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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
June 27, 1999
Having the Mind of Christ
This morning we come to the conclusion of our short series on The Battle for the Mind. In the previous two messages I have tried to bring out the fact that we are in a spiritual war. That fact is made clear throughout the Scriptures. We must be of sober spirit and on the alert for our adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). Ephesians 6:10f warns us in no uncertain terms that we must be prepared for conflict by having put on the full armor of God so that we might stand firm against the schemes of the devil to deceive us and lead us astray.
Too often, in the midst of this battle, we forget who the real adversary is. We tend to focus on people or groups of people that give us a hard time or espouse things that are contrary to what we believe. Yet, regardless of how disgusting and godless a person might be, they are not the enemy. Opposing political groups are not the enemy. People in other religious and cults are not the enemy. People with perverse morals are not the enemy. No human is the enemy. People are the victims of the enemy. All of humanity is our mission field. Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places (Eph. 6:12).
Eph. 6 is clear that for me to stand firm against my enemies, I must have on the full armor of God – the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of the preparation of the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. I must also have the sword of the spirit which is the Word of God as both a defensive weapon to parry the blows of my enemy and as my offensive weapon to strike back. And then each of these pieces of armor must be put on and backed up with prayer.
People are not my enemies, they are my mission field. My enemy is the force that is behind them that leads them to believe the things they believe, say the things they say and do the things they do. My adversary is the devil that controls such people.
Why is this important? If I can keep that in mind, I can separate the personal and emotional elements out of the conflicts I encounter and then keep my mind sharp to counter the philosophies they espouse which come from Satan. If I let the emotional elements control, then I am in danger in two ways. First, I might end up treating them with disdain. I might be rude, call them names, or just ignore them. In any case, I fail to speak the truth to them in love for I forget the value of their soul to God. The second danger is that because they might be nice, affable people, I will let my guard down and end up accepting some of their errors as being permissible and may even adopt them into my own belief system.
Recall that in the last couple of sermons I have warned you about the dangers of worldly philosophies that attack us both directly and stealthily. I must be vigilant against the dangers of philosophies that are contrary to Christ. False religions, cults, secularism, atheism, etc., can all attack directly by contradicting what God has said, but they can also mix their error with truth so as to persuade us to adopt their belief as our own.
This was one of the reasons for my strong message about the dangers of amusement. Because of an entertainment mentality that prevails in our society, most people do not think deeply through issues. They tend to react emotionally to either reject or accept a view instead of analyzing the pros and cons of any idea. It is very easy for us to end up accepting false ideas as true because of the way in which they are presented to us and our own lack of diligence to think deeply.
I hope no one misunderstood my reasons for asking you to give up TV for a week. I could have picked on many other forms of entertainment, but I picked on TV for two simple reasons. First, I do believe it has had the largest single effect in producing the entertainment mentality of our culture and its corresponding decline in the ability to think deeply. Second, it is one of my own personal weaknesses, and this preacher needed to preach that message to himself. My challenge was not nearly as much to get you to not watch TV as it was to get you to doing other things that require you to think more and to interact more with other people. I hope many of you have found that life can be richer and much more fulfilling when your time is used more wisely than vegetating in front of a television set. Let me encourage you to do so and develop new and better time use habits.
We have already seen in the last couple of messages the warnings about false teachers (2 Peter 2:1f), and against worldly philosophies. Colossians 2:8 warned us, “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” This morning I want to concentrate more on philosophy that is according to Christ. I want to spend time going over how to develop the mind of Christ within our lives.
What We Already Have
First, it must be pointed out that when a person becomes a Christian there is a change in the mind to begin with. When a person repents, they make a change of mind about themselves, sin and the Saviour that is results in a change of direction. The mind changes from self-righteousness to righteousness in Christ, from being good enough to earn heaven to being a sinner saved by grace, from being in charge of their life to giving their life to Jesus.
Unbelievers have their minds darkened by Satan and they do not understand the gospel message (2 Cor. 4:3). Eph. 4:17-19 adds that they walk “in the futility of their mind, 18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; 19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.”
When a person repents from their sins and turns to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, they are changed into new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17), and part of that change is a new mind. 1 Cor. 2:15-16 puts it this way, But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no man. For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ.
