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Positive Commands: The Means—A Focus on Attitudes

The positive One Another passages in Scripture express the means and the methods for living as members of the body of Christ and as brethren together in the family of God. These passages also focus on two things: attitudes and actions. Since attitudes form the soil and the root out of which actions grow, we will look at those One Another injunctions that focus on attitudes, particularly those that enable us to obey the One Another commands.

Attitudes can be like cobwebs which clutter up the mind and cause us to fail in the purposes of God. Or they can be like an interstate highway to an automobile, smoothing the way to our destination. Swindoll writes:

This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.5

Because attitudes are so important, Scripture has a great deal to say about our thinking processes which produce our attitudes and which in turn produce our actions. Proverbs 23:6-7 shows that a man who is thinking selfishly will invariably act in hypocrisy.

Do not eat the bread of a selfish man, Or desire his delicacies; For as he thinks within himself, so he is. He says to you, “Eat and drink!” But his heart is not with you.

Matthew 12:33-37 shows what we say is but the product of how and what we think and believe. Scripture teaches that wicked behavior is the product of a wicked and deceitful heart (Jer. 17:5; Matt. 23:26). “First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.” The problem is “stinking thinking,” thinking that is lacking divine viewpoint and faith in the power and purposes of God.

To grasp this concept, it is helpful to divide sin into two categories:

(1) Visible acts of transgression against the commands and principles of Scripture, and

(2) Inward acts of transgression, sins of the mind and attitude which would include subtle violations of our Lord’s command to love.

We tend to deal only with the first category or if we deal with the second, it is superficial. Larry Crabb in his book, Inside Out, gives us a good illustration:

“Are you willing to follow Christ?” The hundreds of teenagers shift uncomfortably in their seats as they hear the speaker boom out the challenge at the morning meeting.

“He invites you to come to Him, to really come, to come in total surrender. If you’re sick and tired of playing at Christianity, then take His invitation seriously and come. Get your drugs, your porno magazines, your rock tapes—get everything that defiles you—and bring it all tonight to the rally. We’ll have a great burning of all these tools of the Devil to symbolize your decision to follow Christ.”

That night, dozens of kids, with eyes moist and jaws firmly set, dump their marijuana, Penthouses and Bon Jovi tapes in a pile outside the meeting room. As the fire roars, they all join hands and sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus.”

As a teen, I took part in similar happenings, making strong commitments as I stared into the dying campfire to never miss devotions and to witness every day. But although good spiritual directions were sometimes set in these moments, the promises I made on the mountaintop often dissolved into complacency when I returned to the valley of everyday life. Something inside me that needed to be dealt with was never touched.6

The focus is too often all wrong: I have no argument with exhorting people to abandon clearly sinful practices and to develop good habits … But a sharp focus on visible conformity to specific standards of right and wrong can easily lead to a disastrous neglect of subtle sins against relationship.7

Verses that Focus on Attitudes

Command 1: Have the Same Mind With One Another

The believer is commanded in Scripture to have a different mind, to develop a biblical viewpoint, and possess a Christlike attitude in all things.

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

William Law wrote nearly two centuries ago, “Man needs to be saved from his own wisdom as much as from his own righteousness, for they produce one and the same corruption.”8

(1) Having the same mind means knowing and understanding Scripture.

From the Word of God we need the infusion of God’s thoughts which are infinitely higher than ours (Isa. 55:8-11). Then, in faith we need to apply His truth as we depend on the indwelling Spirit. The need is to think with the same kind of viewpoint, to possess the same kind of attitudes toward life and one another. We need to have the mind of Christ, to think with His values, to possess His vision, and to allow that to change our attitudes which in turn will change our actions and pursuits.

1 Peter 3:8 To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;

The term “harmonious” is literally, “of one mind, likeminded,” (homophron, oJmovfrwn). The actions of being brotherly, kindhearted, and humble all stem from having one mind, thinking with the mind of Christ.

Acts 1:14 These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.

Acts 2:46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,

Acts 4:24 And when they heard this, they lifted their voices to God with one accord and said, “O Lord, it is Thou who didst make the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them, …”

Acts 5:12 And at the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico.

In each of the above verses “with one mind” or “one accord” is homothumadon (oJmoqumadovn), from homos, “one” and thumos, “passion.”

Romans 12:16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.

Romans 15:5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;

In these two passages in Romans, the verb is phroneo (fronevw), which means first, “to have understanding” and then “to think, be minded in a certain way.”

In all of the above verses we see that the positive actions of the body of Christ are tied into possessing the same mind (or mental attitude) which formed the dynamic for its ministry in the world. For your own study compare also: Philippians 1:27; 2:3-5; 1 Corinthians 1:10; 2:16; 2 Corinthians 10:4-5; 13:11; Romans 12:2; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:1.

(2) Having the same mind means thinking with the Word.

To have the mind of Christ means to think with the Word of God, to live, not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (the Scripture), so that we bring our thoughts and actions into harmony with God’s viewpoint by applying God’s thoughts to everything we do and to everything that happens to us.

To experience God and the joys of His plan and purposes for man, man must know His Word.

Isaiah 55:8-11 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Neither are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth, And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11 So shall My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.”

