The Mind of Christ
Paul urges in Romans 12:1-2…
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual (reasonable) act of worship. Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so that you may discern the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Now that our mind has taught us a few things about how the computer works, we are amazed at how much the computer is like the human brain. Sometimes I mistakenly say “How much the human brain is like a computer”. The latter statement is putting the cart before the horse. The computer is systematic because of the programmer’s work and not the other way round. Of course, once the human mind has taught the inanimate computer how to function, the latter may overcome its teacher accidentally. Though a robot may murder someone, it will not feel or know guilt if not programmed to do so, said the late Dr. John White, a Christian psychiatrist and faithful Bible teacher with world wide influence in the late 20th century.
It is still the mind of the human being that initiates the command in a computer. Then we understand why Paul made that conclusion above. When we are born again into God’s family, we need to renew our mind so that it becomes Christ-like in character. The old self and worldly thought patterns needed to be gradually deleted, as they are replaced by God’s new Christ centred ones. If we are closed to God’s view point, remember that our minds are like umbrellas…useful when open to His ideas and thoughts. Therefore, let us be patient to see what God has in mind in this renewal process.
Let us view the Saviour’s mind at different stages of His life on earth…
a. The Mind of Christ at the Father’s Side as His Co-Creator
(Underline in Scripture passages below are placed by author.)
“I was there when he set the heavens in place,
when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep,
28 when he established the clouds above
and fixed securely the fountains of the deep,
29 when he gave the sea its boundary
so the waters would not overstep his command,
and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
30 Then I was constantly at his side.
I was filled with delight day after day,
rejoicing always in his presence,
31 rejoicing in his whole world
and delighting in mankind.”
Jesus enjoys His Father’s creation process; He works with the Father with absolute childlikeness. How hilarious! Maybe we need to rejoice more in His presence instead of stifling our smiles when worshipping Him for fear we offend Him. Once, a new believer excitedly showed his pastor a sculpture of a laughing Jesus which he had done in order to express the delightful image of his new found Saviour! How refreshing to have no hang-ups of who Jesus was to him! Older believers, especially those in positions of church authority, often imagine God as too serious to smile. In reality He is filled with joy and childlikeness in the Father’s presence!
b. The Mind of Christ in Childhood
Childhood - Infancy
“When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.”
- The Boy Jesus at the Temple
41 “Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’
49 ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”
Notice that Jesus’ behavior is like that of many teenagers, especially the more outspoken ones. He answered back and appeared impolite and insensitive to His parents’ anxiety. But He was only speaking the truth as a boy. However, He followed them home after making His point. He submitted even though He disagreed with them over a practical behavioural issue. Joseph and Mary probably could not grasp His spiritual maturity when He called God His Father.
In adulthood Jesus was doing the Father’s will in Palestine which was then under Roman rule
At 30 years old
21 “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’
23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli.”
When God publicly authenticated Him as His Son, He was so secure in the Father’s love and was thus not worried about being thought of as imperfect Joseph’s son. May He help us be as secure as He was in God’s love.
Jesus Changed Water Into Wine
1 ‘On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.”
4 “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.”
5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons.
7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim.
8 Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.”
11 What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him.
12 After this he went down to Capernaum with his mother and brothers and his disciples. There they stayed for a few days.’
Note that it was Mother Mary who nudged Him to turn the water into wine to help the host. She seemed to have recognized the timing of the start of His public work. Therefore, though Jesus at first thought it was not time yet to perform miracles openly, He took the hint and wisely acted on Mary’s request. Surely, she had seen Him perform many miracles at home to help her complete her household chores and could do it again!
The Mind of Christ just before Gethsemane at the Completion of the Father’s Work for Him.
At 33 years old
Jesus Prays to Be Glorified
‘After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed:
“Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. 2 For You granted Him authority over all people that He might give eternal life to all those You have given Him. 3 Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. 4 I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work You gave me to do. 5 And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began.
Jesus Prays for His Disciples
6 “I have revealed You to those whom You gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from You. 8 For I gave them the words You gave Me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from You, and they believed that You sent Me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those You have given Me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is Yours, and all You have is Mine. And glory has come to Me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, protect them by the power of] Your Name, the Name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name You gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.
13 “I am coming to You now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of My joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify Myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.
Jesus Prays for All Believers
20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are one— 23 I in them and You in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.
24 “Father, I want those You have given Me to be with Me where I am, and to see My glory, the glory You have given Me because You loved Me before the creation of the world.
25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know You, I know You, and they know that You have sent Me. 26 I have made You[e] known to them, and will continue to make You known in order that the love You have for Me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
In this High Priestly prayer Jesus clearly and definitively poured out His heart’s desire for His disciples after He talked with the Father about His completed task. To understand His mission on earth, study this prayer thoroughly. Imitate Him in His obedience to the Father’s purpose for Him on earth. Joy will fill your soul!
The Mind of Christ at Gethsemane
36 ‘Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”
39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. 41 “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
42 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”
43 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. 44 So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.
45 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer.”’
