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Author:Pastor Dirk Boersma
  Free Reformed Churches of South Africa
Preached At:Emmanuel American Reformed Church
 Denver, Colorado
Title:The Spirit Of God Gives You The Mind Of Christ
Text:1 Corinthians 2:16 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Our Calling

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Call to worship Ps 111,10
Song of praise Ps 102, 1.5
Reading of the law / Confession of sin
Declaration of mercy Ps 111,7-9
Song of response Ps 102, 6.7
Reading(s) from Scripture 1 Corinthians 2
Song before the sermon Ps 111, 4.5
Sermon text 1 Cor 2,16
Song after the sermon Ps 19, 3-6
Song after the offering Hymn 24, 1.5.7

Suggestions for prayer
* not to take the gift for granted
* ask for the transformation through the Spirit: that we receive the mind of Christ more and more
* humility and conviction in speaking about Christ to others
* the conversion of the 'natural' people in your vicinity
* not to lose hope when you need to make sacrifices
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Dirk Boersma, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

I want to start with the children this morning.
Imagine that it is your birthday. Then you get presents, right?
A few days earlier, you saw something in the closet that was wrapped like a present. 'That must be for me!' you thought. 'But what would it be?'

It does not have the regular shape, it is different from anything you know. This must be something special!
You think about it, but you have no idea. You have told your mom what you like to get, but this doesn't look like any of those things.

When you finally open it, it is a great suprise, something you never imagined your parents would give you.
Maybe it is a toy you have never seen before. You are the only one who has it at school. You feel special!
Or maybe you like horses but never dreamt you would have your own. Your parents wrapped a miniature horse and the card says: "This is your horse. Go pick up the real one this afternoon and ride on it. It’s yours! "

What we read in the Bible is like this. There is something waiting for us that we cannot imagine. Even if we think hard and make a list of the things we like most, this will top it all. We will throw away our list and say: ‘wow, I never thought this was possible!’

Let us listen to the words of the apostle Paul when he talks about a surprise gift God has in store for us:

The Spirit Of God Gives You The Mind of Christ

1. You Can Only Receive It As A Gift

2. It Is The Surprise Of Your Life

1. You can only receive it as a gift
I don’t know about you, but usually when you someone makes a point in a discussion or in a book, you expect a conclusion at the end, and this is supposed to make things clearer. Someone would say something like this: ‘So what I’m saying is’ and then follows the point he was making in one sentence: ‘this is what I mean!’

In this case, you may wonder: does Paul make it any clearer? He ends this passage by saying “But we have the mind of Christ”.
This is rather cryptic. What does that mean: we have the mind of Christ?
Can you say that: I think like Christ? Do you have all his wisdom? Are you never wrong?

Doesn’t it sound presumptuous and proud? It sounds like you elevate yourself above others and make yourself invulnerable to criticism.

Things may become clearer when we consider the situation Paul was in. He was defending himself against the criticism of the Corinthians. They attacked him and said: ‘Paul, you don’t understand what’s going on in the world. You cannot keep up. Listen to the latest philosophies and all those interesting religions out there. We hear new stuff every day, and we gain so much. But you only gave us the message about Jesus Christ and his cross. Is that supposed to solve anything? Your teaching is too simple, it cannot compete with today’s world religions and major philosophies. We, the citizens of this great metropolis, we know the world, we are mature in our knowledge. But you are not mature, and your message doesn’t cut it.’

That’s quite a devastating criticism. How do you defend yourself against people who think highly of themselves and their knowledge, and look down on you? And, more importantly, how can Paul preserve and defend the gospel he has been preaching without putting himself forward? The temptation would be to wave with his credentials and to impress the Corinthians. He could talk down on them and put them in a corner.

Paul does not defend himself. He does not talk down on them and make them feel as stupid as they think he is.
Instead, he gently but firmly corrects them and tells them that they are arrogant. They need a different spirit, a radically different attitude. Paul corrects them by teaching them about the true wisdom which comes from the Spirit. Their understanding of wisdom is wrong.

