Think Like Christ, Live Like Christ
In his book, The Empires of the Mind, Denis Waitley shares the following true story about a man named Nick. Nick, a strong, healthy railroad yardman, got along with his fellow workers and was consistently reliable on the job. However, he was a deep pessimist who invariably feared the worst. One summer day, the train crews were told they could quit an hour early in honor of the foreman’s birthday. When the other workmen left the site, Nick, the notorious worrier, was accidentally locked in an isolated refrigerated boxcar that was in the yard for repairs.
He panicked. He shouted and banged until his voice went hoarse and his fists were bloody. The noises, if anyone heard them, were assumed to be coming from a nearby playground or from other trains backing in and out of the yard.
Nick reckoned the temperature in the car was zero degrees. “if I can’t get out,” he thought, “I’ll freeze to death.” He found a cardboard box. Shivering uncontrollably, he scrawled a message to his wife and family:
“So cold, body’s getting numb. If I could just go to sleep. These may be my last words.”
The next morning, the crew slid open the boxcar’s heavy doors and found Nick’s body. An autopsy revealed that every physical sign indicated he had frozen to death. But the car’s refrigeration unit was inoperative, broken. The temperature inside was about 61 degrees and there was plenty of fresh air. Nick’s fear had become a self-fulling prophecy.
Oh. My. Goodness. The power of the mind! Maybe it’s not “You are what you eat!” but it’s: “You are what you think!”
The mind is that part of us responsible for thoughts and feelings, especially our capacity to reason. The apostles understood this power of the mind. Paul urged the Philippians in 4:8:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Here in I Peter 4, Peter gives his take:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking. (I Peter 4:1)
Peter utilizes a great word picture for how we ought to think in the midst of trials and suffering: arm yourselves. This word picture circles back to the beginning of Peter’s letter:
Therefore, prepare your minds for action, and be sober-minded… I Peter 1:13
We discussed then that this Greek word prepare points to the ancient custom of gathering up one’s long robes and tying them around the waist for action or strenuous activity.
To have Christ’s same way of thinking is hard work.
Why? Christ didn’t take on flesh for fun, to follow human passions or see what it feels like to wear a body. Rather, Christ took on flesh to suffer. That’s why Peter says:
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. I Peter 4:1-2
That’s our call: to have the mind of Christ, to follow Him, and do the will of God. Christ-like thinking leads to Christ-like living.
Peter knows that having the mind of Christ is hard. Remember? He himself had trouble thinking like Christ. So much so that Christ figuratively smacked Peter upside the head,
“Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Matthew 16:23)
YIKES! If Peter- the rock of Christ’s church- struggled to have Christ’s way of thinking, what does this mean for us? How many of us agree, “I need help with Christ-like thinking? I do! If Nick is a zero and Christ is a ten, where am I- where are you- on the good thinking scale?
Good thinking leads to good living; worthy thinking; excellent thinking; Christ-like thinking leads to Christ-like living. How do we do it?
Peter has some very clear instructions. Did you notice all the imperative verbs in this chapter? In the original Greek, there are nine true imperatives; others become imperatives as they are translated into English. Remember these commands are intended to help us think like Christ. As we take a peek, note which ones speak to your heart today? Which speak to your fears or anxieties? Out goal for today is to make Peter’s instructions super practical for the transformation of our hearts and minds.
IMPERATIVE: Arm yourselves (v.1, Day 1, page 114 of the workbook).
Prepare your mind. Set your mind. Be resolved to have the mind, the attitude of Christ. Peter is saying, "Look, suffering in the flesh is a battle, so prepare for action."
Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day and having done all, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13
Know Christ. In chapter one, Peter calls it being born again. In chapter two, he calls it belief, “Christ is the Cornerstone- the honor is for those who believe.” (I Peter 2:7)
Let's clarify a little confusion from last week arising from the end of chapter 3 when Peter makes the statement: “Baptism now saves you.” (v.18) Friends, pulling out that one verse is misleading. Remember our rules for studying NT letters?
Remember the 1st century context.
Understand their problem.
Think paragraphs. What's the main point?
Don’t focus on a single verse! Rather, seek to understand the main point of the paragraph.
Baptism is not what saves. When we look at Peter’s letter as a whole, he clear explains: Belief in Jesus saves. Baptism is a picture of his salvation; it’s something we do to publicly proclaim our belief that in Christ, we have died to self and have been raised to life with Christ. Knowing Jesus is to believe in Him.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… John 1:12
Salvation- being born again- really is that simple. Believe.
What if I haven’t been baptized? If you have believed in Jesus, you are saved. But I might ask, what are you waiting for! Baptism is a beautiful celebration.
What if I’m not sure I ever put my trust in Christ? Know for sure in this very moment and pray:
Lord Jesus, I believe in you. I receive you as Lord and Savior of my life.
When we believe, we are armed with the Holy Spirit and LIVING HOPE. For this we praise Him. Praise solidifies this hope in our hearts. Praise arms us and prepares us for the fiery trials.
Friends, my heart is heavy for dear ones suffering and walking through deep, deep waters: COVID, cancer, divorce, depression, suicide, death… The suffering and trials seem to keep rolling in like waves. Incessantly. Just this week as I prepared to talk about suffering with the mind of Christ, my next door neighbor died. He leaves behind a wife of many years. She’s devastated. On Monday night, a young man- a former soccer buddy of my son- died after battling bone cancer. He leaves behind a young wife. She’s devastated. So I don’t sit here in my comfy home and say flippantly, “Praise God in the midst of suffering. Follow steps A, B, and C and you’ll be fine.”
Pain is real. Grief is real.
One of my most favorite verses in all of Scripture is John 11:35- “Jesus wept.”
