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“For if we are out of our mind, it is for God; if we have a sound mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion: if One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised” (2 Corinthians 5:13-15, HCSB). 

With the recent onslaught of books like Radical (and Radical Together), Crazy Love, and Unfashionable, I’m wondering when the book Foolish (see 1 Corinthians 1) is going to be released. Frankly, I have enjoyed all of these books because they have deepened my desire to lose my mind and take on the mind of Christ, to be so counter-cultural that people don’t understand what would compel me to be so consumed with Jesus and knowing Him (see Philippians 3:10). Call me crazy, but I want to be like and think like my Jesus. 

Before you start driveling on about how I have already lost my mind (a fair accusation in some cases), let me explain that this post’s stated purpose has some very real spiritual ramifications. I want to lose my mind – that is the carnal, worldly, fleshly, and selfish thing that my mind is in its natural state (I bet you didn’t know I was all of those terrible things, did you? Well, I am and, apart from Christ, we all are!) and take on a Holy Spirit controlled mind. Here is what is so amazing: as Christ-followers who yield to His Word and indwelling Holy Spirit we already have His mind! God has purchased us, taken up residence in us, and thus, “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Peter 1:3). Paul makes it clear have been given the mind of Jesus: 

“The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2: 15-16). 

So what is the mind of Christ? Here are some thoughts: 

  • Having the mind of Christ means sharing the person, purpose, and perspective of Christ, and this is something that all believers should possess. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we understand God’s plan in the world—to bring glory to Himself while restoring creation to its original splendor and providing salvation for sinners. 
  • Having the mind of Christ means we identify with Christ’s purpose “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). It means we share Jesus’ perspective of humility and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8), compassion (Matthew 9:36), and prayerful dependence on God (Luke 5:16). 

Paul captures this beautifully in writing to the church at Philippi: 

“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your [mind] should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,  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” (Philippians 2:1-10). 

Let’s see some additional nuggets that Paul reveals to the church at Corinth. In the verses leading up to 1 Corinthians 2:16, we note some truths concerning the mind of Christ: 

  • The mind of Christ stands in sharp contrast to the wisdom of man (verses 5-6).
  • The mind of Christ involves wisdom from God, once hidden but now revealed (verse 7).
  • The mind of Christ is given to believers through the Spirit of God (verses 10-12).
  • The mind of Christ cannot be understood by those without the Holy Spirit (verse 14).
  • The mind of Christ gives believers discernment in spiritual matters (verse 15).

In order to have the mind of Christ, one must first have saving faith in Christ (John 1:12; 1 John 5:12). After salvation, the believer lives a life under God’s influence. The Holy Spirit indwells and enlightens the believer, infusing him with wisdom—the mind of Christ. The believer bears a responsibility to yield to the Spirit’s leading (Ephesians 4:30) and to allow the Spirit to transform and renew his mind (Romans 12:1-2). 

What a great privilege! If we are willing to lose our mind to our Lord we are given the very Son of God’s mind! This may sound radical, crazy, unfashionable, and foolish, but it is true. The Scriptures tell us that capitulation to Him, His Word, and His ways allows us to access and be empowered by His wisdom. And don’t we all need that? So, as God enables us, let’s all lose our mind and take on the mind of Christ!

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This powerful phrase represents the message of hope we find in the Gospel. You can put an infinite number of thoughts ahead of this phrase and then say, “But God,” and you get to the heart of His good news. So let’s do an exercise. I’m going to make some statements, comments that might be common thoughts to many of us, and let some Scriptures that use this encouraging phrase respond (all emphasis mine).

My sin is so great and I’m burdened with the guilt of my poor choices, mistakes, and unholy bent. How can God love and forgive me? – “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

I have so little to offer my Lord. Really, I’m a “nobody” and don’t see how He can use me. – “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong” (1 Corinthians 1:27).

There is so much I don’t understand about Him, His ways, His will, or His Word. How can I know God and how I can best be His servant?  – “…but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).

