Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

Get in Line!

He always knows best.

Pitfalls for the Mind (1)

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”
Matthew 16.22, 23

Growing in the mind of Christ
As believers in and followers of Jesus, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor. 2.16). As we have seen, the mind of Christ affords us a unique perspective and an extraordinary outlook on the world. When we are thinking with the mind of Christ, we see our lives from the vantage point of His exalted throne; self-interest takes a back seat, a longing to serve rises in our souls, and the desire to advance the Kingdom and righteousness of God infuses everything we do. We want to see the Lord’s agenda come to fulfillment, with many of our neighbors coming to know Him, His Church growing in unity and maturity, and the goodness of the Lord coming to light in every aspect of life and culture.

We have the mind of Christ, but it is necessary for us to grow into that mindset, since much of our old way of thinking continues to plague our minds. So we look to the Word of Christ, and to the revelation of His glory in creation and culture, to help us make progress in realizing and making better use of that which we possess by grace through faith, the mind of our Lord Jesus Christ. We know that a strong soul requires a sound mind, so we are determined to let that mind – the mind of Christ – be in us for His glory and praise.

This is an ongoing, lifelong struggle and privilege. Forces are arrayed against us, both spiritual and temporal, and conditions yet exist within us that can discourage us from growing in the mind of Christ, from applying ourselves to the hard work such maturing requires.

And there are pitfalls in the path toward maturity in the mind of Christ which, if we fail to recognize and avoid them, can make progress difficult.

How about I lead?
In this segment of our study on strong souls, I want to consider various traps and tendencies that can frustrate progress in realizing and using the mind of Christ. We need to be aware of these, and to spot them whenever they appear in our path, so that we can go around or over them without falling in and becoming ensnared (Prov. 1.17).

The first pitfall is the tendency to think that we know better than the Lord how to accomplish His goals and objectives. Now we don’t fall into this pitfall out of wanting to subvert the Lord or set aside His agenda. Indeed, very often we end up in this trap when, in our minds, we’re only wanting to do what’s best. We hear the Lord speaking in His Word, and something in us whispers, “That can’t be right. Who’d want to do that? That won’t work here. Not these days. Not with the people I know. Surely there’s a better way?”

This is exactly where Peter found himself, there on the outskirts of Caesarea-Philippi. Having just shone like the Sunday schooler who was first in the Sword Drill, Peter may have been a little too full of himself and his ideas. But remember, as Peter himself explained, he and the other disciples had left everything to follow Jesus. They had become so identified with Him that, if He was going to be a marked man, so, inevitably, would they. They had committed to learning a new trade, a new calling in life, and they seemed to understand that there would be no going back to what they’d known before.

In terms consistent with this part of our study, they were trying to learn the mind of Christ, and Peter had just won the biggest gold star yet: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16.17). This was big. This was brilliant. Peter’s confession of Jesus as Christ and Son of God indicated that he had crossed a significant threshold in his thinking, and that he was on track with Jesus Himself, as Jesus readily acknowledged.

But while Peter had advanced in one area of his thinking, he failed to notice that in another area, he was still lagging. Upon hearing from Jesus that they would be going on to Jerusalem, where He would be taken prisoner and killed, Peter, wanting to spare the Lord – and perhaps himself? – fell into the pitfall of thinking he knew better than Jesus how Jesus should accomplish His work.

Get in line!
Imagine Peter’s shock upon being rebuked so sternly by the Lord! “Satan!” How could that be? How could he have been so blind and stupid to think he could lead the Lord to a better way of doing His work? Peter stumbled over the idea of arrest, suffering, and death, and perhaps of himself a bit too closely identified with such possibilities. As he considered the inconvenience, difficulty, and perhaps pain and loss of what Jesus had spread before them, Peter decided that another route would be more feasible or at least more agreeable.

We don’t think the road of discipleship should be hard – fraught with obstacles, hard work, long periods of study and reflection, intense days and nights of prayer, and profound transformations in our worldview and way of life. Following Jesus should be all gold stars and high praise and a splendid time guaranteed for all.

So when Jesus promises us things like persecution, trouble, growing pains, self-denial, diligent work, and crosses to bear, we immediately want to find alternate routes. We want to follow Jesus, and to be seen to be His disciples. It’s just that, given our preference for the easy way, we don’t want to walk the path Jesus describes. We want to end up in the same place, where He is in glory, but we think we can achieve that on our terms, rather than His.

This tendency to think we know better than Jesus shows up in many ways. Jesus says we ought always to pray (Lk. 18.1). We say a little prayer will be enough. Jesus says seeking the Kingdom should be the defining priority of our lives (Matt. 6.33). We say we’ll get around to that when we’ve completed all our other seeking. Jesus says Kingdom greatness depends on learning and obeying God’s Law (Matt. 5.17-19). We say God’s Law is of little use to us, now that we are saved. We’ll just try to love others as best we can. Jesus says He will build His Church by equipping His people for ministry (Matt. 16.18; Eph. 4.11-16). We say we’ll just hold a worship service, spruce up the building, hire a staff, run some programs, do a little advertising, and hope for the best.

The same arch-deceiver who proffered that notion to Peter’s mind will do it to yours as well, if in any way, you find yourself seeking alternate routes for the life of discipleship, ways and means and ends other than those which Jesus walked and taught. A sound mind seeks ever to avoid the ways of men, but never the way of Christ.

For reflection

1.  What are some aspects of the life of discipleship that strike you as hard or difficult or not exactly what you might choose?

2.  What are some ways that people try to get around following Jesus by thinking up their own ideas about what it means to be a disciple?

3.  Can you identify any areas in your own life where you are not following the Lord’s agenda, but have substituted your own best ideas about how to be a disciple of Jesus?

Next steps – Transformation: Are you in any way, like Peter, holding to the “things of men” rather than those of the Lord? List them out. Face them down. Repent of them before the Lord, and resolve to follow Jesus and avoid the pitfall of thinking you know better than the Lord how to be His disciple.

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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 the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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