HEC currently enjoys a remarkable spirit of unity and stability as a congregation. We should give thanks for this. As the Psalmist notes, it is a divine blessing when brethren dwell together in unity (Ps. 133). At the same time, we should not be naïve. A ship on the open seas will eventually encounter choppy water. Paul’s farewell words to the Ephesian elders are a warning to every church: “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29-30). Spurgeon once said that, where God builds a church, the devil builds a chapel. This does indeed seem to be the case. Satan hates nothing more than to see a healthy church. The more blessing we experience at HEC, the more vigilant we must be to keep an eye out for the little foxes that spoil the vineyard (Song of Solomon 2:15).
But how do we guard ourselves from being disrupted by the strategies of the Evil One? This is a question that we must ponder in the days ahead. One means of protection is what Paul calls ‘the mind of Christ’ (Phil. 2:5). For Paul, this ‘mind’ is a kind of shield that defends the church from the vices and temptations that are most disruptive to gospel unity. To have this mind is to be wearing armour; to give up this mind is to step out onto a battlefield naked and defenceless.
So what exactly is the mind of Christ? Three traits are listed below.
1 – The ‘Mind of Christ’ Is a Corporate Reality
It’s very clear from the context of Philippians 2 that, when Paul takes up the topic of the mind of Christ, he is thinking in terms of a group, not in terms of an individual. Herein lies the great challenge of adopting and preserving the mind of Christ. Such a mind is not something that an individual can express alone. For a chair to be stable, each leg must provide stability. Likewise, for a church to be stable, each member must support the peace of the congregation.
2 – The ‘Mind of Christ’ Is a Mindset
The NIV translates Philippians 2:5 as follows: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus”. The use of the word ‘mindset’ here is interesting. A mindset can be described as a set way of thinking or as an established set of mental attitudes. People today often talk about the idea of a “growth mindset”. In using this term, they are referring to an optimistic attitude that new skills can be learned and learning barriers can be overcome.
According to Paul, the church should have its own distinctive mindset. This mindset is defined both by the attitudes that it excludes as well as the attitudes that it embraces.
First, Paul tells us that the mind of Christ is devoid of selfish ambition and conceit (vs. 3). A follower of Christ should never be so self-confident as to assume that a personal agenda is Christ’s agenda or that a personal point of view is the same as Christ’s perspective. God places individuals in a congregation for a reason. Left alone, each one of us carries only a single piece of a puzzle. It is only as we come together that a more complete picture emerges.
Yet, Paul also tells us what the mind of Christ embraces. This includes three attitudes in particular: humility, mutual esteem, and mutual regard (vs. 3-4). Self-bias is a virus that each of us carries. We all tend to care more about our own interests than the interests of the others. The gospel is remedy for such self-centredness. From the example of Christ, we learn that the script needs to be flipped. Rather than starting with self and ending with other, we need to do the opposite. Paul’s words in Philippians are striking: “Let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” As believers, we need to realise the high stakes game we are playing. Where there is selfish-ambition and conceit, the devil rejoices. Where there is mutual regard and mutual concern, the Spirit rejoices.
3 – The Mind of Christ Is a Unity of Mind, Will, and Spirit
The NASB translates Philippians 2:2 as follows: “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose”. Of interest is the holistic nature of the unity that Christians are called to preserve. It’s not enough to try to follow the same logic; we must also try to follow the same love. It’s not enough to be united in purpose; we must also attempt to be united in passion. The way in which we know that the mind of Christ has been downloaded into our hearts is that mind, will, and spirit begin to operate with the same software. Over time, the idea of being a single bodyceases to be a metaphor and becomes a reality. We start to think, and move, and act with coordinated motion.
Personally, I’m excited about the future of HEC. Will we have trials and difficulties? Of course. Growing pains are an inevitable part of growing up. Yet, I sincerely believe that, if are passionate about preserving the mind of Christ, the bumps and scrapes that we experience will be nothing compared to the joy of growing up together into “the measure and stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).
By Joe Barnard