I’m not sure how I can serve Christ’s church, how I fit in, and if I’m really needed?  Am I important to the body of Christ? – “…while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it” (1 Corinthians 12:24).

I feel endangered and unprotected in a cruel world. Sometimes I feel that everyone is against me and I have no real shelter from their attacks. – “…Yet your father has deceived me and changed my wages ten times, But God did not allow him to hurt me” (Genesis 31:7).

I feel defeated and powerless. Where do I get the wisdom and strength to live for Jesus and be the kind of Christ-follower that advances His kingdom and gives Him glory? – “…for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:9).

I’m so discouraged, maybe even depressed. I can’t get out of this rut and I feel distant from Jesus. Where should I turn for hope and help? – “But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus…” (2 Corinthians 7:6).

I feel as if I try so hard, but even with all of my effort I feel like a spiritual failure, as if my all resources and “works” don’t add up to much in the sight of God – “For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4).

Looking at my circumstances, I feel as if I’m being punished by God. I know most of this is if of my own doing, but how is God involved? – “Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).

Who can I trust? What can I trust in? It seems like there is no one or no thing that I can really count on in this life – “We accept man’s testimony, but God’s testimony is greater because it is the testimony of God, which he has given about his Son: (1 John 5:9).

Is there hope? There have been so many defeats, broken promises, and my past is littered with a myriad of things that haunt me today? Can I trust that my future is bright and, if so, in whose promises do I need to trust? – “For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise” (Galatians 3:18). Or, But it is written: ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him’. But God has revealed them to us…” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10).

“But God…”  I don’t know what your thought or question might be today but I encourage you to make the statement and then search the Scriptures to find His answer. For in Christ we have received the promises of God and God can not lie (Titus 1:2: Hebrews 6:18). His promises are real and by believing in Christ you can find the great meaning and hope found in this simple phrase that changes everything – “But God!”

So how does this happen? By faith in Jesus through the grace given by God. Let’s add a couple more passages:

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ by His grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4 ).

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5).

All of this reminds me of a cliché that we often hear, an anecdote that actually has rich significance. I think it sums this up well. And that phrase? “But for the grace of God, there go I.”


The title of this post is an actual quote from a mega-church pastor in Minnesota. I’m not making this up. Really. Here is the link that my good friend Don sent me about this church’s attempt to “contextualize” (sometimes defined as snycritizing the world’s methods with the Gospel – something that has plagued the church since its origin) – http://www.kare11.com/news/article/920199/396/Church-lures-worshippers-with-TVs-Nintendo

To further verify the authenticity of this shameless outrage, here is the complete article (I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve taken this out of context):

Church lures worshippers with TVs, Nintendo

ELK RIVER, Minn.– “The Crossing Church in Elk River has many seats to fill Easter weekend and they have a very unique way of doing it. They are bribing people with 3D televisions and Nintendo 3DS portable video game consoles.

“I have no problem bribing people with crap in order to meet Christ,” Pastor Eric Dykstra said.

The bribes maybe working. While other churches are struggling with attendance Crossing has grown from just 200 people to more 3,000 in just six years.

There is hope their $8,000 giveaway this weekend will bring in more. But Dykstra says the prizes are more than just gimmicks. They are tools to get people in the door.

“It’s awkward to say ‘hey come to my church.’ It just feels weird and you don’t want to twist somebody’s arm so to kind of alleviate some of that weirdness what we’ve done is said hey if you bring your friend to church they might potentially win a 3D television, a 3DS or a 3D movie ticket package,” Dykstra said.

Dykstra expects between 5,000 to 6,000 people to attend their Easter worship service.”

Are we shocked? I don’t think we should be at all. So this is what “church growth” has come to? Of course it is. This example is just more avant-garde than most. Many institutional churches are subtly luring folks with something other than Christ, the cross, and His Word. If these are the tools being used to attract people I’m curious what they do to keep them…a new car? If so, I’m signing up!!! Let’s be honest, most Americans prefer earthly “crap” over the cross – especially when they are called to take one up daily and follow Jesus to death (Luke 9:23).

