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3. A Renewed Mind:

 

Take Charge of Your Thought-Life

2 Corinthians 10:5 '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.'

The biggest battle-ground

Your mind is a battle-ground where conflicting thoughts fight for domination of your life. Before you became a Christian, negative thoughts would often win, tipping you into depression, maybe even to thoughts of suicide. But now you can count on Jesus' help so that right thinking can win the day.

Factors affecting your mind

2 Timothy 1:7 'God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.' (NKJV)

The man called Legion in Mark 5 was a suicidal, demonised and violent recluse, but after his meeting with Jesus the local people found him 'sitting and clothed and in his right mind' (Mark 5:15). If there was hope for him, there's certainly hope for you!

Mind dethroned; God enthroned

Your education taught you that Mind is king, that your thoughts can range where they will, and that no-Jesus ruling your thought-lifeone can legislate for what goes on in your head. But God is a greater King than Mind, and he claims the rule over your thought-life. Indeed, the acknowledgement of his rule is where all right thinking begins:

Proverbs 1:7 'The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.'

In practice, what does this mean?

a. Your mind subject to God's Word

It means submitting your mind to God's Word, the Bible. Take, for instance, the question of how the universe came into being. Scientists have put forward several theories, but the Bible says that God created it directly:

Hebrews 11:3 'By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.'

Note the phrase, 'By faith we understand'. Faith is taking God at his word; we believe it because he says it. Most people would say, 'By thinking we understand' or, 'By investigating we understand', but for you as a Christian there's also this other way: by faith.

b. Your mind subject to the Holy Spirit

The Holy Spirit will show you things you couldn't learn by any other means. 'You have an anointing from the Holy One,' John tells us, 'and…you know the truth' (1 John 2:20).

He'll convince you, for instance, that you really are God's child, saved and loved by him (Romans 8:16).Railway track: it restricts the train to the rails See also 1 Corinthians 2:9-12.

There are restrictions on our thinking as Christians—and a good thing, too.

Restriction isn't always bad. A train runs best when restricted to the rails. A game of rugby goes best when restricted to the rules. And your thought-life will be most productive when restricted to God's guidelines. This doesn't mean committing intellectual suicide. On the contrary—as we shall see.

God delegates the rule to you

When you submit your mind to God, he returns it to you, saying, 'Look after it on my behalf'. He delegates control of your thought-life to you.

a. Choosing what you think about

God trusts you to think about the right things. You can—and must—choose what you think about:

Philippians 4:8 '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.'

Colossians 3:2 'Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.'

b. Dealing with intrusive thoughts

Sometimes you'll find unpleasant or downright wicked thoughts in your mind, often in your most holy moments. You didn't invite them in; they just gatecrashed your brain. What should you do?

Thinking wholesome thoughts1. Eye Gate. Are you watching nasty TV programmes and videos or reading salacious novels? Do you have a lustful eye? Job said, 'I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl' (Job 31:1). You, too, can lay down some ground rules about what you allow into your mind through Eye Gate.

2. Ear Gate. Most people's conversation is negative. It's full of belly-aching and bad language. Determine not to let it affect you. Take care what music you listen to. Much popular music is mind-numbing and the words of the songs may be unhelpful, too. Judge music with your spirit.

3. Memory Gate. Like everyone else, you have some bad memories. You may have committed a crime or been the victim of sexual abuse. You may have had a major dispute with another person and, even though it's been sorted out, you still feel strong resentment. Put such thoughts under house arrest. Don't let them out to pollute your thinking.

Forgive and forget. Forgetting doesn't mean trying to erase the tape of memory; that's impossible. It means doing what God does when he says, 'I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more' (Jeremiah 31:34). He simply determines never to bring the issue up again.

4. Habit Gate. Before you came to Christ your habits were nearly all bad ones because your nature was sinful. But now you're a Christian and…

2 Corinthians 5:17 'If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come.'

Your nature is now to love and serve God. But because you're a creature of habit, the old patterns of thinking keep reappearing, and this can be distressing. When the old thinking tries to breeze in, just like in old times, challenge it straight away and send it out. There's been a change of management in your mind now!

