A Radical Concept to Change the World
PhD, Director, Public Campus Ministries, Michigan Conference
Author, Not for Sale
Great minds discuss ideas;
Average minds discuss events;
Small minds discuss people.
−Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of Franklin D. Roosevelt (1884-1962), 32nd US President
Should we really be out of our minds? Yes—that’s what the Bible says! We must have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), and, in order to have His mind, we must first be out of our minds. This radical concept holds the key to total surrender, true faith, victorious Christian living, and authentic biblical spirituality and lifestyle. It is also the secret to change the church—and the world.
The concept of being out of your mind is so deep that it merits an entire series of seminars at this year’s meeting of young people at GYC.a
But why should we focus on the mind? Why should we be out of our minds? And what are the indicators that we are truly out of our minds? You’ll find the answers during my seminar—one of the nineteen seminar tracks at this year’s GYC convention. However, in the spirit of goodwill that attends the Christmas season, I’ll summarize my answer in this article.
The Mind: The Measure of a Person
John D. Snider is the author of the classic volume I Love Booksb a work that is a must read for every serious person who strives for excellence. In one of the chapters, Snider begins with this insightful sentence:
“It is not how tall a man is or how much he weighs that counts in life, but how much he knows, what he can do, and how good a mind he has” (emphasis supplied).
I underscore the last phrase—“how good a mind he has.” To illustrate the point that the mind—not the stature—is the true measure of a person, Snider recounts a story from the life of Isaac Watts, a man of very little stature. Isaac Watts, you may know, was one of the three greatest hymn-writers in the English language. The other two were Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby.
Judging from the sheer volume and quality of hymns Watts wrote, very few would have known that he was, indeed, a very little man. Even the Queen of England at that time, who had been desirous to meet this great man, didn’t know of Watts’s little stature.
One day, when Watts was ushered into the presence of Queen Anne, the queen was so surprised to see such a little man that she exclaimed, “Is this the great little Doctor Watts!”
Now, from early childhood, Watts had been able to put into rhyme a good share of his everyday conversation. So without embarrassment, he answered the queen:
“Were I so tall to reach the pole,
Or grasp the ocean with my span,
I must be measured by my soul:
The mind’s the standard of the man.”
Isaac Watts was right. The mind is the true measure of a person. No wonder the Bible makes so many references to the mind.
A quick search for the word “mind” in your Bible concordance will reveal many interesting facts and descriptions of mind. For example, we read about “readiness of mind,” “humility of mind,” “lowliness/humbleness of mind,” “ sameness/oneness of mind,” and others. The Bible also describes a person as possessing either “doubtful mind,” “right mind,” “reprobate mind,” “carnal/fleshly mind,” “spiritual mind,” “willing mind,” “fervent mind,” “renewed mind,” “sound mind,” etc.
The mind must be important to deserve mention so many times. Certainly, in the estimation of God, the mind is the true measure of a man.
Since Jesus Christ is arguably the greatest man who ever lived, it should come as no surprise that the Bible talks about the “mind of Christ” or the “mind of the Lord.”
The apostle Paul asked, “Who has known the mind of the Lord? or who has been His counselor?” (Romans 11:34, NIV, emphasis supplied). The same question is repeated in 1 Corinthians 2:16, where Paul referred to “the mind of the Lord” as “the mind of Christ”: “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (NIV, emphasis supplied).
If we want to know the true measure of Christ, we must know something about His mind. To find out what exactly is this “mind of the Lord”—this “mind of Christ”—we must study Philippians 2:5-8. It is, perhaps, the most profound passage in all Scripture. It is also the most daring.
The Mind of Christ
Philippians 2:5-8 gives us the most beautiful picture in all Scripture of who Jesus really was. It describes His “mind” and, hence, gives us a measure of His greatness. The passage reads:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
There are a couple of points we need to highlight in this passage:
We are to have the “mind of Christ.” When the Bible says “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” it is unquestionably one of the most daring statements in the whole history of the daring of man’s mind. We—human beings—are to have the mind of Christ. We are to think as Christ thinks! We human beings are to think like God!
But is this really possible? Can we actually have the mind of Christ? Yes we can! God will not ask us to do what is impossible. Moreover, the apostle Paul said elsewhere, “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), suggesting that others have been able to have this kind of mind.
We are to be “out of our own minds.” This point may not be obvious at first. But in order to have the mind of Christ—in order to have the mind of Christ in us—we must first be out of our minds. This assertion may sound too radical or even outrageous.
