I’m currently at a crossroads, and for fear of making the wrong decision I prayed that God would tell me (audibly) what to do next. As amazing as that would have been… it didn’t happen. However, it suddenly dawned on me that if I thought like Christ then I wouldn’t need to second guess my decisions.
“Let this mind (phroneo) be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 2:5)
Phroneo = to exercise the mind, that is, entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction); intensively to interest oneself in (with concern or obedience): set the affection on… to be likeminded, regard, savour, think [Strong’s Concordance]
Here we see Paul admonishing us to have the same ‘mind’ as Christ. His elaboration in verses 6-8 about what this entails leads one to conclude that the mind of Christ, in a nutshell, is humility. Putting others first was (and is) His main concern and it is most beautifully illustrated in His decision to take on human flesh in order to save us. There will never be a greater example of humility. Needless to say, if He was able to forego His own desires with respect to such a big decision – then He definitely acted in like manner concerning ‘smaller’ decisions.
The Greek word for the phrase “let this mind” is phroneo. The definition given in Strong’s brings about the notion of ‘exercising’ your mind. For me, this evokes a picture of humility being active. You exercise (i.e. use) your mind all the time. Therefore, your thoughts (and subsequent actions) should be consistently saturated with humility.
Humility and Christ are inseparable.
In light of how phroneo is defined and the allusion to humility, one could render this text:
- Entertain thoughts about/have a sentiment or opinion on humility like Christ
- Be mentally disposed in an earnest way towards humility like Christ
- Intensively interest yourself in humility like Christ
- Set your affections on humility like Christ
- Be careful about/minded towards/regard/savour/think about humility like Christ
I read a few translations of this verse and was taken by the following:
- “Have this same attitude in yourselves which was in Christ Jesus (look to Him as your example in selfless humility).” (AMP)
- “…Think the way Christ Jesus thought” (ERV)
- “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of Himself.” (MSG)
- “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus.” (NCV)
- “…Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (NIV)
- “You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” (NLT)
Of course there are many positive traits that scripture could encourage you to ‘phroneo‘ about; however, phroneo is directly linked to humility in several verses. For example:
“But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of [phroneo] the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
This verse is Christ’s response to Satan (who is using Peter as a mouthpiece). In the preceding verse Satan disagrees with Jesus’ intentions to die and be resurrected. Satan’s response encourages Jesus to be selfish; whereas, Jesus’ intentions are inherently selfless. Jesus highlights the distinction in their thought processes by noting that they are mindful of different things. His decision to die for humanity demonstrates that He values the lives of others above His own: humility.
“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think [phroneo], but to think [phroneo] soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)
“Be of the same mind [phroneo] toward one another. Do not set your mind [phroneo] on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:16)
As great as it is to be your own hypeman/woman, these verses should remind you to simmer down on the conceit. Humility, in this instance, stems from appreciating that you do have flaws, and thus you must address – rather than gloss over – them.
“Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded [phroneo] toward one another, according to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 15:5)
‘Like-minded’ refers to the preceding verses which emphasise: 1) those stronger in the faith should help those that are weaker rather than focusing on themselves; 2) pleasing and building up ‘neighbours’ spiritually; 3) following Christ’s example in pleasing others and not yourself. In sum, your humility is manifested in helping others with their burdens despite how trivial, time-consuming, or inconvenient they might seem.
“Therefore let us, as many as are mature, have this mind [phroneo]; and if in anything you think otherwise [phroneo], God will reveal even this to you.” (Philippians 3: 15)
As above, ‘this’ mind refers to the preceding verses. In this passage Paul talks about the importance of: 1) having confidence in the Spirit not the flesh (cf Romans 8:5 – also includes phroneo); 2) valuing Christ above all else; 3) being realistic in terms of how you perceive your spiritual progress. Each of these points are impossible without humility. However, the most beautiful thing about this verse is that if you’re on a different page regarding any of these points – God can show you! In other words, the passage demonstrates the right way to ‘phroneo.’
I know it’s been a long blog, but hopefully you’ll remember that this was studied in the context of decision making. There are few decisions bigger than deciding what to do with your life, right?!
What did I take from it?
- Whatever I choose to do has to have humility as a basis (money, lifestyle, travel etc. should be secondary considerations)
- God won’t necessarily tell me to go for X over Y. I need to examine my motives and choose accordingly.
- I need to study humility! (future blog post pending?)
The cool thing is that these points allowed me to formulate a plan which incorporates my strengths and interests, but ultimately isn’t about me… it revolves around service.
So what if you think you’re making a decision in humility, but things don’t work out?
Honestly? I don’t know! One could argue that that depends on how you perceive success. Nevertheless, I think that humility and moving in faith are a powerful combination that will undoubtedly help you grow so much more than if you’d chosen to be selfish and comfortable.
In my case, if I am misguided, I have faith that God will redirect me.
Whilst I don’t deny that it is possible to hear God’s (audible) voice, or discern His guidance through other means; I trust that you appreciate that (true) humility allows you to make decisions that Christ would co-sign. Therefore, you needn’t be prevented from moving forward because you’re waiting for a ‘sign.’ Given that your ability to be humble comes from Christ, I’m certainly not advocating self-sufficiency.
I truly hope that you will strive to have the level of humility that Christ had, which ultimately permeated each and every one of His actions.
You may want to read an earlier blog post entitled Heavenly-Minded which discusses phroneo in the context of Colossians 3:2