“Man looks at the outward appearance but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) The popular Christian bracelet that came out years ago, WWJD, meant, “What would Jesus do?” The idea was that if we wore the bracelet we would be reminded to speak and act more like our Lord. The problem with that thinking is that unless we have the inner attitude that Jesus had and a mind filled with truth of the Scriptures like Jesus, it’s difficult if not impossible to speak and act as Jesus did. What we say and do flows out of who we are in our inner being. “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.” (Jesus Christ – Matthew 12:35) Outward actions flow from what is inside us. “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” (Stephen Covey) Thus to say and do what Jesus did begins with asking the Lord to show us our attitude and inner thoughts and emotions that are unlike Him and then gradually, by God’s grace, change our attitude to be more like Christ. Along those lines, I have found it helpful to read and meditate on some Scriptures that speak about our inner life, or our attitudes, thoughts, and emotions.
First of all let’s look at the attitude of Jesus that we are called to have as seen in Philippians 2:5 above. Some commentators say that it’s helpful to think of the nine fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22–23 as the attitude of Jesus that we are to emulate. Using this list we could say that Jesus’ attitude was loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good (virtuous), faithful, gentle, and self-controlled (or self-disciplined). We also see His attitude in Philippians 2:5-8: “Have this attitude in 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 bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Jesus’ attitude described here goes beyond humility and reveals an abrogation of rights, a submission to God that required His loss of dignity and even His life, and a true condescension by not only becoming a human being (God taking on humanity), but to become the ultimate servant of humanity by choosing the shameful and painful death on a cross in order to save mankind from eternal separation from God. So here we see His attitude of self-denial, servanthood, and total submission to the will of God.
Let’s begin by looking at the importance of “spiritual thinking” or thinking that lines up with God’s Word. “For those who are according to the flesh (who are controlled by the flesh) set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, (those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit set their mind on) the things of the (Holy) Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh (unsaved) cannot please God.” (Romans 8:5-8) Unbelievers always think about what will please their human nature and appetites apart from any influence from God. God is Spirit and since the unsaved man’s spirit is dead he cannot grasp any spiritual truth (1 Cor. 2:14) nor does he even desire to do so. This is the only way unbelievers can and do think whereas believers can and want to think in ways that please God when and if we are submitting our thoughts to the thoughts and desires of God as seen in His Word and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. Thus to develop an attitude like Jesus we must read and apply God’s Word to our inner life and not just our outward words and acts as we will see in some of the following verses.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14) Here David is asking the Lord for help so that his thought life (meditations of my heart) would be pleasing to God out of which will flow words that are pleasing to the Lord.
“The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 The Message) Paul is saying here that our inner life of thoughts and emotions need to follow the example of Christ’s attitude of humility and submission that led to His obedience to God.
“For the word of God is living and active and full of power [making it operative, energizing, and effective]. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating as far as the division of the soul and spirit [the completeness of a person], and of both joints and marrow [the deepest parts of our nature], exposing and judging the very thoughts and intentions of the heart. And not a creature exists that is concealed from His sight, but all things are open and exposed, and revealed to the eyes of Him with whom we have to give account.” (Hebrews 4:12-13 Amp.) Here the writer of Hebrews is showing us that God knows the very motives of our heart that will lead either to an attitude like Christ or one that will lead us away from Christ-likeness and that we will give an account to God for the very motives of our heart. Note that God’s Word is the way by which we can see if our inner life is pleasing to Him and repent if not.
“Do you see what we’ve got? An unshakable kingdom! And do you see how thankful we must be? Not only thankful, but brimming with worship, deeply reverent before God. For God is not an indifferent bystander. He’s actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and he won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!” (Hebrews 12:28-29 The Message) Here we see the call for an attitude of gratitude, worship and awe and reverence toward God. The Lord Jesus lived His entire life in awe and in fear and reverence of God. “In the days of His flesh [Jesus] offered up definite, special petitions [for that which He not only wanted but needed] and supplications with strong crying and tears to Him Who was [always] able to save Him [out] from death (i.e., His resurrection), and He was heard because of His reverence toward God [His godly fear, His piety, in that He shrank from the horrors of separation from the bright presence of the Father]. (Hebrews 5:7 Amp.) Isaiah foretells of the Messiah Whom the Holy Spirit would anoint with the “fear of the Lord” and “shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:1-3, KJV) This describes the spiritual sensitivity, wisdom and obedience of Jesus Who said, “I always do things that are pleasing to Him.” (John 8:29)
“Search me [thoroughly], O God, and know my heart; Test me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there is any wicked or hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24 Amp.) This is a great prayer and a great way to begin and continue to ask God to deal with our inner life. This is far better than self-examination in which we can be overly critical of ourselves or blind to our hurtful or even wicked ways. This takes time alone with the Lord and a genuine desire to change and grow to be more like Christ. As the Lord reveals hurtful actions (i.e., we sense a conviction by the Lord) we can begin to see and repent of the sinful attitudes from which those hurtful words and acts flow; pride, self-pity, unresolved anger and unforgiveness, etc.
The good news is that God not only gives us the desire to be like our Lord Jesus but He also gives us the power to help us change and grow. “Therefore, my dear ones, as you have always obeyed [my suggestions], so now, not only [with the enthusiasm you would show] in my presence but much more because I am absent, work out (cultivate, carry out to the goal, and fully complete) your own salvation with reverence and awe and trembling (self-distrust, with serious caution, tenderness of conscience, watchfulness against temptation, timidly shrinking from whatever might offend God and discredit the name of Christ). [Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you [energizing and creating in you the power and desire], both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight.” (Philippians 2:12-13 Amp.) Note that the underlined words in this passage are a good description of a Christ-like attitude.
Until He comes again,
Len and Kristen