What is On Your Mind?
Psalm 139:23-Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
I want us to talk this morning about the importance of our thought life, the importance of what takes place in our minds. I don’t know what the Psalmist really meant when he wrote about his “anxious thoughts”. I don’t know if he was dealing with anxiety in general, if he was obsessing about some thing in particular, if he dealt with a lack of trust or faith, if there was some kind of stronghold in his mind or just what he was referring to. We can’t know exactly what he was asking God to test and to search, but what we can know is that turning our thoughts, our minds, over to Christ is a critical strategy for living well. Many books have been written on the battlefield of the mind, the importance of making our minds mind the voice of the Holy Spirit. Our thought life is a predictor of our behavior and is a revealer of what is in our hearts. David knew this, and that is why he couldn’t hand over just his heart to God for inspection; he also had to hand over his mind.
Our minds are incredibly complex. No computer is a match for the human brain in terms of variety of functions. Scientists who have studied the brain for decades cannot really explain our thought life. How memories are stored and how they are retrieved remains a mystery to them. Dreams take place in the mind. Decision-making is processed in the mind. Emotions are evaluated in the mind. Planning takes place in the mind. We have a conscious mind and an unconscious mind. It is so complex that only God can fully know what is in our mind, and the power of the mind, when harnessed by the wrong entity, or when not carefully evaluated, has the potential to lead us in the wrong direction. It is important that we think about what we think about.
The Tainted Mind
When sin entered the world, it not only marred our souls, but it marred our thinking. How can I make that claim? Well, when Adam and Eve sinned against God and realized what they had done, what did they do? They hid from God, right? What kind of thoughts would have led them to do that? What kind of thinking would have led them to believe they now needed to stay away from God or be afraid to admit to God what they had done? What kind of thoughts would have led them to believe they were better off to hide from God and to try to deal with their sin on their own? What line of reasoning would have convinced them that they COULD hide from God? You see, sin had messed up their minds.
faulty way of thinking comes with the sin nature to all of us. We
are all born with it. Before we come to Christ, we possess a tainted
mind. Sin tainted the way we thought about God and ourselves. Think
about it this way, before Christ, we thought about life through a
tainted, twisted lens. Colossians 1:21-Once you were
alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your
Alienated from God. Enemies of God in our minds because of our behavior. This is our pre-Jesus state. When we are depending on our thoughts and are following our line of reasoning for our lives, when we are living for our ways and desires, when we are walking in the ways of the flesh and the world, when we are living for self, we show that we are an enemy of God. Paul says there is a connection here between our estrangement from God and our thought life. We want to think we are OK-that we don’t need God or anyone else telling us what to do. We want to think there is no price to pay for doing life on our own. We want to think we are the masters of our own destiny. We want to think that God isn’t real or that surrendering to Him isn’t the way to go. We convince ourselves of these things in our minds because we don’t like the alternative. We don’t want to live with conviction about our broken state.
The mind plays a crucial role in salvation because in order to be saved, a person has to believe not only that Jesus paid the price for their sin and that He rose from the dead, but they have to believe that living in sin isn’t living the life for which Christ died. They have to agree that they are broken and need to be saved. They have to agree that handing their lives over to God for Him to control is the only way to eternal life. They have to agree that their lives need to move in another direction. In other words, they have to believe some things and to change their mind about some things.
Satan loves to attach himself to that which is weak or that which is broken or that which is sinful. That is how he gets an opening into our lives. He wants to support every broken, tainted thought we might have. Have you ever considered that? Satan wants to support you. He wants to assist you into thinking and doing every wrong and sinful thing possible. He wants to add his two cents to reinforce that tainted thought mind because he wants you hiding from God, separated from God, dependent on yourself to “fix it” so that you are moving in the opposite direction from God.
II Cor. 4:4 2 Corinthians 4:4-The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul uses the word “blinded” in conjunction with the mind here. We don’t usually think about blindness in terms of our thoughts. We think about blindness impacting our physical sight. But when we are blind to the truth, when we are blind to the love, grace, and forgiveness of God, when we can’t see the reality of the consequences of sin, it is easy to stay stuck in destructive, spiritually dead patterns of being. Spiritual well-being, emotional well-being, relational-well being, making good decisions—all of these processes begin in the mind, so of course, Satan wants to make us think that anything that God opposes is good.
