By J.R. Miller
"Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." The people at Philippi had Paul's happiness in their keeping. They could give pain to his heart--or they could give him gladness. We all carry in our hands, in greater or less measure, the happiness of others. Children have power either to make their parents unhappy or to make them glad. A class has their teacher's happiness in their keeping--if they receive the lessons and live them out, they give the teacher deep joy. A few people gave Jesus comfort and gladness--by their love and kindness. We never can know what the Bethany family did for His pleasure. But the people in general, broke His heart. The scene of Jesus weeping over the city illustrates this. We should always try to give joy to our friends--and above all to Christ.
Christians should live together in love. There can be no sadder sight than a quarreling church. With what pity that Jesus must look down upon the unseemly spectacle! One of the last prayers of Jesus for His disciples, was that they might live in unity. One of His last commandments to them--was that they should love one another as He had loved them--that is, patiently, helpfully, thoughtfully, unselfishly, faithfully, unto the uttermost. Wherever Christians are associated together, they should be of the same mind, of the same love, being of one accord.
The secret of being of the same mind, being of one accord, is stated plainly: "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." This happy result can be reached only by mutual yielding and giving up. It never can be attained by each one determining always to have his own way. No two people can be intimately associated and live in love, without cost to both. The secret of wedded happiness is in each counting the other better than himself. Sometimes there is a unity made in marriage by one being "head" and the other surrendering all rights--but that is not an accord of love; it is merely a unity produced by force--master and slave. The "one mind" comes through the desire of each to serve the other. So it is in all friendships. Friendship is always discipline. Two friends learn to live together in love--only by each thinking of the other, and forgetting self.
There are other people besides ourselves in the world--and they live all about us. We are to think of their interests. We cannot step in any direction, without coming in contact with some of them. Now we must think of these others, and shape our life in reference to their interests as well as our own. We dare not go on treading as we like, picking up every beautiful thing we see, plucking every flower we find blooming anywhere. Other people have rights, and we must regard them. Besides, there is a law of love which bids us think of others before ourselves, "in honor preferring one another." We should have an interest in the prosperity, the success, and the happiness of all about us.
This is not easy. The only way to fulfill its precepts, is to have in us the mind of Christ. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Christ's wonderful condescension, is the true type of every Christian life. Each in his own sphere should live over again, the marvelous story of condescension and humiliation.
We are not merely to copy Christ in His acts--but we are to seek to have the mind and the spirit that was in Him. All true life must begin within. A new heart is the starting point. There is little use in a bad man changing his habits or manners--while his spirit remains bad. He is the same man still. The only true change is that which begins in the heart. "Create in me a clean heart, God; and renew a right spirit within me," is the prayer for those who wish to be Christians. If we have the mind that was in Christ, we shall have no trouble in getting the Christlike life. But how can we get the mind that was in Christ? Paul tells us everywhere in the words "Christ lives in me." We may have the very mind of Christ in us, His Spirit being the spirit that animates us. We have but to open our heart to Him, to be willing to be made like Him, to yield our being to Him. If Christ really rules and reigns in us--we have His mind swaying, influencing, directing and controlling us.
The whole story of the condescension of Christ is in the words: "Who, existing in the form of God . . . emptied himself, taking the form of a servant." He was "in the form of God." He was God Himself. This was the starting point. It is this which made the condescension so wonderful. It is no humiliation for a man to be born. There is no special condescension even in the fact that Jesus was born in a stable and in poverty, and lived in a quiet village, working as a carpenter, and then went about the country teaching and doing good deeds, being misunderstood, and at last nailed to a cross. Other good men have been born in poverty, have worked as mechanics, have been persecuted, and have died as martyrs. If Jesus is only a man--there is no great condescension in all this. But when we look up and see Him in His divine glory, the eternal Son of God, and then think of what He did, we see the condescension!
Queen Victoria, in her summer rambles in Scotland many years ago, went into the homes of the poorest people and sat down and talked with them. In one place she found a poor, crippled, old woman, and gave her money. She read a chapter of the Bible to a sick man, and then prayed by his bedside. If some female missionary had done these things, no one would have talked about condescension--but when the good queen did them--all the world was touched. So, while we read the gospel story--we must remember WHO it was that was born in a stable, cradled in a manger, did deeds of mercy in the land, and died on the cross! Then we shall understand the mind that was in Christ Jesus.
When we recall, further, the OBJECT of this condescension, why He who was in the form of God took on Him "the form of a servant" among men--that it was to lift up the fallen sons of men and make them sons of God--then we get another thought of what it is to have this mind in us. It is to have love for others, love for the unlovely, a love strong enough to lead us to make the greatest sacrifices in order to do them good, to save them. If we would love as Christ loved--we must be ready to make the condescension and sacrifice He made.
Christ "humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death." We should think of Jesus always as God's ideal man. How different His life from that of most men! They have their worldly ambitions. They want to make a name, to get rich, or to climb to power. Jesus was here to serve, to be a blessing to the world, to do good, to live out a life of love. He so devoted Himself to this great purpose, that He literally gave His life, going to a cross, in love for undeserving sinners!
This is the true ideal of human life. We are to hold all that we have, and all that we are--at the service of Christ for our fellow men. But Christ was exalted after His humiliation. The exaltation was because of the humiliation. Service always has its reward. Those who empty out their life here--will find it again. No doubt the disciples of Jesus thought He had made a fearful mistake in giving up His life as He did. We can easily imagine them, during the days that the Master lay in the grave, saying one to another: "This is terrible--such a life to end on a cross! He was so young, too! If only He had been more prudent, and had thought of Himself a little more--He would not have met this fearful death! What a waste of precious life! What a blessing He would have been to the world--if only He had lived to a ripe old age!" But we know that no mistake was made--that His life was not wasted.
In one of the old prophets we read of the Messiah, "He shall see of the travail of his soul--and shall be satisfied." In the Epistle to the Hebrews we are told that for the joy set before Him--He endured the cross, despising the shame. Jesus knew that He was not wasting His life--but that glory would come out of His sacrifice, not only for Himself--but for His people. He humbled Himself to be a servant and to die on a cross--but He went from the cross--to the throne of the universe!
The law of life is the same in its application to Christ's followers. Those who give themselves up to service and sacrifice in doing the Master's work--are preparing for themselves high places in glory.
There is a legend of one who, when given money by a king for the building of a great palace, finding the people in sore need, spent the money in buying food for them. When the king came and found no palace he was very angry, and, sending for the builder, demanded an explanation. He then cast the builder into prison, saying, "Tomorrow you shall die, for you have been unfaithful." But that night the king, in a dream, saw a wonderful palace, surpassing all of earth's most splendid buildings. "What building is that?" he asked. "The Temple of Merciful Deeds, built for you by the Great Architect." Then the king understood that the spending of his money in service of love had erected for him inside the heavenly gates a palace of immortal beauty. Although only a legend, its teaching is true. In a life of sacrifice and service in this world, in Christ's name--we are laying up treasures in heaven which some day we shall have forever!