Archive for the ‘Living the Faith’ Category

For Oneness Pentecostals, the Christian life is a holy calling, reflective of the nature & character of the One Who has called.  For us, the Church is neither fully immersed nor fully engaged in larger culture.  For us, the Church is separate, set apart, sanctified, counter-cultural, existing as an alternative society that is in the world, but not of the world.  For us, the command to “Be holy, for I am holy” is just as much a part of the call of God today as it has ever been.  It is then incumbent on us as both the inheritors of the Holiness Tradition, and those who view God as first and foremost holy, to ensure that we embrace the holiness ethic with all our hearts & lives.

For us, the Holiness Ethic is a worldview based on the idea that God is Ultimately Other.  He is Not-Us.  This is the root of God’s command, “Be holy, for I am holy.”  The Holiness Ethic finds its taproot in God’s Otherness, God’s separateness.  And as God is Other, as God is Separate, so we are called to be other, to be separate.

Those who embrace the Holiness Ethic seek to understand how God expressed His “otherness” to humankind, and then apply that understanding to the entire scope of human life-experience.  In this manner, God’s holiness becomes the measure of how we as Christians understand and engage grand ideas of politics, economics, & justice (criminal, civil, social, and economic).  God’s holiness also becomes the governing principle of how we engage relationships, creation, and our career.  The Holiness Ethic becomes the guide to how we approach all aspects of daily living, the filter through which our thinking passes, and the measure by which we estimate what is good and true.  The Holiness Ethic forms our entire approach to life.

Once we accept the notion that the root of the Christian idea of holiness is that God is Other, we move to the stage of trying to assess just how God is “other”.  Fundamentally, God’s “otherness” is expressed by the values that He has declared are His own.  Discovering what those values are is critical to the Holiness Ethic, because if God’s “otherness” is expressed by His values, then for all intents and purposes, personal holiness eventually becomes a matter of living out God’s values in the world. So, the Holiness Ethic is about living out what God has identified by His own commitment as the most important values for His People to live by.

Now that we have some idea why we emphasize the things we do regarding personal holiness, let’s try to be candid about some of the effects our traditional emphasis may have…both positive and negative.

One of the positive effects of our traditional emphasis on personal holiness includes the realization that being in relationship with the Holy God will have profound impact on the realities of life.  Another is the understanding that since we represent the Holy God in a sinful world, we are fundamentally counter-cultural. Our Christian distinctiveness should set us apart.  Finally, another positive is the knowledge that sanctity is ultimately practical; sanctification is not merely theological and spiritual. It works itself out in how Christians behave and how they present.

But there are also negatives effects…negatives that include an easy slide from sanctified living to legalism.  Of course, we recognize that legalism is not the insistence that Christians behave and present distinctively.  Legalism is, however, an emphasis on the letter of such laws, while ignoring their intent or spirit.  Further, legalism is reflected in the tendency of some to make issues of practical sanctity salvific. In other words; if one isn’t living in accordance with them, one is probably not saved.  (This is always a puzzler, knowing how greatly these concepts may vary from region to region.)  Another negative effect of our traditional emphasis is the adoption of a critical and judgmental spirit…which even though we understand doesn’t have to be present, those of us who are experienced in such matters know how often it usually is.  A final negative effect, and perhaps the most dangerous, would be the tendency to continually expand the “list” of prohibitions to include things that are not Biblical, or are based on very questionable Biblical exegesis.

So, while the understanding that God is holy and calls us to be holy people is of undeniable significance, and while appreciating that a holy life most certainly will work itself out in practical matters, we must also be very careful not to add to the great pressure of an already counter-cultural life a list of codes that are based on a leader’s feelings, and things that will not pass Scriptural muster.  Every prohibition or code should be required to come under the scrutiny of sound exegetical practice.  Not only should we ask, “What did the apostles say?”, but we should also ask, “Why did they say it?”

Finally, it’s important to realize that, at the core, holiness is about living out God’s values…about demonstrating in practical ways what God considers important.  One can easily lose track of this when one begins to think that holiness “is all about me…about what I do, about how I feel, about what I want, and how it makes me better.”  Instead, the adoption of a holiness ethic calls for us first to consider holiness and sanctification from God’s point of view.

Though many North American Oneness Pentecostals like to think of our movement as having suddenly been born on earth from heaven with no earthly theological antecedents, little could be further from the truth.  Historically, the organized efforts of the Oneness Movement in North America have their roots in early trinitarian Pentecostal organizations, most notably the Assemblies of God.  Further, the Pentecostal movement in North America has it’s theological roots primarily in the Holiness Movement of the 19th century.