Think a little carefully about the question: Why would someone say you are out of your mind? I can think of at least four major reasons:
- You are indeed crazy! That is, the wires of your mind have gone wacky. You’ve lost your mind or your mind is out of control, either because of the influence of some chemicals, drugs, demons, even a delusional relationship, or some unexplainable reason. Either way, you are out of your mind!
- You’ve done something out of character. You are by nature not expected to do certain things, and you just did one of them. So, you’re out of your mind.
- You’ve done something out of line with society. A person who is counter-cultural is considered out of his mind.
- Or all of the above!
So, what does the Bible mean when it says we should be “out of our minds” by having the mind of Christ in us? It simply means we should think or do things in a manner that is out of sync with our own nature or societal tendencies in such a manner that an average person might think we are crazy.
We are to have a different “mindset.” When the Bible invites us to have the mind of Christ—to be out of our own mind—it simply means we are to think the way Christ did. We are to have the same mindset as Jesus. (Dictionaries define mindset as “a set of beliefs or a way of thinking that determines somebody’s behavior and outlook.”)
In the original language of the New Testament, there are two major word groups that are often translated “mind.” Though the two words essentially mean the same things, there is a slight difference between them.
The first word for “mind” is nous (from which we get our English word “noetic”). Generally speaking, nous denotes the “seat of reflective consciousness.” It has to do with the faculties of perception (knowing) and the seat of understanding, feeling, judging, and determining.c Nous refers to the whole mental apparatus.
But nous is not the word Paul used in Philippians 2. Instead, the apostle chose a different word for “mind.” He chose cognates of the Greek word phronema, a word that denotes what one has in the mind; it has to do with the thought (the content of the process expressed in phroneo). It means to think, to be minded in a certain way, or to bear in mind. It implies moral interest or reflection, not mere unreasoning opinion.d
In short, when Paul said, “Let this mind be in you,” he basically said, “Think this way; have a certain mindset.” Specifically, think as Christ thought. We are to consider ideas and make judgments, or to “exercise the mind” just as our Lord did. We are to have the same mindset or outlook as Jesus had.
The question we’re going to answer is: What kind of mindset is the “mind of Christ”? As we shall discover in the next section, this “mindset” of Christ is so counter-cultural and counter our self-interests that people may think we’re crazy.
We are to have a mind transplant. To be “out of our minds” in order to have the mind of Christ implies something is wrong with our current mindset, and this malady requires that we undergo a surgical operation—a mind transplant!
The problem with our mind is the same as the Philippians’ problem: they were not living in “one accord” (Philippians 2:2); they were doing things “through selfish ambition or conceit” (v. 3), and each was looking out “for his own interests” instead of “for the interests of others” (v. 4). This mindset needed to be replaced by Christ’s mindset (v. 5).
Notice also that the passage says in verse 5, “let this mind be in you,” meaning allow someone to do it for you. The mind-replacement surgery must be done by someone. No surgeon can perform surgery on their own brains. Someone must do it for them. So in the Bible, the whole concept of mind-transplant—the Bible calls it the “renewing of the mind”—is an operation carried out by the Holy Spirit. (See Romans 12:2; Titus 3:3-5.) The Spirit renews the mind. It is first and decisively His work. We are radically dependent on Him, for we cannot fix our “mind” problem on our own.
Our New Mind: The Mindset of Christ
When Paul encouraged the Philippian Christians to be “out of their minds” and “into Christ’s mind,” the implication was that something was wrong with their minds, and that the cure to this mind-problem was the mindset of our Lord Jesus Christ—His attitude of mind, His way of thinking, or His outlook on life.
What exactly is the nature of this new mindset?
The answer can be found by studying the Philippians 2 passage. But first, notice how often the word “mind” appears in the first five verses. In verse 2, we are to be “likeminded,” and again we are to be “of one mind.” In verse 3, our actions are to be carried out “in lowliness of mind.” And in verse 5, we are to posses the “mind” which was in Christ Jesus.
The passage under consideration offers the most beautiful picture in all Scripture of who Christ really was and the mindset that characterized His life. Let’s explore “the measure” of Christ a little more:
The Identity of Christ: Fully God and Fully Man. To understand the mind of Christ, we must first know the identity of Christ. Before He appeared in this world, Jesus was 100 percent God. He was fully God. The apostle Paul used two Greek words in Philippians 2:6 to emphasize the fact that Jesus was fully God:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”First, the word rendered “being” (huparchon) means innate, essence, or “being originally.” It describes the unchangeable characteristic of a person or essence of a thing or person. “Being” denotes that which is from the beginning—that is, a prior existence. In reference to Christ, the word “being” refers to the pre-incarnate deity of Christ which continued, even when He became a human being.
