Having the attitude of Christ

Delivered at Lakewood UMC 2014

Phil 2:1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself  and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

As a child I tried to imitate my mother and my aunts.  I would wear their heels, their white gloves, their hats, and their costume jewelry.  But as much as I tried to look like them and imitate them, I was not them.

As Christians we are called not just to imitate Christ but to live like Christ—to have the same attitude as Christ.  John Wesley said that if we are unfulfilled in our life with Christ, then we have not gone deep enough.  We are, in essence, playing dress up and not yet taking on the life of Christ.

How do we take on the life of Christ?  Wesley said by attending to the ordinances of the church— Prayer, Bible reading, attending worship, holy communion, fasting, and doing good toward others.  If we are fulfilling these spiritual disciplines, we cannot help but begin to take on the attitude of Christ.

John Wesley referred to these practices as the means of grace, recognizing that we are all saved by grace alone, but that these observances would convey to ordinary people extraordinary grace leading to sanctification.  We do not practice these means of grace to earn salvation, but because we have already received salvation and they simply draw us into deeper relationship with our Lord. 

Wesley considered prayer the ultimate means of grace because what better focuses us on God than communing with Him in prayer. Prayer starts our day out right, prayer grounds us, and at the same time prayer raises us to that place called higher ground. When I finished praying I cannot help but have a smile on my face and His praise upon my lips.

Regular church attendees read the Bible at least one time per week.  But is reading a few scriptures on Sunday morning enough?  Your body can live on one meal a week, but can it thrive? To imitate Christ, we must know who He is, and what other means reveals Christ except through the Scripture.

Admittedly, there are probably thousands of books about Jesus, but isn’t it always better to go to the source?  There is nothing wrong in reading books about Jesus, but these books should supplement our reading of the Word, not replace it.

I could not find statistics to support what I am about to say, but I know in our church the women in our circles are faithful in attendance.  If there is a church service or event, the women of the UMW are there.  And where else would we want to be? God said where two or three are gathered, I will be there. 

The Communion Table of the United Methodist Churches is open to all who have professed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord.  When we eat and drink in remembrance of Him, such action carries a much deeper meaning than just thinking about the sacrifices Jesus made while we are at the table and asking forgiveness of our sins. 

When I was a child there was a show on TV called “You Are There.”  Historical events were dramatized during this show and you truly felt like you were there.  I almost think we should consider visiting the Lord’s Table not just as a sacrament of the church, but as means to take us back to the actual scene when Christ spent His last night on earth before His death with His disciples.   The next time you partake in the Lord’s Supper, put yourself at the table of our Lord, think His thoughts, feel his great love, and let your life be changed because you were there.

Fasting is no longer a common practice, and many of us have restrictions to missing a meal because of medicines we take.  But we can fast anything.  Do without television or being on the computer and spend that time in prayer and Bible reading.  Miss a day of working in the garden or reading a good book, and spend time with your Lord.  To give up something you love and replace it with something God loves on a regular basis is a good thing.

Today’s scripture tells us the way we take on the mind of Christ is by becoming a servant.  Isn’t that the entire reason the United Methodist Women exists?  When we help put together flood kits, when we buy shoes for children in Africa, when we make receiving blankets for infants at risk at UAMS, when we work at soup kitchens we are not just imitating Christ, we are living Christ.

To have a servant’s heart is to have the heart of Christ.  To put others before yourself is to live Christ.  To make yourself nothing so that Jesus is everything is to die out to Christ.  May each of us live Christ today and everyday.

Prayer:  Father, as we determine to take on the mind of Christ, may we be strengthened by performing the spiritual disciplines of the church, recognizing that the more disciplined we are the more like Christ we will become.  Amen

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