“A Lenten Mindset”
LENT 2, FEBRUARY 21, 2016
The Lenten Mindset
Text: Philippians 3:17–4:1
Today we are going to talk about something known as a mindset. For example, Michael Jordan, the basketball player, or Tiger Woods, the golfer, were described as having the “killer” mindset. This meant when they needed to make the shot or the putt to win; they could do it more often than not. I think if you listen carefully, you will find that our occupant of the White House has a certain mindset, as does the Pope. Rush Limbaugh and Dave Ramsey have one, too. Many religious gurus, pop psychologists, motivational speakers, and other “experts” on leadership talk about having the right mindset for success.
Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, tells those Christians and us Christians a mindset we can follow. He is not talking about a political or economic philosophy. What Paul is offering us as we continue our journey to Calvary on this Second Sunday in Lent, is that he is reminding us to Focus on Jesus, Good Friday, and Easter, and That Is What We Might Call the Lenten Mindset.
As he started to wrap up his letter to the Philippians, the Apostle Paul invited his hearers to imitate him: “Brothers, join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us” (3:17). Often when today’s “leadership experts,” life coaches and such give their sermons or pep talks, they come off as incredibly arrogant as they hold themselves up as examples to imitate on the road to success. I have been to more than one meeting in the LCMS where a pastor stood up and said, “Guys, if you do it my way, you will never have another problem.” And everyone looks at each other and says, “Yeah, right.” Paul is far more than some religious guru or expert offering practical advice based on his own experiences. He’s not being arrogant here. He’s an apostle, a servant of Christ Jesus. And what he has to share with the saints at Philippi and with you is much more than seven steps to transform your mindset for success. Paul isn’t saying to imitate what he does; he is saying we are to imitate his faith.
While the “successful” leaders and preachers of today may tout their accomplishments, Paul counts his deeds as a loss. He even said they were worth about as much as manure. He said this in the verses preceding our text. Any earthly thing that could give him confidence he puts aside and says is unimportant. Instead, Paul only clings to Jesus, and what He did for us. We imitate Paul with this Lenten mindset because then we are clinging to the gifts and deeds of Jesus.
Paul is giving his listeners a contrast here in ch 3. While he had no confidence, where anything he did earned him any brownie points with God, there were many in the Church who were focused on what they did instead of what Jesus did. This isn’t the first time the apostle had written about such enemies of the cross of Christ. He warns about them again, this time with weeping, sad that so many in the church were giving glory to themselves instead of God. This was sad because they were rejecting Jesus by doing that. As Paul said, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (3:18–19).
The Epistle to the Philippians is, for the most part, upbeat and encouraging, even though Paul himself is in jail. He was literally in chains for preaching the Gospel. But Paul warns us here that there’s a threat more dangerous than imprisonment or even death. When someone rejects Jesus Christ, and His forgiveness won on the cross, when anyone tries to save themselves by obeying and being a so called “good person,” that ALWAYS ends in their destruction.
It’s so easy to fall back on the Law and cling to confidence in one’s accomplishments. Even in Lent, that’s a temptation for us. What did you give up for Lent this year? Chocolate? Soda? Social media? It’s fine to practice self-discipline. It can be a great spiritual exercise, but sometimes it’s easy to go too far, like when your self-discipline becomes something you hold over God or your neighbor. That pride in here always wants a bit of credit. You want God to be impressed, and your neighbor, too. It may seem harmless on the surface, but ultimately it rejects the cross and all that Jesus accomplished for you there.
Don’t ever say to God or a neighbor that you should get what you want, you should get rich or be well, because you are at worship here semi-regularly or because you tithe or because you help out around here. This is the mindset of our old sinful nature, not a true Lenten mind-set. The Lenten mindset is, again, focused humbly on what (& why) Jesus did Good Friday on the cross and rejects doing the “Look at me! I am so great!” thing.
This was what made Jesus so sad about Jerusalem in the Gospel; that God’s people had such a mindset. They had rejected the prophets, stoned and killed them, just as they threatened Jeremiah in today’s Old Testament Reading. And they rejected God’s promised Son as well. They thought just being a descendant of Abraham was enough to be saved. Just before He wept over Jerusalem, Jesus talked about the narrow door. Why will many who seek to enter not be able? Because of confidence in themselves, clinging to a righteousness of their works and thereby rejecting Jesus Christ and His cross.
If you find yourself thinking along these lines, repent! Recognize Jesus Christ’s sadness over such rejection and Paul’s, too. Set aside your earthly pride, and seek what is greater in Jesus Christ, what is given you in Jesus Christ.
The Lenten mindset is a gift given you by the Holy Spirit, who works in the Word, Baptism, this Supper. Receive this change of heart and mind the Holy Spirit is working in you still. Jesus Christ is the narrow door, and He’s given you Himself. He lived not for self-glory but God’s glory. His mindset was to glorify God by giving up everything for you, even His life. He died and rose for you! Paul so beautifully proclaimed that in chapter 2, that Christ became a servant, obedient even to death for you. He emptied Himself of everything, He was filled with all your sin, your flawed ambitions, and even your self-righteousness. And now, He covers you with His forgiveness.
We wrap up with this. Ken Klass told the story a few years ago about a little boy who decided he would help his father. He had heard his dad say that “the car was low on gas.” Well, this little boy knew how to fill the tank. It wasn’t complicated. The boy had watched his father do it a hundred times.
With confidence, the boy removed the gas cap, got the garden hose (It was just like the hose at the pump.) and squeezed the hose nozzle. (It looked like the nozzle at the gas station.)
Next, the boy proceeded to fill the gas tank with water. With a smile, he waited for his dad to start the car, to see the gauge that now read “FULL,” to thank him for his kindly efforts.
You know what happened. Dad tried to start the car. It sputtered and died. And dad didn’t say, “thank you.”
It occurs to me that when people, organizations, churches and pastors try to improve on the simple message of salvation that is ours through the death and rising again of God’s Son, when they try to remake, remodel and recycle the Savior, when they try and convince people it is your work and what you do that gets you into heaven, they are creating a disaster.
There is only one fuel that works in a car, and there is only one way to be saved, only one way that gives forgiveness and eternal life. There is only one plan, and that plan is defined by Scripture this way: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name (Jesus) under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”
So press on, brothers and sisters. You have a new mindset that looks beyond the successes of this world, greater than confidence in our deeds and accomplishments. The Lenten mindset is the Christian mindset. It’s much more than positive thinking or steps to a better you. It’s a mindset that glories in Jesus Christ and His Word, His Love, His forgiveness, His death and His resurrection. Where we live in daily repentance and faith. That’s the mindset Paul invites you to imitate. It’s also why you can stand firm in the Lord. He’s done everything for you and for your salvation. Everything.
In the name of Jesus.