Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1350
May 13, 2018 Philippians 2.1-11
Rev. Dr. Ed Pettus
(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)
“Have This Mind”
Same Mind & Same Love
Today we will consider the unity of the Church and how that unity or disunity bears witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus prays for our unity in John 17 and in that prayer the unity is centered in the truth of God’s Word. Paul reminds the Corinthians in his first letter, first chapter, not to be divided. Here in our reading from Philippians Paul is exhorting the Church to be of the same mind and love, in full accord with one another and of one mind. I’ve expressed this to others when I tell them about us and our move to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, that we are “on the same page”. It is the expression of like mindedness. That is what I believe Paul is professing in this letter, that the Church needs to be on the same page, together in thought on what the Scripture is telling us to do and who to be.
Jesus gives us the Great Commandment in the Gospels. Mark 12:28-31 reads, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love God with all your heart – this one is, I think, a little easier to understand because we readily associate love with the heart. Love God with all your soul – perhaps this is a deeper love still than the heart. It goes to the very essence of our existence, loving with all that we are. Love God with all your mind – this is our topic for today, to love God in thoughts, in reason, in rationality, with our capacity to understand and know. Love God with all your strength – to love with our energy, fortitude, bodies, and actions. In one sense Jesus may just be telling us to love God with all that we are. We do not really need to divide ourselves into heart, soul, mind, and strength, but that Jesus is expressing it in a way that demonstrates the entirety of our being. But we are thinkers who like to divide things up, to examine how things work, and to deconstruct in order to better understand.
To love God with the mind is to pursue the intellectual aspects of our faith, to study God’s word, to put it to memory, to read up on current books in theology or in old books in theology. It is to attend ourselves to the world and the Scripture until we see the intersection where God is at work and where God is speaking to the world in truth. First and foremost it is being engaged in God’s Word. Acts 2.42 tells us of the first actions of the early Church, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.” Devoted to teaching, loving God with the mind. Seeking to be on the same page.
Today’s world and many a church are into diversity. Diversity is a wonderful thing, no doubt. We should have lots of diversity in race and age and social status and vocations and so forth. But diversity of mind is a problem. Actually diversity of all things was something of a non-issue for Paul. Galatians 3.28 puts an end to the push for diversity in how we view one another, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” In the church we are called to view everyone, not as diverse from us, not labeled as different, but one in Christ. This is the view of the Scripture! That’s another sermon.
The Church can only be of one mind if we have at least a unity of thought, interpretation, understanding. The Church can only be united if we are one in mind and particularly in the mind of Christ.
Full Accord & One Mind
Around what is our like mindedness centered? For those of us in the reformed tradition it is around a certain understanding of the authority of Scripture. It is around the sovereignty of God, which means His Lordship and power and provision for our lives and the life of the world. Our minds are centered on all the doctrines and teachings of the reformers because we believe this to be the best articulation of what the Bible reveals about faith and life and all things pertaining to God and humanity. It is why like minded people gather as Presbyterians or Baptists or Methodists, because we, and they, have gathered in a like mind about issues of faith and life. No church can have unity without full accord or agreement on this mindset. Now, we certainly can have minor differences of opinion and differences on issues that do not center in salvation, for instance, but full accord and one mind is crucial to the effectiveness of the church and its witness to a community.
I know that there are lots of churches and branches of faith that do not believe as we do. The Church universal does suffer from a unity problem. But most ministry is done locally, by churches within a community. That is where the unity must prevail, local congregations that are focused on Jesus Christ and His Word.
Paul also speaks about the mind in 2 Corinthians 10.3-6 to show us what we are up against,
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” Let us use our minds and think about what Paul is saying here! We are fighting against arguments and opinions that seek to challenge the knowledge of God. How prevalent is that in our society today?!?! Sanctity of life issues – against God’s Word. Human sexuality – against God’s ways. Role of government – against God’s plan. Marriage between a male and female – beyond what God intended. We could go on, but you see that we are in a war, Paul’s language, a war to win hearts, minds, and souls to Jesus Christ. We are in a war to shape communities and see that God’s ways are honored and practiced for the good of society.