The Holiness Movement was itself a loose association of denominations and mission organizations that arose primarily in the latter half of the 19th century.  They were Methodist in theology, but held certain distinctive beliefs that formed the core of their emphasis.  While they shared with Methodism belief in a “second work of grace”, they were distinctive in their emphasis on how this experience would result in sanctified living.

They believed that aspects of God’s Law were pertinent, and expected their members to follow strict behavioral rules.  Among these strict rules were equally strict & modest dress codes.  Among those strict dress codes were prohibitions on makeup, jewelry, sleeves above the elbows, and the wearing of pants by women.  Women were also expected to have long hair.

The point of this very brief & necessarily simplistic examination of the history of the Oneness Pentecostal movement is to help you understand why many Oneness denominations have traditionally placed such emphasis on “personal holiness”.  We didn’t invent this emphasis; we’re simply a contemporary expression of it. From Methodism, to the Holiness Movement, to trinitarian Pentecostals, to us…  Turns out we’re not that original after all.

Holiness is a touchy subject in most of our churches.  We feel conflicted because on the one hand most of our ministers and congregations don’t really want to focus on it specifically…not very much, anyway.  (Though sometimes we bow to denominational pressure to do so.)  On the other hand, God’s call for us to be holy people is Scripturally undeniable.  This conflict arises in no small part because of the way we’ve defined & applied “holiness” in our movement, and now in the minds of most Oneness Pentecostal people the very word is fraught with tension.  This is the tension that exists between our awareness of God’s call, and our frustration with the traditional Oneness Pentecostal approach to it.

In spite of this tension, or perhaps even because of it, it’s more important than ever before for us to know what a “holiness ethic” is and why it’s important.  It’s important for us to grasp what having a holiness ethic might mean for us and our interactions with the world.  This understanding is important because God is holy, and because He has called us to be holy people.  A holiness ethic is important because our appreciation of God’s nature and calling must transcend a narrow, culturally delineated application of holiness.

But everything starts somewhere.  Every idea has a root, and ground from which it grew.  The Oneness Pentecostal movement’s focus on a particular view of “holiness” is not original with us nor unique to us.  The concept we generally embrace as “holiness” is an inherited one, and has been shared by other movements both previous to ours and contemporary with ours.  Having a basic understanding of how this particular heritage came to us would help us grasp the current focus…even while maintaining reservations about it.  Understanding where we are from and how we got to where we are now is important in order for us to truly appreciate where we are going.

Next; a brief history of the Oneness Pentecostal movement.

Starting Monday, May 9, I’ll be publishing excerpts from a series of lectures I’ve recently given on The Holiness Ethic.  Obviously, as excerpts, they’ll be limited in scope; the meat being reserved for those faithful students who endure my teaching.  Still, there may be enough in them to stimulate your thinking.

So, God being willing, we’ll “see” you Monday!

So, everything we’ve posted now brings us full circle to the definition of a bubble; it’s a self-reinforcing cycle of beliefs and practices.  In our bubble we’re comfortable, and feel safe, because we’re surrounded by people who are like us, who talk like us, and define reality like us.  Pentecostal people, using Pentecostal language, espousing a Pentecostal worldview; it’s a Pentecostal bubble.  It’s nice, to be sure.  But we’ll not fulfill our Commission from inside the bubble.

It’s hard for us.  We live in this tension between wanting to be utterly distinctive from the world, while still somehow reaching the world.  There’s always a struggle to strike the right balance between being utterly out of touch and incapable of communicating, or being utterly worldly.

An example of this would the conservative Mennonites on one extreme with the liberal evangelical congregations on the other.  The Mennonites are very distinctive in their appearance, putting us to shame by their “standards”.  They do their best to engage and participate in society as they can, yet seem to look odd, out of place, and awkward.  In spite of their sincerity and commitment, their movement is essentially unattractive…and is not growing.  On the other end of the spectrum are those evangelical mega-churches in which there is very little to distinguish them from “the world”, in appearance, practice, or philosophy.  Yet, their churches are full.  One extreme is utterly unattractive and cannot grow, while the other is utterly worldly and bulges at the seams.

