Summary: The human mind is self-rationalizing and self-deceptive. Without a guide, we have no idea what is right and good. God's Word offers that guide but it's more than just reading a guidebook and determining to do better. We need to come to grips with the brok
Today we are going look at just three verses. Normally these verses might be couched in terms of “this is really bad stuff—this is sin—don’t do it!” While that is true, I want to handle these verses a little differently. Firstly, remember that these words are written to Christians who were facing a choice—go back under the law and please God by their own efforts, or be let loose to go back into some of the gross pagan practices they had come out of. Paul offers a third alternative: become a slave of the Holy Spirit, an apprentice of Jesus, a child of the Father. They were not trading one form of legalism (the Mosaic Law) for another (the Spirit Law) but were renewing their commitment to a dynamic relationship where the character of the Holy Spirit slowly takes over for our old nature—changing our thought patterns and attitudes from the inside.
Since our minds are so self-deceptive and will take us away from God by default—Paul gives us some objective road signs to show us if we are travelling down the wrong path. But it’s not just that he says “now go out there and stop doing bad and start doing good.” There is really so much more to it. You see, in reality, instead of looking at ourselves as bad qualitatively and feel shame—we need to understand that we are broken and desperately in need of rescue and repair.
Psalms 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.
Let’s look at the structure of these verses a little more closely:
“Search” – “penetrate”
“Test” – “investigate”
“Heart” – innermost part of our being, our core.
“Concerns or Thoughts” – what is going on in the mind.
“Offensive or Wicked” – “idol” but can also mean “pain” both mental or physical
“Lead” – “guide” or “govern”
“Way” – road (as trodden) – God has already made the way for us
“Everlasting” - eternal
What this Psalm asks is for the kind of dynamic relationship that I mentioned. “Penetrate my mind and my attitudes God—investigate to see if anything you find is broken and guide me along the path of Your kingdom and Your character.”
Paul says much the same in Romans 12:2:
Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.
This relationship with God, then, is all about not just cleansing but transforming our broken and pain-filled thoughts and attitudes into God’s thoughts and attitudes. God wants to do a deep work in your mind so you will think like He does-thoughts that are “good, pleasing, and perfect.”
So with that in mind, so to speak, let’s look at this adhoc list that Paul draws up of ways to tell if we are acting out the old nature rather than the new.
Four categories of brokenness: intimate relationships (between people and between you and God), interpersonal relationships, and cultural relationships.
Cheating on your relationship with another person
Sexual Immorality (Porneia) – any form of illicit sexual relationship. Both participatory and observational
Moral Impurity – moral uncleanness. Crudeness in word or behavior that is offensive, especially of a sexual nature.
Promiscuity – open and excessive indulgence in sexual behavior. No sense of shame or restraint
19b – 21a
Cheating on your relationship with God
Idolatry – substituting something for God then worshiping it as god.
Sorcery – (pharmakeia) giving in to an evil power (either passively in idolatry or actively in witchcraft)
Introducing brokenness into the lives of others
Hatreds – a condition of fixed enmity between groups (even if you can’t remember why you were mad at them)
Strife – competition, rivalry, bitter conflict
Jealousy – the feeling of resentment that comes when you want something someone else has. It is also the idea of “zeal” which can be good, but when accompanied by the “I want” mentality, leads to an intensified feeling and reaction
Outbursts of anger – continual and uncontrolled selfish anger
Selfish ambition – getting ahead at another’s expense. Also: mercenary, aggressive attitude toward others in pursuit of one’s own goals
Dissensions – strong disagreements. Being a disagreeable person in general
Factions – as the result of dissension, the creation of cliques, and power blocks
Envy – a desire to possess something someone else has, even the cry of “unfair” when you don’t get something. “If I can’t have it, then nobody should”
Letting the culture manage your character
Drunkenness – excessive use of wine or strong drink
Carousing – also “orgies”. Many times the result of drunkenness – partying and engaging in accompanying sexual immorality (sometimes these happen because we want to self-medicate our brokenness)