1 Peter 1:13-16
“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Listen to a piece written by Christian Church Pastor, Dr. Bob Moorehead. It is called “The Paradox of Our Age.”
The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers; wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We spend more but have less; we buy more but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences but less time. We have more degrees but less sense; more knowledge but less judgment; more experts but more problems; more medicine but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry too quickly, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little of God’s Word, watch TV too much, fast too rarely, give too little, and pray too seldom.
We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We’ve learned how to make a living but not a life. We’ve added years to life, not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We’ve conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger things but not better things. We’ve cleaned up the air but polluted the soul. We’ve split the atom but not our prejudice. We write more but learn less. We plan more but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush but not to wait. We have higher incomes but lower morals. We have more food but less appeasement. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever but have less communication. We’ve become long on quantity but short on quality.
These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion; tall men and short character; steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace but domestic warfare; more leisure but less fun; more kinds of food but less nutrition. These are days of two incomes but more divorce; of fancier houses but broken homes. These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throw away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the show window and nothing in the stockroom.
Wow. What a commentary on the state of affairs in our time. I feel the most poignant line summarizes the rest of the essay. “We have conquered outer space but not inner space.” Peter gives us some insight on how to do just that. How can we find victory within, peace within, wholeness within in order that we may become and do as verse 16 admonishes, that we may live holy lives in 2012?
The first thing we need to do in order to conquer inner space is to PREPARE OUR MINDS for action.
If you read the King James Version, you find it phrased this way: “Gird up the loins of your minds.” Peter was referring to a state of readiness in a person’s mind that paralleled a state of readiness in their attire. Persons of the time period in which this was written would wear loose, flowing robes. The robes would keep a person from running quickly or fighting effectively should the situation call for it. They would easily be tripped up unless their robes were tucked up into their belts.
Left to itself, the mind will drift, be unfocused and unproductive, and it becomes what leads us. Scripture teaches that we are to lead our minds. We are not to follow our thoughts but to lead them. Listen to verse 14 again, “As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.” Peter acknowledges that there was a time when we didn’t know better, but if you are Christian, now you know better. You may not grasp everything God is asking of you, but if you have been attending church and reading your Bible and praying, there are some things you are no longer ignorant of.
When someone makes the wrong decisions and follows the wrong path and gets to a point where someone finally asks, “What were you thinking,” 9 times out of 10 the response is going to be either “I don’t know” or “I wasn’t.” Christians, Satan is so cunning and so deceitful that you cannot afford to check your mind at the door when you go somewhere. You can’t afford to let your mind go on autopilot even in your home. You might be inside the walls of your home, but that doesn’t mean you are safe. The things we listen to and watch and expose ourselves to on the internet can be deadly. To watch and listen without having a focused mind, without exercising a discerning mind can be very costly.
If you are like me, at the end of a long day you feel like doing two things: Eating a couple twinkies with a class of milk and vegging out. J Am I right? We just want to do something mindless, anything that doesn’t require mental energy or focus. The trouble is, Satan doesn’t clock out at 5:00 p.m. In fact, I think he is a night owl if he is anything. He is going after you when you are stressed and when you are tired and when you just don’t want to be bothered to have to think about what might be right or wrong or good or bad. When you want to unwind, Satan wants to do his thing. When you let your guard down, he is there to bring on the attack.
So Peter says, “Don’t let the guard of your mind down.” Mentally, stay in the game and be ready for anything. Think of your mind as the front lines of your defense. If you don’t train it according to God’s standards, if it is not renewed to think like God does about our lives you are basically opening the doors of your life to Satan and the world and saying, “Come on in.”
You wouldn’t go to sleep at night and leave your doors and windows open, leaving yourself vulnerable to attack. You wouldn’t think that while you wanted to rest you should make yourself vulnerable to your enemy, and yet often when we are stressed or tired or when we let ourselves get to the “I just don’t care anymore” stage, that is exactly what we do.
Let me suggest some ways to prepare your mind:
- Stop thinking like a Gentile. Ephesians 4:17-19
17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.
What Paul is saying is make a decision that you won’t think like an unbeliever. Make a decision that knowing right from wrong is important to you. Make a decision that you will pursue absolutes based on God’s Word that you won’t back down from.
- Stop thinking for the moment. Romans 8:5 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.
When we see something we want, we need to learn to slow down and think through things. Children naturally are impulsive. When they see something they want they ask and then beg and then throw a tantrum to get it. They have to learn that not everything that looks good or tastes good or feels good in the moment is good for them.