Wisdom – they use a word, but it is too big for them. And they think of it in the way the world around them talks about it: as something you get by study and deep thinking, something you achieve by your efforts. And once you have it, it puts you on a higher level than others.
'I bring wisdom', says Paul, 'but not of that kind. This is much deeper.'

Wisdom in the world can come from books and learning, or it can mean that you are streetsmart: you know how to survive, how to be ahead of the game and get what you want.

The wisdom Paul is talking about, however, is not of this world, nor of the rulers of this age. Their knowledge and insight, their survival techniques and their roads to success will one day turn out to fall short. It’s like using a ladder to scale a wall. You can compare your ladder with others and think you will get higher than them because your ladder is longer. However, if your ladder is still too short to get over that high wall, it doesn’t make any difference. You are not going to get there.

You may be a college graduate or someone who worked his way to the top without degrees; you may be a great philosopher or an influential politician; you may be a successful businessperson or a very impressive sportsman. But you are still missing something: true wisdom.
Your ladder is just not long enough to reach the place that really matters: heaven.

What you are missing is this: a higher wisdom you don’t know about. And there is nothing you can do to lay your hands on it. Studying harder and earning more degrees, learning tricks from the best in the business will not help you.

This is a secret and hidden wisdom from God.
Secret, that does not mean that nobody can ever know it. Instead, it means that it is something beyond our understanding. We would not come up with it, we would never have thought of it.

With a rather loose quotation from Isaiah 64, Paul reveals that this is something nobody has discovered by himself ("no eye has seen it"), and it has not been available to people in the past that they could pass it on to the next generation ("no ear has heard it"). This is something we would never have imagined ("the heart of man has not imagined it").
It is something beyond our understanding. That is, the understanding of the natural man who does not know God and his power and wisdom.
It is a gift so beautiful that we would never imagine it. And it is truly a gift: it can come to us only if and when God gives it to us.

This is the main point in these verses: the wisdom you really need for life comes from God himself. His Spirit is the one who gives it to God’s people.

Paul makes a clear division between two groups of people in the world. He talks about the natural man and the spiritual man.
The natural man is the condition in which everybody on earth is born: as people who are strangers to God, sinners who do not understand a thing about God, and who do everything to push him out of their lives. The natural man is ignorant of the truth, of the wisdom that counts.
The other group are the spiritual. They are distinguished from the natural man only by one thing: they have received the Spirit of God, says v. 12.

So you see, the most important division line in this world is not between the rich and the poor, between male and female, or between the learned and the man on the street.
What really matters is whether you have God’s Spirit or not. And when you have the Spirit of God, you have the key to wisdom. You have the mind of Christ.

What is Paul talking about?

In chapter one, he had contrasted the wisdom of the world with the God’s seeming foolishness, expressed in the cross.
God’s wisdom is unimaginable for the natural man. Sinners can only think of one thing: themselves. Their advantage, their survival, their glory, and their joy is number one. With such a mindset, you cannot imagine that someone would choose death in order to gain the victory. Thinking in terms of power, a natural man would hold on to power as soon as he’s got it. You just don’t give up what you have achieved and made sacrifices for!

Jesus, however, laid down the power and glory he had with God in heaven, and descended to earth, in order to become a person without possessions, someone who was ridiculed by the people, hated by the leaders, and finally shamefully executed by the rulers of this age. His cross just defeats any logic and is something that does not make sense to the natural man. It is not a great marketing tool, either: who wants to follow someone who says: take up your cross and follow me. You will suffer in the world, but I promise you glory at the end. Who would give up what he has now for an uncertain future of a man who died 2,000 years ago?
That is the mystery of God’s wisdom.

Paul says: don’t misjudge it. Don’t throw it away because the world seems to make more sense and draws you with its promises of enjoyment, glory, and prosperity NOW.