Second, Paul used the word “form” (morphe) twice in this passage—in verse 6, “form of God;” and verse 7, “form of a servant.” Whereas, in our common English usage, the word “form” seems to suggest the idea of shape, which is not the sense in which the word is used in Philippians 2. Instead, the word is used in its philosophic sense to express an essential attribute—that which is by nature the essence of a thing. It describes the unchangeable character of a thing.
In the context of Christ’s incarnation, the words “being” (huparchon) and “form”(morphe) express the fact that Christ was 100 percent God and, when He assumed the role of a servant, He was also 100 percent human.
Thus, when Paul said that Christ Jesus, being first in the form of God, took the form of a servant, it means that though Christ possessed originally the essential attributes of God, He assumed, in addition, the essential attributes of humanity. He was truly God, and He became truly human. Though He was divine by nature, He became human. Paul, therefore, affirmed that before He became human, Christ possessed the fullness of God; He was fully divine. This is also what the apostle John taught in John 1:1-14 concerning the preexistent Word.
How did Christ as fully God and fully Man live His life when He came to this earth? The answer to this question reveals the true “mind of Christ.”
The Mindset of Christ: He “Emptied Himself.” The second step to understanding the “mind of Christ” is clearly grasping the meaning of His self-emptying act when He became human.
Philippians 2:7 says, “He made himself of no reputation,” or “He emptied Himself” (RSV). This profound act of Christ has given rise to all kinds of questions, including questions about His full divinity. Could it be, it is often asked, that He was in some way less than God?
The Greek word is the verb kenõo (from which we get the noun kenosis). The word seems to suggest that Christ at His incarnation “emptied Himself” (RSV) of something. Other English translations render it He “made himself of no reputation” (KJV), “stripped Himself of all privilege” (Phillips) “made himself nothing” (NIV), or “laid aside his mighty power and glory” (LB).
What exactly do these expressions mean? When Christ “emptied Himself,” or “laid aside His mighty power and glory,” did He have less power on earth than when He was in heaven? Did He empty Himself of some or all of His divine attributes?
Based on this word keno, and the fact that in certain passages of Scripture, Christ is said not to be able to know or do certain things on His own (e.g., Matthew 24:36; John 5:19, 30; 6:38; 8:28, 29), some have mistakenly concluded that at the time our Lord became human, He “emptied Himself of” or renounced certain elements of His divine abilities, such as His omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, retaining only the “moral” ones (justice, holiness, truthfulness, love). This view is technically known as the kenotic theory or the kenotic Christology, after the Greek work kenõo or kenosis (translated, “emptying Himself” in RSV and NJB).
But the kenotic notion that Christ at His incarnation “emptied Himself” of His “omni-” attributes is not biblical, for it makes Jesus partly God—not God Himself (see endnote).e However, the evidence from Scripture is that Christ was NOT devoid of divine knowledge, power, or movement, but rather that He exercised these abilities intermittently although most of the time He chose not to do so.
That is, the deity of Christ was not relinquished nor reduced at His incarnation, or as Ellen G. White wrote, “Divinity was not degraded to humanity.”f Though retaining all His divine abilities, Christ voluntarily restrained the exercise of these divine capacities, choosing to do so only when the Father permitted Him.
The Costly Choice of Christ: Total Surrender. The mind (mindset) of Christ is revealed in the costly choice of total surrender when He became a human being. It is here that we find the true biblical meaning of Christ’s “emptying Himself” (kenosis).
The Greek word translated in the King James Version (KJV) as “made Himself of no reputation” (KJV) or “emptied Himself” (RSV) is the word kenõo. It means “to make null and void,” “to make of no effect,” “to empty of power.”g Thus used, the verb kenõo is a very strong word to express the entireness of Christ’s self-renunciation. It denotes total surrender of Himself as God when he took the “form” [nature] of man at His incarnation.
When Paul said Jesus “emptied Himself” (RSV) or “made Himself of no reputation” (KJV), the apostle simply said that although Christ possessed the full capabilities as God, at His incarnation our Lord totally surrendered His right to independently exercise these abilities unless permitted by the Father.
