In the design and plan of God the mind is at the center of all human experience (cf. Prov. 4:23; Matt. 12:34-35; Mark 7:20-23), and of our relationship to our Creator. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one line of evidence that powerfully makes this point. Repeatedly and in a variety of ways God, though Paul, emphasizes the significance and power of not just what we think about, but how we think. With the rest of Scripture it calls us not just to Christian thoughts, but to a Christian mind.
The entire letter might we outlined (even if a bit overly simplistically) around this theme:
- A United Mind. (1)
- United in prayer. (1:1-11)
- United in gospel witness. (1:12-17)
- United in suffering and serving. (1:18-30)
- An Unselfish Mind. (2)
- The example of Christ. (2:1-11)
- The example of Christ’s servants. (2:12-30)
- An Undistracted Mind. (3)
- Undistracted by the past. (3:1-7)
- Undistracted from Christ. (3:8-16)
- Undistracted from hope. (3:17-21)
- An Undivided Mind. (4)
- Undivided in fellowship. (4:2-3)
- Undivided in worry. (4:4-9)
- Undivided in contentment. (4:10-23)
The high point of all this focus upon the centrality of the mind is in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (NKJV).
But Paul is pervasive throughout the letter in making this point. It comes to a beautiful crescendo later in the letter, in what is an encyclopedic call to the way we are to think, as enabled by God through His Spirit: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (4:8, ESV).
As I thought about this beautiful, poetic expression of what the mind of Christ looks like in His people, I thought of how remarkably different is the standard way of thinking in our world. So I wondered, how would the world (and its proponents) write their call to a way of thinking that represents the loves and commitments of the world-system. I think it might go something like this: “Finally, sad comrades, whatever is grimly possible (however unlikely it might be), whatever is degraded, dark and depressing, whatever is askew and cockeyed, whatever is vile, whatever is gruesome, whatever is deplorable, if there is anything wrong, if there is anything that can be complained about, think about these things.”
Hold those two ways of thinking over against one another. If the disposition of the heart is largely established by the direction and devotion of the mind, then is it any wonder the world and its people are as sad and depressed as they so often seem to be. But we must also ask: Does this in some way explain why so many of us who bear the name of Christ find ourselves in such the sad, depressed and anxious state in which we too seem to pass through this world?
May God grant us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16) and thus enable us to experience relationship to Him and to His world in a way that is full of the joy of the Lord.