Summary: If we live from our feelings, and if our feelings come from how we think, then how we think is one of the most important things to deal with in the Christian life.
How Are You Thinking
Wildwind Community Church
August 23, 2008
I’m not a morning person. How many of you are morning people? How many are not? I’m not a morning person. But in spite of that, I think I do hear what people are saying to me in the morning, although I must admit I’d rather people not talk to me at all for about an hour after I get up. But still, I hear people okay. And I have to admit, I have never once heard anybody say to me, “How are you thinking this morning?” Nor have I ever said that to any of my children, or to my wife, or to anyone else.
What do we say to people in the morning? We say “how are you _______________ this morning.” When someone has had a hard time with illness, or at work, or in their marriage, we do not ask them how they are thinking, we ask them how they are feeling. We define ourselves by what we feel. People get married because they have certain feelings for one another. We often make major purchases based on whether it feels right. Some of us live on feeling, getting upset or angry if we think someone doesn’t like us or approve of us. I would say that even many of those who would call themselves thinkers still live on feelings – it’s just that they believe their feelings are under the control of logic. Sometimes this is true, and sometimes it isn’t.
How are you feeling? Certainly you have been aware even since you came into this building how you are feeling. You might have come in in a bad mood. Perhaps you are excited to be here. Perhaps you have had certain feelings about who is and is not here, or how many are or are not here, or about the music so far today. Most of you are sitting in your seats right now having feelings about what I am saying, or even about me.
We define ourselves by what we feel, and there’s nothing wrong with this in any way. And even though there’s nothing wrong with it, that fact is responsible for the majority of our problems. How can this be? How can it be that we define ourselves by what we feel and there’s nothing wrong with it, but that that is responsible for the majority of our problems?
It can be, and it is so, because what we feel is determined by what we think. This is common knowledge. Psychologists and counselors know it. Pastors and teachers know it. Nearly every major religion knows it and teaches about it. Even when you heard it just now, you may have thought, “That’s nothing new.” And you’re right. It’s nothing new. It’s one of the oldest known facts, but it continues to destroy lives because we live as if it’s not true.
We say, “That’s just how I feel. I can’t help it. I can’t change how I feel.” But you can. You change how you feel by changing how you think. Now it’s true that you can’t change how you feel directly. You cannot force yourself to love someone, or feel patient, or to not have anxiety. But that doesn’t matter. Whether you do it directly or indirectly, you can, in fact, change your feelings.
Now this is a church, not a counseling office. I am not here to do therapy with you. But it just so happens that this matters in the Christian life more than almost anything else. Those of us who claim to be Christ-followers (disciples) must realize that the primary priority of our lives is changing how we think so that when we live by our feelings (which we will naturally do), the results will be good and not disastrous.
Fortunately God has left us plenty of things to put into our minds to help us learn to think differently. If we learned to focus on reality – not reality as defined by the world around us, but reality as defined by God – we would be people who feel, and thus who think, and thus who live, differently. It is that reality I want to talk to you about today.
Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)
1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3 For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Verse 1 says “set your hearts on things above.” You could read that and easily say, “How do I do that? I can’t control what my heart is set on. After all, what my heart is set on are the things I love, and I can’t control the things I love.” But if you are a Christ-follower, you can – and you must! And fortunately verse 2 tells us exactly how to set our hearts on things above. We set our hearts on things above by setting our MINDS on things above and not setting them on earthly things. In other words, we learn to feel differently by learning to think differently. And we learn to think differently not just by getting rid of stuff in our heads that’s not good for us (earthly things), but by actively filling our minds with stuff that’s good (things above).