Near to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus showed His fear of utter suffering on our behalf when our sins would lead to His beloved Father forsaking Him. He needed Peter, James and John to be near Him to support Him (as well as to eavesdrop His prayers and cries to His Father so that they could pass to us His example of intercession for us down the centuries). Finally He submitted to the Holy Father for our sake…He would rather not drink the cup of separation from His Father if there were any other way of taking away our sins. There was none. Therefore He drank the bitter cup of death on our behalf; He was punished for our sins i.e. He was the sacrificial Lamb of God who laid down His life to justly pay for our sin.
The Mind of Christ on the Cross
See ‘The Last Passion of Christ’ (by Tan Eng Jinn) to understand Jesus’ mind as He expressed Himself through the 7 sentences on the cross (browse www.reconre.org for the book and read or print it out to read.)
Paraphrases of 7 sentences uttered while on the cross at Golgotha:
- Honest acceptance of needy humanity
- Free expression of helplessness
- Forgiveness for persecutors
- Concern for Mary
- Friendship for neighbor
- Complete trust in the Father
- Willingness to relinquish His life for sinners such as you and me
In today’s language, Jesus the Son of God was incarnated as a man and was obedient to the Father as Son of man and Son of God. He has been raised to the right hand of the Father. He now prepares those who trust Him to live with Him in perfect harmony as His brethren.
Below is from a chapter of a book on man’s reconciliation with God by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (His only begotten Son approved to be the Lamb of God). As Jesus indicated, it is a process of getting us ready for the homecoming which is very near in time. A person cleansed from evil influences needs to be filled with the Holy Spirit and controlled by the Holy Spirit for this process to be implemented. The process has two parts to it: putting off the hindrances or rubbish of our lives (sins and weaknesses) while putting on the new nature of the perfect character of Christ. It takes time but it will certainly be finished as what He began He will bring to completion. Some of us require more time; others are taken home almost instantaneously! Here goes…
(Passage below is adapted from “Friends of the Bridegroom”, a Reconre Publication. It is also later contained in “Understanding the Heart of Pastoral Counselling” available from Armour Publishings in Singapore.)
Putting on Christ
Be Transformed by the Renewing of the Mind
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is-His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Yes, the main task of pastors and other teachers of God’s word is to teach and exhort His people to grow up in Christ Jesus. Likewise, in Colossians 1:10, Paul the apostle reminded our Colossian brothers and sisters to live lives worthy of God, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. After having returned to worship and serve God alone, Augustine puts it as:
“Man’s chief aim is to please God and enjoy Him forever.” Augustin
Though the processes of putting off our old self-centred self and putting on the personality of Christ are two separate events, they usually go on side by side…here a little, there a little, until a clearer image of the Son of God is reflected in us. The life that is emptied of its sludge must be filled with the goodness and beauty of God.
Therefore, this chapter is more familiar and pleasant because we are going to talk about the more positive aspects of sanctification (the purifying process for all God’s children from the time of their new birth into His family and till they see Him as He is and be like Him.) The Lord’s word specifies that He will come to a prepared bride, not one still in old rags, presumably (Revelations 19:6-9)!
In pastoral counselling we look forward to the Holy Spirit’s transformation of the counsellee in some particular area of his life. However, I have discovered, over the last fifteen years of this work, that many Christians expect the person to dramatically change overnight or within a short period. I belief and know that the Lord’s sovereign grace sometimes breaks someone’s bondage to addictions, for example, as soon as he is born again or prayed for. However, as Jesus Himself warned us, if the house emptied of its evil resident is not occupied by the Holy Spirit, then the earlier resident will return with more of his evil “kaki”. So the issue is not about the Lord not being able to deliver and heal a person instantly. The issue is about His usual means of transforming a person’s thought patterns and behaviour i.e. his whole lifestyle, as long as he is still on earth. For such transformation to occur effectively, Paul is persuading us to believe that our minds need to be renewed. Some psychologists have discovered this to be true even if the client is not a Christian. They can train cooperative counsellees to unlearn certain unhealthy ways of thinking about their problems and relearn healthier thought patterns, to a significant extent. Any good education system of a nation is also supposed to do that.
How much more, in matters of eternal value, where Christ-likeness is God’s goal for us, we need to take time to renew our minds. This seems to be the missing link in many counsellees’ lives. Some counsellees will conscientiously work through their homework of rebuilding their lives in all areas i.e. personal, family (single or married), vocational, church, social and even environmental. It is a joy to watch them change and grow by the Holy Spirit’s enabling. But there are others who, when their immediate problems have been solved, default follow-up sessions because they think that they will be fine after that. I am not referring to those who have strong community support such as a supportive cell group or friends. I am very happy to discharge the latter to the care of their mutually caring group. Instead, I am referring to those who feel that as long as they can enjoy life again, they do not need responsible spiritual accountability to encourage, correct and love them in their earthly lives.
In many counsellors’ experience, these often run into conflict situations where they call for help again and again. Sometimes they approach several counsellors at the same time, hoping to get the answers they want. This would be the hostile cousellee with respect to God’s will for them though they may be very friendly and even generous to the counsellors...if they happen to like their answers!
So how do we renew our minds for transformation? Here is where, I believe, some timeless Scriptural guidance is needed.
Renewal of the Mind towards Christ-likeness
[Suggestion: As you read the Scripture passages, meditate on them so that the Counsellor of counsellors, the Holy Spirit, will explain them to you for customized application.
The necessity for the renewal of our minds into Christ’s mind
“We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing (or interpreting) spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.
