To have the same mind as Christ’s mind

Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.[1] To have the mind of Christ is a very difficult thing for us to understand. We think we have to do something, know something, generate something in ourselves, but that is not the task at all. This journey does start with believing in Jesus and aligning our lives with His. It involves the church, many different churches, but that is not the way either. Bible study is a big part of this journey, too, it’s important to know God’s word, as written and preached, but that is not everything, either.

The truth is that we already live in God, that we are each a child of God, made in His image. So the journey into having the mind of Christ is about peeling away everything in us that gets between us and God—all the world-based thinking, all our egocentricity, our guilt and shame—so as to reveal what is already in us: the Indwelling Spirit of God, all the holiness, all the willingness, all the faithfulness that is inbred in us and then covered with a thick layer of the world’s ways. We are to bring that Spirit forward in us, so that we live in that Spirit.

As overwhelming as this sounds, there is very little we can do to accomplish all this needed work on ourselves. We are far too close to the subject to be able to see what needs to happen within us at any given time. So our main role in the healing and transformation of ourselves into one who can love God with all of who we are as Jesus commanded[2] is to get out of God’s way, to be willing to let Him lead us wherever He will. And He will lead us to the fulfillment of our creation which is His work anyway. To always say “Yes!”

The only way this can happen is to listen to God in everything we do. And the only way to do that is to be able to hear that “still, small voice”[3] or the “gentle whisper”[4] of the Indwelling Spirit of God. And how do we do that? We have to quiet the much louder voices of our minds so that we can “Be still and know that I am God.”[5] And that takes practice. Centering prayer or other meditation forms help with this. [See Practices Below]  Here is how the 18th century French mystic, Jeanne Guyon, puts it:

“Your way to God begins on the day of your conversion, for conversion marks your soul’s initial return to God. From that moment you begin to live and have your being by the means of His grace. After your conversion, your own spirit—the human spirit(which is deep within your inmost being)—is touched by God and is made alive and functioning. Your spirit—in turn—invites your soul to compose itself and to turn within, there to find the God who has newly come to reside at the center of your being. Your spirit instructs your soul that, since God is more present deep within you, He cannot be found anywhere else. Henceforth, He must be sought within. And He must be enjoyed there alone.”[6]

But there are two additional steps, too. First, we have to step back from our repetitive thoughts and become an observer of them. We have to know the sources of the tapes that play out in our heads. These thoughts were fixed in our minds very early in our lives and grew out of our own frustration, guilt and shame at not being obedient to our parents and teachers at an age before our cognitive brains begin to function. They are trying to make up for our errant behavior way back then. At 4 or 5 or 6, we can’t see context, we can’t forgive ourselves for our mistakes even though we might just be too young for perfect obedience(as if we can ever be totally obedient!). Just an example from my own life: even today the pressure to be on time arises in me even when I will be 10 minutes early for a meeting or appointment. I start worrying about the cars ahead of me, looking at the clock every minute, even when I’ll be early. Being on time was a big deal in my parent’s house.

We need to figure out the source of all these thoughts, like my parents’ admonitions to be on time. And as we observe our thinking and know the source and see how irrelevant it is to the present, those repetitive voices in us lose their volume and we can begin to hear God’s “still, small voice.” And I can tell you that God does not think at all like I do. Here are just two examples from my life. I heard this thought run through my mind one day; it changed my life: :I have an agenda for my life!” I was in my early forties still living out of all the “shoulds” in my life. As I realized that I had no idea who the “I” was nor what that agenda might be. I began to ask, “what do I really want to do?” instead of what should I be doing?

The second thought was this: “How can I say I love God, if I can’t love my mother?” Since my teenage years I had been passive aggressive with my Mom. Confronted by this thought and realizing that I had to change, I started on a journey of trying to engage her in more positive ways, but I felt like I was talking back to her all the time. After a year and a half or so of my trying, God changed it all. Mom and my husband and I were standing on the railroad platform in Wilmington DE. She was seeing us off after spending a weekend for her. We were surrounded by a cloud of love. That’s the only way I can describe the experience. I might have lasted for a minute or 10. That experience changed everything. My mother was from then on grateful for everything I did for her whereas before I had never called or visited often enough. And I, I was able to love my mother. She lived the last years of her life ten minutes from our house, a real part of our family.

The second step is this: as we begin to hear God’s “still, small voice” thinking in our minds, the most important thing is to do whatever He suggests. My experience is that He has a step-by-step plan for us which will bring us right into His arms, into the mind of Christ. Often His suggestions have left me breathless, but when I do them, there’s no problem. They are usually just beyond what I think I can do. Those steps will be about doing or saying something, they will also be about facing something about ourselves. And here is where the real healing and transformation takes place. If we will look at whatever issue He is highlighting for us, like my relationship with my mother, if we are willing to invite Him in to heal it, then that is all He needs. He doesn’t violate our free will. He doesn’t just pounce on us with punishment. He is really just asking our permission to heal this one issue in us. That’s all.

And as we follow His suggestions, we will also feel the changes He is making inside of our mind, our soul, our body and our heart, so that we can eventually love God with all of ourselves, bring our whole selves to the altar before Him.

[1] Philippians 2:5
[2] Matthew 22:38
[3] 1 Kings 19:12 KJV
[4] 1 Kings 19:12 NIV
[5] Psalm 46::10
[6] Madame Guyon, Union with God, Seedsowers Publishing, Jacksonville FL, 1981, p. 1

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