(This is the second half, posted out of order. The first half will be published 10 June.)
I have for years been fascinated by how Paul sees our minds and the role they play in the Christian life. Read Romans sometime and just notice every reference to mind, heart, thinking; it’s everywhere.
- Those who worship idols have become futile in their thinking (1.21), so God gave them over to depraves minds (1.28).
- Those who have joined Jesus in his death and resurrection must think of themselves as dead to sin but alive to God (6.11).
- “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.” (8.5)
And so on. See also Rom 7.23; Rom 12.2; 2 Cor 10.5; Eph 4.22-24; Col 3.1-2; Phil 4.8, and probably a bunch more; those are just the references that come to mind, I have a full list of Paul’s “mind” passages somewhere.
My sermon tomorrow is about the Holy Spirit in the normal Christian life. In the first section, I talk about what the Spirit gives us: life (and conversion and daily), growth in Christ-like character (the fruit of the Spirit), etc.
The final section focuses on the idea from 8.5 and 8.13, with an assist from Eph 4.22-23:
8.5: Those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
8.13: If by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.
Eph 4.22-23: Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
Here is how the final section will go, I think:
The Spirit enables us to crucify the old self, attitudes, sins, and habits (8.13). I said a moment ago that the Spirit liberates; he breaks chains & removes the obstacles between you & life God wants you to have. When NT talks about the Spirit as a liberator, THIS is the primary focus, not that he gives wealth & health but that he gives freedom fr- old way of life, he breaks the power of the sinful nature.
How does he do this? Again, by changing the way we think. Here is how we yield ourselves to the Spirit’s control: Romans 8.5, Ephesians 4.22-23.
Eph 4.22 mentions “deceitful desires”: this refers to any desire, even the desire for something good, ANY desire that keeps you from doing/being what God wants.
- Maybe it’s a desire for security that causes you to act selfishly.
- Maybe it’s a desire for love, or the fear that you will never be loved, that makes it so you can’t be honest about what you want, what you need, what is healthy for you.
- Maybe it’s a desire for harmony that causes you to compromise your integrity.
So how do we crucify the old self, the deeds of the body? 7 practical steps:
1. Realize that you are in a war, and your mind is the battlefield. Don’t be surprised when Satan attacks you there. Your mind—your thoughts and emotions, your fears and memories and attitudes—your mind is the place where Satan most frequently and effectively attacks you.
2. The battlefield is not neutral. You have things fighting against you. You have things WITHIN YOU that are fighting against you. There is a part of us—our sinful nature—that loves Satan’s lies. We all have sinful natures that are addicted to the things he feeds us.
Again, don’t be surprised when the lie looks like truth, or FEELS like truth; Satan is appealing to your old self, your rebellious self, the part of you that is easily deceived.
3. At the same time, you have a powerful ally on your side, the Holy Spirit. He will expose Satan’s lies to you if you let him. He will transform your mind if you yield to him.
4. You yield to him by taking control of your thoughts and turning them God-ward. (2 Cor 10.5). You can control your thoughts, you don’t have to let them control you, and you don’t have to trust everything that pops into your head.
- When you’re overcome by fear, ask: “Where did that come from?” And then ask, “What does God’s word say?”
- When you’re overcome by anger or shame over how someone has treated you, particularly from deep in your past, ask: “Where did that come from?” And then ask, “What does God’s word say?”
- When you’re overcome by doubt or despair, when you want to give up and scream, “I’ll never get any better at this!” Stop and ask: “Where did that come from?” “What does God’s word say about this?”
- These are all lies that Satan tells us to ruin our lives, to keep us from living the lives God created us to live. And they come from the pit of hell, and they smell like smoke.
You might respond: that doesn’t seem very natural. Of course it’s not natural. But it’s SUPER natural. It’s God’s way. “The same power that raised Jesus from the dead …”
5. Embrace the things that the Spirit gives, and put them into action. What does the Spirit give?
- Gal 5.22-23: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
- Phil 4.8: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Here’s how this works:
We visualize situations every day, things that happen or that we wish would happen with work, family, home, friends. We may not call it visualization, but that’s what we’re doing.
Visualize a situation where something makes you angry; the coworker who is always a jerk, the ungrateful family member who is always complaining.
Now: instead of visualizing how you could put that person in his place, or punched him in the nose, instead of dreaming about how someday you will have the perfect comeback, visualize something new:
Visualize treating that person with compassion; or understanding; or true, pure kindness that comes from your heart, that isn’t forced.
Visualize, daydream about what Jesus would do, and then see yourself doing it in Jesus’s place. (And if you visualize yourself turning over tables or telling people off, you need to work on this a little longer, and get to know Jesus better.)
6. Feed your mind with things that open you to the Holy Spirit. The old way of looking at the world, the old way of thinking about people and things, that’s the enemy. That’s the “old self” that we’re supposed to be crucifying.
Things that help us listen to the Spirit: prayer, Bible study, worship. Fasting, meditating on scripture; spiritual disciplines open our hearts to God’s presence and power.
7. Consciously and intentionally submit yourself to the Holy Spirit.
- Every day, pray that the Spirit will speak to you and lead you.
- Every day, pray that the Spirit will open you up to his leading.
- Every day, pray that the Spirit will break the chains—attitudes, hurts, traumas, habits—that keep you from being the person God created you to be.
One of my most chronic sins is that I want too much for people to like me. I remember in college, when I read that line about the Pharisees from John 12: “they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12.43). That verse has haunted me ever since, because I know that I have sinful habits built up around that weakness.
So here’s what I do:
- I pray every day that the Spirit will deliver me from this desire.
- I pray every day that the Spirit will deliver me from the hurts in my past that cause this desire. Break the chains that bind me to those events, those traumas.
- I pray every day that the Spirit will enable me to do what God wants me to do, whether people will like me because of it or not.
What’s the habit, attitude, temptation that is ruining your life?
Give it to the Spirit. Pray every day that he will change your actions by changing the attitude and desires underneath, by healing the wounds and insecurities that drive you.
Your mind, your thoughts and feelings, is the basis of all your actions. And that’s the place where the Spirit most often brings healing.
Let him heal the foundations of your actions, the hurts and fears that drive you, so that your behavior will bring glory to God.