By J.R. Miller
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Philippians 2:5
The ideal Christian life, is one in which the mind that was in Christ Jesus rules. But what is the mind that was in Christ? Is there any word that describes it? What was the very heart of Christ's mission?
What one day was there in all his life, when he showed forth most clearly the central glory of his character? Was there any one act in all the multitude of his wonderful works, in which the radiant blessedness of his life was revealed in greater fullness than in any other? If you were asked to name the one day in the life of our Lord when he showed most of the splendor of his person--which day of all would you choose? Would it be the time of his transfiguration, when the brightness of his deity shone out through the robes of flesh that he wore? Would it be the day of his miracle of feeding the five thousand, or the day when he raised Lazarus? Or would you take some scene when he stood amid throngs of lame, sick, blind--and healed them all? Or would you say that the brightest moment of his earthly life was when he was riding into the city with great processions of joyous people crying, "Hosanna!"
None of these hours of human splendor was the hour of the fullest revealing of the heart of Christ. None of those radiant days was the day when most of his true glory was manifested. None of these achievements of power was the greatest thing Jesus ever did. The brightest day in all his earthly life--was the day when he hung upon his cross! The revealing of his glory that was divinest, was when men thought that he had sunk away in the deepest shame. The act that was the sublimest of all his achievements, was the giving of himself in death for men. We could spare all the miracles out of the gospel story, and all the narrative of gentle and beautiful things--if the cross were left. The cross is the fullest representation of the glory of Christ. If we ask, then, where, on what day, in what one act, the completest revealing of Christ can be seen, the answer is--on Good Friday, when he died between two thieves.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." The very hall-mark of Christlikeness, is the stamp of the cross. We say we want to be like Christ. We say it in our prayers, we sing it in our hymns, we put it into our consecration services. But what do we mean by being like Christ? Are we not in danger of getting into our vision of it, merely an easy kind of life, a gentle piety, a dainty charity, a fashionable holiness, a pleasing service? When two disciples asked for the highest places, the Master spoke to them in serious words of his baptism and his cup of suffering, asking them if they were able to drink of the cup and be baptized with the baptism. When we say we want to be like Christ, He points us to his cross and says: "That is what it is to be like me; are you able?" The cross shows us a vision of what our life must be--if we are following Christ. The cross stamps itself on every true Christian life. Some people wear crosses as ornaments. If we are Christians like Jesus, we will wear the cross in our heart.
Suppose we vary the question, and ask what act in our own life we look back upon with the greatest satisfaction, what day we think of as the brightest and divinest of all our days. What achievement of yours do you consider the highest in all your life? Do you think of a day when you made some signal triumph in school, or won some unusual success in business, or carried off the honors in some contest, or did some fine piece of work which men praised? We are apt to think the red-letter days in our life, are the days when we gathered honor for ourselves. But in the light of the lesson we are now learning, are these the best days in our lives? Someone has said, "The greatest thing a man can do for his heavenly Father--is to be kind to some of the Father's other children."
The things that are really the brightest in your past life, are not the honors you won for yourself, the brilliant successes you achieved, nor the prosperities which added to your importance among men--but the deeds of love which your hand wrought in Christ's name, for some of his little ones. The one brightest day in all your past life--was the day you did your purest, most unselfish, most self-denying act for your Master, in serving one of his people. It is only when we have some measure of Christ's self-renunciation, that we have touched the truest and Christliest things in life.
There is a fable of a potter in China who received from the emperor a command to make a rare set of porcelain ware for the royal table. With greatest pains he began his work, desiring to make it the finest achievement of his life. Again and again, however, when the pieces were put into the furnace, they were marred. At length another set was ready for burning, and the potter hoped that this one would be successful. But as he watched it in the furnace he saw that this, too, would be a failure. In despair he threw himself into the fire and his body was consumed. But when the pieces were taken out they were found to be so wondrously beautiful that nothing like them had ever before been seen. Not until the potter sacrificed his own life in the doing of it--was his work successful.
The old heathen legend has its lesson for Christian life. Our work never reaches the highest beauty, is never fit for our King, until love's self-sacrifice is wrought into it. Things we do for ourselves, to win honor for our own name, to make profit for our own enrichment, are never the things that are most beautiful in God's sight. The greatest things we do are those that are wrought in utter self-forgetfulness for Christ's glory.
There will be strange reversals in the day of final revealing, when all things shall appear as they are. Many of earth's trumpeted deeds will shrivel into nothingness. Many of earth's proud names, bedecked with brilliant honors and garlanded with human praises, will fade away into insignificance, because there is no love in the things which won them their distinction. And up out of the shadows of obscurity, where they were overlooked by men, and left unhonored and unrecorded, thousands of lowly deeds will rise into immortal beauty and honor, because love inspired them. Up, too, out of the throngs of earth's unnamed will rise a multitude of lowly ones to receive reward, to shine like the stars, because they lived out the lesson of the cross.
There are some who complain bitterly because from all their loving--they get such small requital. Sometimes it is not only unrequital--the love is hurt, smitten in the face, wounded, scorned. In many a home there is one who loves and lives for the others--and yet is unloved. In all departments of life, there are those who must think and plan and labor and endure, while the honor of all they do, gathers about some other brow.
It ought to be a sweet comfort to all such--to know that precisely this is the highest, the divinest duty of love. These are the lives that are most like Christ's. He loved and was rejected and shut out of people's homes and hearts, persecuted, wronged, at last nailed upon a cross. Yet he loved on! The fountain in his heart flowed as full as ever. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus."
It would be well if we could get into our hearts a vision of the central meaning of the cross. It was not merely a man giving himself for the helping of his fellow-men--it was the Son of God giving himself, pouring out his own blood to redeem lost men.
"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." It is not enough to tell in flaming words of the love of Christ to men; we must be in flaming lives the love of Christ to men. It is not enough to sit in our places of worship and sing praises to God for our own salvation; we must hasten out to seek and to save the lost!