Preparing the Mind (January 10, 2015)

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In her book, Your Inner You, Leslie Flynn tells of a mother who was peeling vegetables for a salad when her daughter, home from college, casually mentioned she was going to a questionable movie that evening. The mother quickly picked up a handful of garbage and threw it in the salad. “Mother!” said the shocked girl. “You’re putting garbage in the salad.”

“I know,” replied the mother, “but I thought that if you didn’t mind garbage in your mind, certainly you wouldn’t mind a little in your stomach.”

This story makes a valid point about the importance of guarding our minds, especially if we are followers of Jesus Christ. Why is it important to guard our minds?  It’s because our thoughts determine our actions. If we want to live a sinful lifestyle, all we need to do is think sinful thoughts. If we truly want to be faithful to Jesus and live a Christian lifestyle then we need to think like he does.

The sad truth is that many times we think our thoughts are the same as God’s and they’re really not. These thoughts then manifest themselves into actions which are contrary to God’s will for us and for those around us. We see an example of this in John 20. In this chapter, we read about Jesus’ resurrection. In John 20:19-23, he appears to eleven of his disciples. John 20:24-25  reveals what happened afterwards: 24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

At this point in his life, Thomas couldn’t accept the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead. Yes, Thomas had been with Jesus and seen the miracles he performed. Blind people could now see. The dead were raised back to life and demons were cast out. Thomas had heard Jesus’ teaching about love, peace and the supernatural power of God. However, he was thinking like a first century Jew and was relying on what he had been taught by the world since he was a boy. According to the Jewish teachings of his day, the Messiah would be a warrior king who would lead a revolt that would free the nation of Israel from Roman occupation. He would also help them keep the Law and the teachings of the Prophets. Since Jesus had allowed himself to be arrested and executed without even putting up a fight, there was no way he could be the Messiah or even come back from the dead.

When Thomas made his statement of unbelief, he was speaking out of the grief, disappointment, and human reasoning that was in his thoughts. He was thinking like the world thinks instead of thinking like Jesus. Jesus thinks of love, peace and the supernatural power of God. The world thinks of acquiring possessions, rising to positions of power and what it can see and feel. Because we are human just like Thomas, we typically find it easier to think like the world instead of thinking like Jesus. Then our thoughts come to life in our actions.

Paul addresses the solution to this problem in Colossians 1:15-2315 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. 21Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. 22 But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— 23 if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.

As this passage reveals, once we were separated from God because of our sin but Christ has reconciled us back to him. However, the reason for the separation was that our minds were focused on things other than God and our actions were sinful.

This is exactly what was happening with Thomas when he was told that Jesus is alive. His thoughts were at war with God and it came out in the words he spoke. But Jesus wasn’t finished with him yet: John 20:26-31 – “26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Once Thomas met Jesus, he realized he was wrong. His thinking changed when he encountered the risen Christ! You and I haven’t had the same privilege as Thomas to see the risen Christ in his physical body. We belong to the group that simply believes without physically seeing. But even though we live almost 2000 years after this conversation between Jesus and Thomas, Jesus offers us the same reconciliation as he did to Thomas. We don’t have to be enemies of God in our minds. Jesus gives us the same opportunity to change our minds away from sin and towards living a Godly life. As a matter-of-fact, Jesus even helps us think like he does. I Corinthians 2:16b tells us “But we have the mind of Christ.” This, of course, isn’t referring to us as individuals but to the church as a whole.

However, as sinful human beings who have a sinful nature, we still have the ability to be keep pouring sin into our lives through the things that we covet and fantasize about in our minds. This is why Paul says:  Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Even though we have the mind of Christ and are encouraged to think like Jesus, God still gives us the freedom to think about anything we desire. So a question we must ask ourselves is: Do my actions show I have the mind of Christ? Or that I’m still at war with God?

Are my thoughts on God and his Kingdom?

Meditating on Jesus and his mercy?

Trying to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit?

Praying for God to make me more effective in my ministries?

Thinking about ways to show God’s love to my neighbors?

Praying for patience and forgiveness towards the coworker that is driving me nuts?

Or are my thoughts elsewhere?

Wondering what life might be like if I would have married the other guy instead of my husband?

Fantasizing about what someone other than my wife would look like naked?

Harboring anger and refusing to forgive?

Thinking more about hoarding money than working for the Kingdom?

Making excuses about why I can’t be faithful to God?

Do you know of the best places to see whether we have the mind of Christ or the mind of the world? For those of us that are married, ask one simple question: How do I treat my spouse when we’re alone and no one else can hear or see us?

Is it with patience, love, understanding and forgiveness?

Or with anger, selfishness, judgment and by holding grudges?

Since we have the mind of Christ, we need to let Christ guide us. So how  do Jesus’ thoughts become our thoughts? Assuming that we have accepted him as our Savior,  here are three basic things we can do to have the mind of Jesus.

1) Prayer. Through prayer, Jesus speaks to us. He reveals areas where our thinking is wrong and encourages us in areas where we are right. We need to listen when he speaks.

2) Be obedient to what Christ shows me. Since we’ve accepted salvation in his name, Jesus expects us to be faithful.

3) Allow Christ to help me. We simply can’t do it on our own. We will only have victory when we allow the power of Jesus to flow through us.

When we allow Jesus to change our thoughts, it will also change our actions. When this happens, we won’t be so hungry for garbage.