When you become a Christian you are reborn spiritually and are changed into a new person with a new mind, the mind of Christ. But that does not mean that all your thoughts and the way in which you think is changed all at once. You are not spiritually “zapped” and given instantly a holy mind that thinks only holy thoughts. No, you still have the same mind that works in the same way and it still has the same garbage inside it. What is changes is the ability of your mind to grasp the truths of God and then begin to apply them in your life. The ability of your mind is expanded to be able to understand the things of God, but it still is going to take work to learn and apply. A baby is not born with a mature mind, but with a mind that can learn and so mature. When a person becomes a Christian, they are reborn and changed, but they are still babes spiritually. They must learn and grow to mature. The apostle Peter even describes it in this manner in 1 Peter 2:1,2. You have to set aside old godless habits, learn and develop new holy habits. “Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, 2 like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation, 3 if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”
Resist the World and Submit to Christ.
This same theme occurs in many places in the Bible. We are told that we must resist the world’s influence and replace it with a new way of thinking. Romans 12:1,2 is describes this. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
In Romans 1-11 Paul presents the gospel. Those chapters are rich in theology and cause us to think deeply about what God has done to redeem us from sin and establish us in the righteousness of Christ. Romans 12-16 is application of these theological truths in daily living. To paraphrase and expand on what Paul is stating here, in view of all that God has done in saving you from sin and establishing you in Jesus Christ, it is only reasonable that your life belongs to Him and is to be lived in holiness. You must resist the pressure of the world to mold you into its image, to get you think like they think, believe what they believe and do what they do. You must be completely changed by the renewing of your mind. You must believe what God says, think how He wants you to think and do what He says to do. When you do that you demonstrate his good, acceptable and perfect will in your life.
Let me emphasize this again. You must resist being conformed to this world. Our enemy, the devil, will seek to keep you in his control through the influence of the society around you. You were raised within it and so it seems most natural to go along with their beliefs, philosophies and practices. Satan desires to mold you into the image of the rest of society which he controls or at least strongly influences. Satan will use whatever means he can to pressure you into being like everyone else he controls – peer pressure, laws, self-interest, etc. It is your responsibility to resist those pressures. That is where all the warnings about false teachers and worldly philosophies fit. As James 3 puts it, there is wisdom from above and earthly wisdom. It is up to you to resist the worldly wisdom and to follow the wisdom from above.
Resisting Satan’s effort to conform you to this world begins with a submission to God. James 4:7 states, Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. As you resist the devil’s efforts to conform you to this world, you also go on the offensive to reach those that are being held captive by him. 2Cor 10:3-5 tells us in regard to this, For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 5 [We are] destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and [we are] taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”
As our own minds are renewed, then we can actually help others out of the darkness with which Satan has blinded them. We can destroy their philosophies and speculations by bringing the truth of the Word of God to bear on the subject, and then, both within ourselves and in others, we begin to “take every thought captive to the obedience to Christ.”
RENEWING YOUR MIND
But how do you renew your mind? How can you change your way of thinking so that you can both resist the influences of the world around you and demonstrate in practical ways the good, acceptable and perfect will of God in your life.
Obviously, it begins with being a genuine Christian. You must be someone who actually desires and strives to follow Jesus Christ in your daily life. There are many who claim to be Christians, but the claim is a half-hearted intellectual assent to some truths which is not backed up by the life. Paul warned Titus about those who would “profess to know God, bu thy their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed” (Titus 2:16). You can claim anything you want, but that doesn’t make it true.
Let me add here that a person that does not desire to have the mind of Christ already demonstrates a self-deception and that their profession of faith may be false. Consider
Second, you must have a humble spirit that is ready and willing to submit to God’s will. We find this in Jesus throughout His ministry. Too often we want to stress His deity to the point where we discount His humanity. Jesus’ ability to live a holy life is directly related to His complete submission to God the Father. In John 4:34 Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work. In John 6:38 He added, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. If you want to develop the mind of Christ in your life, you need to emulate Jesus on this point first – a willing submission to God. We need to have, as Phil. 2 describes, the same attitude of humility that was in Jesus as demonstrated by His willingness to become a man and die as the substitute payment for our sin. That is utter humility and submission to the Father’s will.
Third, in order to have a mind renewed, you must have your focus on God especially as He has revealed Himself and His will within His Word. Consider the renewed mind of the Psalmist when he said in Psalm 119:9-11, How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping [it] according to Thy word. With all my heart I have sought Thee; Do not let me wander from Thy commandments. Thy word I have treasured in my heart, That I may not sin against Thee.
As a preacher I heard once quip, “The Bible will keep you from sin, and sin will keep you from the Bible.” If you desire to have your mind renewed and develop the mind of Christ, then you must know who God is, what He has done and how He wants you to live. The more that become ingrained into the fabric of your soul and wove throughout your mind, the more your thoughts and very way of thinking will be changed.