Praise helps us remember the reality of Jesus Christ. He took on flesh and blood not to condemn our weakness; He didn’t complain, “What’s wrong with you?” He didn’t grumble as He served us. Rather He gently and humbly entered into our pain and brokenness. He suffers with us… loves us, weeps with us, showers us with His compassion. Praise helps us know Him and lean into Him. Praise reminds us that His strength will carry us through the fiery, refining trials.
Praise leads to good thinking. Good thinking leads to good living.
Every other imperative verb in this chapter ties to this first one: “…arm yourselves with Christ’s way of thinking.”
The end of all things is at hand; therefore, be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. (v.7, Day 2)
IMPERATIVE: Be self-controlled and sober-minded.
Once again, Peter points to Christ’s return. Be armed with: self-control, sober-mindedness. Self-control means to be sensible. Reasonable. Sober-minded means to not be under the influence of anything else. We might ask: what influences? Sure, the obvious is wine or alcohol. But influencers can be family, friends, the world, peer pressure, our own selfish desires, the news, social media, fear, anxiety, etc.
We need to confront the influencers. Influencers tell us to “think this way.” Instead, Peter says, “Don’t listen to them!” Be sensible. Reasonable. Think on those things that are TRUE! Nick is an example here. He lost all self-control and let his thoughts go wild! If we’re honest, we’ve all done this to varying degrees.
Several times, I’ve shared the story of having four little ones when Dave left for a business trip in Israel. He was on the airplane when the US government put out a warning against US citizens being in Israel. How quickly I imagined him kidnapped or bombed or tortured. How quickly I became a widow with four little ones to feed. Thank goodness for a brave friend, who figuratively smacked me upside the head to say, “Carmen, you’re not thinking on things that are true!”
In the midst of COVID, in the midst of a polarized election, we must be sensible, reasonable and remember our Living Hope! Ultimately, Christ reigns. We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (II Cor. 10:5) If need be, turn off the influencers. We replace their voices with God’s Word. Study. Memorize. Make post it notes and reminders of His promises!
My son called as soon as he learned of his friend's death. They had played college soccer together, pulled pranks together and talked about Jesus together. My son, a pastor, married him, when his cancer was in remission. He had baptized him this spring as they prayed for a miracle. In his grief and sadness, Ben said this, “The reality is that right now, he is with Jesus. No more pain. I know and believe that.”
Living Hope. In the midst of fiery trials, in the midst of real suffering. Self-control, sober mindedness leads to good thinking. Good thinking leads to good living.
IMPERATIVES: Do not be surprised and rejoice (v. 12 & 13, Day 3 of the workbook).
The meaning of these two imperatives are pretty straight forward. Although not funny, I laughed out loud grimacing at my own weaknesses with these. I asked God:
“Why am I ALWAYS surprised by trials? Lord, and I rarely rejoice or count it all joy to suffer!”
Peter did. In Acts 5, he and other apostles were arrested and beaten for proclaiming the name of Jesus, they were let go and rejoiced "that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Peter says, “Look! Christ suffered in the flesh. We will suffer in the flesh. Don’t be surprised. Rejoice.” Be glad.
Like praise, rejoicing, giving thanks, arms our minds for suffering. Years ago in a sermon, a pastor challenged us to list ten things we were thankful for. Honestly, that morning, after getting the family to church, I struggled! And I was super convicted.
Okay, for some reason, I feel like I’m supposed to be super vulnerable to share another practical way to rejoice: a smile.
Today we live in a multitude of emoji’s. There’s an emoji to express every mood. Back when I was a girl, we had one: the smiley face. A smile is a natural way of rejoicing, expressing joy. No matter where we travel in the world, smiles have no language barriers.
A glad heart makes a cheerful face... Proverbs 15:13
Consider it. Could a smile be a simple way of rejoicing?
In Day 4, we observe several more imperatives:
But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name… (v.15-16)
Glorify means to esteem, to worship, to adore.
If we could travel back to 1st c., we’d see that Romans adored and glorified the theater with its risqué performances, the chariot races, and the gladiator fights involving blood and gore. By abstaining from these popular events and the “pleasures” of sex outside marriage, drinking, slander, lying, covetousness, and theft, Christians earned the reputation of being killjoys whose lives were devoid of any pleasure. Converts to Christianity often had to choose between Christ or their “BC” friends.
This is hard. When I think of abstaining from “things of the world,” I’m reminded of a little statue that sat on my grandma’s coffee table. Three monkeys: “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.” Honestly, these monkeys sacred me! They looked miserable!
But rather than put the focus on the “what not to do,” what if we focused on the “what to do:” glorify God. Serving Him and serving others is a practical way to have the mind of Christ. We glorify God when we love one another earnestly and practice hospitality (without grumbling… Yep! I can imagine that Peter may have witnessed Martha's outburst! v.8-9).
Finally, the last imperative verb:
v.19 Therefore, let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.
Entrust: to put our cares into God’s hands.
For me, this means enjoying a few minutes of regular quiet. When I had little ones, I got up early. I still get up early. This is often a prayer walk. Quiet is where we soak in God’s presence and exchange our fears for His LIVING HOPE. This is Christ’s way of thinking: going to the mountain “to entrust himself to him who judges justly.” (I Peter 2:23)
Friends, I hope that maybe there were one or two imperative verbs and practical applications that resonated with your heart or with your own fears and needs.
Suffering. It’s real. It’s part of wearing this flesh. It’s painful. It's heart-wrenching. Our instinct is like Nick's, we kick and scream. Christ understands.
May He Who entrusted Himself to the One who judges justly help us work through our own fears, anxieties, and kicking and screaming. May we be quieted with His mind.
Good thinking leads to good living. Oh! To think and live like Christ.
Lord, we entrust our souls to our faithful Creator. Thank you that you are with us.
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