Ok, I know this is an extreme case but it is also one that should raise our spiritual antennas. Without giving detailed examples (I’m resisting the temptation to do so), do we not see more of this dangerous trend the Americanized (and consumerized) version of the 21st century visible church? Think about it! What do many churches use as methods and tools to attract the masses in the name of a “throw enough against the wall and some of it will stick” evangelistic philosophy? Have we not grown many “churches”  with something other than the power of the Word, the cross, and the unction of the Holy Spirit? Actually, the better question may be: “Have we programmed Jesus and His Spirit right out of the way we proclaim the Gospel, experience authentic church growth, and do discipleship (which has become a forgotten practice, by the way)?

Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth,will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32). Now I know that this quote primarily refers to the manner and power of His death but, forgive me, I am inclined to spiritualize this verse based upon our subject. At the risk of upsetting most all theologians and Greek scholars, let me radically (and, to the purists, probably incorrectly) paraphrase this statement for my purpose here as, “If the church lifts up Christ above earthly things, God (not us) will draw men to Jesus and His saving power.”  OK, that is not exactly what Jesus may have had in mind, but is it not the truth? Paul, with his ubiquitous missional mindset, seemed to think so when he said:

“And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling,  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power,  that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).

Should this not be our focus? Or should we just give earthly “crap” away or water down what the church and the true Gospel is really about in the name of the greatest treasure imaginable, Jesus, and call it evangelism and church growth? Which do we think would most glorify Him?  Which would we think be of the most kingdom value? The church, after all, is not just a place for a wonderful family time or entertainment that is a poor facsimile of the world’s offerings. Nor is the true Gospel exclusive of Christ’s lordship.

Back to the TVs and video game consoles this pastor thought to be suitable tools to “bribe people” to come to a service. My always insightful friend Don (and the original source of this blog), reminding me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:20, made this sage comment: “After you get the new flat screen TV, you have to give it to the poor” (Mark 10:21). I wonder if that scriptural principle was considered in this “church growth methodology” (a concept which I find to be somewhat oxymoronic). Amen, Don – your treasure is in Heaven! And so is mine – His name is Jesus.


*Preface 

“On hearing [His unorthodox teaching], many of his disciples said, ‘This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?’

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.’

 … From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

 ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ ” (John 6:60-64, 66-69). 

Scripture abounds with “hard teachings,” difficult concepts that make readers scratch their heads. God’s Word, and Jesus’ instruction in particular, often disturb our flesh and pride: they make us uncomfortable, point out things about ourselves that need improvement, make us conscious of our complete failure to measure up to God’s standards. While closing the Bible on such passages proves tempting, followers of Christ must grasp that both our relationship with the Lord and our spiritual growth suffer when we do. God does not call us to always understand or even “agree” with His Word, but He does call us to love, believe, and live it! 

Even those who walked with Christ for nearly three years, saw His miracles, and observed the perfection of His life sometimes struggled not to reject His teaching simply because they didn’t comprehend it or because it made them feel uncomfortable. In fact, the tendency led Peter to actually take the Lord aside for a quick rebuke—a decision that did not go over well (Matthew 16:21-23). And even Christ’s own mother surely felt confused by His words as He identified not her personally but “those who do God’s will” as His “mother” (See Mark 3:31-35).

Christ spoke of the utter sinfulness of man, of the absolute authority, holiness, and glory of God; He elaborated on the “foolishness” of God’s plan of salvation, and He gave—particularly in The Sermon on the Mount—a myriad of seemingly unrealistic demands to those who would follow Him wholeheartedly. Truly, some of the Bible’s teachings are difficult to accept. At times, we can even find ourselves offended by them. We will not, however, reach our full potential as Christ’s disciples unless we choose to open our hearts and minds to them.