Turn with me to Ephesians 4.17-24. This is the situation we face in the world today, just as they did in Paul’s day.
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Our society is walking in the futility of their minds, darkened in their understanding, ignorant, and hard hearted. In the political world it is evident. In the entertainment business it is rampant. In various sectors of society we see such greed and sexual immorality and impurity. But Paul urges us to be renewed in the spirit of our minds! Part of the battle is won in the mind. Teach our children, teach one another, teach the community that the good life they truly want is only found in Jesus Christ.
The Mind of Christ
Now I want to lift up two things about Philippians 2:5, one is about the mind and the other about His attitude.
5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
When I think of the mind in this verse I think about the thought process in which we engage. What makes our minds tick? To have the mind of Christ is to think like the Bible thinks. The Bible “thinks” in specific ways about itself, about God, about us, about evil, and everything else on which it speaks. We cannot think beyond Christ, we do not know that much. That’s what got Adam and Eve, thinking that they could be like God knowing good and evil as God does. But we do have the ability in the Holy Spirit to think like the Scripture. 1 Corinthians 2.16 - “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.” Paul claims that we have the mind of Christ! I think that means we have the Words of Christ on which to think. We have the Spirit of Christ who teaches us. We have the fellowship of the Church and a rich Church tradition to help us think more clearly.
The Attitude of Christ
Verse 5 could also read this way, Have this attitude among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. And the attitude was one of humility...
though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Yes, we need to nurture the ability to think like the Bible, think like Jesus, but we also need to live with a certain attitude or disposition. Jesus lived in the joy, hope, faith, confidence, and will of God. Jesus lived displaying grace and truth. Jesus lived as a servant. Jesus lived with compassion but also with warnings to those who failed to uphold God’s ways. Jesus expressed love and anger and sadness and joy and, finally humility, humbling Himself in obedience all the way to His death, even death on a cross. Paul writes it that way because the cross was the most humiliating way to die.
We develop a mindset and an attitude that reflects the mind and attitude of Jesus Christ. Sounds like a tall order, but if we pursue His Word and listen to His Spirit, we are helped along our way. We are empowered and our minds guarded with God’s peace.
To the Glory of God
Paul ends this section of scripture with the phrase, “to the glory of God the Father”. Our thinking is to God’s glory. Our attitude is to God’s glory. Our disposition and unity and love and like mindedness is all to God’s glory. We might ask ourselves from time to time, is what I’m planning to do or say to the glory of God? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” How do we live like this? Let me make a few suggestions!
First, we guard our hearts and minds from conforming to the ways of the world. Romans 12.2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” First off, we must examine our thoughts and ways to insure that we are not falling into any of the lies offered against the knowledge of God. We know the knowledge of God by the second part of 12.2, “be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” We glorify God when we first resist the world and second, renew our minds in His Holy Word.
Third, trust that God is working within us to bring Him glory. Philippians 4.7 says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” God us guarding our hearts and minds to enable us to fight the spiritual battle against all enemies of God. It is God’s peace that stands guard! This is why we can see the problems of our culture and society going off the deep end and still remain at peace. But we cannot just stand still either. We must take action to stand firm in the faith and Word. We are called to live on the solid ground of God’s Commands on all the issues of our society that have gone the way of evil and disrespect for God and His people.
Fourth is from 1 Peter 3.8, “Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” Peter sums up both of Paul’s points of unity and mind. Be unified in mind and be humble in mind. This is the characteristic of Christ that amazes us. Jesus was obedient in mind and through His humility brought salvation to us as well as the example of how we are to live.
Let us all work to this end, to have this mind among ourselves, humbled, renewed in the mind, looking out for others, loving, and resisting anything and everything that would prevent this like minded attitude for life. 5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus. Amen.