I have been a Christian for a very long time. But 40 years ago, when I first gave my life to Jesus and accepted Him as Lord and Saviour, I knew very little about the mechanics of my belief. Later, when I began attending a Baptist church around the corner from where I lived, I was still hazy about what I really believed. I was very immature, eager to learn and yet the church I attended did not teach the basics of my faith. The preaching focused on bible verses or stories from the Old Testament which contained morals or facts about God and how we are to live as Christians, but I was not informed about things like the differences between soul and spirit, or soul and body and how these three interact.
Recently I have been doing some bible study.
I have come to a very important understanding which I wish I knew 40 years ago. And it all seems to be predicated on two little verses, Romans 12:1-2. They say this:
Romans 12New King James Version (NKJV)
Living Sacrifices to God
12 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
These verses have been with me for a couple of years. I just can’t seem to get away from them. They are powerful, all consuming, and seem to sum up the life of the Christian. If my mind is renewed, I am transformed. But if I don’t first of all sacrifice myself, reject the world and all friendship with it then I won’t be able to be renewed, transformed and be able to prove the will of God.
I have been learning that our spirits are made whole, are saved and sanctified, are filled with the Holy Spirit and it is through our spirits that we hear the living Word. Yes, the bible is an important book, it is the Word of God also, and the living Word who indwells us always agrees with His written word. To do otherwise would be to be something less than who He is. So, our spirits are the most important part of us. If we can get our minds filled with the Spirit, to have the mind of Christ, and to understand the mysteries of God as Paul encourages us in 1 Corinthians 2, then the rest of us will be transformed.
Let me give you a practical illustration.
This morning I was praying. A thought came to me, I won’t say what thought but it was very destructive. The thought told me something that I started to believe. Before I knew it, the thought had produced a stirring in my soul, and my emotions began to bubble and stew and create such anguish and pain that I knew I had to do something. I had to act, in order to counter the reality that this thought presented to me. I began to think of what I could do to change my imaginary circumstances.
I sat down to have breakfast and opened up the Bible as I often do. I began to read in 1 Corinthians 2 and 3 and while I was pondering the Word of God, I realised, I had allowed my carnal mind to inform my whole existence. I had allowed a stray thought to change my emotions which then caused me a great deal of pain which compelled me to act in order to change my circumstances. I figured if I could change my circumstances, I would feel empowered, instead of victimised, as the thought told me I was.
After reading the word for a short time, my mind became renewed on this topic. And interestingly the verses I was reading didn’t actually relate at all to the issue at hand. All it did was enable me to focus on the Word of God instead of the lies of the Devil. All of my thoughts, emotions and plans evaporated, and I realised how foolish, and sinful, I had been. Yet, this situation taught me a tremendous truth. All that I had been learning about Spirit, Soul and Body was becoming a reality! If I had taken that thought captive to Christ and allowed His mind to inform me, I would have saved myself a morning’s worth of anguish and foolishness.
Another practical application of this related to a discussion I had with my daughter about wanting to change something about herself at a moment’s notice without considering what was driving her. We talked a bit about it, and much later after focusing on the Word, and talking about the things I am discussing here, she realised her desire to change herself physically came about because of a thought that she had about herself, that she was unloved and unacceptable. This was a lie! Yet the lie stirred up her emotions, and then caused her to want to act in a way which would have ended up being very unsatisfying. The root cause of her dissatisfaction wasn’t physical at all. It was believing a lie about herself instead of focusing on the truth that God not only loved her but His Spirit dwelt in us to bring life to our mortal bodies. (Romans 8:11)
Psychology tells us that our emotions are a result of outward circumstances. Somebody says something offensive and we are immediately hurt. But in fact, what somebody says to us means nothing if we have did not already believe that about ourselves. If somebody mocks you and tells you that you are ugly, and you are not, then the slur is like water off a ducks back, in fact it can be kind of amusing. However, if you actually believe you are not only ugly but unlovable because of it, the insult hits at the lie we believe and causes the sore spot to flare up and create huge emotional waves. It can drive us to despair.