1 Corinthians 2:12-14
“Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
You, however, are not controlled by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.”
The exhortation to renew our minds in Christ
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking…You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ…”
The certainty of hope that God will renew our minds
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel (after Christ’s atonement, this refers to His body, the living church) after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be My people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
The time for action to renew our minds in Christ
“Brothers, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.”
1 Corinthians 14:20
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
2 Corinthians 10:5
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.'”
1 Peter 1:13-16
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in His body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”
1 Peter 4:1
“But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.
2 Thessalonians 2:13
(Highlights are mine)
If the renewal of our minds were not something we are supposed to do and could do, our Lord would not have instructed us to renew our minds in Scriptures. Having lived with a fallen though God-fearing earthly family for 30 years, surely, He had to overcome His infirmities by the renewal of His mind too though He never sinned because He did not allow His infirmities to become occasions for sin. He too matured through discipline (Hebrews 5:8). Recall how His life and words were repeatedly different from what the Jews then were used to see in or hear from many of their religious leaders then. For example, the Pharisees thought that if they performed their religious duties conscientiously, they could do anything they liked with the rest of their lives (like if they have washed the dirt off on the outside of cups, they may leave the inside germ-infested). But Jesus said that they were to love God with all their whole life (Luke 10:27). On another occasion, though the Jewish leaders felt it normal to see only the woman caught in adultery as a sinner, Jesus saw the men involved as sinners too.
Hence, to watch and listen to Jesus in the New Testament is a call to renew our minds so that eventually, His thoughts become our thoughts, His feelings become ours and His will becomes ours too. But He wants us to be doers of His word and not mere hearers. So we also need to trust and obey Him in our daily lives. This needs a more systematic and disciplined approach, though not necessarily academic, for our God is the God of order (1 Corinthians 14:33, 40). I believe too that an illiterate Christian is able to be as disciplined in obeying God as a highly educated Christian, as long as he not only hears His word but trust and obey Him as well. In God, truly, human literacy is ultimately irrelevant.
I grew up in a church where a trishaw puller felt as comfortable worshipping the Lord and giving his offering as a rich “towkay”. That simple childhood observation has convinced me, without words, that God is fair and gives His grace equally to all. Don’t we hope this will be increasingly real in our churches today, especially in the cities in more “developed” societies where wealth, status and education are held in higher esteem than godly character?
A distorted image of God mirrors our old self, the damaged world and the evil one whereas the real image of God mirrors Jesus His Son….
“And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into
His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”
Pause to Ponder
So how do we exercise the muscles of our minds?
By working hard at some basic spiritual disciplines.
(I rebelled inwardly when I first realized that spiritual formation was taught as a subject in an American seminary known for its emphasis on friendship with God.
God has taught me to listen to Him and respond in obedience to His word since 11 years old. However, I did not know that this was not every believer’s experience. It was so natural to me that I thought it unnatural to make it into an institutional subject which a student may pass or fail. Rather, it should be part of the follow up process of a new believer in the Good Shepherd! It was a grace and not an achievement. Gradually, the Holy Spirit impressed upon me that the formal study of Spiritual Formation is meant to help His people be more serious and sincere in their effort to listen to Him. For some, it’s a natural growing friendship with God; for others, it needs to be a discipline till the disciple himself desires to listen to Him. The end point is the same friendship with the Lord. That was in 1991.
Since then, back in Malaysia, many groups have been organizing silent retreats as part of their calling. Many lay people and full-time Christian workers have started to listen to God for themselves. By God’s enabling, may more of His children everywhere hear Him clearly and follow Him dearly as His sheep. Did Jesus not say, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.” (John 10:27)? In fact, to listen to Him in silence ad solitude is not new; it’s a requirement that Jesus Himself mentioned and taught while on earth but we have neglected down the ages. Our Catholic brethren seem to have remembered His words more and have been instilling Spiritual Formation as a discipline, especially to full-time workers. Disciples, like Ignatius Loyola, had played a significant part in keeping and teaching this good habit down the ages.
Celebrating the Disciplines to help us listen to God…watch Him, know Him, trust Him and obey Him with grateful love.
Reading books by those who have trod before us, like H. Nouwen and the desert fathers, often refresh our souls and spirits. I think it is because God has called them (especially the latter) to listen to Him in silence and solitude (though in a noisy world) on our behalf. In times of dryness, especially when we experience the “dark night of the soul” when God seems so distant, we cannot find out why after honest soul searching before Him, God often speaks to us through their words given birth in the stillness of their souls before the holy and graciously gentle God.
In recent years, the book, "The Spirit of the Disciplines" (by Dallas Willard) has clarified these disciplines for me. I have listed some of them below to wet our appetites to seek Him more closely, trust and love Him more dearly and be stirred to obey Him more willingly.
These disciplines are generally classified into two categories namely, those of abstinence (something one intentionally does not do) and those of engagement (something one intentionally does). Recalling Paul’s soul searching heart cries in Romans 7:14-25 whereby he mourns the fact that he could not do what he wants but does what he does not want, we may realise afresh how broken we are that we do need the Lord’s discipline to renew our minds and wills!
a. Abstinence [keeping ourselves from doing something]:
Dallas Willard states that,
"If we feel that any habit or pursuit, harmless in itself, is keeping us from God and sinking us deeper in the things of earth; if we find that things which others can do with impunity (freedom/immunity) are for us the occasion of falling, then abstinence is our only course. Abstinence alone can recover for us the real value of what should have been for our help but which has been an occasion of falling...It is necessary that we should steadily resolve to give up anything that comes between ourselves and God."
