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The Mind of a Servant

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The Mind of a Servant

Philippians 2:1-11

January 8, 2006

Focus: Having the mind of Christ means learning the servant’s life.

Introduction: Wonders of the Human Brain

Let’s  start by reading our Scripture  passage. If you’ll turn in your Bibles to Philippians 2:1-11, you can follow along as I read from the New Living translation:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing.
Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had.

There is a hymn call “He Lives which begins like this:

“I serve a risen Savior                                                                     He’s in the world today                                                                I know that He is living                                                        Whatever men may say.”

I mention this because today we are going to examine what it means to serve, to have the mind of a servant. Will 2006 find us serving Christ? Will we be able to sincerely sing, “I serve a risen Savior”?

Now, back to our Scripture reading,
Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

I want to call your attention to verse 5. Let me read it for you again (this time from the NIV):  
”Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”                                                     
If you have an old King James, you will notice that it reads much differently. Instead of saying, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,” it says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Now, I realize that attitude is probably the best translation, but I’ve always liked the idea that our minds ought to indeed be the mind of Christ.

Minds are incredible things to. Minds and brains are clearly different things. For instance, all of you have known people with brains who didn’t seem to have a mind. The brain, therefore, is but the vehicle, and the mind is the driver. The brain is that three-pound organ, that tiny softball of decision, perched on top of the spinal cord, by which we make our way through life, but the mind is behind the steering wheel..

It operates at various levels of activity and frenzy. For instance, if the brain is operating at zero to three cycles per second, it is in a theta stage, a coma kind of a stage, and death is pending. If the brain speeds up to a delta-wave condition, four to six cycles per second, it is likely in deep   

Sleep - (pause)  common to some sermon series on Leviticus. If it speeds up to between seven and thirteen cycles per second, it’s in a beta stage, which is a creative, restful stage of man. If it speeds up to fourteen to twenty-one cycles per second, it is in the alpha stage, the typical Baptist stage that is perfect for baking casseroles and going to annual general meetings. And at twenty-one plus, it is in a gamma stage, which is a hassled, hurried, frenzied state of life, the stage some of you found yourselves in over the recent Christmas holiday!

Now, I believe that brains are put there for a specific reason, and I think the verses we are considering this morning encourage us to let our brain be the dwelling place of God.

Carl Sagan, the philosopher, says that the brain is “about three pounds of a messy substance, shut in a dark, warm place. It is a pinkish-gray mass, moist and rubbery to the touch. About the size of a softball, it perches like a flower on top of the spinal column and is connected by the finest fibers and filaments to every nook and cranny of our bodies.” Statistics say there are an estimated thirteen billion nerve cells inside the brain itself, and most of these cells have junction with five thousand other nearby nerve cells. Some fifty thousand of these synapses, or junctions, exist in our bodies.

As you can see the word astronomical isn’t big enough to describe the complexity of our brain, for the number of known cells in the brain far exceeds the number of stars we know about in all the galaxies. Take the skin, for instance: There are four million structures sensitive to pain. Five hundred thousand keep track of touch or pressure. Another two hundred thousand keep track of temperature. Add the big ones—the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue—and you begin to get the picture. The best way to picture a brain’s network is to imagine thousands of telephone switchboards, each one big enough for cities like New York or London, and you begin to get the picture of the marvelous complexity of the human brain.

Brains are impressive, even in nerds and dorks and television evangelists. What amazes me about them is that they’re all about the same size. It amazes me, for instance, that Madame Curie and Tina Turner have  the same size brain. Or Wernher von Braun and Chevy Chase—all about the same size. Isn’t this trivia just mind  boggling?

But when you read a passage like Philippians 2;5 (which says: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”), you become aware that for all its beauty and complexity, it really is the dwelling place of God. One day as he was meditating upon this great passage, Calvin Miller wrote a sonnet to his own brain, and it goes like this:

Calvin Miller’s sonnet to his brain

Gray, wrinkled, three-pound thing, I clearly see 

I cannot trap you with an EEG, 

You nervy organ, you, skull-cased and free, 

A brazen challenge to psychiatry. 

Soft mass, I cannot help resenting you 

Each time they search and probe for my IQ. 

Half of Einstein’s lobe was twice of you, 

You joyless megavolt computer shoe. 

Be careful, Judas organ, or you’ll find 

God cauterizes every rebel mind. 

You small, gray lump, you always seethe and grind, 

Spend small electric currents thinking blind. 

Yet, you’re the only shabby place I see 

That His (point to heaven) Great Mind may come to dwell in me.

The mind of Christ is that which is to inhabit us. I’ve always liked mind when the word is used as an adjective, for instance as being high-minded or low-minded or filthy- or empty. But I like it better as a verb: to mind your manners or mind your business or “Do you mind?” or “Don’t mind if I do.” That active sense is what Miller is talking about.

