Philippians 2:5-11 (Palm Sunday—Series B)
“Having the Mindset of God”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
March 29, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Epistle lesson recorded in Philippians 2:
Have this mindset among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death, even the death of the cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
What is your mindset? According to Dictionary.com it is your “attitude, disposition, or mood; an intention or inclination.” Your mindset is your modus operandi, your typical way of operating and going about things. In our Epistle lesson on this Palm Sunday, St. Paul, writing the Word of God to the Philippians, and to us, gives us the command that we are to have the mindset of Christ. “Have this mindset among yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped.”
Alright, so what does this mean? We are to operate as Christians with the very mindset of God. Jesus Christ is true God, begotten from all eternity. There has never been a moment when Jesus was not God. There has never existed, nor will there ever exist, a moment when Jesus is not completely and fully “God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God.” That’s what it means for Christ to be “in the form of God.” It means to be equal with God, to be true God, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit. As we confess with the Christian Church in the Athanasian Creed, “In this Trinity none is before or after another; none is greater or less than another; but the whole three persons are coeternal with each other and coequal.” It follows, then, that to have the mindset of Christ means to have the very mindset of God. And what is that?
Paul explains. Christ, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men.” The mindset of God revealed to us in Jesus is one of lavish love. Being in the form of God as He was, Christ did not consider it a matter of seizing upon His divinity to His own advantage, but He emptied Himself. In other words, Jesus, true God, became flesh and dwelt among sinful humanity. He never ceased being true God when He became fully human. But He also didn’t act like the gods and lords the Philippians, or anybody else, were used to. Jesus didn’t act like a grasping or seizing deity or even an earthly ruler solidifying his lordly power. Quite the contrary. In His incarnation, Jesus demonstrated the essential quality of what it means to be a slave, what it means to serve with humility, what it means to consider one another better than yourself.
This is the mindset of God. Christ doesn’t seek His own advantage, but ours. He loves us sinners more than Himself. “For God loved the word this way, that He gave the One-of-a-Kind Son, in order that all who believe in Him should not perish but should have eternal life.” (John 3:16) God the Father sent God the Son, who set aside the divine glory of being true God, in order to clothe Himself in human flesh and blood, becoming a slave, a person without advantage, with no rights or privileges, in order to live in servanthood to sinful humanity. The mindset of God, then, is to pour oneself out for the sake of others and to do so by taking the role of a slave. Having the mindset of God means taking the role of the slave for the sake of others. But we don’t always do so.
By nature, we don’t have the mindset of God. This was lost when Adam and Eve sinned and ate the fruit of the tree that God had commanded them not to eat. As descendants of Adam and Eve, we have inherited original sin. We are, by nature, sinful and unclean. We are, by nature, wicked and corrupt. By nature, we are greedy, selfish and self-centered. Given the opportunity to take care of yourself first or to take care of another human being, which would you choose? In our self-piety here in church we would likely all say, “I’ll take care of the other person’s needs before my own.” Really? Is that always your first thought? More likely, “Let me make sure I’m all set and taken care of and then, if I have left-overs, I’ll help someone else.” But God says to have His mindset! God says to demonstrate crazy, lavish love to others. God says to count other people more important than yourself!
That’s not who we are by nature, is it? If you are going to ride into the city and receive the acclamation of your peers, do you choose the white stallion or the donkey? Do you choose the God-like glory or the humble state of the slave? As sinners, we know what we would choose. We want the glory! We want the white stallion! We want the power! We want to be served, and not have to serve.
How, then, can we change this so that we are able to have the mindset of God? Well, we cannot change things. We cannot break away from our sinful selfishness and self-centeredness. You and I are slaves to sin, held in sin’s chains, and always inclined to serve our self. So God, out of His great, lavish love for us selfish sinners, sent forth His Son to serve us. God the Father counted us of more value than His only Son, so that Jesus took upon Himself the form of a slave and became obedient to death, even the death of a cross. God in His love for you and me expressed His love in self-sacrifice—cruel, humiliating death on a cross—for the sake of those He loves. Jesus poured Himself out in sacrificial love for you by taking the lowest place, the role of the slave that was yours, and setting you free.
Jesus was a slave not because He had to be, but because He chose to be—for you! In His living, Christ bound Himself to a life of obedience and serving, putting others first. In His dying, Jesus “chained” Himself to the slave market of the cross where He died the death of a slave. He purchased your freedom with His precious blood shed for you. You are forgiven. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, became a slave to sin and death on the cross so that you might become free from sin and live eternally.
And live we shall—not only eternally at the resurrection at the Last Day, but now, in the new life we have been given though Baptism. We are not freed from sin to do whatever we like, but rather, forgiven from sin through the blood-bought forgiveness of Jesus, we are freed to serve others as Christ served us. We are freed from sin in order that we may have the mindset of God.
God the Holy Spirit is in the process of recreating us in God’s image. As those who are Baptized into Christ Jesus, you and I are called upon not simply to “imitate God” by what we do, but to have the mindset of God developed in us by the Holy Spirit so that we too bear God’s image in our attitudes and relationships within the Church and beyond. The Holy Spirit, working through the Gospel in Word and Sacrament, “calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith.” The Holy Spirit creates in us by the Gospel this new mindset of God in Christ. As the Spirit sanctifies us, makes us holy through Word, Baptism, and Supper, you and I are truly able to do “nothing out of rivalry or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:3 CSB) We are able to look out for the interests of others by the power of the Spirit at work in and through us.
St. Paul encourages us in having God’s mindset in the life of faith as we read in Colossians 3, “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. . . . So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col 3:1-2, 12-14 NAU)
By the lavish love of God, you and I are gifted the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself to death for us. By the unrestrained love of God in Christ, the Holy Spirit, through the Means of Grace, recreates within us the very mindset of God, so that we do serve others in humility as Christ Jesus first served us. As Pastor Martin Luther preached on a Palm Sunday so many centuries ago, “You are Christians; you have Christ, and in Him and through Him all fullness of comfort for time and eternity: therefore nothing should appeal to your thought, your judgment, your pleasure, but that which was in the mind of Christ concerning you as the source of your welfare. For His motive throughout was not His own advantage; everything He did was done for your sake and in your interest. Let [us] therefore, in accord with His example, work every good thing for one another’s benefit.” (Sermons of Martin Luther, Vol. 7, 170) Amen.