Stated differently, the expression, “emptying Himself” simply means a voluntary restraint of His power in submission to the Father’s will. Christ did not shed any aspect of His deity when He took upon Himself human flesh. He was 100 percent God, for “in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). As such, He possessed all the omni-attributes as God.
Therefore, the “emptying of Himself,” the real kenosis, must be understood not as a reduction of Christ’s deity at His incarnation but rather as a laying aside of the glory, majesty, and power that He had before the world was created (John 17:5) by a voluntary restraint of divine power. He surrendered His right to independently exercise His divine powers by submitting to God’s will. The New Living Translation correctly captures this idea when it states, “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (Philippians 2:6).
Christ had with Him at all times His divine power, knowledge, ability to move instantaneously, etc. He could have used them if he wished, but He chose not to independently use them without the Father’s permission. He totally surrendered to the Father’s will.
Illustration 1: Let me illustrate this fact with two sons who go to their father with a request:
First Son: “Daddy, can you give me $50 to use?”
Second Son: “Daddy, can I use my own $50 that I have in my pocket?”
Both sons rely on the father. They both seek to submit to their father, but there is a difference in the nature of their dependence upon the father. The first kind of dependence illustrates the reliance all human beings are expected to place upon God. We don’t have the ability, wisdom, power, or resources to go it alone in life. We need the Father’s help.
In contrast, the second type of reliance illustrates Christ’s dependence on God. Though He had all the resources, He consciously chose to depend upon His Father for the exercise of them. He surrendered His rights! Though fully God, He lived a life as totally dependent on the Father as any other human being should live. He lived as though He had no $50.
It may be asked: Since He didn’t independently use the $50 without His Father’s permission, why didn’t He just store it in heaven before coming here? The answer is: If He had done so at His incarnation—if He had renounced His “omni” attributes—He would have ceased to be fully God. So, He kept the $50 with Him (remained fully God), but He chose not to use it (as fully Man). Christ’s conscious choice not to depend on Himself—though He was capable of doing so—but fully upon the Father is the true meaning of the self-emptying act of Christ.
All human beings—including prophets—depend on God for their knowledge of certain things and for power to do certain feats or miracles. But Jesus had these abilities in Himself even while on earth. He could exercise them on His own accord, but He voluntarily chose not to do so—unless the Father gave Him permission.
We can account for the voluntary restraint of Christ by the fact that when He became human, Jesus consciously chose to be totally submitted to His Father’s will. He was not independent of the Father. He was wholly dependent on the Father’s direction in everything that He thought and did. He Himself said:
- “The Son can do nothing of himself”; “I can of my own self do nothing” (John 5:19, 30).
- “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).
- “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. . . . for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28, 29).
- In the Garden of Gethsemane, He prayed: “Not my will, but your will be done” (Matthew 26:53ff).
He consciously chose not to exercise His divine power to relieve His pain—unless the Father permitted it (Luke 22:43, 44).
Our Lord Jesus Christ is the only human who totally and completely submitted Himself to the will of God. The apostle Paul recorded the words of Christ: “I came to do Thy will, O God” (Hebrews 10:7). He who was the Lawgiver had to learn obedience. He who instructed the Bible writers had to learn from human instructors. He who possessed all power chose not to exercise it. Ponder over the following insightful statements:
He who had been the commander of heaven was a willing servant, a loving, obedient son. He learned a trade, and with His own hands worked in the carpenter’s shop with Joseph.h
The child Jesus did not receive instruction in the synagogue schools. His mother was His first human teacher. From her lips and from the scrolls of the prophets, He learned of heavenly things. The very words which He Himself had spoken to Moses for Israel He was now taught at His mother’s knee (emphasis supplied).i
The omnipotent God was now a dependent child. The Lawgiver at Sinai learned the painful lessons of obedience: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Hebrews 5:7-8, emphasis suupplied).
He [Christ] did not employ His divine power to lessen His burdens or lighten His toil. He had taken upon Himself the form of humanity with all its attendant ills, and He flinched not from its severest trials (emphasis supplied).j
“He might have helped His human nature to withstand the inroads of disease by pouring from His divine nature vitality and undecaying vigor to the human. But He humbled Himself to man’s nature. . . . What humility was this! It amazed angels. The tongue can never describe it; the imagination cannot take it in. The eternal Word consented to be made flesh! God became man! It was a wonderful humility” (emphasis supplied).k
Christ’s reliance was so complete that He became, as it were, a slave of the Father.l The dictionary defines a slave as “a person who is wholly subject to the will of another; one who has no will of his own, but whose person and services are wholly under the control of another.” As a true servant, Jesus totally surrendered everything to God—His will, His power, knowledge, movement—everything. It was a total self-renunciation.
