Summary: A key to living victoriously is managing one's thought life. Sermon shares four biblical principles for managing your thought life.
Our text this morning is Romans 8:5. I’m reading from the New International Version. “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.i We have talked a lot about what it means to “live according to the sinful nature” verses what it means to “live in accordance with the Spirit.” We have seen in Romans 7 the struggle that Christians often experience because of the influence of the sinful nature verses the influence of the Holy Spirit. Every Christian deals with the battle between the flesh and the Spirit.ii Today we talk more specifically about how to win that battle.
In our text in Romans 8:5 we are given a crucial key to victory.
That key is found in the phrase “have their minds set on.” The Greek word is phroneo. It is in the Present Indicativeiii Active tense, so it is something we are actively involved in doing on an ongoing basis. The active voice means it is not just something that is done to us. It is something we do in cooperation with the Holy Spirit. The present tense means it is not something we do one time; the action is continuous.iv So to walk in the Spirit, we must set our minds on what the Spirit desires. To consistently live in victory, I must learn to manage my thought life. What do I need to know from Scripture to do that?
Here are four biblical principles for managing your thought life:
I. You have a choice.
God has given us a free will. And He gives us the right to choose what we will focus our thinking on (something implied by our text). There are two sources of thought flowing into our lives. On the one hand, the Devil uses our flesh to send sinful signals to our brain. An unholy thought flashes into your mind. You did not intend for that to happen. It happened so quickly, so unexpectedly that you wish it had not come and you don’t really understand exactly why it came. It came from the sinful nature. That thought is not a sin. Let me repeat; that thought is not a sin.v It is an impulse from the sinful nature. It only becomes a sin if you embrace it and dwell on it.vi The moment that thought comes, you have a choice. You can dismiss the thought or you can embrace it and dwell on it. Once you receive the thought and nurture it, then sin occurs.
In 2 Cor. 10:5 Paul describes spiritual warfare in these terms. “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (KJV). NIV says, “…we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” So there are on the negative side, thoughts that spring from our sinful nature or flesh. On the positive side, there are thoughts coming to us from the Spirit of God within us. We have a choice concerning those thoughts as well. Will we hear that still small voice? Will we cultivate a sensitivity to what He is saying? When He speaks will we receive that and do what He is telling us to do? Have you ever been in the process of saying something and suddenly in the pit of your stomach, the Holy Spirit was saying “No, don’t say that?” It’s really awkward because we feel like we need to finish our sentence; but, we also feel the grieving of the Holy Spirit. The best thing to do is stop immediately. You may be able to just move to another subject or you may have to say, “I’m sorry, but I probably need to move on to something else.” The more we obey the voice of God, the easier it is to hear Him. The more we ignore Him the duller our hearing becomes. We have a choice as to what we will do with the impulses and thoughts that come from our sinful nature. We have a choice as to what we will do with the impulses and thoughts that come from the Spirit. The choices we make at that level are crucial.
II. The thoughts you embrace drive your behavior.
People who typically say, “I cannot help myself” are usually indicating that the emotions are so strong that they lose control and then right off the tip of my tongue, I say that angry, or cuss or lust or go into depression or whatever the case may be. If you wait until the last minute to deal with lust, to deal with anger, to deal with self-pity—you will probably lose the battle. The emotional momentum may very well take you places you did not intend to go. But the secret is to not wait until the last minute. First understand that thoughts drive emotions. The way an emotion is provoked is by thinking on something and in ways that incite that emotion.