Part 4: Developing the Mind of Christ

Developing the mind of Christ begins by taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ (2Cor.10:5).” Learning to think on the things of God will follow as we rejoice in the Lord always. Philippians 4 tell us, “I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Finally, verse 8 directs us to dwell on whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Taking every thought captive is not an easy task. We have all entertained thoughts, if only briefly, about something contrary to our personal belief of right and wrong. Most morally conscious individuals will override those thoughts with rational thought. The Word of God instructs to take every thought captive. As Christians, we are not free from temptations, even though we know it is wrong and against God, we proclaim “I stumbled” into sin. We use the excuse, “before I knew it…”, but recognizably we know that the thought of sin was planted and watered and nursed in our mind. We coddled that sin, we rationalized the guilt, and the sin became reality. Remember the battle is in the mind and for your mind, so following through is impossible without the Spirit of God in control.

We must all choose to follow and live according to God’s commandments. Is it easy? No! Was it meant to be easy? No! Jesus said, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved (Mat. 10: 22).” They hated him first.  Timothy said, “In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..(2 Timothy 3:12).”   The Word tells that sin and the lusts of this world are constantly inundating our thought processes. Further, proclaiming your faith, living by faith and living for Christ seems to attract the big guns. You have to understand that there is no rest from spiritual attacks if you are not cognizant of the fact that these attacks are purposeful and with one goal, destroying the faith and witness of the children of God. Positive thinking will not work here. You need the power of God that comes from trusting in Him. We must stand on the foundation of Christ. Not many Christians understand, at least not completely how the enemy operates. And more choose to deny, or ignore the influence of various forms of perverted media. Choosing to believe, choosing to follow, choosing to deny self, and living for God are choices, just like choosing to get up in the morning to go to work. “Choose you today, who you will follow.”

Part 3: Characteristics of the Carnal Mind

The Bible describes the characteristics of the carnal mind that fit nicely into three categories, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. Contained therein, we find all forms of vile attributes common to humanity, greed, deceit, malice, discontent, hatred, bitterness, resentfulness, all forms of wickedness, rebellion, haters of God, lovers of every false thing, prejudice, discrimination, selfishness, pettiness and the list goes on.

Man has placed sin on a scale that fits nicely into everyone’s schema, but to God, sin is sin, rebellion is like the sin of witchcraft and hate for a brother like murder (1 Samuel 15:23). For example, few people are concerned if another is materialistic, because we all are to some degree. We all lust. Some people will agree that a white lie is acceptable if it is meant for good. Every man must have a sense of pride for others to acknowledge him. These Christians seemingly born again, live according to their old nature rather than the new nature that God gives us when we choose to believe. I think many Christians would confess to straddling the fence between the new man and the old nature.

Do you know anyone that fits this bill?

Part 2: Qualities of the Christian Character

The Word of God describes the nature of God’s children if they stay the course. It results from learning the character of God and taking on the mind of Christ. The following brief descriptions are for Scriptural definition. Much of it is indebted to W E. Vine’s “Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.”

1. Love. Col. 3:14 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect  unity”.

“Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom. 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,’ Gal. 6:10. See further 1 Cor. 13 and Col. 3:12-14.” * [* From Notes on Thessalonians, by Hogg and Vine, p. 105.]

2. Faith. This is also a primary virtue (1 Cor. 13:13). In fact, without faith we cannot please God (Heb. 11:6). Godly men obtain His approval through faith (Heb. 11:2). It is active trust, reliance, or confidence. Therefore, faith is commonly seen in some act in obedience to God’s Word. His Word or promise is always the basis of Biblical faith. Faith has nothing to do with appearances but rather dwells in the realm of the unseen (Heb. 11:1). It has nothing to do with probabilities, but glorifies God by believing what seems impossible (Rom. 4:19-20).

3. Holiness. What is holiness? To be holy is to be separate from — that which is defiling and to be separated unto God. It is thus both positive and negative. As God is holy, so believers are to be holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16). As believers are holy in position (sanctified and called saints) so they are to be holy in practice. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb. 12:14). Defilement breaks fellowship with a holy God. Purity glorifies Him.

