Last week I shared How To Develop The Mind Of Christ | 5 Keys In Sanctification.
These five points are as follows:
1. The Mind of Christ is a Gift
2. The Mind of Christ is Shaped Through the Holy Spirit
3. The Mind of Christ is Ours to Steward
4. The Mind of Christ is Stewarded by Faith
5. The Mind of Christ is the Wheelhouse of the Body
That post gave me some good opportunities to reflect on its content. What I want to do here is return to the idea of the mind/heart as the temple of the Spirit. More importantly I want to give some more thought as to how and why we need to keep it clean.
The Mind as the Most Holy Place of Thought and Action
The mind serves as the temple or “most holy place” where the Spirit of God resides. In Romans 2, Paul refers to authentic conversion as “circumcision of the heart” which he defines as “a matter of the heart, by the Spirit.” Whenever we encounter the mind/heart in Scripture, we find the Holy Spirit closely associated with it. And this leads us directly to the concept of keeping a holy temple.
In the Old Testament God called Israel to celebrate the passover. As part of passover preparation Israel was instructed to cleanse their homes of leaven—yeast. In Exodus 12 that instruction is given in detail.
Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel. (Ex. 12:15)
Leaven leads to certain results—a swollen and puffed up piece of bread. On the passover, they were required to eat unleavened bread. If they did not expel the leaven from their home it would be obvious when they tried to make bread. Paul says in Galatians 5:9 “a little leaven leavens the whole whole lump” (of bread).
Word-picturing the Spiritual Life
There is nothing inherently evil in leaven; it just provides a word picture. This word picture is instructive in that it demonstrates how a small ingredient can make a big difference—so it is with sinful thoughts of the heart; they can secretly grow from seed to action. In the Gospels Jesus also uses the word leaven negatively to refer to false teaching and sinful thinking. He warns his apostles in Mattew 16:6, “Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
The mind that allows itself to swim in impure, lusty, and fleshly thoughts becomes profane defiling the mind. If the mind (nous/kardia) is the wheelhouse of the body, then the obedient life hinges upon how well you keep your mind swept clear of impure ruminations.
Defiled Minds and Hearts
The Pharisees were often trying to trap Jesus in his words over details of the ritual law. In Matthew 15 they challenge Jesus on eating and uncleanness. They accuse his disciples of breaking the tradition of the elders. In the Second Temple period, a disciple’s behavior reflected on the teaching of his master (Rabbi). (For Christians it is still the same—our behavior always reflects our master, Christ, for good or bad.) It was considered not only insolent and presumptuous, but also ritually unclean if the the apostles ate with unwashed hands. But Jesus astounds the crowds with these words:
And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Matt. 15:10–11)
As their mouths gaped open with shock, Jesus provides the expected Rabbinic commentary:
Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth passes into the stomach and is expelled? But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person. But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone. (Matt. 15:17–20)
Jesus is suggesting the following: the heart/mind is not only the inner most part of man, but the source of all his sin, defilement, and suffering. Mankind has an acute sin problem. It is an illness that runs so deep; he cannot heal or remove it himself. The bottom line is that man has a defiled mind that keeps the defilement coming.
Renewing the Mind as Christian Vocation
The calling of the Christian is to remove the sinful leaven of the heart; this is called repentance. It is not our bodies we are trying to cleanse, but the heart—our wheelhouse that in turn determines the behavior of the body. Using imagery from the passover story (Exod 12–13), Paul teaches regarding Eucharistic self-examination:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1Cor. 5:6–8)
When the body of Christ comes together in the eucharist (Lord’s Supper) we are called to the discipline of examining the heart (1 Cor. 11:28). A defiled mind leads to increasingly defiling behavior. A mind growing in purity is ever being transformed and renewed by the Spirit. The Christian’s hope is not in our ability to remove the leaven on our own. Rather removing leaven is the vocation of those who have embraced the promises of God and received the Spirit.
Removing the Leaven of the Heart for the Coming of the Lord
For centuries, the prophets had been preaching on the defilement of the heart as true defilement. Now the Gospel was coming of age. What had been revealed in shadows and typologies was shouted from the rooftop in the living flesh of the Son of God. Man has an inherent moral problem. Yet God in his mercy, has provided for that cleansing through the death and resurrection of his Son. Jesus became our atoning passover lamb for cleansing out the leaven of man’s heart.
The story of removing the leaven in the passover saga is sobering. Israel was to obey. But they did not rely upon their obedience or perfection to get the leaven out that night. Those whose first born survived trusted in the spoken word of the promise of God. They believed the word that God promised and revealed to them: if they splattered the blood of an unblemished lamb on the lintel and doorposts, God’s wrath would pass over them—and it did; God was faithful to his word. Those who did not awoke to death and sorrow. (Exude. 12:29–32) We are called to trust in the same word of promise, now made flesh and raised for our justification (John 1:14 & Rom. 4:25).
The passover story is a type and picture of the end of the age. It is a picture that modern man scoff’s at in a sneer of sophistry. Yet it is a picture of Christ’s return. Those who trust in the promises of Christ will be covered by his blood, the lamb of God (John 1:29 & 36). Those who refuse it, will not. And that is why the Good news is a story we must keep telling!