If the dog eyes the food, he’s a goner; he’ll go straight for it. So they teach the dog to focus his eyes on the master. If the dog keeps his eyes on the master, he won’t be tempted. Instead of heading for the food, he’ll head straight to the master.  And the master will give the dog food when it is needed.  (Stay Focused! July 01, 2011 by Rick Warren)

We need to keep our eyes on our master or we’ll get distracted. Get your mind off your circumstances and your problems and focus on God’s goodness to you in your past, his closeness to you in your present and his power to help you in your future. Do what Jonah did as he sat in the belly of the great fish: “When I had lost all hope, I turned my thoughts once more to the Lord” (Jonah 2:7 LB).

          Work.  Family.  School work.  Taxes.  Sex.  Money – or the lack of it.  We deal with these so much better if we can stay focused on God. 

          So Paul tells us to have the mind of Christ, which means, stay focused on God.

Focused on Love

          Christ was also focused on love.  

          His whole reason for being incarnate, coming to earth as a baby born in a stable, and growing up and facing crucifixion and resurrection was love.  John’s Gospel says “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.”

          The mission of Christ was not only to offer us salvation, but it was prompted by love. 

          Everything Christ did, he did out of love. 

          We need to be focused on love for God and love for our neighbor.

          That is not easy to do, because there are some difficult people out there.  We are expected to love our nosy next door neighbor, our uncaring boss, our insensitive teacher, the list goes on and on.

          Christ was so focused on love that while he was being nailed to a cross and put to death he prayed for those who were hurting him, saying “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

          How many of us could possibly have that kind of love for someone? 

          I wouldn’t be able to be that focused on love – I’d be focused on “man, these nails hurt like something awful.”

          But not Christ.

          And we are to have that kind of mind – the mind of Christ, that is focused on love.

          In the First Epistle of John, chapter 4, the apostle had this to say about love:  Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love.  God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him.”

Focused on Service

          To have the mind of Christ, is also to have a servant’s mind.  It is to think of others more highly than yourself and to consider how you may be of service to them.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus washes the feet of his disciples – and in that culture, washing someone’s feet was a humble role to take on and something that only a servant would do.  Christ does this for his disciples and sets the model in place that all of us should be focused on service.

          The Old Testament lesson for today comes from Isaiah, and he has a great imagery of what service should be our focus.

          As Isaiah puts it:
to loose the bonds of injustice…
to let the oppressed go free…
to share your bread with the hungry…
to care for the homeless poor…
to cloth the naked…
to offer food to the hungry…
to care for those afflicted…

          To have the mind of Christ is to be focused on such a life of service, to be focused on love, and to be focused on God.

          Now it is easy in this place to keep our focus.  Once we leave here, it is hard to keep that focus.

          Golf immortal Arnold Palmer recalls a lesson about keeping focused. 

It was the final hole of the 1961 Masters tournament, and he had a one-stroke lead and had just hit a very satisfying tee shot. He felt confident that he was in pretty good shape.  He approached his ball and he saw an old friend standing at the edge of the gallery. Palmer’s friend greeted him and the golfer went over and stuck out his hand and greeted him. 

He said as soon as they were shaking hands, Palmer knew that he had lost his focus.

On his next two shots, he hit the ball into a sand trop, then put it over the edge of the green. He missed a putt and lost the Masters. (Carol Mann, The 19th Hole, (Longmeadow), quoted in Reader's Digest.)

When you lose focus, you lose everything.

We have to stay focused.  Not just in here, but out there.

We have to have the mind of Christ.

 Copyright 2014
W. Maynard Pittendreigh
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