Christ, therefore, spoke the truth when He said no one, including Himself, knew the day of His coming (Matthew 24:36)—He consciously chose not to know anything unless His Father revealed it to Him. Whatever Jesus did, He did solely in reliance on the Father. This is the same kind of dependence expected of all human beings. The only major difference between Christ and us is that He had the capacity to know and to do; we don’t.
In the total submission of Christ to the Father, we understand the intensity of His trials and temptations and His incredible humility.
Tempted Like No Other
This idea (mindset) of Christ to voluntarily restrain Himself from exercising His own independent thoughts, actions, and movements apart from the Father was the greatest trial that He faced. Indeed, inasmuch as Jesus always retained His attributes as God, His decision to totally rely on the Father made His temptations far greater than any we human beings would ever face. Let me explain.
Some have suggested that, perhaps, Jesus had an advantage over us in that He did not face our specific temptations—say on watching TV, marriage, child raising, etc.—or that as God, He had inherent power to overcome His temptations, which we human beings don’t have. These suggestions, however, fail to understand the nature of temptation and the full meaning of Christ’s “self-emptying” act.
While one person’s specific temptation may be different from another’s, there is one thing common to them all. It is this: every temptation demands people to make a decision whether or not to act independently of God, by relying on themselves rather than on God.
Temptation is an attempt to entice us to live independently of God. It is in this respect that Christ “was in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). Whereas, Jesus was also tempted to act independently of the Father, there is a major difference between His temptations and ours. Unlike every other human being, Jesus, as fully God, possessed all the resources and abilities that could make Him act independently—that is, without His relying on His Father. He had His own $50 in His pocket (using the illustration of the two sons).
For example, when Satan tempted him saying, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread,” the root of the temptation was to cause Christ to use His own resources independently of the Father. He was no doubt the “Son of God” (or God the Son, as classical theology is in the habit of saying it). He was fully divine. He had not relinquished any of His “omni-” abilities. He was, therefore, capable of actually turning stones into bread. He could have fulfilled His needs by an act of His own will. However, Jesus refused to do so because He submitted fully to the will of God.
Perhaps another illustration will clarify this point.
Illustration 2: Two drivers proceed along a highway that has a speed limit of 75 mph. One of them is driving a Yugo or Kia with a maximum speed of, say, 60 mph. The other has a Mercedes or Volvo whose maximum speed is, say, 150 mph. Of these two drivers, which has the greater temptation to drive at or above the 75 mph speed limit?
It is obvious that the one driving the Mercedes or Volvo has a greater temptation than the Yugo or Kia driver. Unlike the latter, the Mercedes driver has the ability to drive at or even exceed the speed limit. Such was the nature of Christ’s temptation when He voluntarily chose to restrain the exercise of His divine power!
The thrust of all Satan’s temptations was to cause Christ to independently use His divine powers without God’s permission. The most painful experience Christ faced was the provocation He faced daily to act independently of the Father.
Satan thought that by his temptations he could delude the world’s Redeemer to make one bold move in manifesting His divine power.m
Christ was put to the closest test, requiring the strength of all His faculties to resist the inclination when in danger, to use His power to deliver Himself from peril, and triumph over the power of the prince of darkness. Satan showed his knowledge of the weak points of the human heart, and put forth his utmost power to take advantage of the weakness of the humanity which Christ had assumed in order to overcome his temptations on man’s account.n
Christ was not just acquainted with power, He was “familiar with absolute power.” It was His by nature. By this power, He commanded the world into existence, and by it He continues to sustain the universe. He had it with Him all the while He was on earth. Yet, He chose not to exercise it without God’s permission.
Think of how painful the temptation was as He was daily tempted to rely on His own wisdom and power.
- Peter rebuked Him—a fallible human being rebuking God!
- Satan asked Him to turn stones to bread.
- People shouted, “He saved others, but can’t save Himself”—when He could actually have done so.
- Herod said, “Don’t you know I have power to set you free and to take your life?” Who had the real power?
- People spat on Him, hit Him, nailed Him to a cross. All these, while angels were waiting for His command to act. On one occasion, He said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:53).
−He Himself could have just pressed His divine button and done whatever He wanted, but He said, “No.”