I. The Servant’s Mind Is Always Becoming

I want you, for the sake of understanding this passage, to begin not with verse 5, but Philippians 2:8, where it says that “Jesus, being found in appearance as a man, humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” That verse always troubled me a little, because if there’s any doctrine I personally prize, it is the doctrine of the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. To speak of him becoming obedient bothered me a bit, until finally it seemed God said to me, “Look, the emphasis here is on becoming, that this Jesus who is Lord, who would be my divine mind implant—this Christ had to learn it all in human existence, too. He was not born as Saint Alphonsis suggests.” Saint Alphonsis said that shortly after birth, Jesus sat up in the straw, umbilical still wet, and said, “Hi, Mary. I’m Jesus, the Son of God.” So much trouble with that. The emphasis here is that Jesus, like all of us, had a mind that was in the process of becoming.

We are talking about the messianic consciousness—the idea of Jesus’ discovering who he is, the divine Son of God—and that discovery goes on and on and on. Isn’t it amazing that in our lives we have to stop and say over something we did only a year or so ago, “Was I really that stupid in 2005?” The process of the growing mind moves on and on, and it began so gradually.

The same Calvin Miller who wrote the sonnet we just read relates the following story; “I remember that first time in school when Mrs. Dirksen, my first grade teacher, asked me what my name was. I knew that. And then she asked me what my mother’s name was. I said to her, “Momma.”

She said, “No, that is not her name.”

I said, “Yes it is. We all call her that.”

“No,” she said, “it’s not ‘Momma,’ it’s something else.”

I said, “No, it’s not.”

She said, “Look, momma is what she is, momma is what she does, but Momma’s not her name.”

And I said, “Well, I’m sure you’re wrong, but I’ll ask her tonight.” So when I got home from school that night, I was layin’ for my momma to walk in the room. I said, “Momma, do you have another name besides ‘Momma’?”

She said, “Well, yes, Son. My name is Ethel.” It sounded obscene, like she should have a twin sister named Regular or Unleaded. Then she said, “And not only that, but I have a middle name, too. It’s Faye.” And then she said, which was the most astounding revelation of all, “Miller is my last name.” It was the same name as I had! I have never forgotten that sense of growing awareness that dawned on me. That’s how the mind is. It is in the process, says verse 8,

of becoming.”

II. The Servant’s Mind Lives with Mystery

Not only is it in the process of becoming, but the mind of man is always forced to live with mystery. I love those passages and sequences in Jesus’ life when he so up-front had to say, “I don’t know everything.” There’s part of this kenosis, based on Philippians 2, by the way, that said Jesus emptied himself of many of his divine prerogatives. I love that time when the disciples came to him and said, “When will your second coming be?”

He, not having read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsay, was forced to say, “I don’t know when it will be.”

They asked him, “Can we sit one on your right hand and one...?”

He said, “I don’t know; that’s not mine to give.” Here Jesus demonstrates how the divine mind of Christ lived, as we all do, with mystery. It is the greatest thing, I think, not to have it all spelled out, because not knowing it all, we must become a people of trust. Not too many weeks ago, I preached a message about the great relief it is to not know the future. Can you imagine how different we would live our lives if we knew when and how we would die? God only allows us to know as much as we can handle. He says we can’t handle knowing our future. So we live in mystery. We are to worry only about one day at a time. Matthew 6:34 puts it this way … “do not worry about tomorrow, for will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

I’ve always loved that old fable about the traveler going through the night, seeing up ahead of him in the dim, rainy mist a monastery rising with the lights on. Cold and inclement was the weather, and he stopped and knocked on the door. When the abbot came, he said, “May I come in?”

The abbot said, “Not only may you come in, but you may eat with us.” The food was wonderful; the monks were warm; it was a beautiful evening, safe and dry and warm. Because the weather was so bad, they asked him to stay the night. He agreed, he said, on the basis that they would supply him with a few things. “What is it you want?” they asked.

He said, “If I spend this night with you, I must have in my own room for myself alone this night a pound of butter, a pair of rubber pants, a poker, a cricket bat, and a bass saxophone.” It was unusual. They scurried around the monastery and found it all. The weather continued bad, and as they went to sleep that night, they heard the awfullest progression of halftones and squeaks and squawks coming from his room. Because the weather continued bad, they invited him to stay another night. He did do that, and he asked again for that mysterious list of the same things: a pound of butter, a pair of rubber pants, a poker, a cricket bat, and a bass saxophone.

Each night he requested those things, and each night they heard the awful noises, until finally it was time for him to leave. The old abbot walked him to the door and said, “We were glad to supply all of those things, but would you mind telling me why you asked for them?”

The stranger said, “Well, it is a family secret. It has been in our family for years and years, but if you promise not to tell another living soul, I’ll tell you.” And so he told the old abbot all his heart, and the abbot, being a man of his word, never told another living soul. And so we shall never know.