Children aren’t the only ones that struggle with that discipline. Buying what you can’t afford just because credit is available, sampling drugs and alcohol because of the immediate buzz, being sexually active outside of marriage for the thrill, eating things that harm our bodies just because they sound good or will taste good. . . (Ouch, I just stepped on my own toes J) doing what feels good in the moment is what the sinful mind or natural mind does, and it always comes with a price!
If you waited to buy the car you wanted until you could afford it, did you regret it? If you waited to have sex until you were married, did you regret it? If you listened to your doctor and did what was prescribed with diet and exercise so that you obtained a better quality of life, did you regret it? There is no regret when we live for the long term rather than for instant gratification. Similarly, there is no regret when we live for the eternal or the things that please God.
- Stop thinking you know it all.1 Corinthians 8:1-2 Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.
As one commentator said, “A know-it-all attitude is only an evidence of ignorance. The person who really knows truth is only too conscious of how much he does not know. It is one thing to know doctrine and quite something else to know God. (Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – New Testament – The Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament, Volume 1.)
Young people, one of the most productive things you could do is start asking mature Christian adults what life lessons they have learned and what they wish they had known when they were your age. I remember being young. I remember being pretty convinced that I knew it all. I remember acting so arrogant even at age 5 that my kindergarten teacher asked in front of the entire class, “Melissa, do you think you could teach this class?” Evidently I did.
The more I have learned over the years, the more I have come to understand I know very little. We must have a teachable mind that is led by the Spirit of God. Romans 12:3 says, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
We all have blind spots. We all need to be open to correction. We all have more to learn.
- Stop thinking with a double mind. James 1:8 James 1:8 “He is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.”
Something that is right can’t be wrong an hour later. Something that is a bad idea today can’t be a good idea tomorrow. Don’t let yourself be talked into doing something that God won’t be pleased with.
You have to make up your mind before you get into the moment of temptation or battle that you won’t compromise. Otherwise, you can be pressured into doing something you wouldn’t ordinarily do. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2) I like how the Message translation puts it: “Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”
If God’s Word says it that is the way it is and that is the way you must go. It may cost you a friendship. It could even cost you a job. But more often than not it will just cost you the awkward five minute feeling that comes with not doing everything everyone else is doing.
- Stop thinking with a childish mindset. 1 Corinthians 13:11-“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”
People who live with a prepared mind aren’t just thinking about themselves. They are ready to go out of their way for others. They are ready to be used by God. Those who prepare their minds for God’s service have outgrown the “It’s all about me” phase. They realize that discipleship, being like Jesus, means sacrifice. They don’t demand their way. They don’t “take their toys and go home” when they don’t get their way. When they are faced with a challenge or decision they stop and think, “What would a mature Christian think in this situation?”
- Start thinking like a soldier. Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
We have an enemy. We are in a war. Soldiers understand that victory will require mental fortitude. Victory will require understanding how your enemy thinks. Satan wants to come after you in at least three ways which all involve your mind.
- Satan wants to deceive you. Genesis 3:4 Satan can gain access into your life or control you through deception. He can use you or trap you if he can get you to believe an untruth. We see Satan at work with this tactic from the beginning of time when he deceived Eve and got her to believe what God had told her wasn’t true. In Genesis 3:4 he told her she could eat the fruit of the forbidden tree and that she wouldn’t die even though God told her death would be the consequence just one chapter earlier (2:17).
Satan is a manipulator and smooth talker. He wants to manipulate your mind so he can manipulate your emotions. He wants to deceive you in every area of your life. He wants you offended and wounded. He wants you to think that everyone is talking about you and is out to get you. He wants you angry. He wants to convince you that you deserve better and on and on and on. If he can manipulate your thoughts through deception he can put you in a position where your emotional capacity overrides your intellectual capacity and you simply follow your feelings which are usually not extremely reliable.
- Satan wants to tempt you. (Matthew 4-The Temptation of Jesus) Satan is great at making something look good. He is good at planting thoughts in your mind about how satisfied, content, or happy you would be if you possess something that is off limits or experience something that is outside of God’s best for you. He gets you to think about it, to meditate on it, to dwell on it. That is where temptation starts. Just one extended look and he can grab your attention.