We find ourselves in a dynamic that tries to operate between these two extremes.  We want to be distinctive to a degree, and at the same time adopt the methodologies that evangelicals use to great success.  We want to be distinctive and attractive, insular yet welcoming, different…yet charmingly so.  Only time will tell if we’ll be successful, because it’s incredibly difficult to be both in the bubble and out of the bubble at the same time.

Thanks for reading!

Element Three- Redefined Reality

Through the isolation of our lives and the adoption of specialized language, we begin the process of redefining reality.  Nothing is as it seemed before.  What was once a sleepless night is now “torment”.  What was once a low day or a bout of depression is now “oppression”.  What was once an argument with a family member is now an “attack”.  We define people by their saved-ness or lost-ness.  We qualify believers by our definition of what it means to be “apostolic”.  People we knew and loved and freely accepted into our lives before are now defined by their sin; they are drunkards, they are sexually immoral.

And even more radically, we alter our sense of reality by the application of our particular mores and taboos, both Scriptural and traditional, to a frightening degree.  So, we can’t comfortably speak of television unless we do so in a completely negative sense…even though it’s likely that the vast majority of all UPC homes have them.  Our television taboo redefines reality for us to such an extent that any acknowledgment of television is couched in a slew of disclaimers.  And this in 2016.

We also redefine reality by refusing to speak of or acknowledge things, that while true, don’t portray us in the most positive light.  So, we’ll not broach the subject of depression among pastors’ spouses because it contradicts our Pentecostal reality.  We can’t acknowledge that one of the reasons we place such emphasis on evangelism is to balance the outflow of those leaving the church.  We won’t acknowledge this because it is offensive to our Pentecostal reality.  We can’t acknowledge the incredible loss of UPCI youth…and that those losses occur regardless of youth programs or the conservatism of congregations.  And we refuse to acknowledge it because it offends our sense of Pentecostal reality.

We’ll do this…redefine reality…until all that we really acknowledge as significant, true, and valuable are those things that reinforce our beliefs and practices.

Tomorrow…wrapping it up.

In this post we move on to the second element of the Pentecostal Bubble…

Element Two- Language

The second element of our bubble consists of our eventual adoption and use of a particular form of language that no one else except the initiated will understand.  Consider this; when most of us begin our discipleship, we step into a world we know nothing about, hearing things we don’t grasp, using language we don’t understand.  At first it’s jarring…disorienting.  But as time passes and we’re immersed in that language, we grow to understand and use it ourselves.  Finally, we forget how jarring and strange it seemed to us, and we speak in that “code” all the time.

Eventually, Pentecostal-speak will begin to overflow into our conversation with those of “the world” because it’s now our language of life.  This is especially likely to occur among those who are in ministry and are supported by that ministry.  Church & ministry life become for us a cultural enclave that we never really leave, and we can grow to find difficult to have a meaningful conversation with someone who isn’t part of that enclave.

While every social and professional group will have a language of specialization, the extreme we take this to actually serves to interrupt communication with those who need to hear our message most.  For example; in conversation with “the world” we’ll find ourselves using theological terms instead of plain English.  So, we’ll say “repentance” instead of “change your mind”.  We’ll say “remission” instead of “forgiveness”.  And we’ll say “Holy Ghost” instead of “God’s Spirit”.  These are simple, and perhaps rather silly, examples…but whatever the example, the longer we’re “saved” the less able we seem to be to express God’s truth in any other language than Pentecostalese.

And the message becomes garbled because we’re speaking the language of the bubble.

Tomorrow; Element Three of the Pentecostal Bubble.

It’s been two years…TWO YEARS…since I’ve posted any thoughts of any kind.  It’s not that I’ve not had thoughts of any kind, it’s just I’ve not been at all sure they were worth posting. 😉  But here I am again, flinging words into cyberspace, wondering if after two years anyone still follows or reads these posts.  And instead of my usually wordy-wordy posts that violate the cardinal rule of the blog-o-sphere that “shorter is better”, I’ll try to keep in mind the old saw that “brevity is the soul of wit.”

Now, introducing “The Pentecostal Bubble”.

The bubble…a self-reinforcing cycle of beliefs and practices that’s protective, that’s comforting.  Every distinctive group at some point forms a bubble, whether intending to or not.  Upper class white people from Westchester have their own bubble, and it’s their world.  They live in certain neighborhoods in mansions, make high six and seven figure salaries, send their kids to private schools, who graduate and attend Ivy League universities.  They drive BMW’s or Lexus, and talk about yachts and horses on the golf course.  It’s their bubble.  It’s their world.