Reflect on these insightful thoughts:
Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam’s position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us. But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured (emphasis supplied).o
The temptations to which Christ was subjected were a terrible reality. . . . If this were not so, if it had not been possible for Him to fall, He could not have been tempted in all points as the human family is tempted. . . . The temptations of Christ, and His sufferings under them, were proportionate to His exalted, sinless character. . . . Upon the cross Christ knew, as no other can know, the awful power of Satan’s temptations” (emphasis supplied).p
Christ alone had experience in all the sorrows and temptations that befall human beings. Never another of woman born was so fiercely beset by temptation; never another bore so heavy a burden of the world’s sin and pain. Never was there another whose sympathies were so broad or so tender. A sharer in all the experiences of humanity, He could feel not only for, but with, every burdened and tempted and struggling one (emphasis supplied).q
Christ’s self-emptying act made His temptations far greater than any human being’s. He did not have advantage over us. He relied on the Father for His victory—the same way we also can rely on God for victory over temptation.
The point is that Jesus voluntarily restrained His power, preferring rather to submit his divine abilities totally to the direction of His Father. Just as Jesus did not do all that He could have done, because of His voluntary submission to His Father’s will (see Matthew 26:53ff.), so did He not consciously know all that He might have known, but only what the Father willed Him to know.
Christ’s total submission to the Father’s will and His voluntary act of self-restraint in the exercise of His power was not simply the greatest trial He faced but the highest expression of humility, for humility is the act of complete self-denial. He essentially adopted the attitude of a SLAVE, and endured its attending humiliation, even to the point of an ignominious death.
Humility: What It Means to Be Out of Our Minds
He made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:7, 8)
What the apostle Paul is saying is that when Christ condescended to becoming a human being, He surrendered His right to exercise His powers as God, was humiliated as a slave, and was finally murdered in a shameful death.
Observe that Christ’s unreserved obedience to the will of the Father, including the death on the cross, was entirely a voluntary act. He Himself declared, “I lay down my life. . . . No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17, 18). It was He who emptied Himself; He took the form of a man; He humbled Himself. This voluntary submission of Christ to death is the highest expression of humility.
The following are characteristics of true humility. They are also the indicators that we are truly out of our minds.
- Humility is total surrender. In the humility of Christ, we discover the true meaning of the word surrender. Surrender is giving up what we consider most valuable—our ideas, our rights, our independence, our selves. Humility is a choice we make; it is a mindset we adopt.
Humility is total surrender of self. Humility is denying self. Our Lord Jesus Christ did not just give up His glories and riches and the adoration He enjoyed above; He consciously chose to give up Himself–His godly Self. When Christ chose to not independently exercise his prerogatives as God, He was in effect denying His divine Self. For a God who does not exercise His divine powers unless He daily obtains permission from a Source above Him, He has essentially renounced the essence of His own “Godness.” Herein lies the true meaning of self-denial or dying to self.
According to Ellen G. White, Christ’s surrender was so complete that there was “no fiber” of self or selfishness in Him. We are to emulate His example. She wrote:
“All sin is selfishness.”r
“Let selfishness be rooted out of the heart. In the life of Christ there was no fiber of selfishness”s (emphasis supplied).
“No selfishness is of Christ. Selfishness lies at the foundation of all sin.”t
Humility is total dependence upon God. Humility is not simply the total surrender of self. It is the giving up of self by choosing to depend upon God. In the humility of Christ, we learn that true humility means relying wholeheartedly upon God in everything we do, think, say, or even are. It is allowing God to control one’s life completely.
It is a great irony that Jesus, who had power within Him that He could have used, relied constantly upon a Source from above Him. And yet we, who have nothing within us, tend to depend upon what we don’t have. Jesus, as fully God, lived as a man through dependence upon God. And yet we, who are human, try to live as God through our lives of independence from God.
Humility is the total surrender of our rights. In our culture of rights, one of the most difficult things to surrender is our rights—our prerogatives, our legal claims or entitlements, or the things that are due us by law, tradition, or nature. The New Living Translation correctly captures Christ’s spirit of humility when it states: “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (Philippians 2:6).
Jesus did not contend for His rights. Often His work was made unnecessarily severe because He was willing and uncomplaining. Yet He did not fail nor become discouraged. He lived above these difficulties, as if in the light of God’s countenance. He did not retaliate when roughly used, but bore insult patiently.u
Humility is surrendering our right to be in charge. True humility is willingness to serve others, founded upon the willingness to lean totally upon God. When Christ surrendered His rights as God, He simultaneously did something else. Philippians 2:7 tells us that “He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant.”
