The Mind of Christ

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

The Soul allows us to think, to feel and to make decisions.

Yes, the scripture is clear. Those who are born again “have the mind of Christ.” But what does this mean? Some Christians fall into the trap of thinking that, since we now have the mind of Christ, that means a Christian is unable to sin. Are Christians able to sin? We certainly are! Yet, we have the Holy Spirit, and that means we are capable of perceiving spiritual things, and of acting on them.

The Mind of Christ is another way of saying the Holy Spirit dwells in us, it co-exists alongside the human mind, thoughts and emotions, and works with our Spirit, to bring us closer to God in holiness. This is not an instantaneous event, but a process of sanctification. The Mind of Christ is not being “possessed” by Christ. God will not take over our thoughts, our emotions, or our will. To have the Mind of Christ is to be an individual creative being whose mind thinks in the same mode in which Christ thinks. The Soul that is serving the Spirit rather than the Flesh is a Soul that feels, thinks and decides in ways that Christ would do, if He were us.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 1:12-13)

In order to understand how we may allow the Mind of Christ to be fully leading in our lives, Christians need to understand how to move from being soulish to being spiritual. 

Body, Soul and Spirit

Human beings are unique in creation. We know that we were specifically created by God, by his own breath, from this scripture:

Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being (nephesh – soul). (Genesis 2:7)

Adam at creation was made of dust (flesh) into which God breathed his spirit, thus creating a being with a Soul, and a Spirit. The Soul is what distinguishes humans from animals; we feel, think and decide, rather than living simply by instincts of the body. At creation Adam and Eve were spiritual beings. They had the Spirit of God within them, giving them natural communion with God. However, Adam and Eve decided (a function of the Soul) to follow a different way.  They ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They listened to lies and engaged with the devil, choosing to go against God’s commandment. This decisive act was a moment of transformation for all human beings. God had warned them that eating of the fruit would mean death, and that is what happened. Instead of having eternal life, Adam and Eve chose the way of “human-ness” – soul and flesh rather than spirit.

The Soul: Mind, Emotions and Will

Their temptation involved a visual aspect, which called to the flesh: Do I like the look of the fruit? Is it attractive to my senses? It involved a thinking component: Is God trying to deceive me? Would I like to have god-like qualities? This also brought a powerful emotional component that was utterly captivating. Then they employed their wills: they took the input and chose a course of action based on what they had considered. They decided to sin.

The Soul in that moment led the Spirit, and that is the way of all human beings ever since. That is, until we are born again and receive the Holy Spirit, which, as it says in Romans 8:16, confirms with our spirit that we are children of God.

Many people, including Christians, are not all too clear on what a soul is. It is often confused with the Spirit. This expression is often used to describe some high human achievement: “It was a triumph of the human spirit.” This is a mistaken statement because we know that in the Garden of Eden, the first humans experienced a dramatic shrivelling of the human spirit. Adam and Eve found God’s presence unbearable. They felt ashamed. They were drawn to sin, to self-protection and fear of God. Though they were capable of great achievements, as the human race continues to be to this day, their achievements were wholly earthly, human, and in essence opposed to God.

Led by the Spirit

When we see great achievements in a human being what we are really seeing is an expression of the Soul…which apart from God has become the dominant component of a human being. Human beings have elevated, expanded souls, and this means they are placing themselves first in all things, rather than God. God does not elevate the Soul, far from it.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. (Romans 8:14)

Adam and Eve were led by their souls, but we as Christians must be led by the Spirit. In order to understand the Soul we have to first understand that it’s not the same as the Spirit. The Spirit only longs for the things of the Spirit. It delights in the things of God, is nourished and fed by them. The Soul, not subject to the Spirit, is naturally antithetical to the things of God. In Romans 8:7-8 we learn about how the mind that is carnal, or set on the flesh, is against God and cannot know the things of God.

The Soul as a Pivot

So we see the Soul is a kind of pivot. It either turns toward the Flesh or it turns toward the Spirit. The Soul either serves the needs of the Flesh, or it serves the needs of the Spirit. The first way is death, the second way is life. There is no “triumph of the human spirit” apart from God. The Soul is naturally dysfunctional, worldly, and unable to achieve anything of lasting value.

But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Colossians 3:8-10)

Soul sins are not always visible. Our thoughts and attitudes, moods and moral choices sometimes go unseen and unnoticed. Eventually they erupt, when a person lies or uses bad language, or enacts some sin in the flesh. It’s an expression of what’s going on on the inside.

The Soul has a very important function. We must learn how to deal with the Soul, and how to Employ the soul. The Soul that is serving the Spirit rather than the Flesh is a Soul that feels, thinks and decides in ways that Christ would do, if He were us. Note again the passage from the beginning:

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny. “For who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)

Here it says the spirit helps us to understand the gifts bestowed upon us by God. Understanding is a function of the Soul. The Soul processes information, and responds to it. The Soul may react emotionally. It may instigate a physical action. It may prompt a decision to be made. The Soul is the processor by which we come to know and understand the things of God or of the Flesh. The Soul allows us to make decisions and take actions in alignment with either the Flesh or the Spirit.

Employing the Soul to Serve God

In Isaiah 1:18 we hear from the Lord how he wants us to employ our Souls:

“Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the Lord“Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.”

The Lord wants us to use our reason. He wants us to use our thoughts and to consider things, to engage with him to seek understanding of who he is and what he requires. The carnal mind is incapable of this, but the Mind of Christ is capable. We have to learn to subdue our Souls so we can see, understand and respond to the things of God in every aspect of life. Peter said,

“Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:13)

This statement by Peter is also translated like this in the New King James:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;

and it parallels this one in the Old Testament,

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up your loins like a man, I will question you, and you shall declare to me. (Job 38:1-3)

That expression, to gird the loins  is foreign to us because we don’t wear long robes as they did in those days. To gird the loins referred to belting the long garments closely in so a person could run, fight, take action, react to any situation. It lines up also to Ephesians 6, which talks about putting on the belt of truth:

Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth… (Ephesians 6:14)

We must reason with God, employing all aspects of our Souls, our thoughts, feelings and decisions, rather than being ruled by them. To have the Mind of Christ is to be led by the Spirit in all things, rather than being led by passions, instincts, moods and an attitude of self-elevation.

Who, being in very nature  God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature  of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!   (Philippians 2:6-8)

Quite opposite to Adam and Eve, we see in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus refused to take glory to himself. Having divested himself of his god-like qualities in becoming a man, he was tempted by the devil to take them up again. He was tempted to serve his flesh and to demonstrate his power. But Jesus resisted this temptation each time with the Word of God. His Soul did not rule his Spirit. This is the essence of the Mind of Christ. Jesus summed it up when he said, “Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”

Praise God that we have such a Saviour! Let’s all follow his example, and be led by the Spirit, not dominated by the Soul.

This post is based on a sermon by Karen Dixon at Victoria Park Christian Centre on 14th August, 2016. If you would like more information on our ministry or church services, please get in touch using the form below. Bless you!