Pentecostals have a bubble; a self-reinforcing cycle of beliefs and practices.  And like all bubbles, our particular bubble seems to consist of three main elements, and those elements all connect and feed off one another.  Over the course of the next few days, I’ll be posting thoughts about the three elements of our “Pentecostal Bubble”.  I hope you take a few moments to read them.

And to think.

(I presented the following at the “Hyphen” session of the 2013 MA/RI District Youth Convention)

Think like Jesus! Of course, the question always is, what did Christ think like? In our congregation each year I preach on Sundays for one month from one of the Gospels…this year from the Gospel of Matthew…so that we might be more acquainted with Jesus as presented by the writers. The Gospels will show you Christ in action…but they don’t explicitly tell you what was happening in his head. We infer things about Christ’s thinking from the Gospels, but his thought processes aren’t specifically discussed by the Gospel writers.

The greatest insight we have into the workings of the mind of Christ come from the Apostle Paul, and the core of the ideas I will present this morning is drawn from his letter to the Philippian church…specifically Philippians 2:5-8. While Paul doesn’t give us a lot of detail regarding Christ’s thinking in this selection, he does provide us with three powerful categories of thinking to explore…three characteristics of thinking that if understood and applied can truly and thoroughly revolutionize the way we think.

Let’s read that text now…

  1. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
  2. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
  3. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
  4. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

I. Confidence Without Entitlement

A brain surgeon was taking a walk when he saw a boy on a bike smash headfirst into a tree. The doctor realized immediately that the boy was seriously injured, and told a bystander to call an ambulance. As he started to treat the injured boy, another kid not much older than the injured one nudged through the crowd that had gathered and said to the doctor, “I’d better take over now, sir. I’m a Boy Scout and I know first aid.”

Confidence is a wonderful thing…particularly, the capacity to be confident that your knowledge and abilities are equal to the challenges you encounter. We have a phrase that’s used to define this kind of confidence; we call it self confidence. Even though the phrase may have a few negative connotations, it basically just refers to your ability to trust yourself and your abilities.

The first characteristic of Jesus’ thinking that Paul mentions is that Jesus was confident. Paul says it this way in verse six; “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:” This tells us immediately that Jesus knew who he was, what he could do, and all the rights and authority that he had.

That’s one of the things I’ve noticed about Jesus in the Gospels…he’s never unsure, never uncertain. He is always completely confident in what he says and does. He knows his purpose, his mission, his place, and his power. There’s nothing about the Jesus of the Gospels that communicates self-doubt. After all, he wouldn’t have commanded that Lazarus’ tomb be opened if he wasn’t absolutely certain that he could raise Lazarus from the dead! In that kind of move there’s no room for self-doubt!

So, Paul describes Jesus as confident. Yet in that same verse, Paul tells us that Jesus’ confidence was somewhat different than what one would normally expect from other powerful people. Paul says that Jesus “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, which is a strange, hard to understand phrase in the KJV. Basically though, it means that He didn’t consider his deity something he had to hold onto for dear life, like a thief holds onto something he’s stolen.

It’s kind of a difficult concept to explain, but maybe the best way to express it is to say that Jesus’ confidence in his abilities and identity didn’t come with a sense of entitlement. He didn’t feel the need to demand special treatment because of who he was. While he was confident in what he could do, in what he came to do, he didn’t act as though his power came with all-access pass to the VIP lounge. If people wanted to show him honor, he accepted it. If they chose to disrespect him, he accepted that too. And he kept right on doing what he was supposed to do.

Christ-like thinking is characterized by confidence without entitlement.

That’s a struggle for us because confidence in our strengths and abilities is usually hard won. It’s like a phrase from a favorite Glenn Kaiser song of mine… “I’ve done the time and I’ve got the scars.” The old time preachers used to talk to young ministers about getting their “lion’s skin.” You know what these things mean; they mean that you’ve worked hard to acquire the abilities you have. You’ve studied, you’ve practiced, you’ve hammered your thumb more than once, and over the course of many years you’ve grown good at a particular thing.

Usually, along with the acquisition of skill, there is a corresponding rise in self-confidence; you know you can do it. And there’s nothing at all wrong with having that kind of confidence. If someone asks me if I can preach, I tell them, “Yes.” Can I preach to large crowds? Yes. Small crowds? Yes. To other denominations? Yes, because if you can preach to a crowd of sermon tasting Pentecostals you can preach to anybody. I’m not arrogant, I’m confident. I’ve worked hard to acquire the skill to do what I do.

