The Christian Mind

Stephen Whitmore, Clacton-on-Sea

Introduction
Throughout the Philippian Epistle the mind that should characterize the believer is seen. The basis of true unity is seen as the subject develops, with the Lord as the One who truly unites. The subject may be considered under the following headings:
Chapter One - The Gospel Mind
Chapter Two - The Humble Mind
Chapter Three - The Heavenly Mind
Chapter Four, vv. 6, 7 - The Guarded Mind
Chapter Four, vv. 10-19 - The Giving Mind

Chapter One - The Gospel Mind
As the chapter draws to a close, the exhortation is found, 'Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.... with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel', v. 27. In the earlier verses something of this is seen, both in the Philippians' fellowship, v. 5, and in the rejoicing of Paul whenever Christ is preached, v. 18. In his prayer for these saints Paul speaks of love abounding, but coupled with knowledge and discernment, v. 9. All too often we may fall into either the category of 'loving', or that of 'well taught'. If we are taught by the Holy Spirit, causing our minds to focus on our Lord, both will be evident. Where only one is seen, especially at the expense of the other, it is evidence that we are merely imitating in our own strength the work of the Holy Spirit.

If there is love and discernment, there are also 'the fruits of righteousness', v. 11, and all is 'to the glory and praise of God', v. 11, This is the character that is becoming to the gospel of Christ, and that will enable us to strive together for the faith of the Gospel. It is notable that the exhortation to strive is only given after that regarding conduct. We are living in days when the gospel is frequently accompanied by gimmicks to attract. This is all too often an attempt to bypass the need to live according to the gospel that we profess. If we wish to see the gospel sounding out in the power that marked past days, we must be willing to let it govern our hearts and lives, 1 Thess. 1. 5.

Such an attitude will be seen in striving together, and also in adversity, vv. 28, 29. Are we really prepared for the toil and heartache that will accompany a life which is governed by the Gospel of Christ?

Chapter Two - The Humble Mind
Clearly here, the key thought is the mind of Christ, v. 5. He, as in every aspect of life, is the perfect example of humility. There could be no greater place than that of equality with God, v. 6. W. E. Vine suggests that the force of this expression is 'equalities with God', that is, equality in every respect, hi contrast, He took the lowest place in life - 'the form of a servant', v. 7, and still 'humbled himself' in death to the cursed 'death of the cross', v. 8. With such thoughts before us, pride should find no entrance in our hearts. Solomon would remind us, 'Before honour is humility', Prov. 15. 33. How this is exemplified here, as the consequent exaltation of our Lord, is outlined for us. Here is the assurance that if we will move in humility now in life, then we, too, shah receive honour in resurrection. How sad to contrast Plezekiah, who though godly in life, faltered when faced with death, Isa. 38. 3, and had fifteen years added to his life, v. 5. hi that time Manasseh was born and proved to be a wicked king, and Hezekiah brought wrath on the people because 'his heart was lifted up', 2 Chr. 32. 25, Isa. 39. 5-7.

The following verses would teach us that humility is essential in dealing with problems that may arise, v. 12, and for our testimony in the world, vv. 14-16. Verse 13 is the link in this respect because problems only arise, and the testimony only falters when men try to emulate the working of God instead of humbly waiting for Him to perform 'his good pleasure'.

Three further examples of humility are brought before us in the remaining verses.

Paul, in verse 17, speaks of himself as a drink offering poured out on their sacrifice. This, to our minds, is the wrong order, yet Paul takes the lowly place without so much as hinting that this might be considered unexpected.

Timothy, vv. 19-22, shows a pattern of true humility in his care for others, v. 20, and for the things of Christ Jesus, v. 21. There is no mention of a thought for self.

Epaphroditus again shows humility in service with and for Paul, and for the saints at Philippi. How many would be 'full of heaviness' because others might be concerned for him? This appears to be his attitude in verse 26. We do well to mark such, and hold them in reputation as Paul exhorts, v. 29.

Chapter Three - The Heavenly Mind
Here the emphasis is on a mind that has given up all that the world can offer, that has its gaze firmly on heaven, awaiting 'the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ', v. 20, when our transformation will be complete, but that is now occupied with entering into all that will be ours in that day. We cannot escape the force of verse 10 in this context. The import may be expressed as a sense almost of discontent with anything less than the present enjoyment of all that is in store for us. How we ought to be gripped with this longing, especially as the shadow of coming events for this earth seems to loom larger almost by the day.

Perhaps the key expression in this context is 'the power of his resurrection' v. 10. This is expanded in the subsequent verses. The heavenly mind is that which is in the good of this power, attaining to the life characteristic of resurrection. The desire of Paul is to lay hold of all that is ours in and through Christ Jesus, v. 13. We should not be satisfied with anything less than perfection, though this cannot be attained, v. 12. We must walk according to our attainment, waiting for God to reveal any shortfall, following those who show maturity, vv. 16, 17.

The sad contrast is drawn with many who cause Paul to weep. In the context here, those in view are professors who set an example to be avoided. How much care we need today, and how our hearts should yearn for those who are deceived by mere professors who do not know Christ.

Chapter Four, vv. 6, 7 - The Guarded Mind
This is seen particularly in verses 6, 7. How often anxiety brings trouble. Solomon warns, 'A broken spirit drieth the bones', Prov. 17. 22, and certainly many problems arise from fear and anxiety. How good to learn the answer to such cares. If we wish to know the peace of God guarding our minds, then it will be learned by bringing all anxiety to Him in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. He desires that we should learn to lean upon Him for every need.

It is evident from other scriptures, e.g. 2 Cor. 11. 28, that the care in view here is that anxious care which arises from doubt, and not the concern for the wellbeing of others. We need to be burdened about our failings, or those who do not continue as they ought, or the fact that we do not see fruit for our labours. These are burdens that should cause exercise of heart to determine the cause and correct any failings. What is inexcusable is the troubled mind which constantly fears what may come. Such an attitude shows a lack of faith as we pray, or, more seriously, a lack of prayer altogether.

If we are to know the peace which is given by our Lord, John. 14. 27, then we shall need to cultivate the true spirit of prayer which lays hold on God in faith. What assurance is ours when we know all our circumstances are in the hands of the One who upholds all things.

Chapter Four, vv. 10-19 - The Giving Mind
The first characteristic of a 'giving mind' is that it takes every opportunity, v. 10. As soon as the opportunity arose, these saints showed practically their care for the apostle.

A second characteristic is that the exercise is repeated. We often hear of huge responses to particular appeals, but quickly the level drops. These saints sent 'once and again' when others did not. vv. 15, 16.

A third characteristic is that it is sacrificial. The responses to appeals only serve to show that most of our giving is superficial. We ought to be more careful to give consistently, v. 18.

Three assurances are given to those who will give as the Lord desires. Firstly, there is the assurance of the strength of Christ to empower in all circumstances, v. 13. Secondly, there is the fruit which abounds to the account, v. 17. Thirdly, there is the full supply for every need based upon 'his riches in glory by Christ Jesus', v. 19.

Let us remember, 'God loveth a cheerful giver', 2 Cor. 9. 7.

Conclusion
This epistle brings before us the pattern of a mind which will bring consistent pleasure to the heart of God. For such a mind Christ is central, and all will flow from keeping Him before our gaze, whether for direction, for example, or for the rest of faith. If this is our occupation we shall be 'accepted of him', 2 Cor. 5. 9.