“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5–7)
Human beings are achievers. We like to control our lives and make things happen through our hard work and discipline. For many years of my life, I was a triathlon coach and athlete. I trained and worked at 5:30 a.m.—swimming, biking, and running in all conditions, from sweltering heat to freezing cold. Why did I do that hard work? I was striving for the medal at the finish line, the “perishable wreath” every athlete works for (1 Corinthians 9:25).
When it comes to the Christian life, we try to apply the same work ethic. “If I just work hard enough, I’ll win the prize.” We copy verses about spiritual growth and misapply them in our own strength to earn eternal life. But we must lay aside that earthly desire to achieve and come humbly before the Lord. We don’t come to the Lord with open hands; we come to him with hands full of our sin's “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6 KJV).
What does the sovereign Creator need from us? Nothing. And how can sinful people approach a holy God? We can’t—except through Jesus. We must humbly receive the gift of salvation and forgiveness, offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus, to enjoy a relationship with a holy God. The Christian faith is based on receiving what Jesus has done.
If we cannot work to obtain our salvation, why do we think that we can work to achieve the mindset of Christ? Paul instructs the Philippians in this passage to have the mind of Christ, and then he tells them how they can do it—it “is yours in Christ Jesus.” As we receive Christ’s perfect work on our behalf, we become like him.
Throughout the history of Christianity, many churches and movements have insisted that we work harder to become like Jesus. The Catholic church required sacraments and indulgences, and Protestant churches legislated baptism or confirmation. Evangelical churches minimized theology and sold merchandise like “guardian angel” décor, prosperity gospel books, or “What would Jesus do?” bracelets. Faithful preaching of God’s Word reminds the flock that our eternal hope comes from Christ, not from our works.
Jesus submitted to the will of his Father in all things as he relied on the strength of the Holy Spirit. How can you humbly receive the mindset of Christ? How can you surrender to the strength of God abiding within you through the Holy Spirit? Seeking to have the mind of Christ is very good. When you set your hope on him, you will find that the Lord can do mighty work through you! “For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God” (1 Timothy 4:10).
How is the Lord calling you to stop striving and start receiving today? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Jesus calls the Holy Spirit a "gift" who will guide us, lead us, and empower us. Yet many believers don't experience the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. This unique Christian small group Bible study provides a space in which we can explore what it truly means to "walk in the Spirit" on a daily basis. The Spirit-Filled Life small group curriculum centers on a 6-part video teaching series examining the life-giving and creative work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Begin to experience the gift today!
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