But here’s the challenge; with that hard won confidence I’ve also acquired the belief that I’m worthy of respect…at least, in things pertaining to my abilities. I think that if I’m asked to use those abilities I have the right to expect a certain kind of treatment, at least in the venue in which I’m expected to exercise my abilities. In other words, if you ask me to preach then treat me right. Put me in the right kind of hotel. Pay me according to your ability, and commensurate with my skill. And show me the esteem that should be shown to an ordained minister with almost 30 years of experience.

And that, my friends, is how just about everyone in the world thinks. They have different skills and correspondingly different expectations, but just about every confident person also feels some sense of entitlement. And to be treated as less than they are shows disregard for the long years of labor and self discovery that’s brought them to be what they are.

But Christlike thinking is characterized by confidence without entitlement; the ability to do what you can without feeling the need to demand or expect honor, respect, or even recognition. And you can do this because your identity, your ego, isn’t that fragile…you don’t have to grasp it with desperate hands and hold it tightly, lest someone steal it away. You do what you do because you can do and because it needs doing. And that’s it.

II. Condescended Without Condescension

No doubt some of you have heard of the British actor Peter Sellers, perhaps from his role as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films. It’s said by those who worked with him that once he immersed himself in a role, he was never out of character until the film ended. In his book, The Mask Behind the Mask, biographer Peter Evans says that Sellers played so many roles that he sometimes wasn’t sure of his own identity. Once, when approached once by a fan who asked him, “Are you Peter Sellers?” Sellers answered, “Not today,” and walked on.

To us, the idea of losing our distinctiveness, of loss of identity, is a frightening thing. In the western world, untold sums of money and vast amounts of time are spent on the voyage of self-discovery. “Who am I? What kind of a person am I? What makes me tick?” This realization is understood as central to being able to truly understand and appreciate others. And really, I’m not sure it’s incorrect. Then, once we begin understand ourselves, once a strong sense of identity finally begins to emerge, we usually grab hold of that sense of self and cling to it for dear life.

This is me. This is who I am. This is what makes me different.  This is what sets me apart and allows others to know me. It’s such a relief to finally know myself, to be enlightened as to who I really am! The idea that, after I have worked so hard to find myself, I would lose myself, is almost unbearable. This unique and wonderful hodgepodge of thought, feeling, outlook, habit, practice, and belief is what makes me…me. And now this sense of personal identity is so important, so significant, that I simply must retain it.

With this we come to the second characteristic of Christ’s thinking that Paul identifies; Jesus condescended. In Philippians 2:7 Paul writes, “But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:” Literally meaning that he emptied himself and became us, that he divested himself of that which would have most easily identified him as different than us in order to be one of us.

He became so ordinary that despite all the wondrous works he did, he couldn’t be picked out the crowd. Not particularly tall nor short, handsome nor plain, with the same swarthy features and hard hands as the other tradesmen of his class…his accent no different than other Galileans, his rough sense of humor the same as theirs, the same swagger as they walked along, a cluster of young men together. This is condescension in the best meaning of the word; the mighty stooping low, so low that we thought he was us. He divested himself of riches to experience our poverty, of strength to know our weakness, of eternity to taste our dying.

And he did it without being condescending…in the worst sense of the word. He did it without arrogance, without a lordly attitude of superiority, without informing us that he was not us. He taught, healed, delivered, fed, calmed, raised…constantly endeavouring to lift humanity from the muck, while standing in the muck beside us. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.”

“Let this way of thinking be your way of thinking,” Paul says. “Empty yourself to become what another needs.” But, I’m so concerned with preserving myself, with holding on to my identity, that how Paul challenges me to think is more than a little frightening. After all, I can’t be what everyone needs. And it’s probably true…I don’t think I can. But maybe I can be a little more of what someone needs if I’m just a bit more willing to be a little less concerned with being myself.

Maybe this is what Paul is referring to in 1 Corinthians 9:20-22 where he writes…

  • To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law.
  • To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.
  • To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.

Christ-like thinking is characterized by condescension that isn’t condescending…by the ability to become what another needs, to lay one’s own identity aside for the sake of another. And to do it in such a way that it seems the most natural thing in the world.

