Matthew 12 contains two stories about working on the Sabbath – Saturday. One is about Jesus and his disciples picking and eating grain, and the other is about Jesus healing a man with a withered hand. Both actions were criticized by the Pharisees, for they saw it as breaking the 4th commandment, “Keep the Sabbath holy.”
Physical condition in the Bible is always emblematic of spiritual condition, thus we see mankind’s spiritual condition in the two stories: Our insatiable needs, suffering, and incompetence. In response to his critics Jesus asked, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath day to do good or to do harm?”
What is God’s answer to this question? God is such that in the presence of human failings He must either help or harm, and he cannot harm; he must either save or kill, and he cannot kill. Therefore, we have Calvary, the cross, the Son’s blood, the breaking of God’s heart, and the sacrifice by which he lifts crushed, bruised, broken humanity and remakes it.
What then is the Christian’s answer to this question? No Christian who comes into the presence of a failed, and sorrowful person can pass them by because, like God, we must either help or harm, and seeing as we are not to harm, we must help. In the presence of a hungry spirit, and a withered life we must tell about Jesus. Not to do so, is to be complicit in the forces that destroy.
Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven was near.” When the 1st century Jews heard those words certain expectations came to mind; namely the inauguration of a kingdom that was consistent with their own hopes and dreams. When Jesus didn’t fulfill those dreams they threw the king out.
Isn’t this still true today? When we become a Christian don’t we expect God to pour out His blessings on us in ways that are consistent with our own hopes and dreams, and to pour out His wrath on those who we now see as unrighteous? The problem with such thoughts is our hopes and dreams are too often inconsistent with what Jesus said he would do, and we find we have set ourselves up for disappointment in Him.
Jesus did indeed inaugurated the Kingdom of Heaven, but He has his own agenda. Jesus’ agenda is the restoration and judgment of men and women is to be based on how they respond to his message, and not our dreams. Our task is to understand in what ways we can bring our lives into alignment with Jesus’ agenda and message. The phrase, “Thy will be done,” should ever be on our lips.
Psalm 37 is a wisdom Psalm from David. It begins, “Do not fret because of evil men” (1). Do not fret literally means, “Do not make your heart hot in the presence of the apparent victory of iniquity.” Apparently David, a man of faith, was giving counsel to someone in time of conflict.
From verse 1 David’s council moves from encouragement to encouragement as if ascending some grand staircase: “Trust in the Lord (3) … Delight yourself in the Lord (4) … Commit your way to the Lord (5) … Be Still in the Lord and wait patiently for him” (7).
Who is this God David says we should wait for? He is the God revealed in your Bible: A God of knowledge, a God of holiness, a God of might, a God of justice, and a God of patience. To summarize, He is a God of love. I don’t pretend to understand fully, but that is the God David counsels to wait for.
Where do all these characteristic merge? In Jesus, who was all these things, and who appeared in human flesh, and who tabernacles with us, and who the disciples beheld as full of grace and truth.
Paul had a lot of advantages in his life, but he had learned that those advantages were rubbish compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus. Paul had learned to count what was important in life. What was important to him? He answered with this, “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection” (Phil 3:10).
As you know Cindy had a heart attack last week. Thankfully she came through it with no heart damage, and was cleared to resume her normal activities this week. Going through such an experience causes a person to count what is important in their life. Afterwards I asked Cindy what her thoughts were as she was lying on the gurney in the ER. She replied, “I was at peace with it all. I knew that whether I lived or died God was taking care of me.”
Paul had learned what was important in life, and Cindy has learned it too. What is important in this life? What really counts is knowing Jesus and the power of his resurrection; everything else is rubbish!
We have been working our way through the Book of Philippians. In verse 1:12 Paul began writing on the topic of the submissive mind, and this topic has continued through to where we left off last week in verse 2:18. A question arises from this section: Is it possible for the average Christian to practice the examples laid down by Jesus, and Paul?
This is a good question, for after all Jesus is the Son of God, and Paul was the chosen apostle. Raising doubts to an affirmative answer is the Catholic Church’s teaching of the “counsel of perfection.” This teaching declares that the life of holiness or saint-ship is not possible for the ordinary Christian person, it is reserved for a select few who have received some higher calling, and have abandon themselves to that call.
In today’s verses, 19-30, Paul answers the question by introducing us to two ordinary men; Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two men were not apostles, nor were they miracle workers; they were just two Christians. Paul’s point in his topic’s conclusion is: The mind of Christ is available to any Christian; it is not something reserved for a chosen few; it is an opportunity for all believers.
Is it possible to have the mind of Christ while alive? Many deny it possible. We all think that in heaven we will be holy in character, but such a thought means that death will do something for us that Christ cannot do. That statement alone should be sufficient to make us believe that a life of holiness is possible now.
Can we have Christ’s holy mind today? Yes, by understanding that there is a difference between being blameless and faultless. Paul wrote, “That you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish.” Many stop there and say, “Yes that will be heaven.” But continue the verse, “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” That isn’t heaven, it sounds like Phoenix, Az., “among whom you are seen as lights in the world,” (Phil 2:15).
The New Testament never suggests that it is possible for the Christian to be faultless. That will happen, “At last, when the work is all done, when the Potter has perfectly molded the vessel to ultimate perfection, then we shall be faultless. He will present us faultless before the throne.” The New Testament says that we can be blameless. When you accept Jesus as your savior your become blameless.
Our study this morning is Phil 2:1-12, and we are talking about having the mind of Christ. Is such a suggestion possible? Paul thought so for he wrote, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (5); some translations like the King James actually use the word “mind” instead of attitude.
Today’s verses are a great instructional on the Christian walk, for they declare the philosophy of the Christian life. If we can understand the attitude, or mind of Christ, we will understand what the ultimate purpose of God is for believers. These verses today cause the sincere follower of Christ to ask, “What is the mind of Christ?”
What is the real importance of answering such a question? The importance is this, a Christian should replicate the mind of Christ in their daily life. Then wherever they go in their life and obey Biblical instructions, then Christianity leaves the realm of the theoretical and becomes the practical. Christianity then becomes an experience against which no argument against it can advance.
The best argument for Christianity is knowing the mind of Christ and allowing Him to reproduce his mind in us.
Thinking like Jesus,