A More Beautiful Mind
Preached by Pastor Jason Abbott
Maybe you saw the award-winning film A Beautiful Mind in which the story of John Nash, a Nobel Laureate in economics, is told. The motion-picture is a tale about Nash’s mathematical genius, meteoric rise to academic fame, deep romance with Alicia Lard (who becomes his wife), battle with paranoid schizophrenia (which nearly costs him everything), and his redemptive victory over his delusions as he restores his marriage and ascends to even greater academic heights!
It’s a great story except that in many ways it’s not the truth about Nash at all. In many ways, this portrayal of Nash’s beautiful mind is a Hollywood mythology. In reality, a lot of his life’s events are reshuffled in order to make for a better film. Many of the characters and organizations represented were completely made up. Moreover, the beautiful relationship depicted between Alicia and John was marred, in real life, by Nash’s repeated sexual infidelities.
But, how could Nash’s mind look beautiful in the context of those events? How could we be awed by the utter greatness of humanity’s intellectual potential in the midst of such mental brokenness and moral depravity? In short, we couldn’t. None of us would have been inspired to imagine the future possibility of some kind of god-like humanity by the true story of John Nash.
So, we were given something but the truth about Nash. We were sold a lie about the human mind, about the human character.
Today, so as to see how the gospel changes us, I want to offer an alternative. I want to offer a more beautiful mind, or, you might say, the most beautiful mind—the mind of Jesus Christ—which Paul, in today’s text, argues must characterize us, if we’ve believed and received Jesus.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
If you were here last week then you heard Benjamin explain the good news of Jesus Christ. He compared this gospel message to the engine of an automobile, which drives everything but, when hidden under the hood, can often be forgotten. Next, he described how he wanted to unbolt this metaphorical “gospel-engine” from the car’s chassis in order that we might clearly see it.
Well, I’m going to pick up his analogy by putting that “gospel-engine” back into our church-car this morning. However, in order to please Benjamin, we’ll keep the engine visible. So imagine our church-car as one of those souped-up roadsters with a hole in the hood and a massive engine sticking through it. (And, for me, imagine that our church-car has flames on the side because flames are cool!)
You got all that in mind? Ok, now let’s see how this powerful gospel-engine should move our church-roadster. How should it drive us? It drives us in two ways: (1) the gospel propels us with an exaltation that humbles us, and (2) it propels us with a humiliation that exalts us. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Exaltation that humbles us.
From the start, Paul speaks of an exaltation that should humble Christians. At the beginning of this text, he brings to our attention some amazing privileges, some exalted benefits that we have in Christ. Look at verses 1 and 2 with me again:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (vv. 1-2).
Look, Paul’s talking to some guys and gals that aren’t getting along, believers who’ve been fighting—sadly that’s not terribly hard for us to imagine. So to encourage them toward unity, he reminds them of what they have in Christ. Paul reminds them of the blessings of the good news. Don’t let the “if” throw you. It’s rhetorical. It might as well read “if there is any…”
- Encouragement in Christ [which you’ve experienced!]
- Comfort from love [and you’ve felt loving comfort!]
- Participation in the Spirit [who is your constant companion!]
- Affection and sympathy [which you’ve received in overflow in Christ!]
No, Paul’s not arguing that these divine things may be or may not be present in the Christian life. Rather, he is arguing that these Christians have experienced all of these incredible good news blessings and, therefore, must remember them. Why? Why remember them?
Because, these exaltations—the gospel-blessings which we do not deserve—will keep us appropriately, powerfully, and beautifully (dare I say divinely) humble when we reflect upon them.
My father was—in many people’s estimation—a proud and exacting man before he became a Christian. It was no doubt difficult to work for him back then since he was (and can still sometimes be) a perfectionist about the things he does. However, even in his most perfectionistic and arrogant moments today, I’d guess you’d be fairly hard-pressed to find anyone who’d characterize him as a person who’s proud and exacting.
What drove such a change in him? Nothing but wonder at an exaltation—which he does not deserve—that is his in the gospel. Nothing except participation with the Holy Spirit—that is his in the gospel! The good news will drive a change from an ugly and divisive arrogance to a gorgeous and unifying humility.
Friends, if you want to be humble then meditate on your exaltation in Christ!
For only such a meditation, in participation with the work of the Holy Spirit, will ever drive us to:
- Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility [to] count others more significant than [ourselves] (v. 3).
And, only such a meditation, in participation with the work of God’s Spirit will ever drive us to:
- [Look] not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others (v. 4).
Only the gospel, only the good news of Jesus, can ever move such a change in sinners like you and me.
Yet, lest our meditation (on what we’ve received in Christ but don’t deserve) drives us to despair and to see ourselves as worthless, this gospel-engine moves us in another direction—from humiliation to exaltation.
Let’s now consider the:
2. Humiliation that exalts us.
This is where Paul starts to focus our attention on the most beautiful mind—the mind of Christ. Here he zooms-in upon how the most Exalted Son, to the glory of God the Father, humbled himself even to the point of death.
Consider what he writes beginning in verse 5:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (vv. 5-8).
This is Paul reminding Christians how they got their name—reminding us about our Christian-roots. He says—in effect—“Shouldn’t we who call ourselves by Christ’s name substantively resemble our namesake?! Of course we should! Well then,” Paul tells us, “Here’s the mind of Christ! Here’s the DNA of God!” Paul reminds us of the humility of the only Son worthy of exaltation.
Paul says, “Are you Christians? Have you trusted in Christ? Are you in him? Then, you should have a good deal of his humility—you should have a good deal of his servant-like mind. You should be marked by his sacrificial love!” Friends:
- If we follow Jesus Christ, we must be people who’ll give up our “rights” in order to serve the needs of others. (By the way, if we really know God then we should recognize that we don’t actually have inalienable rights. Only he has them. So will we set our “rights” aside—even as Jesus did—in order to glorify God and serve others? Paul says, “Yes!”)
- If we call Jesus our Lord, we must be people who will suffer for others—especially those who do not love us. (Remember that we weren’t friends but enemies of God when Christ suffered and died for us!)
Friends, we must have the mind of Jesus Christ if we are truly his followers, and in the power of the Holy Spirit, we do! What does Paul say here?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (v. 5).
We are not simply encouraged by the gospel of Jesus Christ to have his mind but, also, empowered by the gospel of Jesus Christ (through the work of the Spirit) to have his most beautiful mind. The gospel-engine moves or drives or propels us to have a Christ-like mind!
Look, then, at what the Father is pleased to do with the humiliation of Jesus:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (vv. 9-11).
There’s truly a humiliation that leads to exaltation here. And it is beautiful! In a similar way, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ, if you have the mind of Jesus, if you humble yourself for the glory of God—then you too will be exalted by God. Thus Jesus says to his disciples that those who want to be great must be servants, and those who want to be first must be slaves (Matthew 20:26-27).
The gospel drives us to Christ-minded humility which God will finally exalt through faith in Christ—who humbly became poor that we might become rich.