Christianity 201

December 3, 2018

What Controls Your Mind?

Today we’re back with Colin Sedgwick at Welcome to Sedgonline, and in the course of preparing today’s item, I read several more of his devotionals, every one of which would be a good fit here. In his bio, Colin mentions that he is a Baptist minister and then adds, ” My wife is a teacher and I have two large sons.” Hmmm. Be sure to click the title below to read this at source and then take a few minutes to look around at other recent articles.

Something to have in mind…

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6

What sort of mind do you have?

I don’t mean by that, Are you a really high-powered intellectual – someone who can speak fifteen languages fluently, or understand Einstein’s Theory of Relativity? (Or even understand Brexit?)

No. I’m not asking how clever you are; I’m asking about what we might call the shape, the basic character or essence, of your mind. Lazy or active? Open or closed? Teachable or dull? Selective or gullible? Stubborn or flexible? That sort of thing…

As Christians we often talk about our “hearts” – as in “giving our heart to Jesus”, perhaps, or “loving God with all our heart”. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But do we tend to relegate our mind to a back seat, and treat it as if it doesn’t really matter? When did you last consciously think about your mind? Do you value it? Do you do everything you can to keep it, so to speak, in a good state of repair?

Sorry to bombard you with questions. But in the Bible the mind is treated as extremely important. Indeed, when Jesus speaks about the “heart”, often it’s what today we would call the mind that he is really talking about.

Paul too has some very challenging things to say: for example, that we are to be “transformed by the renewal of our minds” (Romans 12:2), and to “set our minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2). Perhaps most striking of all: We have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16).

In Romans 8:5-7 – just three verses – he refers to the mind five times. Verse 6 sums up well what he is driving at: “the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace”. (By “the flesh” he doesn’t simply mean our physical bodies, and sex in particular, but the whole of our human nature which has been poisoned and corrupted by sin.)

It seems that having a new, strong, clean, efficiently functioning mind matters!

So we can add to that earlier list of opposites – lazy or active, stubborn or flexible and the rest – another pair: “according to the flesh” or “according to the Spirit”? Are our minds still groping about in the darkness of this fallen world’s values? Or are they indeed being “renewed” through the power and purity of the Holy Spirit?

This wonderful “renewal of the mind” is the work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean we can leave it all up to him. No: we too have a part to play, and it can be hard work. Above all, it involves that most difficult task of all: resisting temptation.

You will almost certainly know people who strike you as being particularly gracious and Christlike. There is, well, something about them that impresses you; you can’t quite put your finger on it or put it into words, but it’s just there.

If you ask, “How did he/she come to be like this?”, the answer is that it isn’t just a matter of luck, or upbringing, or good genes, but that, probably for many years, that person has been taking the character of their mind seriously and making a conscious effort to mould it to a Christlike shape.

They’re tempted to be gossipy or bitchy? – then they will clamp their mouths shut as quickly as possible. They find themselves feeling jealous? – all right, they will give themselves a telling-off. They do something good which stirs up in them feelings of pride? – they will immediately remind themselves that, no, it is God alone who deserves any credit or praise. They hear something a bit questionable or doubtful? – all right, they will set their mind to think about it, not just swallow it whole. And if they feel their temper beginning to flare up because of somebody’s stupidity or selfishness, they will breathe a silent prayer under their breath.

All of which involves putting their mind to work.

Always before their eyes they will hold a mental picture of Jesus, and remember that it is he, and not some passing fashion or opinion, who is to dictate the workings of their mind.

Putting it simply, such a person will develop the discipline of censoring their own mind in order to keep it “according to the Spirit.” They will always remember that just as we need to watch the kind of food we feed our bodies with, even more do we need to watch the kind of “food” we feed our minds with. Rubbish in, rubbish out, remember…

They won’t always succeed, of course; no, there will be times when they fail. But when that happens, instead of letting themselves feel crushed and useless, they will claim from God the forgiveness which he promises  to those who are truly sorry (1 John 1:9).

There’s a lot more that could be said. But perhaps it’s time to go back to the question we started with: What kind of mind do I have…?

May the mind of Christ my Saviour
Live in me from day to day.
By his love and power controlling
All I do or say. Amen.

~ Kate B Wilkinson (1859-1928)


Read more: In this article, Colin Shares his experiences with his Muslim barber.

December 6, 2013

Temptation Always Follows a Predictable Pattern

Our blog discovery today was one very similar to what we do here at C201.  Thoughts about God provides two thoughts for the day; based on the links in the right margin, and the pieces I looked at, one is male-authored and the other is female-authored. This is a unique devotional premise, don’t you think?  (I wish I’d thought of it !!)

This one appeared first today, and is by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church.

Change the Way You Think
We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:5 (NCV)

Here’s the secret to temptation: Don’t fight it. Just refocus. Whatever you resist persists.

Did you know that in the Bible, not once are you told to resist temptation? We are told to resist the Devil, and that’s a whole different issue. But the key to overcoming temptation is not to push back. It’s to change your focus.