I have seen this happen over and over in the lives of individuals and I am sure many of you have too. One of the things that excites me about the men’s class that I taught last year and am teaching this year is to see the effect that memorizing and meditating on the Scriptures has had on the men.
In my own life I can recall this happening. I was a biology major in college and up to that time I had not been going to a church that knew how to handle evolution’s challenge to Biblical Christianity. That left we with quite a tension I did not know how to resolve. God was gracious and allowed me to start going to a church that directed me to the answers to my dilemma. As my confidence in the truth of the Bible grew so did my desire to know what it said and over the course of a year I memorized more than a hundred and forty verses while driving to school. I can recall the change in my whole perception of the world around me and began thinking in a different way. My mind was being renewed through God’s word so that as situations arose my thoughts began to go first to what God had said on the topic instead of what my professors or other teachers had said.
In Ephesians 5:26 we are told that Jesus sanctifies His church through “the washing of water with the Word.” The more your mind is filled with the Scriptures the more you can respond to the things that happen in your life with godly thoughts and wisdom rather than that of men. I remember my Chemistry professor once quipping that “the solution to pollution is dilution.” The effect of a contaminate is lessened as it becomes less and less a percentage of the material as pure substance is added in. The same is true with your mind.
We are subject to having our minds polluted by the society around us. You do not have to look for it, evil, immoral, depraved thoughts and images will be thrust upon you from everywhere. If you are not very careful, you can easily be overwhelmed by it all. That is one reason we must be diligent to put up what barriers and protect ourselves from such mind pollution. That was a reason for my warnings about TV two weeks ago since is such a large source for such mind pollution, but the issue is not TV, but our own mindset. What do you read? What do you allow yourself to see? What do you do with your time? What do you allow yourself to think about? If your focus is on the Scriptures and your mind begins to fill with the Word of God, then it begins to dilute the garbage that was already there. It also begins to change your perspective so that you do not view things in the same way as you used to. Things you once thought entertaining and provocative are now seen for what they are – perverse and immoral. Things you thought neutral or all in good fun are now seen in the light of eternity as empty foolishness. Your time and energy begin to flow in new directions to accomplish things that will have an impact for eternity. It is very encouraging for me to see people develop a hunger for the word and prefer to spend their time in Bible study and true Christian fellowship than the mindless activities that used to occupy them.
If you want to have your mind renewed and to develop the mind of Jesus, then you need to hear the Word, read the Word, study the Word, memorize the Word and meditate on the Word. It is has you hide God’s word in your heart that you find the protection against the schemes of the devil and his temptations of sin.
In Matthew 4 Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness and then was tempted directly by Satan. Satan was wise and crafty and even used the Scriptures themselves to try to persuade Jesus to abandon His trust and dependence on God the Father and accomplish His goals through the means Satan was suggesting. At every point of temptation, Jesus responded with a quote from Scripture. Jesus Himself in His humanity had the memorized the Word of God and hidden it in His heart so that He could stand firm in the day of temptation and recall the truths that counteract Satan’s lies. But it was not the quoting of Scripture that conquered Satan. It was knowing the Scripture well enough to quote and then having meditated on them He understood their meaning and application resulting in His obedience to them. Jesus conquered Satan’s temptations by obedience to the Word of God which He had already placed in His heart. What about you? How often do you find yourself defeated by Satan because you did not know the truth well enough to defend yourself?
Having your mind renewed by the Word of God is not easy work. It is going to take effort on your part to read it, study it, memorize it and meditate on it. It is also going to take hard work to break old patterns of thinking and develop new ones. The apostle Paul addresses this issue in part in Philippians 4:8.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.
If you want to be serious about developing the mind of Christ in yourself, this would be a good verse to memorize and meditate on. Then you can use it as the grid by which you will screen what you hear, read and watch both before you do it and while you are doing it. Does the music you listen to match it? Does the TV programs or movies you watch match it? Do the books and magazines you read match it? Do the stories & jokes you listen to and tell match it.
These adjectives become the standard by which you filter things for your mind – and your life. They are the things that are seen in and practiced by godly men of ages past and present. Is it true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good repute, virtuous, praiseworthy?
Whatever is alhqh / alhtha – true. The Greek literally means, “not hidden,” “unconcealed.” Hence something that is true and not a deception. Our minds are to dwell on what is true for as Christians we are to love the truth, speak the truth and live in truth (Eph. 4:25; 1 John 3:18). Can you distinguish truth from error? Train your self to be diligent to search out the truth. That will help you in every area.