Demolishing mental strongholds

Paul talks about 'strongholds' of the mind. It's a military image. Occupying forces can be driven out of your mental territory bit by bit as you exert your authority in Christ. But sometimes certain thoughts may occupy a castle in your mind, barricade themselves in and resist eviction:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 'The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 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.'

A strongholdThese 'strongholds' are areas of ungodly thinking where you can't seem to get the mastery, in spite of much prayer and determination. They may be fears or phobias. They may be leftovers from dabbling with a ouija board or some other occult activity. Here's where you need the help of Christian friends, because together you and they can achieve what you couldn't manage alone.

Speak to one of the church leaders if you think you may be in this situation. They'll advise and encourage you, then pray with you specifically to 'demolish' the stronghold and see the enemy in your mind thrown out. After that, you'll be able to maintain the victory yourself.

Metamorphosis

Romans 12:2 'Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.'

2 Corinthians 3:18 'We…are being transformed into his likeness.'Butterfly: the product of metamorphosis

The word 'transformed' here is literally 'metamorphosed'. In biology, metamorphosis is the process by which a dull brown caterpillar, for example, becomes a gorgeous butterfly.

Your own character-metamorphosis is also a process. It takes time, and it comes about 'by the renewing of your mind'. Little by little you're becoming more like the Lord Jesus; his character is becoming yours.

It's a process in which you must co-operate. God is doing his part: he has given you a new heart, inclined to do his will, and has put his Holy Spirit within you. You, for your part, must 'work out your salvation' in the light of that:

Philippians 2:12-13 'Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.'

'Work out' doesn't mean 'earn', of course; salvation is a free gift from God. It means 'develop'. Just as gold-bearing ore has to be 'worked out' to the surface by mining so that it can be fashioned into beautiful jewellery, the precious gold of your salvation needs to come to the surface so that your Christlike character can be seen by all.

This is a 'mind' thing. Whatever dominates your mind will dictate your character: 'As he thinks within himself, so he is' (Proverbs 23:7 NASB). Determine, then, to let your mind be dominated by godly influences from within rather than by ungodly influences from the world:

Romans 8:5-6 '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. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.'

Ruts in the track

A farmer's Land Rover has worn ruts in the farm track. It runs along them like a tram on tram-lines. Ruts in the track are like our thought-patternsSimilarly, your mind before you became a Christian was rutted with the traffic of unrighteous thinking. Ungodly thoughts rode comfortably there.

But suppose there's a change of farmer. The new man's Suzuki doesn't fit the ruts and he has to work hard at keeping it on the track. But if he persists, the Suzuki will eventually wear new ruts that make driving up the track a lot easier. Then, it's the Land Rover that will have a hard time.

As a new Christian, you'll need to work hard at driving godly thoughts along your mind-tracks, but in time it will become easier. So stick with it, and the time will come when the old thoughts have a rough ride. And as your thoughts become more godly, so will your character.

A mind at peace

Philippians 4:6-7 'Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

Everyone longs for peace of mind. As a Christian it can be yours, as this instructive verse explains:

1. Don't be anxious. The way Paul puts it, that's an order. You can choose not to be anxious, refusing to let your mind dwell on the issue that's worrying you.

2. Commit the issue to God. Instead of worrying, talk frankly to the Lord about it, requesting him to take the burden onto his own broad shoulders. Be sure to include your 'thanksgiving'.

3. Let God's peace stand guard. You won't understand how this works because it 'transcends all understanding'. It's a matter of faith rather than intellect. But you'll find God's own peace guarding your heart and mind, even when the cause of the anxiety is still present. God's peace can stand guard effectively because it's stronger than your heart and mind.

Follow all these guidelines and enjoy your Christian inheritance: a sound mind.

Learn
by heart

2 Corinthians 10:5  '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.'

Heart

GiG3: Your Thought-Life
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I have written a book entitled A Sound Mind on this subject. It covers the topic much more widely than is possible in this short study. Click for further details.

'The Thinker' by Rodin
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