Whatever gets your attention gets you. The battle for sin always starts in the mind. That’s why the Bible says in Psalm 119:6, “Thinking about your commands will keep me from doing some foolish thing” (CEV). Why? Because if you’re thinking about God’s truth, you’re not thinking about the dumb stuff you could be doing.

Have you ever looked over a cliff and felt like you were being drawn to jump off? Not like a temptation, but like there was this force that was pulling you. It’s because whatever you focus on pulls you.

It’s true in every single area of life — good or bad. If you focus on godly things, it’s going to pull you that direction. If you focus on the stuff that’s at the movies and in magazines, it’s going to pull you that direction. Whatever you focus on gets your attention. Whatever gets your attention is going to get you.

The key is to just change your mind.

Temptation always follows a predictable pattern: attention, arousal, and action. Your mind gets hooked, your mind kicks in, and then you act on it.

So you don’t fight a temptation; you just turn your mind to something else. “We capture every thought and make it give up and obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NCV).

The thing is, we’re not very good at capturing every thought and turning it to Christ, because it takes lots of practice. You can’t always control your circumstances, and you can’t even always control the way you feel. But you can control what you think about. That’s always your choice. And if you change the way you think, it changes the way you feel, and that will change the way you act.

Talk It Over
– What do you spend your time thinking about? Where does your mind wander when you’re not focused on something specific?
– How can you train yourself so that it is more natural for you to focus on God’s Word and truths instead of the things of this world?

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/rw_change-the-way-you-think/

Their women’s voice for the day was Claire Colvin:

God Will Not Waste Your Life
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” 1 Peter 1:3-4

What strikes me about this verse is the phrase “a living hope.” It’s not a future hope; it’s a hope that is with us right now. We were utterly lost, condemned to die, and through Jesus we’re reborn to hope and life eternal.

I lose sight of that sometimes. In the midst of an ordinary day I forget that I have this incredible hope. When I feel weak, forgotten, worn out or left behind it’s often because I’ve taken my eyes off of the hope that Jesus bought for me on the cross.

I love the chorus in Chris Tomlin’s version of “Amazing Grace.”

My chains are gone,
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me.
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace.”

What a picture of hope! This is a big part of the “life to the full” that Jesus talks about in John 10:10. It’s not a life we just hope might somehow count for something. It’s life as a forgiven child of God, fashioned for a purpose. It’s the assurance that God will not waste your life. How will you live in this hope today?

Thank you God for giving me a living hope. Whatever has happened in the past, whatever might lie ahead in the future, Your hope will be there to redeem and renew. You are the reason for the joy that I have. You are my peace and my portion and my shield forever. Help me to cling to Your hope and not to my own understanding. In Your name I pray, amen.

Take Action: Take a close look at the thoughts that are running through your head today. Are they thoughts of hope or worry? comfort or sadness? Take these thoughts to God. Thank Him for ransoming you and ask Him to focus your mind on the living hope that is yours today.

You can comment on this devotional online at:
http://thoughts-about-god.com/blog/2013/12/06/cc_god-will-not-waste-your-life/

June 21, 2011

Thought Monitoring

Recovering alcoholics use the phrase “one day a time” as a reminder that progress, to be successful, has to take place on a daily level; and resultant sobriety is measured in weeks, months and finally annual celebrations.

When it comes to controlling our thought life however, our progress can rise or fall in minutes, or even within the seconds of a single minute.  However, as long as we understand that, we won’t be defeated when unwanted thoughts creep into our heads.  We can say, “Okay, my mind may have been going down the wrong path that past few seconds, but I can now get back track for the next few seconds.”

Falling asleep and waking up are probably the toughest times for me.  As in any professional sports match, I can be more effective when I run a good defense.  For myself, I find in those minutes I can slam dunk some of those thoughts simply by reciting the phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. 

Of course, in the morning, simply getting up and starting the day a few minutes earlier also solves the problem.  I remember Larry Tomczak saying years ago that “most Christians are defeated between the bed and the breakfast table.” 

So if the AA program can claim the phrase, “one day a time;” I propose that we appropriate the phrase, “minute by minute.” 

II Cor 10:5 in the KJV contains the phrase, “Bringing every thought into captivity.”  Here’s how the NLT renders that passage:

 3 We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. 4 We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. 5 We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. 6 And after you have become fully obedient, we will punish everyone who remains disobedient.

In verse 5 Paul personifies our thoughts and writes that we teach our thoughts to obey Christ. In The Message read how Eugene Peterson looks at this:

3-6The world is unprincipled. It’s dog-eat-dog out there! The world doesn’t fight fair. But we don’t live or fight our battles that way—never have and never will. The tools of our trade aren’t for marketing or manipulation, but they are for demolishing that entire massively corrupt culture. We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ. Our tools are ready at hand for clearing the ground of every obstruction and building lives of obedience into maturity.

Note the phrase, “fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.”  Yes, there are going to be “loose thoughts,” but we redirect them. 

Last year I wrote on this subject for three consecutive days, and if you want to continue reading here are the links on this vital topic:

We can also help each other by praying for specific people God brings to mind and asking for His help for them to keep their thought life focused on things that are pure, lovely, praiseworthy, containing good news and virtuous.  You pray for me, and I will pray for you.

~Paul Wilkinson