210 Herrick RoadNewton Centre, Massachusetts 02159U.S.A.
Airline, Aviation and Aerospace Christian FellowshipsTalk 3 of 4
The Links Hotel7-11 November 1990
Conference Theme: The Mind of Christ
In the first two talks in this series we affirmed the importance of developing an adequate image of Jesus before discussing the mind of Christ.It seems presumptuous to even think about talking about someone’s mind, or we might say, opinion on any matter, without having an adequate idea about the person.This is so much more the case when we talk about Jesus.And, the reason, we are even so bold to do so rests upon certain assumptions about how Scripture can be read and about the nature of God’s Spirit as it worked in the production of that document we call the Bible, and in our own minds and hearts as we read Scripture.Much of what has been said thus far rests upon such assumptions and has been said to underscore the importance of developing an adequate understanding of Jesus, even among those who share certain assumptions about the nature of Scripture and the work of the Spirit, before talking about the mind of Christ.
Nevertheless, in what has been noted thus far certain things can probably be concluded about our topic, “The Mind of Christ.”However, I would like to move such thinking forward by having us “probe” our topic in three areas: 1) dialogue and dogma ,
2) grace and judgement, and 3) politics.
Why would I choose these three areas as we begin to think about the mind of Christ?They have to do with the three dimensions of life that we find ourselves in daily.The first concerns the nature of truth itself, philosophers call this metaphysics or “being”.The second has to do with knowledge.If we were to give it a philosophical “tag” we would call this area epistemology.Finally, the third area has to do with ethics.It has to do with how we live out our understanding of being and knowledge.
As with everything, there is a simple and a complex answer.The simple is seldom wrong in an absolute sense, the complex answer tries to say more by way of analysis and explanation.The immediate answers to our three points are:
1) Confess His name
2) Trust in His grace
3) Follow in His steps.
The more complex answers draw us into three philosophical
questions of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics.
1.Dialogue and Dogma (Matt. 16:13)
Who do men say that I am?(The question of Being)
If we look at the simple answer first, we can say that the text of Matthew 16:13, where Jesus asks, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” focuses our point of “dialogue and dogma” for us.
The simple answer is that we are to confess His name.“You are the Christ, the Son of living God,” is the way that Peter put it.He was affirmed in what he said.Jesus opened the discussion by drawing us into dialogue: Who are people saying that I am.Several possibilities are given, John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, one of the prophets.The proper answer was that given by Peter.However, note the process by which this was achieved.Christ drew Peter into a line of thinking which required thought on Peter’s part.This is not to say that there was not a correct answer.Rather, it is to say that the mind of Christ does not give us the truth so much as to draw us into a process of questioning whereby it is up to us to affirm the truth.
As it touches upon the central nature of reality, then, there is always dialogue and always dogma.If we put this another way we might say that if Christ is always the answer, the problem we face is that the variables always seem to be changing, the picture becomes more complex.We are forced by way of our circumstances to enter into a dialogue with ourselves.Or, others present new views and challenges to us so as simply to give a dogmatic answer in the face of new questions is never to have dealt with those questions.
It might be asked, what moves me to the place where I am able to say that Christ is Lord?What moves me beyond arrested development on the personal level?Having been hurt by another person through a misunderstanding or even malicious intent, it is easy for my personality to remain locked into the hurt it has received, to fail in being able to forgive and to nurse the resentment that I feel.In such a situation I fail to follow the Lord’s injunction , to forgive as I have been forgiven (Matt. 6:12).More than that, however, I am failing to find the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the experience.I am not confessing that Jesus is Lord, that He is in control (romans 8:28).If I fail to find His Lordship here and yet still call Him Lord with my lips, I have not found my way through to legitimately affirming the reality of His being.
Just as we may be “exercised” in this way in the domain of our feelings, so too such may occur in the area of our intellect.Just when we feel that we have understood it all, new challenges come our way.We may be tempted to not deal with the new knowledge or different perspective.However, to fail to do so and yet affirm Christ leads to a hollowness and shallow orthodoxy.We are called into a process of dialogue with ourselves or with the other as we seek to dogma about the truth of Christ that is there.
To put this in another way, to live with the tension of dialogue and dogma calls for an open personality.It means not closing our hearts or minds to the situations that confront us.It means seeing ourselves in a new perspective.As it is written in the letter to the Colossians, “set your hearts on things above...set your minds on things above....For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:1-3).As it is put a little further, we are to deal honestly with the challenges that come our way, no matter how they hurt and in them find and claim the Lordship of Jesus Christ for we are “being renewed in knowledge in the image of [our] Creator” (3:10).We are, then, constantly being challenged to find and live in the new reality in which Jesus is Lord.It is only by the power of the Spirit that this is possible (I Cor. 12:3).
Question: Study Matthew 16:13-17:23.Ask yourself about the reality to which Jesus calls us.
2.Grace and Judgement (Luke 4:16-19)
How do we confess Christ in our histories?(The question of epistemology)
We are not only called to a new reality in which Jesus is Lord, but we are called to trust in His grace.This does not imply a lack of judgement, but it does mean that we are often called to withhold judgement leaving that to God in His time.It means adopting the humility to recognise that I am the poor to whom the good news is being preached.
When Jesus took the scroll, recorded in Luke 4:18-19, and stood up to read, He read from the text of Isaiah 61:1-2.He read that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach the good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom to the prisoner, the recovery of sight to the blind, release to the captive, and to proclaim the Lord’s favour.However, here He stopped short.He did not follow Isaiah at this point where Isaiah adds “and the day of vengeance of our God.”We may wonder why He did this.Many reasons may be put forward.We are reminded in this of the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus cautions us in our judging, adding that while we see the speck in our brother’s eye we fail to see the plank in our own.
This is not to say that there is not judgement.In fact, we cannot fail but to judge.Our observations of the world and of ourselves are based upon discrimination and discernment.We are seldom able to report things as they are, but are constantly drawing inferences and making judgements.Yet, it is clear from many other places in Scripture that while there is a time for judgement, we are to refrain from such.For not only will we be judged by the way in which we judge others (Matt. 7:1; Ro. 2:1), but we ourselves cannot live according to our own standards of judgement (Ro. 2:1).It is to say that in the course of our understanding we lean to the side of grace, knowing that God will bring judgement in His time (Deut. 1:17; Acts 17:31).So we live by listening, by looking, by withholding judgement without denying the reality of that reckoning which is to come.
Luke 4:16-19 with Isaiah 61:1-2.Note
the differences and similarities that you find.
3.Politics (Matt. 22:15-22; Ro. 13; Rev. 13)
How do we live as disciples of Jesus Christ today? (The question of ethics)
Here our short answer is to follow in His steps.However, the text with which we begin draws us into a deeper complexity.In the midst of days of political resentment toward Rome and its often corrupt system of taxation Jesus is asked whether it is right to pay taxes to Caesar or not.Jesus, taking a coin with the face of Caesar on it then asks whose image is imprinted on it.His challengers reply, “Caesar’s.”In reply Jesus says to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what belongs to God.
Now the journey in Jesus’ footsteps just begins.As we consider the ethical import of what has been stated we are reminded that Caesar too is made in the image of God.Jesus’ answer, then, to His challengers was doubly significant.Not only do we see Caesar on the coin, but we see an image bearer of God.
Question: Consider Romans 13 and Revelation 13 in light of what you now understand about the incident with the coin in Matthew 22:15-22.
As you conclude this lesson, ask yourself the following: What does it mean to be image bearers of Jesus Christ today?Read and study about the ways in which we are to perceive Jesus today in the image bearers around us as recorded in Matthew 25:34-40.