Unaccustomed Thinking

The world might not be familiar with our ways, but Jesus is.

Through such unaccustomed acts of government, when things reveal through the will and power of the Governor that which they do not accomplish as a part of their functioning day to day, there come about the miracles of which Scripture speaks.

  - Augustine Hibernicus, On the Miracles of Holy Scripture, Irish, 7th century[1]

When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom.

  - John 2.9

The Irish who came to faith in Jesus Christ under the ministries of Patrick, Finnian, Coemgen, Ciarán, and the others were a superstitious lot.

Celtic pagan religion propped up a pantheon of strange deities and lesser spiritual or semi-spiritual beings, all imbued with powers of magic that allowed them to perform wonders and beguile men. These were deities and spirits to be avoided or, at best, placated – not to be known, loved, and served.

The “Irish Augustine”, the anonymous monk who compiled the catalog from which today’s quote is lifted, was at pains in his exposition to insist that the power wielded by Christ was not magic. The magic with which Irish pagans were familiar was fickle and dangerous. Augustine Hibernicus did not want them to think of the works of Jesus Christ along these lines.

He argued that the miracles of Christ represent the power of divine mind and will, working outside its accustomed ways of governing the world, to make existing reality behave in an unaccustomed manner.

Typically, our monk explained, God rules and orders all things according to His providential will and power in observable patterns and predictable ways. The regularities of the creation – the rising of the sun, the coming of seasons, the blessings of crops, and the like – are all the result of divine providence, of Christ upholding the world by His Word of power (Heb. 1.3). This is another way of saying that what our secular contemporaries refer to as the “laws of nature” do not rule the creation, for no such laws exist; rather, creation is ruled by God and His Word and Spirit. God rules all things with steadfast love and faithfulness so that His creatures can benefit from the blessings He intends (cf. Pss. 104, 135, 147).

The “laws of nature”, that is, do not define or drive the workings of the cosmos; instead, they describe the workings of God.

Whenever, Augustine explained, God departs from this accustomed manner of providential governance, into an unaccustomed mode of rule, miracles occur. We should not think miracles to be common. They are, after all, unaccustomed ways of working. But miracles are neither whimsical nor ominous; they are rather the manifestation of the Presence, goodness, power, and love of the eternal God, inviting us to consider His grace and rest in His power.

Paul says we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16), and while we may not expect to call on that power to summon up a miracle on demand, still, there is power resident within our minds waiting to inform, expand, and supercharge our thoughts, outlook, vision, dreams, plans, and ability to grasp and obey the truth of God.

We have the mind of Christ! A mind that thinks in terms of selfless service and the glory of God (Phil. 2.5-11). The mind that turned water into wine (Jn. 2)! What might we dare to ask or think so that His power may be known in us (Eph. 3.20)?

Our unbelieving neighbors are not accustomed to people thinking of them in terms of self-denial, service, and love. How might the people in your Personal Mission Field respond to some unaccustomed (for them) thinking and living on your part? Self-denying love seems like a miracle to many people today. But it’s only Jesus’ way of relating to the world and working to restore miserable, despairing people to God. It should characterize how we think about the world as well.

We have the mind of Christ. Isn’t it time we began thinking and living in ways more accustomed to Christ than to the world? The people in our Personal Mission Field might be unaccustomed to our caring and praying for them, and talking with them about Jesus, but they’ll get used to it; and perhaps our love might help them come to know Him.

For reflection
1. Why are people today unaccustomed to being loved, cared for, served, and affirmed by their neighbors?

2. How can we as believers gain more of the mind of Christ, so that we think like He does about our lives and world?

Psalm 77.11-15 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
Now let us call to mind Your deeds and wonders, Lord,
And meditate on all Your works and praise Your Word.
Full holy is Your way great God of earth and heav’n;
To You, O God of strength and pow’r, all praise be giv’n!

Lord, may the grace of the Holy Spirit be upon me, that I may think with the mind of Christ and live with His power today as I…

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T. M. Moore, Principal
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All Psalms for singing from The Ailbe Psalter. Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

[1] Carey, p. 53.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
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