The Holy Spirit Enables Us to Think Like Christ
The Holy Spirit enables us to think like Christ. In 1 Corinthians 2:10-16, Paul lays out an incredible truth for us. To paraphrase this passage, Paul says, “No other person knows my thoughts. In the same way, only God knows his thoughts. But since the Holy Spirit is God, he knows the thoughts of God. And God has given us his Spirit, so that we too can know God’s thoughts!” And then Paul summarizes with the bold statement, “We have the mind of Christ.” This truth is highly relational and highly communicative. This fact stands at the core of Paul’s assertion.
I think I speak for all followers of Christ when I say that we don’t always feel like we have the mind of Christ. We tend to judge the veracity of something based on our experience. When we don’t experience having the mind of Christ (or what we assume that is) we either argue that Paul must not have really meant that we have the mind of Christ. Or we conclude that we must have some deficiency that prevents us from knowing the mind of Christ. Either way, we assume we don’t really experience having the mind of Christ.
There is a companion verse to this concept of having the mind of Christ in 1 Corinthians 6:17. In the context, Paul employs a husband-wife metaphor to explain our relationship with God. Just as when a man and a woman marry and become one flesh, similarly when we become united with the Lord, we become one with him in spirit.
When my wife and I married over 34 years ago, we became one. But the oneness we experienced as newlyweds is not the same as the oneness we experience after living together for 34 years. And we continue to grow in becoming one. The fact that Linda and I are one does not mean that we don’t have to continually work hard at growing our relationship and functioning as one. One way to express the growth of a marriage is that we are constantly learning how to please each other. In the same way, our lifelong pursuit of relationship with God is to “find out what pleases” him (Ephesians 5:10).
When we come to know Christ and he gives us his Spirit we become one with him. We have the mind of Christ. But the degree to which we grasp and function as one mind with him will grow as we spend time with him and get to know him better in all of life. Precisely because we have the mind of Christ, we must be diligent at growing in our relationship with him. “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NLT)
Paul’s response to the Corinthian followers demonstrates the developmental aspect of having the mind of Christ. Right after telling the Corinthians followers that they have the mind of Christ and can understand the thoughts of God, Paul scolds them for behaving like spiritual babies and acting out worldly values instead of Christ’s. This reminds us again of the dependent diligence involved in our following Jesus. And by the way, the reason God wants us to be able to know his thoughts and think like Christ is so we can be more like him in character.
What does having the mind of Christ look like practically? Asking the question, “What would Jesus do?” falls short of thinking his thoughts. We are not trying to put ourselves in Jesus’ shoes or him in ours. He lives in us by his Spirit! Only the mind controlled by the Spirit of God can submit to God and do those things that please him (Romans 8:6-8). As we keep in step with the Holy Spirit and allow him to transform our minds, we are being transformed into Christ’s likeness by his Spirit (see Galatians 5:25; Ephesians 4:20-24; 2 Corinthians 3:18). Very simply and practically, we begin thinking like Christ.
We begin thinking like Christ as we come to know him in his Word. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT) But not all situations that life throws at us are covered in the Word. Often the Holy Spirit will urge us to think like Christ and it’s only after we obey that we realize a correlation or principle at work in his Word that we had never understood before.
Several years ago, I was on the management team at an aluminum hot rolling mill. Unfortunately, the company found itself in a two-year labor dispute with the union. Needless to say, tensions were high, especially in the early days of the strike. One day I was participating in a planning meeting when one of my peers totally lost his cool. Without cause he violently demanded that I do something that I was perfectly willing and ready to do. But he framed his request as a demand with expletives and in a demeaning, humiliating way.
At the time I and others in the room were shocked by his behavior. But I clearly sensed the Holy Spirit telling me to keep calm, not to retaliate, and to humbly and quietly submit to his request. By God’s grace I obeyed and fulfilled the assignment to his satisfaction. Out of obedience to the Spirit, I didn’t breathe a word of this guy’s mistreatment of me either to him or others.
© Rob Fischer 2008