Summary: Counsel given on how to manage one's prayer life. Practical uses of Bible for the renewing of the mind.
Last week we discovered that the key factor that determines the course of our lives is our thoughts. If we think right, we’ll act right. If we think wrong, we will go the wrong direction. Mindset is crucial. Our text in Rom. 8:5 puts it this way, “Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that sinful nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires”(NIV).i Everything depends upon what we set our minds on.
We discussed four principles regarding that:
(1) We have a choice as to what we will set our minds on. That responsibility falls on us.
(2) The thinking we choose to embrace is what drives our behavior
(3) With our thoughts we cultivate desire—whether it be good desires or bad desires
(4) Personal transformation occurs by the renewing of the mind.
When you were born again, your spirt was joined to Christ and made perfect through that union. Your body will one day be transformed at the resurrection of the just. In the meantime, God is working on your soul. He is maturing you and refining your character in preparation for your place in heaven. Rom. 12:2 tells us that those changes are brought about “by the renewing of the mind.” By the renewing of the mind: How do we cooperate with that process? What does the Bible tell us to do?
I hope in previous messages that we understand the necessity of grace in everything we do. “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). But there are things we are told to do! Without God we can’t do it; without our cooperation, He won’t do it. That’s why Phil. 2:12 tells us to “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” I thought it was by grace; how can God tell us to do it? because the next verse completes the other side of the equation. Verse 13, “ for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” God is working His side of this. He tells us to in faith work out our side of it. There is definitely effort involved. It is a serious mistake to think that grace means that I am to be passive. What is needed is that I do everything in reliance upon God’s divine enablement (grace). I am to take obedient action. That’s what James means when he says, “…faith without works is dead” (2:20).
So here are a couple of practical steps toward the renewing of your mind:
I. Be Intentional about what you think about!
Just because a depressing thought hits your mind when you wake up in the morning, doesn’t mean you’re going to be depressed all that day. It doesn’t mean you allow that thought to lead you into a chain of thoughts that bring you down emotionally. It will take some effort, you have to be intentional about it, you have to decide to do it; but if you take that initiative in faith, the Holy Spirit will help you turn it around. ii
So first, we learn to quickly discard thoughts that come from the sinful nature. The sinful nature produces selfish thoughts, lustful thoughts, angry thoughts, prideful thoughts, envy, unforgiveness, judgements of others. We could go on and on with the list. Galatians 5 describes the works of the flesh in contrast to the fruit of the Sprit. The moment one of those thoughts enters our mind, we want to cast it down. Dismiss it rather than dwell on it. 2 Cor. 10:4 “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”
The main battle Christians fight is the one between their ears. The Devil is a problem and we have to learn how to deal with him. Other people can be a problem and we have to learn how to deal with them. But more basic than all of that is how I will deal with myself. My greatest enemy is my sinful nature. The first task is to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. You simply decide not to embrace the thought.
But don’t leave a vacuum. Don’t just try to get rid of wrong thoughts. Get your mind occupied with good things. The problem with fighting this battle just on the negative side is sometimes illustrated with the command to not think about an elephant. The more you concentrate on not thinking about an elephant, ironically the more you see an elephant. So it’s important to dismiss bad thoughts; but we can’t make that the focus of our strategy. We have to take the initiative and get our minds occupied with good things. Football teams don’t win games by giving the other team the ball and then defending the goal. At some point the offense has to take over. We take control of the ball and move it in the right direction.