Satan’s main agenda is to mess up your mind. As your mind goes, your behavior and your soul will follow. That is why when the Holy Spirit reveals God to you, you need to act. When truth is revealed to you, you need to submit to God and give Him your whole life—body, mind and spirit. Once God gains full control of you, He can begin to deal with every thought and every pattern of thinking that isn’t right in you.
When we are saved, something miraculous happens. We receive a new nature that wants to please God, and we receive a new mind. It is a mind that the Bible calls the “Mind of Christ.” Look at 1 Corinthians 2:14-16-14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment: 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.
Once you are converted, you will receive the capacity for a new way of thinking. We’ll call it:
The Transplanted Mind
It is the mind of Christ. Just as an infant is born with a mind and the capacity to develop that mind and just as it happens in stages and steps, so too, does our mind start to function according to the way Christ thinks and wants us to one step at a time. When we start obeying God’s truth as it is revealed, the mind of Christ will become more and more mature in us. As we are willing to be led by God’s Spirit, that mind will become our natural “go to” more and more. We will start to see things from God’s perspective. The blinders will come off. We will know truth. We will live free to follow God in all things.
We need to be alert to the reality that Satan doesn’t give up easily. Once he sees someone start to change their mind, start to walk in newness of mind, he likes to attack. He likes to tempt. He likes to tug. He likes to bully. He likes to harass. He likes to lie and twist and manipulate. He wants you to question and doubt God as often as possible. He wants you to think that God doesn’t love you or that He loves other people more than He loves you. He wants you to think God is mad at you or wants to punish you just to show you who is boss. He wants you to believe you are damaged and will never be anything else than broken. He wants you to doubt your value. He wants you focused on your flaws and imperfections. He wants you to ruminate on how badly you have been treated and how much you deserve to be happy. He wants you focused on how you feel and on your current situation. He doesn’t want you to think about eternity.
But God says He has given us the mind of Christ. How can we think more and more like Jesus? The Psalmist was right to ask God to inspect his thought life so that nothing could get in his way of growing his mind in the right direction. The Christian life is a life that must constantly be inspected, constantly be evaluated. We don’t want to give the devil any space to twist what we know is true. We’ll call this:
The Tug of War for our Mind
Satan won’t quit talking to us just because we have believed in Christ. He won’t just say, “Ok, she’s off limits now. I won’t even try to mess with her.” No, in most cases, I would say he comes on even stronger. He cannot stand for you to experience victory. He wants your mind confused. He wants your mind clouded. He wants your mind blinded to the good things God has for you.
2 Corinthians 11:3-But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
It can happen. I have seen seasoned believers allow their minds to drift away from the truth of God’s Word and turn their backs on God. Listen, we do not have to be naive to the devil’s schemes. We are not without power to combat him in this tug of war game.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 4 The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
When something dark or demented comes to your mind, call it out. Slay it. Say, “I’m not going there. I’m not accepting that. I’m not believing that. That isn’t what Jesus says. I’m not falling for it. Get behind me Satan, and get out of my mind.” We are in a warfare for our minds, believers, and we need to start taking authority in the name of Jesus Christ over wrong thinking.
If we have given the Lord our hearts, we need to hand Him our minds and say, “Remake my mind, please. I want to think like Jesus.” Let’s call this process of submitting our minds to God the:
The Transformation of Our Mind
Just as we are encouraged to be life-long learners, to never stop growing and learning new things, to keep challenging our minds in order to keep them sharp, so, too must we be intentional about the transformation of our minds from that earthly, fleshly, carnal perspective to become mature Christ-like thinkers.
Romans 12:1-2-1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.
I know some of us grew up thinking some things, unholy things, were OK for us to do or experience. I can understand why many people are the way they are and why they do the things they do. That is what they were taught. If we were taught that you had to act out to earn attention or love, as you grow into teens or young adults and then mature adults, you still may believe you have to act out in certain ways in order to earn attention or love. If you were taught that lying was more convenient than telling the truth or that it kept you from having to deal with a consequence, and you grew up practicing and getting really good at lying, I can understand why that seems to come natural to for you. If you learned that feeling good or being happy was more important than keeping promises or treating others well, I can understand why you live to please yourself. If you learned that telling people what they want to hear can help you move up the ladder of success or take the attention off of you, it makes sense to me that you use flattery rather than hard work or honesty to try to get ahead.
