Knowing the Mind of Christ

1 Corinthians 2:6-12 

In the movie Rudy, Rudy is a young man who is simply too little for college football, but his dream is to play for Notre Dame. Rudy talks with his priest, Father Cavanaugh, and a part of the conversation goes like this:

Rudy: Maybe I haven’t prayed enough.
Father Cavanaugh: I don’t think that’s the problem. Praying is something we do in our time, the answers come in God’s time.
Rudy: If I’ve done everything I possibly can, can you help me?
Father Cavanaugh: Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I’ve come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I’m not Him.

Another little boy saw things differently. He is sitting at the table with his crayons and paper, intently drawing a picture. His father comes up behind him and asks what he is drawing. The little boy says, “A picture of God.” The father smiles and says, “You know, no one really knows what God looks like.” The little boy replies back, “They will when I’m done.”

We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. (1 Cor 2:6-12)

Centuries before Paul wrote to the Corinthians, Isaiah first posed that question – Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? (Isa 40:13-14)

Every day seems to bring another new technological advance, another new insight into the workings of physics or chemistry or biology, but one thing is beyond our grasp – “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa 55:8-9)

One fact predicates everything else: man is not and cannot be God. He cannot know his thoughts, he cannot attain his moral perfection. In the 11th chapter of Romans, Paul concludes with a doxology, magnifying the glory and unapproachable wisdom of God: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. (Rom 11:33-36)

Yet man, almost from the moment of creation had a desire for and pursued that very end – to be like God. In the garden – Eve listened to the serpent – “You will not die… for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” And what she learned that day was that only God can be God.

At Babel, as men’s pride and arrogance grew, they made plans to build a tower that would reach to the heavens and secure their dominance – in effect, usurping God. And the Lord showed that he is quite capable of putting a few dents in people’s pride.

When man, filled with self, seeks to know God with a heart filled with pride, his efforts are thwarted – for a man cannot know the mind of God. Indeed, Paul writes: For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  (Rom 3:23)

Still, if we are to be like Christ and live by the Spirit, our end pursuit must be to know the mind of Christ. All of our thoughts, attitudes, actions, desires, must flow out of knowing and viewing our lives from His mind and not our own.

Paul makes the distinction clear – Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Rom 8:5-11)

If your mind is set on the flesh, controlled by sin, death is your ultimate outcome – vs 6 “the mind of sinful man is death;” vs 7 “the sinful mind is hostile to God;” vs 7 “It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so;” vs 8 “Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.”

Solomon in Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but it’s end is the way to death.”

When we consider the mind of man in attaining righteousness before God, we are bankrupt, incapable of understanding, let alone living according to God’s standards.

“BUT” says Paul in vs 10 “if Christ is in you, your body may be dead, but your spirit is alive because of righteousness.” And, he says, that “those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

This is what all that means: that the mind of a worldly man cannot know God, and cannot comprehend his will. If we are to KNOW the mind of Christ, we must HAVE the mind of Christ. An unbeliever cannot simply pick up the Bible as he would a textbook and study to know the mind of Christ. It is not simply a book of information to be learned, but a call to a different kind of life. What must take place is not information, but transformation. And that, in fact is what our scripture this morning makes clear.

Paul, in 1 Corinthians 2 says there are two kinds of people in the world:

The spiritual man and the unspiritual man – the man without God’s Spirit cannot understand and cannot live the Christian life, because it is based upon reasoning that is foreign to him. After all, what reasonable man would suggest that a person should die to live, humble himself to be glorified, be a servant to seek greatness? The spiritual man sees through a different set of lenses. His perspective of the world is shaped, not by the things he can hear, see and touch, his priorities are not molded by pragmatism and materialism. He sees the world the way God sees it; his priorities are guided by the things God thinks are important. He lives by the Spirit.

Paul’s point in chapter 1 is that God’s wisdom and power is shown through the foolish and the weak and the lowly things. This is why he says, “the cross is a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”

This cross, in 2:7, Paul called God’s secret wisdom – “a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.”

But it was incomprehensible to the world – “no eye, no ear, no mind…what God has prepared for those who love him” – listen!! “but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.”

What does it mean to live by the Spirit? Listen up – We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. (1 Cor 2:12-13)

But then in vs 15 – the spiritual man makes judgment, but will not be judged by man. Let’s talk a minute about what judgment is: Judgment is not the same as condemnation. Paul tells us “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom 8:1) But we will all be judged. And judgment means simply this: our lives are held up against the perfect life of Christ. Like the OT prophet Amos’ image of the plumb line: when a builder is building a wall, he places a plumb line at the top of the wall and it hangs at a true 90 degree perpendicular. If the wall is out of plumb, you don’t change the line, you fix the wall. When our lives are held up to the life of Christ, we see how out of plumb we are to him. It’s not Christ’s fault that our lives are out of alignment – he is simply the standard against which our lives are measured – and the solution is not to change the standard, but realign our lives.

