The Secret Of Christian Experience
Preached at the Sunday Morning Service of The Moody Church on February 8, 1953.
What is real, genuine Christian experience?
I might take an example from any chapter of the book of Philippians which would give us the secret of Christian experience. I could take chapter 1, verses 20 and 21: “So now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
I know we generally quote that as “for me to live is Christ,” but it is really, “for me to live—Christ.” So that whether we live or whether we die—Christ. When the Lord Jesus Christ dwells within, Christ is magnified in my body. If I live, it is Christ who lives in and through me. If I die, I will be with Christ, so what is the difference? That is Christian Experience in chapter 1.
In chapter 2 we read, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. When the mind of Christ is operating in a believer’s life, controlling his thoughts, controlling his words, controlling his actions, that is Christian experience.
In chapter 3, verse 10, Paul has just been saying he is willing to count everything but loss just to know Him. That word “to know” is not just an intellectual persuasion, it is experience; it means to know Him intimately. And Paul desires not only to know Him in the power of His resurrection, but to know the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable until His death.
That I may know Him! Everything else is secondary! I put everything to one side, not only the bad things but also the good things. Those things that were gain to me—I put them all on the rubbish heap, just to know Him.
In chapter 4, verse 13, we find the same thing put another way: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
So we have in chapter 1, that Christ shall be magnified in our bodies. In chapter 2, we are to have the mind of Christ. In chapter 3, we should desire to know Christ. In chapter 4, we can do all things through Christ.
My friends, that’s Christian experience.
Let us go more deeply into the second chapter, because of the import of it. In it there is given to us a revelation not only of His heart and His mind, but of our own hearts and minds and condition.
Now in these first four verses we are given the exhortation that we should have the mind of Christ. In the first two verses we find the attitudes we ought to possess: “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels (tenderheartedness) and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.”
These things: consolation, comfort, fellowship, tenderheartedness and mercy, we should have in order to be unanimous, of one mind.
You know, my Christian friends, if Satan can get us haggling with each other, he has defeated the program of God in our lives. God can only move among His people as they are of one mind. When I see the divisions among God’s true people, I’m not surprised that conditions are as bad as they are today.
Our joy cannot be full, says Paul, unless we be of the same mind, of the same love, having the same purpose, having the same yearning. When the Lord Jesus Christ is the center of our hearts and lives, when the mind of Christ is operating in us, when we have one mind, one fellowship, then the Word of God is free to move in power in our midst. God grant it to us.
My friends, that is Christian experience.
And now, in verses 3 and 4, we find the things to avoid. Paul is very practical here. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”
Count the other brother better than yourself? That’s hard to do. We all think we’re better than the next fellow. When you have the mind of Christ, you put others ahead of yourself, give them the places of honor. That will avoid strife and vainglory; it shows meekness, humbleness of mind.
“Look not every man on his own things.” In other words, don’t seek the place of honor: don’t push yourself forward. Give the other fellow the right of way—“in honor preferring one another.”
The Mind Of Christ
Then we have the exhortation given in verse 5: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” What was His mind? The life of the Lord Jesus Christ was a life of complete abandonment to the will of God, of complete subservience to the will of His Father.
In John 8:29 He could say, “I do always those things that please Him.” In John 5:30, “I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father.” And in John 4:34, “My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me.” In the tenth chapter of Hebrews, verse 9, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” And in the 26th of Matthew, verse 39, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. That’s Christian experience.
That’s the hardest thing in the world for most of us to do: to push aside our own desires, no matter how good, and bow in complete subservience to Him. Humbleness of mind is the product of humility of life.
You know, it’s always been an amazing thing, and I want to bring it to your remembrance, that the Lord Jesus Christ only once ever said, “Learn [anything] of me.” Isn’t that astounding?
Only once He told His disciples, “Learn of me.” We find it in Matthew 11:29. He’d just been saying, in a wonderful way, “I thank thee, O Father, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.” Would you like to know God? Come in the humility of a little child.
Then He said, “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.” Of course we want to learn of Him to be loving, to be wise, to be great, but He didn’t say that. He said, “Learn of me…to be meek!” The only place you will ever learn meekness is at His feet. Of course, there are a lot of weak people—w-e-a-k, not m-e-e-k. There’s more difference than just a couple of letters between those words.
Jesus Christ only once ever said, “I have given you an example.” That was in John 13, where He took a towel and girded Himself, took the place of a slave, and washed the disciples’ feet.
And only once do we read that He left an example. That is in 1 Peter 2, “when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not.” “Learn of me”—meekness. “I have given you an example”—meekness.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Why is it important that we have the mind of Christ? We live in a day when we always seem to be getting mad at each other. Most church squabbles and splits are caused by somebody wanting their own way, wanting their own rights. It takes a big man to be meek. And the Lord Jesus Christ, who was the personification of meekness, gave us a pattern in verses 6 to 11.
What He Became
In verses 6 to 8 you have what He became—what an amazing condescension! “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
Here we have the nature of His humiliation. He Who was in the form of God thought it not a thing to be grasped after, but made Himself of no reputation, and became a slave.
Do you remember Hebrews 1? It speaks about such a Saviour, Who is the heir of God, Who framed the ages, “who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person.” Colossians 1:16 says He was the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created.”
In the first two verses of John’s Gospel, we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” And in verse 14 of the same chapter, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” The first epistle of John speaks of Him as “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of Life.”
In John 1:18, He said of Himself, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared (shown) him.”
When I go back to the Old Testament, I find in the 24th of Exodus where Moses and God spoke face to face. Yet when you come to chapter 33, Moses said, “Show me thy glory,” and God said, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.”
