I’ve been hit between the eyes a few times in my life and every one has hurt. Now, I’m not talking literally, but in a spiritual sense when I say that there are times when a truth just bangs into your forehead with such power that you can’t excuse it or ignore it.
This happened once again to me the other evening while listening to an on line sermon. The truth is, it was late and I was falling in and out of sleep, as I lay in my nice warm bed, comfortable upon the pillow and headphones situated just right. Then I heard something that startled me awake. It always interests me how when we hear truth it wakes us up with a bang and we know instinctively that we have heard something that is life changing.
Now, what the preacher said in the sermon wasn’t anything I didn’t know or hadn’t thought about, but I had never been so convicted as I was that night. All he said, was, “what occupies your thoughts when you are alone with your thoughts is who you are.” Wow! Really!
Romans 12:2 reminds us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
Now it seems to me that what Paul is saying is that we can either conform to our culture or we can be transformed out of thinking like the world around us. The way that happens is through the “renewal” of our thinking. And what is it that we should start thinking about? How about asking what is God’s will for us and what is acceptable and perfect before God in our worship?
The idea of renewal makes me think that we had something, lost it and now need to receive it back. That renewal is a call, I believe, back to our first love for God. There were times in my life when I knew I was close to God. I woke up with a desire to build a deeper relationship with Jesus and a longing for closeness to the presence of the Holy Spirit. I could hardly wait to open my Bible, study, pray, and share my faith.
Then there were times in my life when I just went through the motions. It’s not that I wasn’t a Christian or didn’t believe or love God—it was just that I didn’t love Him with my whole heart.
It is easy to fill the heart with all sorts of things that may be good in themselves, but in the long run become a distraction away from God.
There in bed that evening I began to ask myself a few serious questions that I really didn’t want to ask, because I knew the answers. Paul once again writes,
4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments
5 and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ.
6 We are ready to punish every disobedience when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:4-6
So here is the question I ended up asking myself, what does dominate my thoughts? How about you, where does your mind go when you are alone with your thoughts?
If we take a moment to look at 2 Corinthians we are encouraged by what Paul is saying. First of all this warfare for the mind is not an unfair contest where Satan has all the power and we are resisting with peashooters. We have access to divine intervention to resist the cravings of our mind, and through the grace of God we are able to resist the strongholds, arguments and obstacles and take our thoughts captive.
Now here is the key to all this as far as I can make it out, and that is God is able to destroy the proud obstacles that lurk in our minds. Have you ever noticed how often your thoughts revolve around you as the central hero of your thinking?
O.K. enough about the problem—what is the solution? We need to allow God to be God and understand we are not Him. The best place to go for that is to Philippians 4:4-7,
4 “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.
5 Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
6 Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Instead of being angry at the world or plotting revenge against the neighbor for letting her dog bark all night why not rejoice in the Lord? Let our minds settle and reflect upon God’s love for us and the way He has led in our past and the wonderful gifts He pours out upon us daily.
Instead of harshness and bitterness over circumstances that are often beyond our control let our hearts be gentle. Plotting revenge is for television shows not for the renewal of our minds.
Then there is worry. Probably nothing occupies our minds to such a degree as worry over life. We worry over the children, finances, aging, retirement, acceptance, beauty, sexual appeal, health, wealth, success and the list goes on.
Ah! Here is the answer to life’s anxieties. In prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving take your troubles to God. Instead of brooding upon the problem go to God for the solution. Give God the heartache, the problem and the sorrow. He will sort it out.
When we do this something amazing happens according to Paul, “The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Look, are we able to defeat the junk that lives in our heads? Not completely. Are we able to minimize their influence in our lives? Yes. Don’t beat yourself up if you find your thoughts drifting to secular pleasures and adventures, but realize when it is happening and pull away from those thoughts.
Also don’t go looking for them. Some of us are so comfortable with sinful and unhelpful thoughts that we seek them out when we have a spare moment. We like to fantasize and daydream to such an extent that we often create alternative worlds in our minds to the reality of our lives and that is not helpful.
God longs to guard our hearts and our minds “in Christ.” None of what I’ve written this morning is easy for us to change when it comes to habit and thought patterns, but we cannot serve two masters. If you want real peace in your life then invite Jesus to dwell within your heart and your thoughts.