Whatever Happens, Cultivate the Mind of Christ

Philippians 2:5-11

Introduction: Opinions! Everybody has them. We all have a lot of opinions; and we have a lot of opinions about a lot of things. We’re never had more ways of sharing them. This is the age of opinions—eight billion people sharing trillions of opinions in trillions of ways.

Most of them are wrong. Just because someone is sincere, thoughtful, and intelligent—it doesn’t mean their opinion is correct. Only one person thinks correctly about every issue all the time—infallibly, unfailingly.

In Isaiah 55, the Lord God Almighty said:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The omniscience of God and the truthfulness of God merge together with infinite brilliance. God knows everything, and everything He thinks is true. Every word He speaks is true. There are no mistakes in His thinking and no confusion in His mind. And He has revealed His thoughts to us in this Book.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Only by taking this Book in our hands and studying it and pondering it and meditating on its verses can we begin to see things the way God sees them and understand the world as God does. Only as we understand love and life and relationships as God does can we have love and life and relationships that are healthy and whole. 

Scripture: There is a New Testament phrase for this—the mind of Christ. It’s found in one of the most glorious and critical passages in the writings of the apostle Paul. In the last message we started Philippians 2, which says:

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in 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 of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…

The word mind is the Greek word phroneo, and it occurs several times in this letter to the Philippians. For example, in chapter 3, verse 15, Paul said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things.” The phrase “view of things” is the exact same word as “mind” in Philippians 2:5. Wisdom is viewing things from God’s point of view, thinking about things the way Christ does. And that’s true in all our relationships with one another. We should think of one another the way Jesus thinks of us—and what He thinks of us is revealed in the history of His life, in the story of what He has done.

And now, Paul is going to give us four great phases of the life of Jesus Christ to demonstrate how Christ modeled love for us. 

1. Christ’s Preexistence 

 who, being in the form of God…

According to this declarative verse, Jesus Christ, the Stranger of Galilee, was, is, and always will be, in His very nature, God. He is God Himself. The word “nature” is the Greek term morphe, from which we get our word morphology, a branch of biology devoted to the essential nature of living beings. 

According to Philippians 2:6, Jesus is, in His very nature, in His essential being, the almighty, eternal God. 

This is why I’m bemused when people say, “The notion of the deity of Christ was invented by the Council of Nicaea in AD 325.” But here in Philippians, 250 years before the Council of Nicaea, Paul described Jesus as being in very nature –morphe – of God. The teaching of the deity of Jesus Christ cascades like a massive system of waterfalls, flooding the Bible. The entire message of the Bible depends on it. 

2. Christ’s Incarnation

…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.

Here again the word “form” is the Greek word morphe. Jesus didn’t just come in the form of a man. He became a man. He became human. 

  • Verse 6b: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage. There it is again—the deity of Christ. He possessed equality with God. He was equal with God. In His essence, His nature, His eternal attributes, He was equal with God. But, in His infinite love and humility, He did not take undue advantage of His position. He didn’t want His God-nature to keep Him from doing something redemptive. He didn’t want the glory of His throne to keep Him from the duty of His mission.
  • Verse 7: Rather, He made Himself nothing…. No one fully understands this. The word “nothing” is the Greek word kenosis. This passage is known among Bible scholars as “The Kenosis Passage.” The Bible says He emptied Himself. That is, He stripped off the prerogatives and privileges of His glorious throne. He stepped away from His throne to enter human history. There is no evidence Jesus stopped being God, and, indeed, that would appear a rational impossibility. God cannot stop being God. But He emptied Himself of His privileges and prerogatives, and He stepped down from the eternal throne in heaven to enter human history through the womb of a virgin. He did not empty Himself of His deity, but of His glory.
  • Verse 7: …taking the very nature of a servant. Notice that word again—nature. Morphe. He possesses the nature of God, but He took upon Himself the nature of a servant. He has always possessed His divine nature, but now He has added to it. He has taken on something new. He has also assumed a new nature. According to Philippians 2, Jesus now has two natures. You and I only have one nature. We only have one substance, one essence of who we are. We are humans. We are not humans and insects. We are not humans and angels. But Jesus, in very nature God, also took upon Himself the nature of a servant. The word servant is doulos, which means slave. How?
  • Verse 7: …being made in human likeness. In other words, He became a human being. He did not simply become a God who appeared in a human body. He actually became a human person with a human body. There are two great incompressible mysteries at the heart of Christianity: (1) The Trinity—One God in Three Persons; and (2) The Duality—One Man with Two Natures. We can explain it to a point. But beyond that point, it boggles our minds, as it should. A God small enough to be understood is not big enough to be worshiped. 

He left His Father’s Throne above,

So free, so infinite His grace,

Emptied Himself of all but love,

And died for Adam’s helpless race,

This mercy all—immense and free,

For lo, my God, it found out me.

3. Christ’s Crucifixion

 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. 