Some common examples Dallas listed are:
SOLITUDE - where one remains alone with God, away from other people
SILENCE - where one avoids listening to sounds or thinking of ideas that distract us from hearing God speak into our hearts (e.g. abstain from watching television, listening to distracting music) while accepting the inevitable sounds around us e.g. passing traffic, rain
FRUGALITY - is not stinginess but prudence in the use of our material resources (to abstain from wasting good things)
CHASTITY - is to keep pure in the area of sexual desires and actions (to abstain from sinful sexual thoughts and behaviour by avoiding temptations)
SECRECY - is the keeping of personal or others’ confidential matters (to abstain from revealing secrets by fasting on words)
SACRIFICE - is the willing putting aside that which is good for the sake of someone else (to relinquish good things for others who need them more than us)
FAST - to replace daily food with God’s work to show our total dependence on Him
Let us see whether Tozer’s words may mean something to us at this juncture:
“The devil did not know Christ - apparently he knows Christians! The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life have all been ‘Christianised’ (not by liberals, mind you, but by evangelicals also) and are now offered along with Christ to everyone who will ‘believe’. Blind leaders of blind souls now insist that Christians should not cut themselves off from the pleasures of the world, so the very values that Christ scorned are now being used to attract people to the gospel.
We stand in need of warning: in spite of prophetic voices that are raised here and there among us, present-day believers are being drawn to the world with irresistible force!”
b. Engagement [intentionally doing something with diligence]:
Dallas also explains that:
“The disciplines of abstinence must be counter-balanced by the disciplines of engagement. They are like the out-breathing and in-breathing of our spiritual lives, needed for effective nourishment. Life does not derive its power of growth and development from withdrawal but from action - engagement. Abstinence, then, makes way for engagement.”
For example, if the locations on our red blood cells designed to carry oxygen are occupied by carbon monoxide, we suffer or even die for lack of oxygen. If the places of our souls that are to be indwelt by God and His service are occupied by wrong use of food, sex, and corruption, for example, we die or languish for lack of God and right relationship with His creatures. A proper abstinence actually breaks the hold of improper engagement so that the soul can be properly engaged in and by God.
Some common examples Dallas listed are:
STUDY - of God's word and His word at work in the lives of believers in history and in nature. The written word is only to lead us to the living Word, Jesus (John 5:37-40; Hebrews 4:12,13).
WORSHIP - most profitable when centred on Jesus Christ and goes through Him to the Father; we find God through God Himself (John 1:14, 14:9).
CELEBRATION - “increases our confidence in the God who does all things well and in His greatness, beauty and glory. We concentrate on our life and our world as God's gifts to us! We dishonour God as much as by fearing and avoiding pleasure as we do by depending upon it or living for it. Celebration heartily done makes our deprivations and sorrows seem small, and we find in it great strength to do the will of God because His goodness becomes so real to us!” (includes dance, drama, art, handcraft, humour)
SERVICE - Note: Not every good done needs to be done as a discipline but out of spontaneous love and righteousness. However, in much of our present lives, we need to make extra effort to do a job well.
But as a discipline, service is good for those in lowly positions so, that they do not serve in resentment; it is good for those in high positions so that they learn to appreciate trained servanthood rather than be given positions in God's church just because they hold high positions in the world. Such people are often foolishly invited to make decisions for the churches simply because they are regarded as "having made it in the world". In Matthew 20:25- 28, Jesus was teaching the great how to behave, not how to become greater.
PRAYER - is conversing with God, communicating with God aloud or within our hearts and thoughts. It includes prayers that are sung to Him. This almost always involves the other disciplines of, for example: study, meditation, worship, solitude, fasting. The effect of conversing with God cannot fail to have a pervasive and spiritually strengthening effect on all aspects of our personality and daily life in interaction with our neighbours. No doubt, many things called 'prayer' are quite useless in every respect, but nothing is more relevant to social conditions than the transformation of persons that comes from prayer at its best in the life of the disciple of Christ. During prayer, God will meet us in attentive love…anywhere…at any time…(e.g. John 15:9-17; Rev.3:20)
FELLOWSHIP - The members of the body of Christ must be in contact if they are to sustain and be sustained by each other. Christian redemption is not meant to be a solitary thing, though each individual has a unique and direct relationship with God, and God alone is His Lord and Judge. The Triune God is community. Hence, to reflect His image is to be community.
CONFESSION - In it we let trusted others know our deepest weaknesses and failures. We lay down the burden of hiding and pretending, which normally takes up such a dreadful amount of human energy. It is like trying to keep a balloon under water...But confession may be easily abused, and for its effective use, it requires considerable experience and maturity, both in the individual concerned and in the leadership of the group...which leads to the final discipline...
