Updated: Feb 3
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death– even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
This is the Epistle reading from the Episcopal Lectionary for Year A, Proper 21, the seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost. It will next be read aloud in church on Sunday, October 1, 2017. It is important because Paul tells how true Christians are resurrections of Jesus Christ.
If one goes to the BibleGateway.com website and looks up this selection, you are offered some of those summary headings I have talked about before. For the New International Version, the two segments in the presentation above each have a heading. The first part says, “Imitating Christ’s Humility,” with the second part entitled, “Do Everything Without Grumbling.” For the New American Standard Bible, the whole reading is under the heading, “Be Like Christ.”
That NASB heading sounds an awful like the old (I’m dating myself now) “Be like Mike” commercials for Gatorade. Mike was Michael Jordan. Of course, nobody drank Gatorade and became Michael Jordan. Certainly, lots of players of all ages and all skills drank Gatorade, like Michael Jordan did (at least for the commercials), and many of those played basketball in all types of basketball courts, indoors and outdoors; but none other than Michael Jordan was ever Mike (the person dunking basketballs in the Gatorade commercials).
Do the people at the New American Standard Bible think God wants a lot of pretend Jesuses being as bad at ministry as those who thought drinking Gatorade would make them soar down the lane with a basketball held high before a slam dunk?
If they really do, they should slip a few bucks to the Gatorade advertisers and ask permission to begin a “Be like Christ” campaign. They could sell Nike Jesus sandals and Under Armour Jesus robes, and for the kids some costume Jesus wig-beard head gear. Somebody would get rich; but they would get the exact same result as Gatorade got … still only one Christ, and he (like all superstars promoted on TV) cannot be duplicated … only imitated (as implied by the NIV heading).
When someone reads (or hears read) this excerpt of Paul’s letter to the Philippians and then preaches that it means, “Dear brothers and sisters, it is imperative to live your lives like Jesus did,” one ends up with a world exactly like we have surrounding us today. It is a world that is lost and has little hope of finding itself. After all, who knows how to live like Jesus?
I’m sure there are many who think, “Today’s times are so different than those back then. I bet Jesus would be different if alive today.”
Reading that into the message from Paul – who was an Apostle, a Saint, a Christian – is to be a chirstian like the vast majority of Westerners who have called themselves that since Constantine reorganized a Spiritual movement into a business plan for an Empire. Today’s Christians are more creations of the Church of Rome than Apostles, as that Church routinely read Latin verses to people who could barely read, much less understand Latin, while telling their captive audiences, “Just do as we say, not as we do” (mostly).
It begat the mindset that has one pondering, “What would Jesus do?” when confronted with life’s decisions.
Certainly, those who ponder like that – and make the right decisions and live a good life of sacrifice – are headed in the right direction; but that direction, invariably, leads to a plateau, with high mountains that must be climbed still well in the distance. It represents a return to the same state of life that was for Jews in Judea and Galilee, who were plateaued believers in God when Jesus and followers were walking the land. The Jews then were people who were trying to ponder, “What did Moses tell us to do?” but people who were unable to make all the sacrifices and good life choices (consistently) the Law said to do.
And were miserable then, just as many are today.
There is a statement of faith openly recited in Episcopal churches each week (and other brands of churches), which is labeled “the Nicene Creed.” There is a variation of that, known as “the Apostle’s Creed,” where an “Apostle” should be defined as “a Saint,” with a “Creed” being defined as, “A formal statement of religious belief; a confession of faith.”
It is a statement that is supposed to be read aloud only by Saints, as the true Church is an exclusive body (although it welcomes seekers of truth). Both Creeds are confessions of faith that all true Christians fully understand. This is especially understood when Saints say, “He [Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord] will come again to judge the living and the dead.” The Nicene Creed varies that to state, “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.”
What a true Apostle realizes – knows – when he or she makes that public confession of faith is what Paul wrote in this selection of his letter to the Christians of Philippi. While the ordinary – do as I say and not as I do – Christian is asked, “What does that mean … will return again?” they smile and say, “Shhhhhh! We don’t talk about Judgement Day or the End Times in church.”
That implies, “That is what those evangelicals do.” It fosters an “Us vs. Them” mentality. It represents divided brains and not One Mind in Christ.