Our thoughts dictate to us and our souls and bodies. Then we act on those thoughts and feelings and often our bodies are the recipients of some fairly horrible consequences. At a superficial level, we can tattoo, pierce, and surgically alter ourselves but at a more dangerous level we can fill our bodies with drugs or other substances which provide relief from painful emotions, and even in extreme cases, abort children or commit suicide because our thoughts tell us not only are our lives irrelevant but our bodies are not affected by our actions. Neither of these lies bring life. They literally in some cases produce death, not just to us but to others.
A friend of our family attempted suicide last year. She was not a Christian and was in a coma for weeks. We prayed for her, because she had four children, the youngest was only about 7 years old, her oldest was just about to get married. Apparently this woman had a history of depression and had used medication to deal with it. But at the root of her problems was the belief that her life was irrelevant.. It could not have been further from the truth. Our family prayed for her solidly for a month. But I remember taking this issue to the Father who told me sadly, ‘She has made her decision’. We don’t want to believe anyone could do such a terrible thing, but in fact, if you believe a lie, not only will your soul be affected but eventually your body will be treated with contempt. If nothing matters and your life is worth nothing, then it doesn’t matter what you do. But if everything matters, and your life is not your own but you were bought with a price, then you will see yourself and everyone around you as worthwhile people who deserve to be treated with respect regardless of who they are. Human lives mean something, but Satan, who is the destroyer of our souls and bodies wishes to make us believe we are worthless. He is a liar.
Proverbs 23:7 tells us that as a man thinks, so is he.
23 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you;
2 And put a knife to your throat
If you are a man given to appetite.
3 Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food.4 Do not overwork to be rich;
Because of your own understanding, cease!
5 Will you set your eyes on that which is not?
For riches certainly make themselves wings;
They fly away like an eagle toward heaven.6 Do not eat the bread of a miser,[a]
Nor desire his delicacies;
7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
“Eat and drink!” he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
8 The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.
These verses talk about deceptive words from gluttons and misers. In their heart they are against you, but outwardly their actions try and convince you that they are your friend. Our actions begin in the heart, or mind. Our mind thinks a thought which immediately produces emotions, usually negative ones, although this can work positively as well, but our carnal minds are often the source of a great deal of anxiety. We create dramas in our own imaginations which then lead us to take action in ways which we never would if we believed the truth. This is why faith is substance and evidence. It is not JUST a thought or belief. Thoughts produce actions, faith produces works. So many believers get confused about James’ letter thinking he is talking about works producing salvation. That is NOT what he said. He said what you believe will change how you act. Your belief in the gospel will cause you to do works which are the result of that faith. Thoughts produce action, either to the glory of God or the glorification of the flesh.
It is possible to have an intellectual assent to God’s truth, but unless you actually believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in you, you won’t act on it. Today, I acted on a lie which produced death, then later, I acted on a truth which produced life. My works, my actions, were a result of what I believed, my faith.
God is truth. He speaks the truth always. So as we immerse ourselves in His Word, and allow His Spirit to speak to us through the Word, we will begin to think as He thinks. We will have the mind of Christ.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1
10 Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment
Our minds are to be united to Christ’s, just as our minds together as brothers and sisters should be united so that there be no divisions amongst us. On a wider level, most church splits have come about because of divisions which arise when one person speaks one thing and somebody else disagrees with them, and the thoughts give rise to emotions which cause actions and those actions can produce acrimony and dramatic tensions which inevitably become grave estrangements from one another as Christians. This is how different sects and denominations have formed. Not because God wills it. Some might suggest that because Paul and Barnabas disagreed it is OK to have disagreements which create splits in churches. But this isn’t the kind of disagreement they had. They were still of one mind regarding Christ and the gospel, they simply disagreed regarding the fate of one individual who happened to be related to Barnabas. And later in Scripture you will read that this was no acrimonious split, Paul and Barnabas were still relating to each other.
Our minds have a great capacity to create imaginary scenarios which we believe to be true. We may not necessarily be deceived, but we don’t sit down and think things through. More importantly, we don’t take everything to the Lord in prayer and wait on the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom. We can hear from the Lord, scripture tells us so. Romans 12:2 is a classic example of this.
We need to take every stray thought captive to Him, and ensure that we are focusing our minds on Him throughout the day.
You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, Because he trusts in You.