This Advent season, we have the opportunity to reflect on this deep and incredible commitment God has made – becoming human. We’ll consider four areas where Christ’s coming creates a new paradigm for the way we live.
Our theme in week three is Mindset. Christ’s example of humility (by lowering himself to human form) compels us to put others before ourselves. Out of love and service, our mindset shifts from ourselves to a focus on the interests of others.
The Gift of a New Mind
To many, the birth that Christians celebrate on Christmas is merely that of a good moral teacher whose parables and sermons promote ethical behavior. His message is “love,” which the modern mind has interpreted as good deeds and a general non-interference with the behavior of others. This non-disruptive Jesus calls us to kindness, but generally allows us to go on living our lives and seeking our self-preservation, promotion, and fulfillment. But the true Jesus is disruptive. He does not merely make behavioral commands, but gives us a fundamentally new way of thinking, which subverts our own selfish desires in favor of the needs of others.
In his letter to the Philippians, Paul charges Christians to adopt this new mindset of humility which is theirs in Christ. But why must our minds be reframed? Isn’t it enough for Paul to command us to do good things for others?
I often find myself treating gospel living this way, begrudgingly serving in hopes to fulfill a sense of obligation or to build up some additional good will with God, or worse, other people. In these moments I externally serve the interests of others, but in my heart I continue to promote myself. The irony of this, of course, is that it is impossible to change who we are or how we relate to God through new behavior. A corrupt or dead tree cannot be made alive by plastering leaves and fruit to its branches. Good fruit must be born from a tree of an inward goodness or health (Matthew 12:33). Likewise, a genuine care for the interest of others flows naturally from a heart being reshaped by Christ.
Christ has gifted us a new mind with new desires, motivations, hopes, and loves and as the first new man, he has given us an instruction manual, a model, a prototype: his life, in which he surrendered the unimaginable bliss of paradise to be born in filth, to wash dirty feet, to be ripped apart by whips and thorns, and to die a criminal’s death on a cross for us. Can you imagine a more stark change in status than infinite glory to wretched condemnation? It is only with Christ as our model and guide, working in and through us, that we too may begin to empty ourselves of “self ” and live to serve one another.
Devotional by Sam Solberg
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