Such views totally miss the point of how Jesus Ascended on the 49th day and “came again” the next day (the 50th day – Pentecost). The spread of true Christianity meant an exponential return of Christ, with 3,000 filled with the Holy Spirit because the Mind of Christ opened that many eyes, ears, and hearts that day. That spread was why Paul had to write letters to those in his wake, telling them to, “Keep up the good works.”
But, that rapid spread of true Christianity was slowed by those who dreamed of empires.
The Day of Pentecost was when eleven disciples (and close family of Jesus who were in the upstairs room) were filled with the Holy Spirit and became multiple New reproductions of Jesus of Nazareth, in possession of the same Christ Mind. At that time, those Apostles were judged by Jesus Christ as being worthy of climbing those distant mountains – the boundaries of mortal death – thus gaining eternal life. The disciples-turned-to-Apostles began living at that point.
Their bodies became the “kingdom” of God, with the Christ Mind being the right hand of the LORD within them. They bowed down to Christ Jesus, so each human body’s soul would forevermore serve God.
When Paul wrote, “Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind,” he was saying, “You cannot keep your big brain and try to figure out what God and Christ want you to do, when the love in your heart is for self and the brain in your head keeps trying to ask, “What would Jesus do?”
You cannot be like Christ, when you like being you more.
And darn it, we like being us.
When Paul then wrote, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,” we have to remember that Jesus’s name was not “Christ.” The statements of faith that say, “[Jesus] was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried,” all acknowledge that Jesus was a human body, just like all of us are. What made Jesus the promised Messiah was the presence of a Messianic Mind, coming from God, via the Holy Spirit.
The same process came upon the followers of Jesus on Pentecost, when they too became with “the same mind that was in Christ Jesus.” With tongues like fire they became Christ Peter, Christ James of Zebedee, Christ John of Zebedee, etc., etc. They suddenly became filled with the same mind.
This is why Paul wrote, “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name,” which is “Christ,” or the name-title as the “Messiah.” That title is greater than any title ever held by any human rulers; but it is a title that human beings, like Jesus, can gain.
This means that when Paul wrote, “So that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend,” all true Christians are to bend a knee to Jesus, by sacrificing their own name, being knighted as Christ Jesus reborn. You must sacrifice your brain to the service of the Christ Mind. Your brain is not capable of figuring out what Jesus would do.
“Every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” is stated in the Apostle’s Creed where it says, “We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified.” Still, “every tongue” in every Apostle stops saying, “I think this is what Jesus would have us do,” as those tongues wag to an ego-driven brain.
An Apostle’s tongue speaks as Jesus spoke, and as Peter spoke with the other ten, when they all spoke to the crowds of pilgrims in Jerusalem. They spoke what God told them to say, which is why Jesus repeatedly said, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” (John 12:49)
Jesus of Nazareth, born in Bethlehem to a Virgin Mother, as a mortal human being, was never quoted in the Gospels, because his tongue confessed that his being the Christ was due to the LORD, with all glory going to God the Father. The answer to the question, “What would Jesus say?” is “Jesus would say, ‘You know, LORD.”‘ That is what those with the Christ Mind always say.
This devotion is why Paul encouraged the Christians of Philippi to “work out your own salvation.” You will not save your soul by eavesdropping and overhearing someone say, “You know, I’ve been thinking about what Jesus would want us to do, and that is ….” You cannot be like Christ by repeating what the Apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John said Jesus said. You have to do as Jesus did. You have to work for God in order to be saved by the Christ Mind.
This means “to will and to work for his good pleasure” is a statement that only God’s will can guide one’s actions. One does the work of Christ, for his good pleasure, which means one is reborn as Jesus, led only by God, through the Christ Mind. This is why the Acts of Jesus are called Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles is the first book that follows those four. All of the letters written are also Acts of Apostles, as it is the work of Christ that does “nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
Scene from the 1980 movie The Resurrection.
There are no words that can tell one how to be filled with the Holy Spirit and gain the Mind of Christ. If words could make that happen, then just do this: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) Too many read those words and start looking down at the footsteps of Jesus, trying hard to place their foot in the same prints. You do not follow Jesus by walking behind his legacy. You follow Jesus by being another Jesus Christ; and that requires happily working for others.