Growing up, I watched people do and say religious things with enviable zeal for a few hours on a Sunday, only to make a mockery of the things they confessed during the rest of the week. Did they believe what they professed in church? What is the point of our faith if it has no practical relevance to everyday life? The actions of many of the older Christians I respected troubled me for a while, but it ultimately led me to question the relevance of my faith to everyday life. Did it make a difference to my life, should it? I continually evaluate how much my beliefs inform my lifestyle because I never want my faith to be theoretical, with no practical relevance to my life.
Recently, I’ve been writing about the importance of transformation – possessing the mind of Christ, which is fundamental to our Christian experience. It’s all well and good encouraging people to contend for transformation, but what does this look like practically? I was reflecting on how I would explain what it meant to possess the mind of Christ to my 8-year-old, and it occurred to me that a person who has the mind of Christ would believe what Jesus believed with the conviction He possessed and demonstrated. They would invariably make decisions that please God, just as Jesus did, bringing glory to God – which is the whole purpose of our existence [Isaiah 43:7].
As I thought about how I would explain to my 8-year-old how a person can possess another’s mind, it struck me that this naturally happens within another type of relationship: marriage. I have been married for a decade. One of the immediate hurdles my wife and I had to overcome was making joint decisions that impacted our marriage. We were raised in different cultures and with different world-views, and we had different personalities. These factors affected how we thought and made decisions. Unsurprisingly, these differences made it difficult for us to make decisions as a couple. However, we’ve changed over the years, and joint decisions are much easier to make. Not only do we now think the same way on most issues, but there’s also a mutual trust that allows one person to make a joint decision in the absence of the other. In other words, my wife and I are now of one mind on most things.
Something similar should happen in our Christian walk. Our relationship with God should gradually transform us. Eventually, there should be no doubt whether God approves of our choices because we know what pleases Him. Nevertheless, it isn’t accidental. My wife and I are intentional about getting to know each other through spending quality time together and constant dialogue. This is how I find out who she is, how she thinks, what she likes, and vice versa. It’s the same practical approach with God. I get to know who He is and how He thinks through prayer and spending quality time in His word. I find it interesting that Jesus defined eternal life as knowing Him and His Father [John 17:3]. This means that eternal life isn’t a result of fulfilling dos and don’ts. Instead, it’s a product of a relationship.
During a particular parenting moment, I explained to my son that daddy won’t always be looking over his shoulders to ensure he does the right thing, so he must learn to make the right decisions. Therefore, rather than telling him what he can or can’t do, I told him I was more interested in who he becomes since that would determine what he does when no one is watching. I told him this only happens if he’s convinced about his beliefs. I influence this process through my relationship with him, as I help him form his convictions and shape his character. God does the same with us. Rather than micromanage our every decision, He’s more interested in shaping our character and our convictions to conform to that of Jesus [Romans 8:29].
So, what are the practical ways of evaluating if one possesses the mind of Christ? I don’t have an exhaustive list, but it’s worth considering your character and what goes through your mind. A person who possesses the mind of Christ thinks about what is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise. Such a person will be at peace with God [Philippians 4:8-9]. They wouldn’t mind God scrutinising their thoughts either [Psalm 139:23]. Equally, a person that thinks and acts like Jesus will be meek and humble [Matthew 11:29]. They would also love God and people [1 John 4:7-10]. These are some hallmarks of a person who possesses the mind of Christ.
A day will come when I’ll have this discussion with my kids because it’s my responsibility to teach them to imitate Christ [Ephesians 6:4, 1 Corinthians 11:1]. As I teach them the practical steps to becoming more like Jesus, I know they will be looking to my life as an example of someone who is Christlike. This is daunting since as I said at the beginning, some of those I respected growing up said and did the right things in church, but how they acted outside left me questioning their character and their beliefs, as well as my faith.
Many people, especially young people, have abandoned their faith because of the hypocrisy of Christians. I don’t want my kids to forsake Jesus because of me [Luke 17:2]. It would be a shame if they read my blogs in the future and snigger because I didn’t practice what I preached at home. The only way to avoid such disgrace is to ensure that I’m truly transformed in mind and character because then, my actions will be a consequence of who I’ve become rather than a façade. Therefore, it’s worthwhile to do all I can to possess the mind of Christ [Philippians 2:5].