I started reading Faith Speaking Understanding, which is the latest book by distinguished theologian Kevin VanHoozer. I’m not even finished with chapter two yet, but already he has captured my attention and challenged me with his thesis.
As he begins, VanHoozer explains one of his concerns with the church in the twenty-first century:
“I am more concerned with the latter half of the Great Commission: with making disciples not in the sense of converting them to Christ but rather in the sense of cultivating in them the mind of Christ, ‘teaching them to observe’ the supreme authority of Christ in every situation (Matt. 28:20).” (p. 3)
That has been an apprehension of mine for years. I see too many churches today more concerned with the number of decisions made for Christ – “converts” – and not nearly enough concern with raising these new-born Christians in the ways of faith – “cultivating in them the mind of Christ”. Another way to say this, sadly it seems more churches are concerned with decisions than the development of those who have made decisions! I love how scholar and theologian Dallas Willard in his classic book The Divine Conspiracy expressed this:
“The current gospel [as it is preached in many churches today] then becomes a ‘gospel of sin management.’ Transformation of life and character is no part of the redemptive message. “
Consequently what you’re left with is a message that stresses the need for Jesus at the new birth, and death, and that’s it! Supposedly Jesus has no relevance to your life until you die! With this kind of message preached, is it any wonder so many Christians are living such powerless, unfulfilled lives?
But as you and I know, this is not the complete Gospel, and I unequivocally support VanHoozer and his call that discipleship is not just about getting decisions, but cultivating in new disciples the mind of Christ. That statement the “mind of Christ” prodded me to look at the Scriptures and there I was reminded of the command to have the “mind of Christ.” Here’s a sampling of what I found:
“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, . . .” (Philippians 4:5 KJV)
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NASB)
“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, . . .” (Romans 12:2 NASB)
From these passages and others, here are some encouragements to embolden Christians seeking to cultivate the “mind of Christ” in their lives:
- Christianity is not a collection of dos and don’ts but learning to think rightly.
So much could be said about the Law and its importance and relationship to the Gospel, but for now, never forget that the Law cannot make anybody righteous before God, but it can point to the right course of action. It is wrong of us to stress to new believers the necessity of obedience to the Law without first stressing the need to obey our Savior daily! Emphasizing the latter will in turn bring about the former.
- Your mind will be either “conformed” to the world’s standards, or be “transformed” by being renewed by the Spirit as you study and meditate on the Word of God.
This pivotal truth is from Romans 12:1-2, which is so rich with meaning and significance! For our present purposes, it is a good reminder that we are either squeezed and pressured from the outside culture to become like it, or we are changed from the inside – “constantly, daily renewing our mind” by the power of the Spirit. Either one or the other will happen; it’s up to us and the mind has a key role.
- To have the “mind of Christ” is a partnership with the Spirit that requires work on our part!
While we are saved by Christ in an instance, a disciple becomes Christ-like over a lifetime. A multitude of verses stress our role as we become more like Christ. Two key verses demonstrate this:
2 Peter 1:5-10: Verse 5 especially states we are to “make every effort to lavishly provide to your faith at your expense . . .” seven characteristics and traits, which are to be increasing and growing!
Philippians 2:12-13: We must “work out and accomplish our faith” yet remember that also “God is working in you” This is both a beautiful promise, but also a responsibility that shouldn’t be shunned or neglected.
So VanHoozer is to be commended for his plea warning the Church to stop fixating on making converts, and to strive at cultivating the “mind of Christ” in new believers. To quote Willard again regarding the Great Commission and having the mind of Christ: “Another important way of putting this is to say that I am learning from Jesus to live my life as he would live my life if he were I.”
Is there a better description of the “mind of Christ” and of understanding its importance?