Isaiah said, in chapter 6, “I have seen the king high and lifted up.” In John 12, the apostle quotes: “These things said Isaiah, when he saw his glory, and spoke of him.”
The Nature Of His Humiliation
What is the nature of His humiliation, this One Who was God; this One Who was life eternal? We find in the 8th chapter of Proverbs: “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him.” Many other passages in both the Old and New Testament concerned this One Who was God. He thought it not a thing to be held onto. He was willing to leave His place in glory to come down here and take His place with humanity.
I am well aware of the fact that no human mind can delve into this. But I want you to see the nature of His descent, when He left the glory, laid aside that glory that men might gaze upon Him.
I think we have the hint of that in John 17:3 and 4: “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent. I have glorified thee on earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”
I want you to see the mind of Christ in the nature of that humiliation. It’s so foreign to man, so contrary to human ambition! And in our Christian experience, that’s got to be the evidence of the mind of Christ in me and in you.
Most people, instead, follow the example of Satan and Eve. In Isaiah 14:14, we have Satan quoted in his “I wills” to God, ending with “I will be like the most high.” And in Ezekiel 28:6, “Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God. I will exalt myself above God—a creature aspiring to deity! So many cults and false doctrines today offer you that very thing.
Indeed, when Satan came to tempt Adam and Eve, he persuaded them to do exactly the same thing. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
“Oh,” said Eve, “I’ll be like God!” And the next thing you know, she had taken of the forbidden fruit.
That desire has come down through the ages. I say it very kindly though it sounds blunt, that when you and I want our own will and our own way, and will not be subservient to the will of God, we are following the same path that Satan followed, that Adam and Eve followed.
Satan is in rebellion against God. Sin is rebellion against God. David confessed it in Psalm 51 when he cried out, “Against thee, and thee only, have I sinned.”
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.
Our Lord was willing to lay aside His glory, lay aside the worship of angelic beings, leave the atmosphere of holiness and righteousness, leave the pure air of glory, to take His place in this wicked, corrupt, sinful foul air of this world.
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation.” God deliver us from having a reputation. Sometimes the program and purpose of God have been thwarted by the people of God for the sake of their reputation, because they wanted they approval of the world.
I plead with every Christian worker and every pastor: God grant to every one of us to give our time to the things of God, that His will and His purposes shall be the consuming passion of our hearts, that the will of God shall be perfected, that we may bow with David and say, as in the 40th Psalm, “I delight to do thy will, O God.”
The nature of His humiliation is that He who was like God was willing to empty Himself.
The Manner Of His Humiliation
Then you have the manner of His humiliation in the next verse. He “took upon him the form of a slave, and was made in the likeness of men.” He Who was worshipped by angelic beings, we find Him taking the form of a slave.
Did you ever think of that aspect in John 13? You remember how that wonderful chapter starts: “Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.”
Then, “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet.”
He took a place of a slave—what a sight for the holy angels! They who had bowed before Him in adoration and worship find Him on His knees, dressed as a slave, washing the dirty feet of His disciples.
“And was found in fashion as a man.” Oh, He who framed the ages by the word of His mouth, we find Him not having a place to lay His head. “Foxes have holes, the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head.”
In Matthew 8, we read how on the Sabbath day He walked with his disciples through the cornfield, and, as was allotted to the poor, He ate of the corn. And He sat by a well side (John 4) and asked a Samaritan woman, an outcast, for a drink.
When he came, He was born in a manger, and when He was buried He was buried in someone else’s grave. As someone has said, His first companions were cattle; His last companions were thieves.
Found in fashion as a man! The Creator of all things by the word of His power, the omnipotent God, we find Him down here as a man, in poverty, ridiculed, mocked, scorned and scoffed at. Can you measure that? That’s the manner of His humiliation.
The Extent Of His Humiliation
Then there is the extent of that humiliation. “He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
You can talk about the death of Christ and have very little opposition. But the minute you talk about the cross of Christ, ah, there’s a stigma to that. He became an accursed thing, hung on a cross, on a Roman gibbet. Our blessed Saviour was not only a man in the midst of men, not only in the place of a slave, but He came down to death, even the death of the cross. He became an accursed thing, this Holy One of God. “Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree.”
And the cross of Christ is an insult to my intellect. It is an insult to my philosophy. It is an insult to my religion. It is an insult to all I think good. But the cross of Christ tells me that God thinks of me. We were so vile; we were so sinful; we were so corrupt; that when He took your sin and my sin, all God could do was to curse Him.
Cast out of society cursed by God, He cried out, “Why has Thou forsaken me?” What a difference—from the throne of God to a cross of shame, from being worshipped by angels to being cursed by men. Can we probe the depths of it? Can any human tongue explain the extent of the humiliation of our Savior?
The Measure Of His Exaltation
But then in verses 9 to 11 we have the measure of His exaltation. The One who was cursed by men has been honored by God, and has been given a name that is above every name. “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” Blessed be His name!
Oh, the marvel of it. This One who has taken my place and your place has now been glorified with the glory of the omnipotent God, that all the angels of God should worship Him.
If God has taken this Jesus whom men cast out, and made Him to be Lord over all, that in all things He might have the preeminence, do you think I am asking too much of you and of myself that we make Him the preeminent One?
God hath exalted Him to be Lord! The test of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost was, “that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” That’s the only place we can give Him.
We acknowledge and claim Him as Lord and Master. That is Christian experience. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Grant us, O Lord, that He may have the preeminience in our lives.