What has been learned through a tainted lens can be unlearned by the Spirit of God. There are so many reasons why you need a relationship with the Holy Spirit, and this is one of them. The transformation of your mind won’t happen apart from a move of God’s Spirit in your life. When you start to talk to the Holy Spirit about having His way with your mind, when you ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you and to help you make sense of the Bible when you read it, and to discern what is the God-honoring thing to do in any situation, and to help you process feelings that are in line with righteousness, love, grace, and peace, you will be surprised at how easy it becomes to do the right thing. You see, we can do the right thing when we believe the right things. It all comes down to thinking about things the way God thinks about them.
Romans 8:5-8 5 Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. 6 The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; 7 the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. 8 Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Ask the Holy Spirit to sanctify your mind and to be in complete control of your mind. As you read the Word of God, read it just to see references to the Holy Spirit. Underline any time the Holy Spirit is mentioned or is active. Take a week and read through the book of John or the book of Acts and look at the role of the Holy Spirit in the minds and activities of people there. Those who knew God’s will were those who were controlled by and who cooperated with the Spirit of God. Perhaps one of the reasons we aren’t seeing as many miracles today as were performed in Jesus’ day is because our minds aren’t set on what the Spirit desires! Perhaps God wants to do far more in us and through us than we are in tune with! If our mind isn’t controlled by the Spirit of God, how can we perform in partnership with the Spirit?
Not only do we need the mind of Christ in order to do the things Christ did, but we need the mind of Christ to have God’s perspective on sin. We need the mind of Christ to have mental toughness against temptation. All of these come in and through a relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Galatians 5:16-18 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.
Don’t be a conflicted Christian. Live in confidence that you are doing what God wants you to do because you choose to live by the Spirit of God! The Holy Spirit will do His job in our minds if we present ourselves to Him for transformation. But we also have a part to play. We are responsible for the things we choose to think about. We have a responsibility for:
The Training of Our Mind
We can choose what to focus on. Colossians 3:1-21 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
We need to be thinking about high and holy things. We need to meditate on Scripture. We need to think about things that are eternal. We need to be focusing on the needs of others. The more time we spend thinking about the things of God and thinking about ways to make life better for other people the less time we are going to have to think about the wrong things. You see, one way you avoid thinking about the wrong things is by thinking on purpose about the right things. You know when your mind starts going in the wrong direction. That is the time to pray for God to give you a high and holy perspective and something righteous for you to think about.
Let’s take music, for example. The more you fill your mind with music that encourages you to sexualize people and fantasize about being with them or music that encourages you to cheat and steal to get what you want or music that suggests you should get even or cuss someone because you don’t like the way they did you wrong or whatever, the more you can expect to react fleshly and impulsively when something triggers you. But the more your mind is set on music that edifies God, on Scripture that will help you think like Jesus, on pure and positive things like pursuing God-honoring dreams, working hard, enjoying sports, exercise, crafts or other creative hobbies, the more you will be at peace with God, yourself and others.
You have no one but yourself to blame for your thought life because you get to choose what you think about. Oh, Satan may try to interject a thought here or there, but you have the say in whether those thoughts stay, go, or grow in your mind. Check out Philippians 4:8-9 for an awesome list of things that you could choose to think about as part of your personal training.
Author and Pastor, John Ortberg, offers this helpful explanation when it comes to training our minds: 1 Corinthians 9:25 says, “Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.” Orberg says, “Here is the reason many people give up on transformation or accept boundary markers as pseudo-transformation: we spend ourselves trying to be transformed, when the Bible calls us to train to be transformed. There is an enormous difference between trying to do something versus training to do it.” Take for example a marathon. How many of us could run a marathon right now? Even if we tried, really, really hard? But many of us could run a marathon eventually, if instead we trained for it. Training means arranging life around those activities that enable us to do what we cannot do now, even by extreme effort. Significant human transformation always involves training, not just trying. Are you doing your part to train your mind to please God? What can you add to your efforts to be sure your mind is as committed to God as your heart is? Are you living with a tainted mind? Are you fixated on sinful things, deviant things, dark things, fleshly things, the things of this world? Your mind can be converted along with your heart this morning. You can receive a mind transplant and give the Holy Spirit permission to transform the way you think. You can also commit to some high and holy habits that will get your mind on the things that will please God, that will keep you on track, and that will help you live free from the tug of war that Satan wants to keep you in. The longer you play his game, the more exhausted you will live. Today, I ask you, what is on your mind that you need to surrender to the work of the Spirit?