III. Humility Without Servility

A young woman pulled her pastor aside one Sunday after Morning Worship. “Pastor, I have a problem…a besetting sin…and I want your help. I come to church on Sunday and can’t help thinking I’m the prettiest girl in the congregation. I know I shouldn’t think like that, but I can’t help it. I want you to help me with it.” The pastor replied, “Well Mary, I don’t think you need to worry about it. In your case it’s not really a sin…just more of a horrible mistake.”

Humility is hard for us…pride comes more easily. And pride is far more natural, too. Pride of place, pride of position, pride in association, pride in origin, pride in achievement, and of course, pride in appearance. Proud to live where you live, proud of your role in society or your group, proud of the group itself, proud to be from where you’re from and to wave the appropriate flag, or to spring from a certain family line, proud that you’ve done what you’ve done and have been properly recognized for it, and proud that you’re just so good looking.

But some of this isn’t bad pride, is it? Isn’t some of this pride perfectly legitimate…even necessary? Sorting through the various manifestations of pride is a grueling process made even more difficult by the Bible’s wholesale condemnation of pride. So, we perform a series of awkward mental gymnastics trying to explain to ourselves why one form of pride is acceptable while another is insidious. This process is made yet more awkward by the slightly embarrassing truth that the system of faith we profess to govern our lives by doesn’t acknowledge the subtle differences, the varietals of pride that we’ve discerned…it’s all just pride.

On the other hand, humility is much easier to understand. And whether it’s defined from its Latin roots or from New Testament Greek, it all comes down to being low, to viewing yourself as less. This is easy to understand, but hard to practice…oh so hard to practice…because both humanly and culturally everything within us screams out a protest at the idea of being less. Humanly we strive for more, to do more, to be more…and to be seen as more. Culturally, we are infatuated with equality; I may be no more than you, but you are certainly no more than me. So while humility may be easy to understand, there’s no denying that it’s hard for us.

Yet this very hard thing is characteristic of the mind of Christ! Christ-like thinking is characterized by humility without servility. “This is how Jesus thought,” Paul said in Philippians 2:8. “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

He humbled himself, Paul said. He made himself low. This is an even greater challenge for us, because we seem utterly incapable of humility without first being humiliated. We must endure a series of mortifying events to be made humble, and then we must have our regular doses of humiliation in order to be kept humble. Our natural tendency is to rise, and so from time to time our bubble must be burst. But not Jesus. He humbled himself.

And somehow he embraced this humility without servility. He made himself low without cringing and fawning and denying who he was or being distracted from his mission. Humility like this isn’t an act; it’s not something you try to do, or a way you project yourself. It’s a state of being; a way you think that becomes the way you are.

It’s a way of thinking that is utterly mission centred. Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, because that was his mission, his purpose. He knew from the very outset of his ministry that he would keep company with publicans and sinners, that his associates would be a motley assortment of workers and radicals, that he would be counted among the criminals, and would wind up hanging naked on a cross. Since he embraced this from the beginning, none of this could humiliate him. You can’t humiliate a man who’s already humbled himself.

Christ-like thinking is characterized by humility without servility…humility that is self-imposed and focused on mission. So much so that the experiences of shame, rejection, being ignored, unrecognized, and unappreciated are all inconsequential; what matters is doing what Christ would have you do.


Let this mind be in you. Let Christ’s way of thinking become your way of thinking. Be confident without a sense of entitlement. Condescend without being condescending. Embrace humility without servility. And the more you think like Jesus, the more you will act like Jesus.

I racked my brains trying to think of a story, an example that would best illustrate Christ-like thinking. Public speakers in general, but preachers in particular, know the value of a story that’s able to take the point of the message and make it real to life. All those stories that the regular sources suggested fell flat. I couldn’t think of one single example of a person I knew embodied all three characteristics…not one.

Then it came to me! The perfect story, the perfect example! It’s an ancient tale…no way to update it or make it contemporary. And it’s long, so I have to skip across highlights and hope you grasp the gist of it. But it’s that most ancient story of a King who became a servant, of a God who became a man…of how the Lord of Creation laid aside splendor, majesty, and honor to become Immanuel, God with us…to be with us. To be with the lowly, the poor, the sin-cursed, the crooked, the vain…to be with the wounded and the wounding, the abused and the abuser, the suffering and the one who inflicts suffering alike…to be with us.

I realized that there is simply no better example of Christ-like thinking than Christ. And there’s no better story to tell to drive home what he wants us to be than his story. So if you want to live a life that matters, a redemptive life, a life that has lasting influence for good far beyond the scope of your limited world, then think like Jesus.