Humility is being a servant, a slave. In our self-serving culture, greatness is defined by how many people serve you, but in the humility of Christ, we discover that true greatness is measured by how many people we serve. As Ellen White put it: “The only greatness is the greatness of humility. The only distinction is found in devotion to the service of others.”v
- Humility is total and voluntary obedience. Christ’s obedience was voluntary, humiliating, persevering, and total. “The Son of God was surrendered to the Father’s will, and dependent upon His power. So utterly was Christ emptied of self that He made no plans for Himself. He accepted God’s plans for Him, and day by day the Father unfolded His plans. So should we depend upon God, that our lives may be the simple outworking of His will.”w
- Humility is an expression of faith. Christ’s life of total, voluntary obedience to God is also an expression of faith. For faith trusts God, even though it cannot always explain where God is leading, why He permits certain things to happen, when He will intervene, and how He will move things forward. This kind of faith is evidence of a fully surrendered life; it is the foundation of humility.
- Humility is dying to self. True humility is the crucifixion of self, a willingness to die to our self-importance, self-sufficiency, and all other forms of self-confidence. Because self is dead, a truly humble person sees himself as nothing so that Christ can be everything. Self is not easily wounded when its claims are not recognized, nor easily hurt by unkind words and jeopardized ambitions.
- Humility is a way of life. In Christ’s self-emptying act during His incarnation, we find the true meaning of “the spirit of Christ,” which Christians claim to remember whenever they celebrate Christmas. Today, when we speak of the “Christmas spirit,” it is nothing more than frivolity or some sentimental jollity that we pack into one day, supposedly to remember Christ’s birth. But the “Christmas spirit” ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of Him who for our sakes became poor, beginning on the night He was born in Bethlehem’s manger. And that spirit of Christ’s self-denial ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round.
Humility puts our pride to shame. Christ’s humility rebukes all forms of our pride. “When we see Jesus, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief, working to save the lost, slighted, scorned, derided, driven from city to city till His mission was accomplished; when we behold Him in Gethsemane, sweating great drops of blood, and on the cross dying in agony, when we see this, self will no longer clamor to be recognized. Looking unto Jesus, we shall be ashamed of our coldness, our lethargy, our self-seeking. We shall be willing to be anything or nothing, so that we may do heart service for the Master. We shall rejoice to bear the cross after Jesus, to endure trial, shame, or persecution for His dear sake.”x
He who beholds Christ in His self-denial, His lowliness of heart, will be constrained to say, as did Daniel, when he beheld One like the sons of men, ‘My comeliness was turned in me into corruption.’ Daniel 10:8. The independence and self-supremacy in which we glory are seen in their true vileness as tokens of servitude to Satan. Human nature is ever struggling for expression, ready for contest; but he who learns of Christ is emptied of self, of pride, of love of supremacy, and there is silence in the soul. Self is yielded to the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Then we are not anxious to have the highest place. We have no ambition to crowd and elbow ourselves into notice; but we feel that our highest place is at the feet of our Saviour. We look to Jesus, waiting for His hand to lead, listening for His voice to guide.y
Such is the measure of the greatness of Christ. Such is His mindset—totally selfless, even to the point of death! This is the mind we are to posses—an outlook of humility that is so counter-self and counter-cultural that when we live that way, an average person will think we are crazy or out of our minds!
The truth, however, is that we are not average people. We are super-average, for the Holy Spirit has done a supernatural mind-transplant in us, a mind operation that elevates us from the realm of mediocre thinking and lifestyle.
So when the average person asks us, “Are you out of your mind?” We must boldly answer, “Yes!” for we are “out of our selfish minds” and have “Christ’s selfless mind.” Such a radical concept is that which alone can change the world—even as Christ, by the sheer force of His life and teachings, changed the world.
Let’s be out of our minds so we can change our church—and our world!
a GYC, the Generation of Youth for Christ (formerly General Youth Conference), is a grassroots young people’s movement in North America that is radically Bible-based, church-supporting, and mission-driven. This year’s (2008) GYC convention is in San Jose, California, where more than 5,000 youth are expected to attend. The philosophy of GYC is spreading across the globe, as an increasing number of young people are rising up to make a difference in their church and in their world. For more on this movement, check it out at: www.gycweb.org. As mentioned in the GYC program, this seminar is not for those who are settling for mediocrity. Rather, it is only for only those who want to be Adventisque—that is, radically biblical, intelligent, classy, and gutsy Adventists. Such young people are the ones who can change the world.
