Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost
September 25, 2011
“Have This Mind among Yourselves” (Philippians 2:1-18)
In last week’s Epistle reading, from Philippians 1, St. Paul told the church at Philippi that he wants to hear they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by (their) opponents.” Standing firm in one spirit, striving with one mind for the defense and advance of the gospel, unafraid. And we emphasized that this matter of having one spirit, having one mind–that this transforming of our mind comes about as we dwell upon the Word of God together. Thus the importance of our study of Scripture, as in our Read Through the New Testament project and our Bible class on the Book of Revelation.
So far, so good. Now today in Philippians 2, St. Paul takes it a step further. He describes what being of one mind will mean for our life together, how we treat one another, how we relate to one another, in this family called the church. Once again we hear about the church “being of the same mind” or “being of one mind.” So the question arises: What kind of a mind is this that he has in mind? What would it be like? How would it change how we relate to one another? And how do we get this sort of mind? Is it attainable? And so our theme this morning picks up on Paul’s exhortation: “Have This Mind among Yourselves.”
Our text begins: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
“Being of the same mind,” “being of one mind.” That’s Paul’s goal for the Philippians. Is there some basis for this hope, or is it just a pipe dream? Oh, Paul is telling them something he thinks can really happen! Why? Because he’s writing to Christians. So these opening phrases, “if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit. . . .” “If there is any”? Well, yes, there is!
Yes, there is encouragement in Christ. In connection with Christ our Lord and Savior, we are greatly encouraged. And so these encouragements to be of one mind reach home with us and are not wasted. Is there any comfort from love? Oh yes, by all means! We have received God’s love, our Father’s love, whose love comforts our hearts in the midst of all grief and sorrow. And we have love enough to share with our brothers and sisters, to comfort them when they are hurting. “If there is any participation,” or fellowship, “in the Spirit.” Yes, we all have received the Holy Spirit, given us in our baptism. Now we have new hearts, new spirits, new minds. So when we hear exhortations to be of one mind, that resonates with us, because the Holy Spirit is saying yes to this. The Spirit has created a fellowship, a koinonia, among us. Our spirits are attuned to one another, like they’re all vibrating on the same wavelength. Likewise, with affection and sympathy. Affection, brotherly love; sympathy, feeling for one another–these are byproducts of the Spirit at work in us. Sharing in the same faith and the same salvation, being brought into the church–this generates a fellow feeling among us.
“Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” It brings joy to a pastor’s heart when he sees his congregation being like-minded, loving one another, caring for one another, members being kindly disposed to their fellow church members, being in harmony, full accord, as a congregation. This is a beautiful thing. We all can rejoice when we see evidence of the Spirit binding us together as a family.
“Being of the same mind,” “being of one mind.” What kind of a mind will this be? What sort of attitude will it have? How does such a mind think? Paul tells us: “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” There’s a contrast here, isn’t there, between two very different ways of thinking. On the one hand, there is rivalry and conceit and looking out for number one. Pride, arrogance, a self-serving, self-glorifying attitude–that’s the way of the world. That sort of mindset comes naturally enough to us, for that’s the old sinful nature in each one of us, puffed up and promoting one’s self. But on the other hand, there is a very different way of thinking. It is marked by humility, counting other’s needs above your own. Looking to the interests of others. This mindset does not come naturally to us. We fight against it, the natural man does. We don’t like to be on the low end of the totem pole looking up. It grates on us, because above all we are interested in pleasing ourselves. But that old dead man, the sinner–let’s count him as dead and instead give place to the new man or woman you are in Christ.
That’s where Paul goes next–to Christ. He writes: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” If you want to learn humility, you learn it from Christ. Christ here is example, yes, but he is more than example. He is your source. He is the vine, you are the branches. You draw your life from him. And it will be life that shares his mind.
And what Christ’s mind led him to do is simply amazing. Paul describes it in one of the greatest passages in all of the New Testament. We call it the Carmen Christi, the Song of Christ, because likely it was a very early Christological hymn in the first-century church. It starts out like this: “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
You want to know humility? Look it up in the dictionary, and you’ll find a picture of Christ. This passage describes the state of humiliation of our Lord, how he humbled himself for our salvation. The very Son of God, co-equal with the Father as touching his divinity–Christ did not think the glory of his godhead as something to be grasped, but rather he laid aside the full and constant use of his glory. Christ came into our world as a servant. “Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven.” He became one of us, taking on human flesh. He did this to rescue us from our sins and their deadly consequences. He did this, Christ humbled himself, by standing in our place and taking our judgment. “He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
By being lifted up on the cross, Christ was lowering himself, humbling himself to the depths of degradation. Rather than glory, Jesus Christ willingly opted for shame and dishonor and death, in order to win for you forgiveness for all your sins. This he has done. You are forgiven and saved for Christ’s account.
And because Christ completed his saving mission, God the Father has exalted him, restoring him to fullest glory: “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This name of Jesus, the name that literally means “Savior”–this is the Lord whom we worship and adore. For by his humbling himself he has lifted us up to heaven, where we will spend eternity with him.
So, my brothers and sisters, if you want to learn humility, you learn it from Jesus. He counted our good more important than his glory. That’s true lowliness of heart. That is the mind of Christ. And this is what St. Paul is talking about when he says, “Have this mind among yourselves.” Which mind? The mind of Christ. The Christ-like mind, humble and serving others.
When each one of us has this mind, and we all have this same mind together, one mind for a whole congregation, it is a beautiful thing. You will see brothers and sisters in Christ looking out for one another, helping one another. When someone has a need, someone else will step up and help meet it. That’s what families do, and we are God’s family.
“Being of the same mind,” “being of one mind.” “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” When each member’s mind is tuned to the mind of Christ, then all of our minds will therefore at the same time be in tune with one another. That’s the name of that tune, and the harmony is sweet indeed.