The minute you start thinking about something you know you shouldn’t pursue, that is the minute to “capture that thought” and make it obedient to Christ. II Corinthians 10:5 says, “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 temptation comes (and it happens daily, amen?) we need to start talking to ourselves and say things like, “That person I am admiring is not the one I am married to. That person is off limits to me.” You need to talk to your emotional self and tell it to be still so that your logical self can process the truth. If you make decisions based on your emotions, you will often be led astray. As part of that conversation with yourself, you need to start talking immediately to God and tell Him you are being tempted and you need His help.
James 4:7, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Start thanking God for your spouse and for all the things God has seen you through together. Pray for God to give you a greater passion for your spouse. Confess your love for your spouse and your commitment to loving your spouse, and rebuke Satan telling him that you can see through his strategy; that compromise will lead to heartache and brokenness. Speak out loud in Jesus’ name that you are going to have favor, blessing and wholeness in your life and that you won’t be falling for his little temptation.
You have to shut down the thought of pursuing the temptation immediately. It isn’t good to weigh your options or think about the possibilities. If it is a temptation the intended purpose is to get you to fall for it, and the Tempter’s only motive is to destroy you.
We are looking for another vehicle and went to a car lot this week where we spoke to a nice man about some of the options available to us there. The cars we were interested in were a few thousand above our price range. So we told him we were going to continue looking, and as we were walking back toward our vehicle with him he suggested we just go ahead and test drive one “since we were there.” He was merely doing his job and doing it very well, but I knew what the motive was. Getting us to test drive a vehicle was getting us one step closer to sealing the deal. We had already decided on a price we were willing to pay and knew the sticker price was beyond what we had settled. We shut down any further thought or discussion on it because test driving it wasn’t going to lead us to success based on our already settled decision.
You see, Satan wants you to test drive his temptations. He wants to convince you there is wiggle room in your decisions. Through temptation, he wants to get you to rethink your convictions and stands on anything and everything.
Satan wants to back us into corners and rush us. He latches on to impulsive thoughts and wants us to hurry into bad decisions. That is why we must stay mentally engaged all of the time.
When Satan tempts you there is always a catch, and you’re it. J He catches you in his web and burdens you with consequences that he “forgot” to disclose up front.
- He wants to accuse you. Revelation 12:10 says Satan is the accuser of God’s people. His goal is to shame and embarrass you. He will throw your past in your fast. He wants to beat you down with guilt.
Ephesians 6:16 talks about “fiery darts” that come from Satan. Those are his accusations. He wants to bring up your past sin, but your past sins are buried in a “sea of forgetfulness.” God remembers them no more. What is confessed is under the blood of Jesus and can never be held against you. (Hebrews 10:17) In a court of law when someone is accusing you of something you have the option of pleading the fifth. When Satan accuses you of something, Christian, you have the authority to plead the blood. Satan’s accusation is no match for the blood. He can’t continue to taunt you when you plead the blood. “For there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
You have dominion over your thought life. Start living like it. You can choose what you will believe, dwell on and be convicted by. You can set your mind on things above (Colossians 3:2) on spiritual things, truthful things and godly things or you can choose to dwell on earthly, fleshly, sinful things. You can have your mind transformed and renewed by the Spirit of God (Romans 12:2).
Scripture tells us to seek the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:5). What was on Christ’s mind? Humility and obedience. Probably not the world’s ideas of the best qualities to possess. No. The world applauds self-confidence, a desire to achieve, a competitive nature, someone determined to rise to the top. Not so with Jesus. Philippians 2 tells us that though He was equal with God He made himself nothing, taking the nature of a servant and humbled himself to become like us and then to become obedient even unto death.
He didn’t think like a Gentile, looking for ways to get ahead and be applauded. He didn’t think for the moment or He would have looked for a way of escape from the cross and torture that went with it. Though He possessed all knowledge, He subjected Himself to learning in the synagogue and being taught by His parents. He was never, not for one minute, double-minded as He said His mission was to do the will of the Father who had sent Him. No one had more right to think the world revolved around Him than Jesus, after all, He made it. J Yet He was a servant instead of demanding to be served. He didn’t fall for any of Satan’s temptations but defeated Him with the Word of God.
I don’t think it was a coincidence that Jesus was crucified at Golgatha which means, “The Place of the Skull.” He was crucified in a place that represented where the battlefield is for you and me. For our battlefield is the battlefield of the mind. Will you join me in praying this morning that God will help us prepare our minds; that He will enable us to conquer that inner space that will enable us to be victorious in all the spaces and places of this life?