4. Self-Control. This might also be rendered self-discipline. This is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:23). Self-discipline is something that we must practice by the Spirit’s enablement and is high on God’s list for us (2 Pet. 1:6). Unless self-discipline is developed in our lives, we will be unfit for the work of the ministry.

5. Servanthood. The believer is taught that not only is he the ordinary servant of Christ, but also he is Christ’s bondslave (1 Pet. 2:16; Rev. 22:3, 6). Through love we are to serve one another (Gal. 5:13). The servant-minded believer looks for opportunities to serve, not to seek preeminence or the easy path. Not so much as a cup of cold water given in Christ’s name will lose its eternal reward (Matt. 10:42). Our Lord Himself took the role of a servant when He walked among men (Luke 22:27). The quality of hospitality to strangers might come under this heading (Rom. 12:13; 1 Pet. 4:9).

6. Grace. The frequent greeting of New Testament letters begins “Grace be unto you.” This undeserved favor is what we need from God and from one another. We are not called upon to treat other people as they deserve but rather as they do not deserve. The people wondered at the gracious words of the Lord Jesus (Luke 4:22). Our words also should be with grace toward others (Col. 4:6). Forbearance and forgiveness of others spring from this marvelous well called grace.

7. Faithfulness. This means trustworthy or reliable and is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22). It is a requirement of anyone given a trust (1 Cor. 4:2). A faithful person is hard to find (Prov. 20:6).

8. Wisdom. This has particular reference to the spiritual rather than the natural kind of wisdom. It is related to spiritual understanding (Col. 1:9) and wise conduct (Col. 4:5). It comes through the Word of God (Col. 3:16).

9. Righteousness. We usually think of this as that which is reckoned to us by God through faith in Christ (Rom. 4:5). However, it is also something that is practiced by believers (1 John 3:7). It refers to right action before others, for which there will be eternal recognition (Rev. 19:8). It is the breastplate of the believer’s armor (Eph. 6:14) and considered to be a preeminent virtue (1 Tim. 6:11).

10. Godliness. This is the quality of devotion or piety which pleases God and is in the inner ring of important moral excellencies (2 Pet. 1:6-7; 3:11). It is an attitude of heart that is directed toward God.

11. Hope. This describes a favorable expectation toward what is coming in the future, particularly in relation to God (1 Pet. 1:21). No believer should be pessimistic when he considers the hope we have laid up in Heaven (1 Pet. 1:3-4) and the blessed hope of the coming of our Lord Jesus (Tit. 2:13). Christ will reign and we will reign with Him as joint-heirs. Displaying such a positive outlook has a profound effect upon the faith of others. Therefore, it is a leading character quality (1 Cor. 13:13).

12. Patience. This literally means “abiding under.” This quality grows through trials (Jas. 1:3). It does not surrender to circumstances. It is closely related to longsuffering (Eph. 4:2; Col. 1:11; 3:12). “Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate” (Vine’s). Forbearance and endurance are associated words. Active patience is sometimes translated as perseverance (Rom. 5:3 NASB; 2 Pet. 1:6 NASB).

13. Courage. This is also rendered “boldness.” It is a lack of fear to speak what God has called us to speak, to go where He has called us to go, and to do whatever we must in His cause (Acts 9:29; 13:46; 18:26; 19:8; 1 Thess. 2:2). A courageous person perseveres even in great difficulty or suffering.

14. Zeal. This means eagerness, enthusiasm, fervor, and passion in the things of God. It was written of our Savior, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up” (John 2:17). His disciples saw that this was true of Him when He drove the money-changers from the Temple with a scourge. Lukewarmness is abhorrent to our Lord (Rev. 3:15-16). Passion in the things of God has His endorsement (2 Cor. 7:11; 9:2; Col. 4:13). Zeal must not be misguided or out of order (Rom. 10:2; Phil. 3:6). Diligence and whole-heartedness are associated character traits (Col. 3:23).