You can only fathom this mystery through the Spirit of God. And when you have received him, your eyes are opened, the fog clears up in your mind. It is as if you have been feeling your way in the dark and suddenly someone turns on the light. You stumbled over things you didn’t recognize, and now you see what they are. And there is so much more, much more than you thought possible! When you have the mind of Christ, you don’t see the world in another ligth, no, only then you see it in the light.

Paul’s argument in vs. 9-14 sounds rather complicated to our modern ears. However he is using Greek philosophy to beat the Corinthians at their own game. In a subtle way he shows them that he knows what he is talking about when he talks about wisdom. He refers to a principle the Greeks are familiar with: ‘Like is only known by like’. The way he puts it in v. 11 is also understandable for us: ‘who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person that is within him?’ Indeed, we all have thoughts, memories, and desires hidden in our hearts that only we know. Our spirit, or whatever you call it: your consciousness, your self, is the only one who really knows you.

Paul uses this as a way to explain why the Holy Spirit is the only one who can reveal God’s mystery. The Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. He knows God’s deepest thoughts, because he himself is God. He is the person in God who has insight in God’s plan; he knows God’s mind, he knows why God does what he does.

And, what is most important, Jesus gave the Spirit to us, believers. The Spirit searches the depths of God in order to reveal them to us. The mystery does not remain outside and beyond us. The Spirit gives understanding. He brings us in relation to God through Jesus Christ.
Another way of saying this is: the Spirit gives us the mind of Christ. Because the other person in God who knows God, is Christ. Paul must have thought of the words Jesus spoke, quoted by John in his gospel (6,46):

"Everyone who listens to the Father and learns from him comes to me. No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father."

Later, in chapter 14 (vs. 9-10), Jesus said:

"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?"

The deepest knowledge, the wisdom you need in life, is knowing God and his thoughts. Only God himself can give that wisdom to you and give you insight into the mystery. Jesus is the Son who knows the Father and who has revealed him to us. In his teaching, in his merciful ministering to people, and in his cross. The Spirit is the one Jesus has given us to reveal to us God’s thoughts, to make God himself known to us. He is the bridge-builder, the restorer of the relationship with God. He knows what he is talking about, and he lives in you.

He gives you the mind of Christ: a change of thinking, a different approach to life, a new way of looking, a radically different attitude towards life. All that begins to get shape in your life, in your mind, by the work of the Holy Spirit. Christ becomes real, he lives in you, God is present in your life.

The mind of Christ means a strong conviction: I know the truth now. God has given me insight into the mystery. You have a certainty that surpasses any possible proof in the world.

This stands out in today’s world. Philosophies come and go. In some times, people are very confident and find reasons to reject the wisdom from God. In other times, like ours, people are not so sure, but they are sure about one thing: there cannot be one single answer. Life is too complex, we know too little, everything has a grain of truth. Together we will get there.

Many people are confused about the truth and uncertain about God and religion. There are so many ideas about God. How do you know which one is true? And whom can you trust? How do you know that people are not misleading you in order to take advantage of you? With the pre-confession group, we are studying cults. There are groups out there that try to make you a slave of the system and indoctrinate you with their ideas. But it only serves the glory and prosperity of the leader.

All of them are right In one thing: man’s insight in God and into his plan is zero. The natural man cannot understand the things of God! Only when you have received the Spirit of God you can know who God is and understand his will.

Don’t let anyone tell you that this is arrogant when you claim to have the truth. You did not come up with this knowledge yourself. It is the gift of the Spirit, the only one who holds the key. If you have received the trusth from the Spirit and pass it on to others, you are not arrogant.

Instead, it is arrogant for others to reject the truth from the Spirit. Who are they to think they have a higher insight than the Holy Spirit who knows the depths of God's wisdom? Natural people, sinners, are ignorant of God's wisdom. If they tell you that that the Bible cannot be the truth, who is arrogant?!

2. It is the surprise of your life
Paul has taken his time to explain that we can only get insight into the mystery if the Holy Spirit gives it to us. It is a gift.
In a few sentences, almost between the lines, he has said important things about the gift itself. It is surprising, so beautiful is it!