SUBMISSION - The highest level of fellowship lies in mutual submission for Christ’s sake (Ephesians 5:21). It involves humility, complete honesty, transparency and, at times, confession and restitution, which are sustained by the discipline of submission to spiritual authority and mutually. The church of Jesus Christ knows no submission outside the context of mutual submission of all to all (Phil.2:3, Hebrews.13:17, John 18:36, 1 Peter 5:1-3). This mutual submission functions at the horizontal human level though each person may have a different role in the body of Christ.
Therefore, let us rejoice with thanksgiving that the walk with Christ certainly calls for individual creativity and an experimental attitude in the practice of disciplines such as these. The manner in which we relate with our Beloved is limited only by the mutual agreement between Him and us, as guided by the Scriptures He has given to us. No believer may dictate to the other how one should walk with Christ. All we may do is to provide broad biblical guideline. If the Son of God has set us free, we are free to be His indeed!
Celebrating our Giftedness (may be used within the engaging disciplines)
My husband and I have many several basic differences and similarities. Before we objectively realised what they were objectively, we kept stepping on each other’s toes till we were emotionally exhausted. Thankfully, without our own planning, He opened doors for us to discover the basic moulds in which He created us. As He has brought much liberation of our souls and freedom in the expression of our more realistic selves, I would like to share some of those lessons with you. These are not original to us. I learnt much from teachers like Professor Reginald Johnson, formerly Professor of Spiritual Formation at the Asbury Theological Seminary. He has given permission to use some of his seminar materials here.
To some readers, this will not be new as many large corporations have been sending them for courses to help them understand themselves better in the last 30 years or so in Malaysia. But to others, this may be new in terms of exposure, not in terms of what God has given to us since the Garden of Eden.
Our Temperament is like a tray of seedlings that the Creator gives to each person at birth.
They may become to us a source of strength or weakness, depending on how we handle our basic gifts.
Our Character is how the person manages his temperament.
Our Personality is the final product, the distinct unique individual that results in relationship with others.
Temperament + Character = Personality J. I. Packer
However, lest you feel that I am using too many psychological terms, let me assure these are ordinary words mentioned in commonly used English dictionaries such as Webster’s Dictionary which has these definitions:
Temperament = One’s customary frame of mind or natural disposition, basic natural giftedness and weaknesses
Character = moral strength or moral constitution (how we use our temperaments depends on His character in us i.e. His maturity versus our immaturity, His holiness versus our unholiness – author’s comments)
Personality = habitual patterns and qualities of behaviour of any individual as expressed by physical and mental activities and attitudes; it comprises distinctive individual qualities
** Temperament is influenced by imperfect genes and upbringing.
** Character is influenced by God’s word and the Holy Spirit
** Personality is influenced by what we see in each other and therefore may be assessed to some degree of accuracy objectively or subjectively.
[Below are adaptations of notes produced by Professor R.Johnson’s for his Spiritual Formation seminar, used with his permission. They were presented to wives of seminarians at the Asbury Theological Seminary in the fall of 1991.]
I. AT THE PERSONAL LEVEL ***
We Need to See Ourselves as Gifted
Many of us do not see ourselves as gifted from the time of our birth. We even deny ourselves the joy of using our special gifts in life. We need to see ourselves from the Creator’s angle more often because…
- From a Biblical Perspective:
* God's gifts are:
i.ordinary for daily living
e.g. homemaking, leadership, plumbing, craftsmanship, carpentry, construction, accounting, teaching children
ii.diverse in areas of function
e.g. on the road, at home, in offices
iii.special when they are offered back to God from thankful hearts and sometimes transformed into spiritual gifts such as the gift of preaching, giving or healing.
* Natural gifts may be transformed into spiritual gifts
e.g. the skills of temple workers in the Old Testament (Exodus 31:1-5)
* Jesus did not differentiate between spiritual and natural talents in His parables (Luke 19:11-27). All He asks of us is faithfulness in using what He has entrusted to us.
- From a Psychological Perspective
* Gifts come from genetic endowment as well as environmental influences.
Both psychological research and our experiences with and observation of children by their own parents confirm this.
For example, of our one son and two daughters, our younger girl is like the brother in being more extroverted and verbally expressive. However, she is more like her sister in her feminine and more feeling behaviour. Nevertheless, she has something of her own - her physically more expressive self. All three of them are growing up in the same home, and are being treated as similarly as possible, from the beginning. They show differences and similarities without intentional parental intervention. But as each one begins to become more and more unique and special, we realise that even our behaviour towards them has to be customised. And as our interactions and environment change day by day, they will in turn remold each of our usage of our gifts as well as endow us with new skills in life, which are also gifts.
When I take time to sit back and reflect on this, there comes a deep awareness of the God-given privilege to engage in such human relationships with the Creator watching us though our family scenario and other experiences may not always be beautiful!
II. AT THE COMMUNITY LEVEL ***
We Need to Share Our Gifts
To better understand names and concepts from a psychological and Christian view point, it will be helpful to read “Celebrate, My Soul” by Reginald Johnson and ”Please Understand Me – Character and Temperament Types” by David Keirsey and Marilyn Bates 1978. Let me summarise the meanings of the terms used.