b John D. Snider, I Love Books: Why, What, How and When We Should Read, (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1942), 65.
c Let’s summarize: (a) Mind (nous) denotes the faculties of perception (knowing) and seat of understanding—Luke 24:45; Romans 1:28; 14:5; 1 Corinthians 14:15, 19; Ephesians 4:17; Philippians 4:7; Colossians 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:5; 2 Timothy 3:8; Titus1:15; Revelation 13:18; 17:9; (b) Mind denotes counsels and purpose—Romans 11:34 (of the mind of God = counsels and purpose of God)−Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:16; Ephesians 4:23, 2 Thessalonians 2:2 [mind = the determination to be steadfast amidst afflictions]; (c) Mind denotes the new nature, which belongs to the believer by reason of the new birth Romans 7:23-25—where it is contrasted with “the flesh”—the principle of evil which dominates the man. (Vine, Expository Dictionary of NT Words).
d Cognates of this second Greek word phroneo are used frequently in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. For example: Philippians 1:7 = “to think this” (KJV) or “to be (thus) minded” (RSV); Philippians 2:2a = “being likeminded” (KJV) or “to be of (the same) mind (RSV), and 2:2b “being of one mind”; literally translated as: “minding (the one thing)”; Philippians 2:3 = “humility of mind”; Philippians 2:5 = “let this mind be”; lit. “mind this”; Philippians 3:15 = “have this mind”; Philippians 3:19 = “set (their) mind on”; Philippians 4:2 = “be of the same mind.”
e The view that Christ shed some aspects of His deity (the so-called kenotic theory) cannot be sustained biblically. (1) If the kenosis (the “self-emptying” act of Christ) meant that at His incarnation Jesus totally or partially abandoned or abdicated Himself of His divine attributes or prerogatives, then at best, He was partly God. As partly God, He couldn’t fulfill His mission of fully revealing the Father (cf. John 1:14, 18). (2) The Bible negates this kenotic notion when it teaches that “in Him dwelt all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). He was completely God. It was “God who became flesh,” nothing less. (3) The Bible teaches that God cannot change: “I am the Lord, I change not” (Malachi 3:6; cf. Hebrews 13:8). If accepted, the kenotic theory would also seriously undermine the doctrine of the Trinity; for at one point in time, one of the members of the Godhead ceased to be God. (4) While the New Testament sometimes gives the impression that Jesus’ knowledge of things both human and divine was sometimes limited (cf. Matthew 24:36; John 5:19; 8:28-29), the New Testament is clear and emphatic that even in His humanity, Christ sometimes displayed qualities that only deity can possess (e.g, forgives sin, accepts worship, reads human thoughts, and secret purposes, etc.). Christ remained fully God, even as He was fully Man. He didn’t lose any of His “omni” attributes.
f Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 1, (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1958), 408, 409.
g Note that Paul uses this word four times in His writings to suggest that the faith, the cross, or his boasting can be “emptied” (Romans 4:14; 1 Corinthians 1:17; 9:15; 2 Corinthians 9:3).
h Ellen G. White, Child Guidance (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1954), 20.
i Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Oakland CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1898), 70.
j Child Guidance, 346.
k Compilation. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1956), 1127.
l Christ thus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy about Him as a the “servant of the Lord” (see for example, Isaiah 52:13-53:12). His example calls upon us to surrender our ease, rank, reputation, and even our life for the good of others.
m Compilation. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 7 (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1957), 929.
n Ellen G. White, “The Temptation of Christ,” The Review and Herald (April 1, 1875).
o Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1898), 117.
p Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, Book 3, (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1980), 131-132.
q Ellen G. White, Education (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1903), 78.
r Ellen G. White, “Words of Admonition,” The Workers’ Bulletin (September 9, 1902).
s Ellen G. White, “Exposing of the Brethren’s Mistakes Reproved,” Review & Herald (November 30, 1897).
t Ellen G. White, “Victory Over Temptation,” Signs of the Times (April 11, 1900).
u Desire of Ages, 89.
v Ibid., 650.
w Ibid., 208.
x Ibid., 439-440.
y Ellen G. White, Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing (Battle Creek, MI: International Tract Society, 1896), 15.
When we bring our lives to complete obedience to the law of God, regarding God as our supreme Guide, the clinging to Christ as our hope of righteousness, God will work in our behalf. This is a righteousness of faith, a righteousness hidden in a mystery of which the worldling knows nothing, and which he cannot understand.
—Sons and Daughters of God, p. 66; 7MR, p. 357