In v. 7, Paul had said:
we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.”

And in v. 9, he wrote:

What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.

This mystery is a surprise gift with a name on it: your name. The people who belong to Christ, all who believe in him, are the spiritual persons who receive insight from the Spirit. They receive the wisdom Paul was talking about all the time. All believers profit from this: we are the recipients of this beautiful gift.

And beautiful it is: it is for our glory.
This is the outcome of the life-changing process the Spirit begins in you. He gives you the mind of Christ, he makes you think like him and act like him. You are powered and motivated by a different power, and this is for your own benefit.

How important is it to remember this!
Looking at the wisdom of the world, we may envy the people who have made it in this world. Whether it is by honest means or by deception and crimes, they follow the wisdom of the world and they only live for success on this side of the grave. It will soon be over, and their wisdom is doomed to pass away. But we don’t always realize that. We can get impressed by what we could get. We feel that success is within our reach, and why should we not go for it? And indeed, there is nothing against success, being the best, receiving acknowledgement for your accomplishments. But with what attitude have you done it? Whose recognition are you after? The world’s? Or God’s? Do you want to grab it all, trying to hold on to it, in a desperate attempt to feel in control? Or do you want to follow the way of the cross, submit to God, and expect glory from him? That is the mind of Christ.

In the final analysis, the choice is not between wisdom and foolishness, as if only the world has wisdom to offer. Paul made clear that the Spirit gives wisdom, and you need to receive it from God.
In a similar way, the choice is not between glory and meaninglessness, or happiness and misery, as if only the world can offer you glory and happiness, and the Christian faith leaves you empty. Not at all.

The wisdom of the Spirit gives you insight into the mystery: that God has glory reserved for you. That is part of his plan. Your life was never intended to be miserable and shameful. God does not want to leave you empty. In the end, his name is glorified, but this means also glory for you: you share in the glory of your Lord Jesus Christ. Just like he humbled himself on the cross, he calls you to submit and carry the cross. The way of Jesus Christ is not impressive in this world. But, don’t make a mistake: at the end of the road, glory is waiting, a glory that beats anything in the world. Any recognition of man, any popularity, any name you make for yourself in this world will fade away. It depends on people, and after they have admired you, they move on to something more exciting and someone more impressive. New heroes are waiting, and there is only so much room in the spotlight.

However, God has glory in store for you if you believe in Christ. You will receive it in the future, but you already get the guarantee when you get to know this mystery that the Spirit reveals. It is like a title to a house. You haven’t turned the key and stepped into the house yet, you haven’t moved in and begun living there, but you have the title: it is in your name. It is rightfully yours. Christians are not poor; they are heirs to an enormous property and a tremendous glory that is beyond words. When you walk in the footsteps of Jesus, you will share in the glory of he has received. You may look like a fool in this world, but it is the smartest choice. Not your choice in the first place: God has prepared this for you and given you his Spirit. It is all a gift. The most beautiful there is.

We have the mind of Christ: the Holy Spirit gives us a radically different perspective on life. We can let go, we can give up things that are a big deal for others. They are not important to us, compared to the glory that is waiting for us.
And we choose a path in life that may get us in trouble and cost us dearly: the entrance to the kingdom of God is not the easiest one. It is the narrow road, the road of choices, the road of sacrificing yourself and your desires, the road of giving up things for the kingdom.
When you have the mind of Christ you can walk the same path he has walked, the path of the cross. The path of ridicule, because others don’t understand why you are doing this.

Let us keep in mind the encouragement of Hebr12, 1 and 2, which show us that thinking like Christ seems like a bad idea, but is ultimately the way to glory:

"Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

The Bible says that we will reign with him forever. We will sit with him on the throne and share in his glory. That is the outcome of the mystery: everlasting joy and glory in the presence of God.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Dirk Boersma, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2005, Pastor Dirk Boersma

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