Psychologists have long observed the existence of temperament types in the general population. In recent decades, a mother-daughter team called Myers-Briggs, discovered that, broadly speaking, people of any origin may be classified in one of 16 temperament types. Each type has four basic functions, namely:
1. The Direction In Which We Orientate Our Inner Lives
One group is more prone to recharge their emotional energy with the presence of external stimuli, whether they be sounds from the television, neighbours, or chit-chats. They thrive on being with people for a long period of time. At the end of the day, they still have the motivation to have another meeting! These people are said to be of the extroverted function (E). They get energised by being with people, action and noise. They may be described by friends as active, outward, sociable, public, expressive and of breadth.
The other group is more prone to recharge their emotional energies in quietness and away from people. They may be able to be with others for a while e.g. a few days at a noisy church family camp, but then will need to be alone to recover from such trips. They are said to be of the introverted function (I) and are described by friends as reflective, inward, reserved, private, quiet and of depth.
2. The Way We Receive Information from the Outside World
One group receives information from outside themselves through the 5 natural senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Due to this tendency, they are more detailed people described as emphasising on the present, practical, factual, sequential, perspiring, repetitive, directional and conservative. They are said to have a sensing function (S). From my observation, extremely skilful surgeons and spick-and-span homemakers are of such an inclination.
The other group receives information more from the often called 6th sense. They have a tendency to receive information from hunches, to the exasperation of the sensing person who cannot understand how they seem so judgmental as to make such hasty conclusions about people or situations without factual support! They are of the intuitive function (I) and are often described as day dreamers about the future, imaginative, interested in patterns, people of variety, randomness, inspiration, change and anticipation! Do you wonder now why some spouses are in conflict no end??
3. The Way We Reveal Our Decisions or Thoughts to Others
One group reveal their decisions on any matter to you systematically and objectively. They are known as of the head, just, cool, impersonal, critical, analytical, precise, of principles and object or things orientated. They are of the thinking function. Of the thinking group (T), 60% are males and 40%, females.
The other group tends to let you know their decisions indirectly through the heart. They are known to be subjective, harmonious, caring, personal, appreciative, empathetic, persuasive and value orientated. These are of the feeling function. Of the feeling group (F), 40 % are males and 60% are females.
This is the only function that has been found to be significantly gender related.
4. The Way We Live Daily (our lifestyle)
One group needs a rigid time-table to function in their daily activities. They get mad with interruptions to planned routines. They are often described as organised, structured, in control, decisive, deliberate, complete, of deadlines and productive. They are of the judging (assessing and rigid, not necessarily judgmental) function (J).
The other group is more flexible in daily life events. Even though they may have schedules, they are still relaxed if last minute changes pop up, like receiving a guest without notice. Their friends describe them as flowing, curious, spontaneous, open, patient, adventurous, receptive of new experiences. They are of the perceptive (seeing events in a more overall perspective and flexible) function (P).
Below are some research statistics:
In the general population,
75% are Extroverts
75% are Sensing
50% are Thinking
50% are Feeling
Due to the fact that introverted persons naturally reveal their true selves in private and to people they have learned to trust, they are less easily understood by others. As a result, they tend to enter into relationship conflicts more often and deeply as they may misunderstand others as well. If they are also intuitive, problems often multiply! Why is this so? They seem to be unable to know and express where their ideas come from.
This data found by experts in the field of psychology is confirmed in my own observation of my counsellees. In the last 36 years of focused one-to-one pastoral counselling encounters, I have less than a handful of obviously extroverted counselees out of a few hundred.
One came as the extroverted husband of an introverted wife who just suffered a black eye as a consequence of his rage. Though they loved each other deeply initially, both of them could not understand nor accept the behaviour of the other. After they were happily reconciled, he was taught to leave her alone for a while to recharge her emotional energies when she asked for it and not take it as a sign of rejection. She, on the other hand, agreed not to be defensive when he tells her off directly in the face. Of course, both need to change their patterns of speech as well).
In his book “Celebrate, My Soul”, Professor Johnson picked out the patterns discovered above and reused them creatively to help his readers discover the potentials that God has placed in their lives as ordinary human beings. He also showed us how our spirituality is intertwined with our basic giftedness and weaknesses. As our family members read it several years ago, our tears were turned to laughter as we began to see each other from a fresh and biblically acceptable perspective. Instead of trying to change one another, we were enabled to free each other to exercise our giftedness while accepting our weaknesses and seeking God to change them into points of strength.
Let me now present to you some combinations of the colourful array of gifts God has endowed on His people, wonderfully made....to be reconciled and sanctified for His glory!
- Temperaments with Sensing Function have the Gift of Living in the NOW
Energisers (ESTP/ESFP) & Stabilizers (ISTJ/ISFJ)
- Temperaments with Intuiting Function have The Gift of Seeing POSSIBILITIES
Crusaders (ENFP/ENTP) & Renewers(INFJ/INTJ)
- Temperaments with Thinking Function have the Gift of Establishing ORDER THROUGH REASON
Organisers (ESTJ/ENTJ) & Analysers (ISTP/INTP)
- Temperaments with Feeling Function have the Gift of Being IN TOUCH WITH OTHERS
(Encouragers (ESFJ/ENFJ) & Enhancers (ISFP/INFP)
Therefore, how we receive information from the external environment (I or E) + how we express our internal information to others (T or F) seem to form the core of our overall personality (i.e. governs how we relate with others, how they view us and how we view them).