The cross was the most repulsive form of execution ever invented. From the heavenly throne to the anguishing cross—not one has ever made a journey like that, no one but Jesus. But He did it for you and me! Why? God created us in His image to live with Him forever. Our personal failures separate us from Him. So God Himself, through the Second Person of the Trinity, descended into this world to die for our sins. He offered Himself as a sacrifice to atone for our sins, becoming obedient to death on the cross. 

Back in 2015, there was a politician in Bolivia who wanted to run for the mayor of his town. His name was Edwin Tupa, and he was a former national congressman. Well, there was a law banning national politicians from running in local races, and that frustrated Edwin Tupa so much that he staged a hunger strike. When that didn’t work, he did the most dramatic thing you can imagine. He said he was going to let himself be crucified in front of the Electoral Tribunal Building in La Paz. The news media gathered and so did a large crowd. Tupa stretched himself out on a cross, but the crucifixion didn’t get very far. As soon as one 12-inch nail was hammered through his right hand, he screamed in intense pain and begged his supporters to stop. He passed out, and it took paramedics ten minutes to remove the nail from his hand

4. Christ’s Exaltation 

Verse 9: Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Back in verse 7, Paul referred to Christ as taking on the form of a doulos—a servant. The word “Lord” is the Greek term Kurios. Jesus is both doulos and Kurios. He is our Servant-Savior and our Overcoming Lord.

In Jesus, we see the humblest man who ever lived exalted to the highest place in Heaven and earth. One day every tongue will acknowledge Him—those in Heaven (all the angelic hosts); everyone on earth (all the humans); and those under the earth, which is the cosmic location of all the demonic spirits. Our future exaltation will be in reverse proportion to our current humility.

Many years ago, I was teaching the Bible in a teen camp in New York State. One day I asked the young people to write an answer to this question: “Who is Jesus Christ?” As I read their answers later that day, I was intrigued by their diverse understanding of Christ; but one answer in particular has stayed with me all these years. A teen boy wrote these words: “Who is Jesus Christ? He is the God who made my relationship with my dad peaceful and meaningful.”

That young man knew two things about Christ. First, he knew that Jesus is God. Second, he knew that Jesus has the power to change our lives and our relationships. That young man knew more about Jesus Christ than many of the millions who crowd into church every Sunday. Jesus is God, and He has the power to change our lives and our relationships. 


Dr. Harold J. Sala has been a pioneer in Christian radio, and he has found so many great stories that have been told and retold. On one of his broadcasts, he told about his friend, missionary Doug Nichols, who worked in India. This was difficult work, and illness was never far away. On one occasion, Doug contracted tuberculosis and he was eventually sent to a sanitarium to recuperate. 

Though he was living on a support scale not much higher than the nationals who also were hospitalized in the government sanitarium, people thought that because he was an American he had to be rich. Doug said, “They didn’t know that…I was just as broke as they were!”

While he was hospitalized Doug tried unsuccessfully to reach some of the patients, but his efforts were generally met with rebuff. When he offered tracts or Gospels of John, he was politely refused. It was obvious that the patients wanted nothing to do with him or his God. Discouragement set in and Doug began to wonder why God had allowed him to be there anyway.

Doug would often be awakened in the night by the rasping sound of coughing, both his and others. But then, what would you expect in the TB ward of a sanitarium? Unable to sleep because of his raspy cough, early one morning Doug noticed an old man trying to sit on the edge of the bed, but because of weakness, he would fall back into bed. Exhausted, the old man finally lay still and sobbed. Early the next morning the scene was repeated. Then later in the morning, the stench which began to permeate the ward, certified the obvious: the old man had been unsuccessfully trying to get up and go to a restroom.

Says Doug, “The nurses were extremely agitated and angry because they had to clean up the mess. One of the nurses in her anger even slapped him. The man, terribly embarrassed, just curled up into a ball and wept.”

The next morning–again about 2:00 a.m.–Doug noticed the old man trying unsuccessfully to generate enough strength to get himself out of bed. This time, though, without thinking Doug got out of bed, went over to where the old man was, put one arm under his head and neck, the other under his legs, and gently carried him to the restroom. When he had finished, again Doug carried him back to his bed.

But what then happened is what makes the story. The old man, speaking in a language which Doug didn’t understand, thanked him profusely, and then… and then gently kissed him on the cheek.

The story doesn’t end there either. Eventually Doug drifted off to an uneasy sleep. In the morning he awakened to a steaming cup of tea served to him by another patient who spoke no English. After the patient served the tea, he made motions indicating that he wanted one of the tracts which Doug kept with him.

“Throughout the day,” says Doug, “people came to me, asking for the Gospel booklets. This included the nurses, the hospital interns, the doctors, until everyone in the hospital had a tract, booklet, or Gospel of John. Over the next few days,” he adds, “several indicated they trusted Christ as Savior as a result of reading the Good News!”

The world doesn’t care much about our opinions; they need men and women who have the mind, the heart, the attitude, the humility of Christ. “I simply took an old man to the bathroom,” says Doug, adding, “Anyone could have done that!”

Anyone could, but not everyone does. It takes the mind of the Man of Galilee.