Monday, February 11, 2013

The Mind of Christ

Kinlaw’s book, The Mind of Christ, is a well written book on the inward work Christ needs to do in every Christian, particularly our minds.  Though a short book, it is nonetheless a worthy read. 
Kinlaw begins the book by stating that all can have this work, as it is a work of God, and not man.  In chapter 1 he calls it the “forgotten theme” of the Bible, and begins with the Old Testament, paying particular attention to Abraham.  He tells us that we are to have the mind of Christ, which is the opposite of the mind of the world, or the “carnal” mind, which is opposed to the work of God.
He continues in chapter 2 talking about Abraham’s righteousness, pointing out that Abraham’s righteousness is not based on believing what is right, desiring what is right, or even in doing what is right.  The inward is what matters to God, not the outward.  The title of the chapter is an important question which he attempts to answer here: “Doing Right or Being Righteous?”  He points out that Abraham did what was right according to the law, but still was not righteous.
In chapter 3 Kinlaw begins to take us into the New Testament with a journey through the gospel of John.  In this chapter his intent is to introduce us to Christ, and points out the four-fold presentation of Jesus given to us in John’s gospel.  Jesus is presented as the rejectable King, the humble King, the servant King and the self-sacrificing King.  He tells us that if we are going to get the Mind of Christ, we must start with understanding who Christ is, as well as His life’s purpose.
Chapter 4 continues the journey in the gospels, this time turning to Mark.  Here, instead of focusing on Christ, the attention is turned to us, and the Disciples in particular.  We must not only understand who Christ is, but who we are.  Going through the gospel of Mark, particularly the second half of the gospel, Kinlaw points out the desperate need the Disciples had for the Holy Spirit.  Despite Jesus’ teaching and living with them, they still displayed the carnality of the world.  The key, we are told, is Jesus’ comment to Peter: “You do not think as God thinks.”
Chapter 5 is all about the spiritual life versus the carnal life.  Here we are taken to Romans 8.  He discusses the tug-of-war in believers who haven’t had this infilling of the Spirit’s power.  The carnal life, Paul tells us, will lead us to death, while the life of Christ through the Spirit is true life.  The need of every believer is to be entirely transformed by the power of the Spirit, giving themselves over to the will of God.  This must be a complete surrender to God. 
In chapter 6 we are taken to I Corinthians, where Paul is telling the believers what they are, or ought to be; “saints” and “holy” are the terms Paul uses.  The problem which is pointed out is that while the Corinthian church has begun the journey of redemption, they have not completed it.  Their carnal spirits are coming out in their attitudes of jealousy, their quarreling, and their immorality.  They are on their way to what God has in store for them, but have not yet reached it.  Kinlaw again uses the example of the Apostles, who lived and served with Christ, yet still needed the Holy Spirit.  It was Pentecost which turned them around. 
In this chapter we are given John Wesley’s path of redemption, which is important to the entire book.  This idea of having the mind of Christ, and being completely transformed, needs to be put into a logical order so that the reader knows it’s not something for a few, but for all.  It is God’s plan of holiness for every believer.  Kinlaw does a good job of pointing this out.  “There’s nothing defective with our conversion experience, but conversion only starts us on the path of further insight into the real nature of our relationship with God.  As we mature in the Christian life, we realize more keenly our dependence on God for everything that we do.” (pg. 95)
Our last stop in the New Testament in found in chapter 7, as we are taken to the book of Philippians.  Kinlaw points out that in this book is found one of the key verses concerning having the mind of Christ.  “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.”  He points out four negative characteristics of the carnal mind which Paul points out in Philippians; self-interest, vain conceit, grumbling and questioning.  These are the things which separate the mind of Christ from the mind of the world.  The mind of Christ is sacrificial, and that is what we need to be as well.  We need to be willing to give complete control to God, sacrificing all for Him as He did for us.  This is what will give us the mind of Christ.
In chapter 8 Kinlaw takes us right back to where the journey began; Christ.  Understanding now that it is the will of God that every believer take this journey, we read about the “Arm of the Lord,” which came to intercede; to bring the sinner and grace together.  As that was Christ’s aim, so it is ours.  If we are going to be able to live as Christ did, the focus needs to be on His willingness to sacrifice all.  The burden which He carried for the lost needs to also burden us. 
All in all, I thought it was a useful book.  Kinlaw does a good job of taking us repeatedly to Scripture, pointing out that struggling with the carnal nature is normal for believers, but it isn’t the end here in this world.  In the seventh chapter, he points out something which is important to this study; if we say only in the next world can we know true victory by having the mind of Christ, we are wasting it.  “In another world, such a life would be far less valuable than it is here.” (104)  Not only is this important to the study, but should show us what this is all about.  The point of having the mind of Christ is for us to fulfill the work of Christ.  We cannot do this without His burden and willingness to sacrifice.  Those things are entirely against everything in our nature.  So, if we are going to do His work, we must have His mind.  We must do our work in His power and wisdom.  Only then can we be successful in our endeavors to be an intercessor. 
If I were to say anything negative about the book, it would simply be that while Kinlaw points out that having the mind of Christ will make us more like Him, He doesn’t go into a lot of detail.  While he does do a good job of giving us illustrations from people’s lives, such as Amy Carmichael and Josef Tson, we still aren’t taken to how it will show in our own lives, apart from sacrifice and intercession. He spends a lot of time telling us what we shouldn’t be, and not as much time telling us what it looks like when we experience the mind of Christ.  It is hinted at, but never really spoken of in any great detail.  Mind you, this is probably not something easily explored in such a small book, and probably wasn’t his aim anyway. 
This book would be good for both pastors and laymen alike.  While I enjoyed the book myself, there was little that I haven’t read elsewhere.  That being said, it is probably one of the better books on this for those who don’t do as much reading, as it is simple, precise and a very easy read.  

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