These two core functions are expressed and lived through our daily life orientation (I or E) and lifestyle (J or P).
Extroverts (E) live in glass houses while Introverts (I) live behind brick walls. Programmed people (J) systematically hold on to information received and expressed while Flexible ones (P) do not usually mind how this information is received or expressed.
III. AT THE GOD - MAN LEVEL ***
We Need to Surrender Ourselves to the Giver by:
- Affirming the Gifts God has given us and not long for others’ gifts selfishly. Jesus did not stand on ceremony about His faithful use of God’s gifts to Him. On the other hand, He gratefully thanked His Father for them (John 17:1).
- Denying our Self-Will because “a seed must die” before it can bear fruits, His fruits. No matter how gifted we are, it is the way we use those gifts that forms our character, which is to be conformed to the character of Christ as demonstrated at Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).
- Appropriating His Resources as Jesus Himself did as Son of Man. He drew close to the Father and was obedient to the Holy Spirit’s counsel in all His life and ministry on earth. I am sure that He fulfilled the roles of eldest son-carpenter- breadwinner for His earthly family and as efficiently as He fulfilled His roles of Saviour and risen Lord of all. With all His giftedness, He humbly and realistically stated that He could do nothing apart from the Father. Truly, God’s grace was sufficient for Him as Son of man (2 Corinthians 12:9).
IV. NURTURING OUR SPIRIT ***
1. In God's Relationship With Us
- God Takes Our Differences Seriously
Read Genesis 1 & 2 carefully about His initiative in making man and woman different and yet alike, for example. Up until today, no one can deny how wonderfully God has made each one us, whether we are rich or poor, educated or illiterate, physically beautiful or ugly in the eyes of fellowman, strong or weak, cultured or uncultured - all are precious in His sight and He gives rain to all without pressing us into each other’s moulds.
- God Utilises Our Most Receptive Channel
Review how Jesus communicated with Peter and with John. Ask yourself this question:
“Who was the extrovert, and who, the introvert?”
“How did Jesus relate with each of them? Compare and contrast.
- God Moves Us Toward Wholeness
See how Jesus ministers to the Samaritan woman at the well, Zaccheaus or the woman with the issue of blood for twelve long years. Watch how He gently encouraged them to blossom in their real forgiven and healed selves.
2. In Our Relationship With God
- We need to Make Use Of Our Natural Path
For example, if we are Malaysian born Chinese worshippers, let us worship Him as we are with all our cultural and national traits intertwined with our spiritual lives. For example, we may want to pray in our familiar dialect and according to a particular tradition, as long as we abide by Scriptural truth. Then only are we giving Him all our hearts, souls, minds and strengths - the real you and me, as coloured by our background.
- We need to Watch For One-Sidedness
For example, when God wants us to serve Him in certain ways or fields, we may wrongly assume that God wants everybody else to do the same, which may not be so. This applies in worship and preaching styles too. Otherwise, we may be urging others to worship Him with their pretend “selves”. For example, we dare not make God’s specific calling for us e.g. cross-culture missions, the calling of a local we are shepherding.
- We need to be Sensitive to the Spirit's Nudge toward the Less Familiar
For example, when God asks an introvert to visit someone regularly for a while, He is urging her to grow in the less familiar and denied area of her temperament so that the stretching of her temperament may bring her closer to His likeness.
Remember that Jesus functions 100% in any area of the temperament functions in a given situation by lovingly adjusting to the other person’s personality or needs. He wants us to nurture the shorter seedlings so that, eventually, all seedlings stand tall and strong in His presence.
Jesus alone, of all men and women, has the complete and wholesome temperament, character and personality.
He is both E&I, S&N, T&F, and J&P.
He was in control of His temperament and used it accordingly to His Father's rules.
Thus, His character is perfect as a son of man.
Hence, to become like Him is to be as balanced as He is.
He will bring us to His character... the fruit of the Holy Spirit, and His personality.
That is His promise to us, His Bride.
Paul seems to mean the same, though imperfectly, when he stated that he was all things to all men so that by all means, some may be saved. Such a wholesome life can’t help but give glory to the Father above and do good to their neighbours.
V. Understanding Our Congregations and Ourselves ***
Malaysians like to follow trends and changes in fashions overnight. Sometimes, I wonder whether our differing mannerisms at worship services, which sometimes cause conflicts in churches, are due more to an ignorance of God’s creation gifts than to our spirituality. May be, if we allow one another more leeway to be honest to God, others and ourselves, we will yet worship Him in spirit(sincerely) and in truth(as He has revealed Himself to us, not as what we think He is) with joyful excellence.
But, how do our various temperamental functions affect corporate worship?
How Information is Received
- Sensing people focus on:
*Appreciating of beauty/listening to music/looking to God
*Routine/order/detailed helps for worship. Such schedules takes the guesswork out of a church service. Devotional guides are also helpful to them because they value structure.
*Being given "homework" as opposed to "off the cuff" presentations because they prefer accountability and structured sermons
*Looking back at the saints and old traditions because this helps them to keep going, to be encouraged and to learn.
*Sermons that have practical applications are best.
*The sacraments (such as the Lord’s supper) are helpful because they are concrete expressions of faith.
- Intuitive people focus on:
*Enjoying changes in services
*Viewing movement (worship with hands and body) /change in devotional times as important.