Sadly, some people reject the hard teachings of Jesus and Christianity from the beginning. Atheists, agnostics, and followers of other, easier-to-follow religions reject Christ outright. They prove unwilling to accept any of Christ’s claims and will not surrender their lives to a sacrificial, spiritual, and God-centered ideology. Other individuals gladly accept Christianity, only to abandon their faith when the entire counsel of God’s Word fails to meet their expectations. These individuals feel attracted to what Jesus offers, but they are often repelled by what He requires. Taking up a cross and denying themselves proves too much. In both instances, teachings wrongly perceived as overbearing and exaggerated prove too taxing to those on the fringe of faith in God. Even some who profess to follow Jesus so water down, rationalize, and liberalize God’s Word that it hardly resembles the true gospel. In doing so they reject Christ as soundly as those who never fully embraced Him in the first place.

God’s Word is often offensive and so is the cross, yet their message is wholly reliable. Every true follower of Christ must affirm that Jesus is the Holy One of God. They must embrace that His words are the truth of eternal life. When in John 6 Peter asked, “Lord, to whom should we go? You have the words of life,” he got it right. The Bible offers the only teachings that reveal how we can know God. It shows that Jesus provides the revelation of the kingdom of Heaven. He is the King of Kings. He alone stands worthy of our trust and obedience because only through His sacrifice and His words—no matter how challenging—do we have any hope. 

God enables those who will believe and accept His Word (v. 65). Jesus stated, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him” (John 6:44). The word translated draw in John 6 pertains to drawing water from a well. It could be translated “to pull” and indicates our utter dependence on God to both understand His gospel and come to Him.[i] Simply stated, we can’t get our heads around Christ’s difficult teachings without God’s intervention! That’s why I often say that I can teach the truth, but only the Holy Spirit can impart it (see 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

Growth in discipleship requires us to believe Jesus’ teachings even when we don’t fully understand them, to affirm them even when we might prefer to reject a particular passage, to live them out by faith even when they seem a puzzle. This kind of trust and yielding demonstrates obedience to God who truly draws us to His truth by His Spirit and gives us His life: it encompasses the story of one who means to follow the King and serve as part of His kingdom. Oswald Chambers said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not a set of principles to be obeyed apart from identification with Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is a statement of the way we will live when the Holy Spirit is getting his way with us.”[ii]

As you saturate yourself in this in-depth look at the Sermon on the Mount, know that while following Christ’s teaching is neither for the weak nor the faint of heart, the Holy Spirit serves as your guide in the process. Ask the Lord to grow you, to stretch you, and to teach you how to patiently grapple with His teachings. Through faith and surrender, every true believer can thrive in the knowledge that God’s words are truth and life. Jesus is who He claims; you can stake your eternal destiny on His words.


[i] Liddell, Henry George and Robert Scott. A Greek-English Lexicon (Clarendon Press, 1889).

[ii] Chambers, Oswald. The Psychology of Redemption (London: Simpkin Marshall LTD, 1947), 34.

*This is an excerpt from Captivated by the King and His Kingdom: A Personal Encounter with the Sermon on the Mount published by Crossbooks in 2010. The links for this book are: 

Amazon in book form – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-Encounter/dp/1615073418/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-1     

Amazon Kindle – http://www.amazon.com/Captivated-King-His-Kingdom-ebook/dp/B004KAA9UC/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2&s=books&qid=1302820767&sr=8-2 

Barnes and Noble in book form – http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Captivated-by-the-King-and-His-Kingdom/Linden-C-Wolfe/e/9781615073412/?itm=3&USRI=captivated+by+the+king 

Other eReader formats – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/33572

If you follow along with this category (albeit, backwards) by the same name as the book, eventually, Lord willing, we will have walked through the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse in a devotional commentary approach. I pray that this series impacts you as much as it did me as I studied this passage and wrote this book. Grace to you!

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