15. Humility. This derives from the word “low-lying” or lowly (Rom. 12:16). It is regularly associated with the idea of meekness (Matt. 11:29; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12). That it has nothing to do with weakness is seen in its association with our Lord Jesus even as King (Matt. 21:5). His humility is our example in Philippians 2:3-8. “It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting” (Vine’s). It is an inward grace and it is first to be displayed toward God and then toward others. It is opposed to the idea of being contentious, argumentative, unteachable, or uncorrectable. Rather, humility is “easy to be entreated.”

16. Joy. This has the idea of gladness and delight. It is the gift of Him who is the author of all joy. He wants that joy to remain in us (John 15:11). It cannot be stolen (John 16:22). Unlike mere “happiness” or “fun,” it is independent of circumstance and can abound even under adversity (Jas. 1:2; Phil. 2:17). Believers should not be characterized by long faces or gloom; ours is the lasting joy of salvation. It will not be lost when our eyes are fixed upon Him and eternal values.

17. Peace. This means a state of tranquility or quiet within, of rest or contentment even when strife is rampant around us. It is the gift of our Lord Jesus (John 14:27). It is the antidote to anxiety and will guard our hearts through the Lord Jesus (Phil. 4:6-7). “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee,” is the promise to us (Isa. 26:3). A worrying believer does not reflect the character of our unruffled and serene God.

18. Kindness. This is also rendered as goodness and gentleness (2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 3:12; Gal. 5:22). It is uprightness expressed in deeds (Vine’s). This is a reminder that the character of a believer is to be reflected in good works as the fruit of our salvation (Eph. 2:10). It is well that we learn to show this in speech and attitude. Mercy, which is active compassion, works along parallel lines.

19. Honesty. This can also be thought of as integrity or incorruption (Rom. 12:17; 2 Cor. 8:21; 13:7). This trait covers a very wide range of conduct and deals with that which is right, fair, honorable, and ethical. Honesty monitors speech so that we do not give false impressions or make promises which will not be kept or intentionally exaggerate. It applies to our work (promptness, diligence, quality). It touches on our business and social dealings (fairness, concern for others, sensitivity to their feelings). It goes beyond the minimum and leaves the believer above reproach. It rejects partiality or favoritism.  http://www.plymouthbrethren.org/article/5011

Do you know any Christians that exhibits all of these qualities?

It is hardly uncanny that the carnal mind’s definition of good character and God’s character are similar; no doubt at all (considering American history) that man’s definition was derived from the Word of God. Most of our sense of right and wrong is derived from biblical knowledge. More than these aforementioned qualities the Christian learns to be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. He learns to put on the full armor of God, so that he can stand against the devil’s schemes.

As I previously stated, our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore we must put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, we may be able to stand our ground, and afterward stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. We must not forget to take up the shield of faith, with which can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one and taking the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people (Eph. 6:10-16). Therefore, as Christians, we learn to dress ourselves with the armor of God. This becomes a major facet in the development of the content of the Christian character. The most significant difference being the root from which we develop the content of our character.

Specific disciplines point out that our character is designed by specific socializing agents, e.g. church, school, community, but most prominently, family. As part of a family unit, our early experiences shape our thoughts, behaviors, and moral values. Families have been socializing children since the beginning of time and only in very recent history, and more recently with social media, have outside socializing agents had a greater influence on children than parents, though they remain prominent (http://www.pediatrics.wisc.edu/featured-stories/social-media.html). The church has prominently been a great influence on American families in developing the Christian character. Therefore, the content of our character is developed from early on. The Christian character, or the character of God, however does not truly take Christ form until the individual accepts and trusts in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This infers a relationship with a living God, which reaches further into our spirit than superficial Christianity. It’s a committed relationship as in husband and wife, which has greater implications than say girlfriend and boyfriend, or “puppy love”, even when two believers shack up, and they often do, but that’s another topic.

Do you know any Christians that exhibits all of these qualities?