The Devil sought to get the Lord to live independently of His Father at the beginning of His ministry. Jesus not only countered each time with Scripture, but He quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 to show how vital God’s whole council is to our ability to handle temptation and sin.

Matthew 4:3-4 And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” 4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”

(3) Having the same mind means regular renewal in the Word

It requires biblical truth for its development and maintenance, daily renewing of the mind.

Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

Ephesians 4:23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind,

It requires conquering thought patterns by focusing on principles and promises of the Word.

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,

1 Peter 1:13 Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

(4) Having the same mind means possessing an attitude of joy

We develop an attitude of joy through biblical vision for and submission to the calling and purposes of God (Prov. 29:18; John 13:3-4; Heb. 12:1-4; Phil. 4:4-8). In Philippians 4:8 we see again an emphasis on our mind and our attitudes. They can be kept free from bitterness, blame, self-pity, and hopeless pessimism if we cast our cares on the Lord and trust in His sovereignty. By getting rid of the stuff that chokes out God’s viewpoint, we create space for hope and joy to take its place.

(5) Having the same mind means an attitude of humility

An attitude of humility expresses itself in servant living. Humility prepares the way for sacrificial love which puts the needs of others above self (Mark 10:45; John 13:4; Phil. 2:3f; 1 Pet. 5:5; Rom. 12:10, 16b; Gal. 5:13). Humility is never self-depreciating. Rather it is the recognition of who we are by God’s grace and leads to the use of our abilities in loving service for others. Humility allows us to take the position of John 13.

Religion and religious striving are far too often egocentric and, though this can be purified and brought into the service of God and others through the Word, too often true religion is corrupted and nullified by cravings and striving for power and security—the opposite of submission, humility, and trust.

In Crabb’s book, Inside Out, he talks about the problems of self-protection and our motives: “The sin of self-protection to which I refer occurs when our legitimate thirst for receiving love creates a demand to not be hurt that overrides a commitment to lovingly involve ourself with others.”9

(6) Having the same mind means an attitude of loving family affection

Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor;

Christ became one with us that he might feel for us in our humanity. Likewise, as brethren in Christ, God wants us to become more and more devoted to one another so that we place the needs of others above ourselves. Romans 12:10 means we are to love one another with a family affection as brothers in Christ (cf. Heb. 2:11-18 with Rom. 12:10).

Conclusion

We cannot impart to others what we do not ourselves possess! Our relationship with one another always manifests the reality of our life with the Lord and the condition of our thinking and attitudes!

Often, the prayer that’s most in accord with God’s Word is not, Lord change my wife, or children, or church board, but “Lord, change me!

The big question is not simply, is Christianity true? There is plenty of historical evidence that it is. The basic question is, what difference is it making in my life and the way I think and believe? This is what the world looks for in our lives as the evidence of reality, and that’s what the church needs in its relationships with one another.

The all important ingredient is our focus and an attitude of trust in the Lord. One of the best illustrations I know of the importance of keeping a focused and right attitude is found in the book by Chuck Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip:

The colorful, nineteenth-century showman and gifted violinist Nicolo Paganini was standing before a packed house, playing through a difficult piece of music. A full orchestra surrounded him with magnificent support. Suddenly one string on his violin snapped and hung gloriously down from his instrument. Beads of perspiration popped out on his forehead. He frowned but continued to play, improvising beautifully.

To the conductor’s surprise, a second string broke. And shortly thereafter, a third. Now there were three limp strings dangling from Paganini’s violin as the master performer completed the difficult composition on the one remaining string. The audience jumped to its feet and in good Italian fashion, filled the hall with shouts and screams, “Bravo! Bravo!” As the applause died down, the violinist asked the people to sit back down. Even though they knew there was no way they could expect an encore, they quietly sank back into their seats.

He held the violin high for everyone to see. He nodded at the conductor to begin the encore and then he turned back to the crowd, and with a twinkle in his eye, he smiled and shouted, ‘Paganini … and one string!’ After that he placed the single-stringed Stradivarius beneath his chin and played the final piece on one string as the audience (and the conductor) shook their heads in silent amazement. ‘Paganini … and one string!’10 (And, I might add, an attitude of fortitude.)

Swindoll goes on to say:

This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-do-day basis is my choice of attitude. … Attitude is that ‘single string’ that keeps me going or cripples my progress. … When my attitudes are right, there’s no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.

Yet, we must admit that we spend more of our time concentrating and fretting over the strings that snap, dangle, and pop—the things that can’t be changed—than we do giving attention to the one that remains, our choice of attitude.11

For the Christian, however, we are not talking about just a positive attitude. We are talking about an attitude that comes from a heart focused on God and that trusts in Him.


5 Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1982, p. 207.

6 Larry Crabb, Inside Out, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 1988, p. 113.

7 Crabb, p. 115.

8 Martin and Deidre Bobgan, Psycho Heresy, EastGate Publishers, Santa Barbara, CA, 1987, p. 7.

9 Ibid., p. 117.

10 Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip, Word Books, Waco, TX, 1982, pp. 205-206.

11 Ibid., p. 207.

Related Topics: Basics for Christians, Fellowship