So when Paul says the spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment, what he is saying is:

1) He can’t be judged by the standards of the world, because he is of a different citizenship, ruled by a different king, his standards are of a different nature – because he has a different spirit. 

2) He is able to make true judgments, godly decisions about this world because he views it through different eyes – God’s eyes, not man’s eyes – God’s standards, not the world’s.

And then in conclusion Paul asks Isaiah’s question: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” The answer we would all have to admit is “no one.” From our human, mortal, limited perspective we cannot hope to understand the mind of God, let alone instruct him. But then Paul remarkably says, “But we have the mind of Christ.”

That is remarkable, but when we hear what Paul is trying to tell us, it makes all the sense in the world.

From the world’s point of view, nothing makes sense when you look at Christ – that is why the world rejected him. But if we are in Christ, then who he is and what he did makes absolute sense.

From that human perspective, no one could understand God’s mind, but in Christ, not only do we understand, but his mind becomes our mind.

In the book of Romans Paul says, Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Rom 12:2) Only in the renewing of our mind in Christ can we grasp what God is trying to accomplish in us. Only in Christ will we even want to know what God’s will is.

You might have heard about a recent article in GQ magazine, which listed the Bible as an overrated book, not worth reading. Well, why would we be surprised? From a worldly point of view, or as Paul says, “unspiritual,” the Bible wouldn’t make much sense. It challenges and condemns and contradicts the wisdom, the values and the priorities of this world, and if there is one thing this world hates it is anyone or anything that challenges its way of seeing things. Does that invalidate the Bible? Not for a second. Because, as Paul writes, The foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

Now, let’s ask a really important and profound question: SO WHAT? If I know, if I have the mind of Christ, what difference does that make in my life?

1) I will constantly be a seeker – a searcher of God’s will.

It doesn’t make my knowledge of God complete, it makes my hunger for God insatiable. My knowledge is continually growing as I search God’s word and God’s will. As Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt 5:6)

The Word of God molds my understanding of His will, it guides my behavior, it leads me to answers to questions I have about how God deals with his people and how he thinks about me.

The person who desires to know God must immerse him or herself in the Word. You cannot know God without it. Too many Bibles gather dust on tables or get stuck in bookshelves and spiritual lives grow weak and anemic, or slowly wither and stagnate.

If you are a Christian and the Spirit dwells within you, and have been given the mind of Christ, do you live in his Word, hungering and seeking to know his will, or are you running along on empty, wondering why you don’t get much out of it?

2) If I have the mind of Christ, I will hunger more and more for time to be in prayer with God.

If there is one quality that stands out about the earthly life of Jesus, it was the constancy of prayer. If the mind of Christ is being molded in us, can you imagine that same desire becoming stronger in us?

There is a vital connection between our prayer life and the work of God’s Spirit. You cannot have the mind of Christ within you if you are not continually renewing his presence in your life through prayer.

Finally, if I have the mind of Christ, I will begin to view the world through a different set of eyes. I begin to operate from a different set of values, make decisions from a different way of looking at things.

Think of the worldview the unspiritual man operates under: Look out for #1, your major concern is self, others are important only as they serve my needs. Your success is based on how much you make, how many things you possess, whether you’re handsome or beautiful or smart or athletic.

Your view of reality? Keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, be suspicious of things you can’t see, feel or experience with your senses. Depend on yourself, not on God. Only what I can see or do is real.

What about God? Sure you can believe in a god, but only one of your own making and design. You are ultimately in control of your life.

God’s Word reconstructs our vision of the world. Let’s look at those three paradigms again:

Paul says, “Your attitude should be that of Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 2:5) What is that attitude? Make yourself nothing, take the nature of a servant, be obedient unto death, count others better than yourself, do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. The man of this world would say that’s foolishness, ridiculous, it won’t ever work. And how can we dispute him? From a worldly point of view it is foolishness. But the mind of Christ is not the mind of the world. What has the world accomplished by its attitude other than selfishness, isolation, loneliness and broken lives?

Success? Christ said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Lk 12:15) What do you have that the world can’t take from you? Precious little. What security do you possess that can’t be wiped away in a tragic second? But we’re not convinced – we still compete with the world to possess more and more. As many times as we listen to Jesus’ words in Sermon on the Mount, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth” and “No one can serve two masters…” we’re still not convinced.

How do you view reality? The mind of Christ says don’t put your faith in a body that is going to die, and a world that will be destroyed. Don’t limit yourself to what you can see. And so Paul says, “Live by faith and not by sight.” Let me tell you though, if there was ever a principle that challenged the church and us as individual Christians, this is it. Look around and see how much we limit the power of God and the work of the Spirit because we fail to trust beyond our limited sight and our puny resources.

The mind of Christ is not the mind of the world. How comfortable do you feel with the world? Peter says we are aliens and strangers. We should live like people passing through. Our minds should be so transformed by the mind of Christ that this world no longer feels like home. Its values, its pursuits, its longings no longer have a hold on us – and our hearts should yearn for our true home.