Whatever is semna / semna – honorable, honest, noble. This is that which is honored and respected because of its good character. This is a quality that is to exist in Elders, Deacons and older men (1 Tim. 3:8,11 & Titus 2:2). If other people could read you mind, would you be respected for the noble character of your thoughts?
Whatever is dikaia / dikaia – righteous, just. This refers to that which duty demands, or what is right, correct to do. This word is used as an adjective to describe many godly people such as Joseph, Cornelius, the prophets and God Himself. Many people day dream of how they might get ahead financially or increase their fame or gain more power. There is no sin in a desire to succeed, but are the means and methods you would desire to do this right before God? Are they according to the moral code that He has set forth?
Whatever is agna / agna – pure. This word is related to the word for “holy” and refers to that which has been separated out and so without impurities, hence – pure. It is free from every fault. It is often used to describe those who are free from carnality and immorality and translated as “chaste.” It is a quality that every Christian is to develop for 1 John 3:3 states in reference to Jesus return that “everyone who has this hope [fixed] on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” It also describes the wisdom from above as compared to the earthly wisdom of men (James 3:17). Are the movies, television programs, radio shows, books, magazines, etc., that you see, hear or read morally pure? If not, your mind is being polluted with impure thoughts. Ask God to forgive you for the impure things you have allowed to enter your mind and then strive to keep your thoughts chaste.
Whatever is prosfilh / prosfilh – lovely. This word is a combination of the prefix, pros, meaning “with” or “alongside,” and filew, “brotherly love” and hence that which is lovely. Does your mind dwell on those things that are lovely in God’s eyes? Isaiah 52:7 states, How lovely on the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who announces peace And brings good news of happiness, Who announces salvation, [And] says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Lovely thoughts seek what is best for others. Ugly thoughts are self-seeking and often at the expense of other people. Thoughts of hatred, revenge, greed, envy are all ugly. Thoughts of love, giving, generosity, charity, mercy and grace are all lovely.
Whatever is eufhma / eufhma – good repute, good report. This word combines the word for “good” or “well” with the word for “fame” or “report,” and hence, good report. We are to let our minds dwell on those things that bring a good report. We should let our minds dwell on the work God is doing rather than the difficulties that we face. In a sense we need to be looking for the positive rather than dwelling on the negative. When someone faces a trial we can either dwell on the difficulties involved and how hard life is which can easily lead us into blaming God for bad things that happen, or we can look for how God is using the situation in the person’s life and praising Him for it. If our minds were quick to dwell on what is of good report, then gossip would never find an audience.
Whatever is areth/ / areth – excellent, virtuous, worthy. This is a word of wide significance in Greek and refers to any excellence of a person or thing. In this context it would refer to moral goodness. It is included in 2 Peter 1:5 it is in the list of things we are to add to our faith that will make us useful to the cause of Christ. It is a sad fact that virtue has been largely lost in our society and public figures can exhibit moral debauchery and still be considered worthy of honor. A person of moral integrity is a person whose is not satisfied with a standard of what society can tolerate, but strives for excellence of character in all circumstances. Let your mind dwell on how you can demonstrate faith in God, knowledge of right from wrong, self-control, perseverance, brotherly kindness or courtesy and love.
Whatever is epainoV / epainos – worthy of praise. This, of course, is referring to that which the godly would praise, not that which society in general would praise. It is a summary category that would include the previous ones for that which is true is worthy of praise, that which is honorable is worthy of praise, that which is just, pure, lovely, virtuous and of good report are all worthy of praise. Everything that is reflective of God and His character is worthy of praise. The question is whether that is what we think about?
In 1 Cor. 4:5 we are told that eventually God will reveal our lives and expose even our motives. At that point any praise due will come from God Himself. Do you have control of your mind? Is your mind filled with those things described here as true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, virtuous, and praiseworthy? Will you receive praise or a rebuke from God for what dwells in your mind?
If it will not be praise, then let me encourage you to
1) Resist being conformed to this world. Turn off the input of the world’s philosophies that you are receiving regardless of whether that is TV, Radio, books, magazines, bad company, etc. You can not expect to develop a holy mind if you are still feeding on the garbage of this world.
2) Put into your mind the word of God. You need to hear the Word, read the Word, study the Word, memorize the Word and meditate on the Word.
3) Discipline yourself to have your mind dwell on the proper things. Put out of your mind thoughts that don’t meet God’s standard and then actively think about those things that do. Learn to have every thought be taken captive to obedience to Christ.
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