I believe he illustrates for us what is an indispensable function of our ministries: we cannot know it all. If Jesus cannot know it all, neither can we know it all. We wait in the darkness and talk of God giving light where we can’t. We understand that growing and becoming like Christ—inhabited by the mind of Christ—is the function of the believer who would be a servant.

III. The Servant’s Mind Thinks of Others First

As well as our mind constantly becoming and constantly living is mystery, I want you to see another function of the mind of a servant. If he grows in awareness and lives with mystery, look at verse 3 of Philippians 2 a moment: “Do nothing,” he says, “out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” (twin killers of the cause of God) “but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” What I love about our Lord Jesus is that being Very God of Very God, he felt no need to exalt himself or live in arrogance. Surely if our Lord has modeled this for us, then part of having the mind of Christ means that Jesus Christ is going to make us humble. We have said, “No servant is greater than his Lord.” If our servant can die upon a cross, not claiming his prerogatives, maybe we, too, can learn to live in humility of spirit and give up selfish ambition and vain conceit. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”

I don’t know about you, but I have always found that when I get conceited, God usually has a way of reducing me. I don’t usually have to live with that conceit very long because He forcibly reminds me that I’m not as much as I thought I was. Another version puts it this way:“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem the other better than himself.... And let this attitude [this mind] be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”—the mind of a servant.

I know our day is riddled with the philosophy of the New Age Narcissism. I know it is a “me-first” world. I know it is a society where it is hard to make those words of self-denial that Jesus breathes in Luke 9:23  (Then he said to the crowd, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me. ) very real to people. I know it is a time when Sylvester Stallone will step into a film and say, “You’re the disease, and I’m the cure,” and it doesn’t sound much like Saint Francis saying, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” But you see, up here in the three-pound softball, where the servant of God is to try to live out the cause of Christ, is where the battle begins or ends. It is calling to care for this world. That mandate of caring for our world has been with us since the garden of Eden.

Again quoting from Calvin Miller: Let me give you a quick example. I walked through Children’s Hospital in Omaha not too long ago, and I saw a little baby boy there, below two years of age, with tubes running in and out of his body—clearly very, very sick. I asked the nurse about him, and she said, “I want to thank you for asking about him. He will die before he is 2 years of age, but the worst part is that his mother died in childbirth and his father’s in the penitentiary. Nobody comes; nobody asks about him much, and he lays there. You’re one of the first to even ask about him.” I walked out of the hospital that day thanking God that my two children are well and that it wasn’t my baby. Then it seemed like out of the very atmosphere around me, God said, “Yeah, that is your baby.”

If you’re a servant, the world you see and touch is yours. How often do the Scriptures say of Christ, “He was moved with compassion”? That mind of the servant becomes our mind.

u I was coming back from Ridgecrest a few years ago, and there had been three thousand students or so. They show up everywhere—in your bath, in your shower—for a whole week. Finally you’re on the plane, and you think, “O Lord, thank you that I’m moving away from this place.” And because the Bible is the last desperate defense, you pull it up around your face. When you have your Bible around your face, everybody will leave you alone. It’s a frightening specter. Even the stewardess won’t ask you if you want peanuts. I said to the Lord, “Lord, please, I just want to be alone for two or three hours before I get back to Omaha.”

I became aware of a young man crying in the seat beside me. He looked like a student, 19 or 20 years of age, and again I said, “Lord, he’s not mine. My sinners are all on the ground in Omaha.” He kept crying, and finally I put down my Bible and I said, “Son, I don’t know what the matter is, but if there’s anything I can help you with, I’d like to.”

He told me that his mother and his father and his little sister had all three been killed in a car accident in Asheville, North Carolina, the day before on vacation. Suddenly, my heart grew very still and silent. Then I felt the pain, or tried to. I turned to him and said, “I don’t know what you must be feeling. I can’t imagine this, but I know Someone who understands it perfectly.” I took the Bible behind which I’d been hiding and shared with him about Jesus Christ and was able to lead him to Christ in the air.

But it was not my last act. I got off the plane there, and I called someone I knew and asked him to meet him at the plane where he was going to be landing. He needed help that day.”

You see, the world is mine. I can’t brush off somebody because I happen to sit by him and don’t know him. Yes, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” If he is a servant, then we are servants. If we are servants, what changes do we have to make in order that we too might have this mind which was also in Christ? Or do we want to go to all that trouble? (and for some of us it’s a lot bigger job than it is for others). Even for he best of us, it’s a pretty big job. So I ask the question again, is it worth all the trouble? I hope that each of you will join me in agreeing that yes, it is worth whatever it takes! It takes three things:

                Willingness to change

                Willingness to accept the unknown

Willingness to put others first

Let me reread Philippians 2:1-5, the first part of our Scripture passage for today:

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

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