*Preferring imaginative interpretation of Scripture
*Finding routine movement (e.g. standing up/sitting down) distracting
*Liking smaller churches
*Needing quiet/contemplative time interspersed with
*Needing a longer time for singing and praising because they are able to plug and flow along into that mode.
*Approaching the Bible more symbolically.
How Decisions are Made
- Thinking people prefer:
*Devotions which are insightful (as against “feely”, illustrative material)
*Liturgical order of worship
*In-depth and more academic Bible Study
*Consistency in Service
- Feeling people prefer:
*Words of songs
*A spirit of friendly people
*To focus on pre-worship attitude
*Personal experience in message
*Honesty, warmth, touching genuine feelings
VI. FACING OUR SHADOW
1. Infirmities are:
- Effects of our preferences:
e.g. That “I like to stay away from people” may give others the idea that we areu nfriendly.
- Sources of some of our weaknesses:
* when we let strengths assert themselves proudly
* when we repress/devalue the "opposite" capacities/functions
e.g. extroverts criticizing introverts for not reaching out enough in evangelism.
- Characteristics of our least used function are those which are:
* most neglected
* least trusted
* our "enemy" or disliked quality
* our "sore" spot which make us embarrassed, unsure of self, defensive
* repressed, act independently of our intention
* our "blind spot"
e.g. When in grip (such as an extremely introverted girl sulking when faced with a forfeit at a party game session), we say..."I am not myself" and become unreal and vulnerable to being hurt unintentionally when onlookers do not understand us and make literal remarks that seem to belittle us when they are not doing so intentionally.
- Conditions which render us vulnerable/susceptible.
2. Infirmities (1 Corinthians 11:27-32; Isaiah 53:1-7; Hebrews 4:14-16)
- Began with the Fall
- Represent our diminished capacities
- Can become occasions for sin
e.g. on retrospection, many boys or men with homosexual tendencies fall into sin because they needed the affirming hugs from their fathers who were emotionally detached from them during the early years of childhood. Even for those who have loving hugging parents, as adults, they still need such warm reassurance of comfort in trying times. (Is that why many respond to calls for ministry after services? They could have mistaken their need for acceptance with the response to the call to full-time work. Others respond to an alter call due to a misunderstanding of God’s call to salvation and God’s call to the pastoral ministry. The two may coincide but they are different events.)
3. Vulnerabilities (tendencies to sins secondary to our specific infirmities)
- Sensing types may become overcritical of intuitive types for being presumptious or less detailed than they are.
- Intuiting types may fail to understand that others may not share their vision because they do not grasp things as they do, not because they are less spiritual or committed.
- Thinking types may look down on feeling types as of lesser intelligence or less important in discussions or "feminine" [common male prejudice]
- Feeling types may feel hurt easily because they are not aware that others may not be criticising them but stating things objectively only.
Imagine the multiple relational problems that may arise from our vulnerabilities!
VII. FROM BROKENNESS TOWARDS WHOLENESS ***
- Follow your "Real/True Self" in Christ
- Allow Him to move you toward wholeness by:
* Accepting responsibility for your sins
* Seeing your infirmities as blessings, not curses.
* Turning your weaknesses into a "friend"
* Using your weaknesses in prayer!!
* Getting into a rhythm in your daily life of being with God alone and also with others
* Getting into a habit of being flexible in non-essentials, firm in essentials, teachable and humble in His hands always.
* Getting into a small accountability group, such as a cell or parish group, where each member is accepted and lovingly encouraged to grow into His personality!
Finally, may this will be our prayer....
Oh, to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee!
Oh, to be like Thee!
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness,
Come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
Oh, to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the faint,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find,
T. O. Chisholm
Wm. J. Kirkpatrick
- How may our minds be renewed into Christlikeness?
- [basic giftedness] Temperament + [godliness] Character = [relationship with others] Personality (J. I. Oacker)
From the life history of Simon Peter in the New Testament, what were his basic temperament, character and personality, using terms according to the Myers-Briggs team’s research findings?
How has sanctification made him more balanced in his personality? Read 1 & 2 Peter to find out.
- Who is the real “YOU” that God has custom-made though imperfect?
How has God’s transformation of your character refined your personality?
- How has seeing yourself from the above perspectives affected your personal walk
with God, others and self in your family, church, at work or in the society at large?
- The Way of the Heart - Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry, Henri Nouwen, Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd. 1981
- The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Our Lives, Dallas Willard, Harpers Collins Publishers, 1988
- Renewed Day by Day, Daily Readings for One Year, Vol.1, A.W.Tozer
- “No Other Gods”, Lynda Rose, Spire, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton 1990
- Your Personality and Your Spiritual Life [old title: Celebrate, My Soul], Reginald Johnson, Monarch, U.K. 1997
- Building a Love House is Hard Work, new edition 2016 by Lee Bee Teik, Reconre
- A Passion for Holiness by J.I.Packer, Crossway Books 1992
- Webster’s New World Dictionary Third College Edition, Simon & Schuster, Inc. 1988...under “temperament”, “character” and “personality”
- Please Understand Me-Character and Temperament Types, David Keirsey & Marilyn Bates, c.1978, Distributor: Prometheus Nemesis Book Company