Renewing Your Mind

Only God Can Change a Mindrenew-your-mind

Paul wrote to the church at Rome for people to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds.” (Romans 12:2) He doesn’t say “transform yourselves by renewing your minds.” Only God can change a mind. This explains why Paul wrote to Timothy that God has “not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) When God is present in a mind, it begins to flow with a new kind of thought. But there is a role for us to play. We can, by choice and by our actions, invite God to be present in our mind. Or we can close the door to him. It all depends on what kind of mind we want to cultivate. So let’s walk through three options.

1. Maybe your goal is debauchery, lechery, and depravity. It’s not hard to cultivate a mind like this. You can do it. Just be careful about what you do and don’t put into your mind. The moods that will dominate your life are resentment, anxiety, unsatisfied desire. The key to maintaining this inner life is found in Psalm 10:4, “In their pride the wicked do not seek him; In all their thoughts there is no room for God.” It’s not hard to cultivate this kind of mind. All you have to do is avoid contact with anything that would disrupt this flow of thoughts. Avoid Scripture, avoid wise and honest people who know you deeply, avoid honest self-examination, avoid contact with people in need who might move you to compassion. Mostly you have to make sure that in your thoughts there is no room for God.

2. If your goal is to have a mediocre spiritual life, you can do a half-and-half deal. The Bible talks about this. One writer speaks of a condition called “double-mindedness.” In the Jewish tradition it is called the yetzer hara, the wayward heart. Jesus himself refers to a church suffering from what he called “lukewarmness”; it is neither cold nor at the boiling point. It doesn’t experience any change of properties. This condition enables you to get the worst of all worlds: you experience a kind of chronic, low-level, hidden debauchery so you’re frustrated by all the fun you think that major-league debauchery professionals are having. Yet you get just enough spiritual-religious input so you have chronic, low-level guilt about the amount of depravity you are maintaining. How do you pursue this goal? Get sporadic spiritual input. Go to church sometimes. Read the Bible once in a while — but without clarity about how you want it to shape your mind. Pray sporadically — when you’re in trouble. But then mostly fill your mind with the things that everybody else in our culture fills their minds with. Just keep spiritual channel-surfing.

There is a third alternative.

3. Make your mind the dwelling place of God. The goal here is to have a mind in which the glorious Father of Jesus is always present and gradually crowds out every distorted belief, every destructive feeling, every misguided intention. You will know your mind is increasingly “set on God” when the moods that dominate your inner life are love, joy, and peace — the three primary components of the fruit of the Spirit. God is never more than a thought away. To make my mind a home for Jesus, I deliberately fill my mind with the kinds of things God says are important. Paul puts it like this: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8, NIV)

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[ This is from Bible Gateway, an e-mail devotion from October 6, 2016 ]

Why So Many Moral Failures?

John Edwards, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and now NY congressman Anthony Weiner is the latest public figure in the news who has fallen due to a moral failure. I don’t know his spiritual situation and would never judge someone else with a superior attitude, but we all ask the question, “What was he thinking?” Did he really think he could behave like this and not be caught, embarrassed or even blackmailed? Since there is no one who is righteous, no not one, we MUST set up a system around us that helps protect us from moral failure.

The old phrase goes, “There, but by the grace of God, go I.” I’m not sure if this line is humbling by saying that we all can fall just like this guy, so don’t think you’re above the temptation, or arrogant, indicating an attitude similar to the Pharisee and the tax collector in (Luke 18:11). It’s hard to check our motivation sometimes.

So, why do these public leaders fall to such stupid decisions?

They Have No Personal Boundaries
Call me legalistic, but I am a freak about personal boundaries, like:

  1. I don’t ride in a car alone with a woman other than with my wife or daughter. I used to share a ride, and it always felt uneasy for me. And never forget, just an accusation can ruin your ministry or reputation.
  2. I will not counsel a woman alone, my office door is open, or I go to the Welcome Center, or the Library with all that glass around us.
  3. I will not share a meal in a restaurant with a woman, just the two of us, under any circumstances, (and don’t justify that lunch by calling it “business”).
  4. I don’t use a computer late at night, or in a non-public place. Men, it just makes sense. Our family computer is in the living room. If your wife or daughter could walk in at any time, makes your commitment to purity much stronger.
  5. I don’t post anything on Facebook or Twitter that I woundn’t want my wife or pastor to see; wait a minute, they CAN read it, along with all the people on my friends list. And don’t think it ends there. Re-postings can keep negative stuff online forever, for my congregation and even future employers to see.

Those are just a few of the examples, but the bottom line is this, you can’t commit adultery with a woman if you are not alone with her. Too many men have sold their marriage, reputation or ministry down the river just to have an orgasm. It’s not worth it men. We’ve got to make tough decisions now and be willing to experience some “inconveniences” for the sake of our family, marriage and the kingdom.

They Think They Can Handle the Temptation
One of the Bible verses that has always sticks out for me on the issue of temptation is 1 Corinthians 10:12. Paul warns us to always be careful because the minute that we think we have a particular sin mastered, we are in danger of that very sin actually becoming our master.

I once read about Gordon MacDonald, pastor and author of Ordering Your Private World. Billy Graham said of one of his books: “It struck me right between the eyes with conviction and I wish that I had read it many years ago.” Another prominent Christian leader described him as “one of the most Godly men I have ever met.” He was the pastor of the largest church in New England and taught at the local seminary.

He became the president of the Intervarsity evangelistic organization, one of the biggest in America. Then it came out around 1987. A sin from a few years previously was exposed, and MacDonald was forced to resign. The sin was adultery. His wife was so shocked she has never trusted him since, and it’s been over ten years.

He was forced to step down as president of Intervarsity. It made most pastors aware of our own spiritual frailty. If this man, with all his much vaunted spiritual discipline, could fall so hard, then no-one was immune from danger, ever. He would never live it down.

Later he said, “The most costly sins I have committed came at a time when I briefly suspended my reverence for God. In such a moment I quietly (and insanely) concluded that God didn’t care and most likely wouldn’t intervene were I to risk the violation of one of His commandments.” Years later, he authored a sequel called, “Rebuilding Your Broken World,” which is confessional and a book of hope for others who have fallen.

They Stop Pursuing Jesus
If these public figures are professing believers, they begin to pursue other things. It is a fact that no one can pursue Jesus and sin at the same time. If someone is trying to get in the pants of a woman who is not his wife, then he cannot claim that his eyes are on Jesus.

This is why the Word of God is essential for anyone who wants to keep a pure heart. Men, we are called to pursue Jesus, and doing so will always lead us away from sin, not towards it.

They Allow Stress to Bring Weakness
When a man experiences a time of intense stress and anxiety he is way more vulnerable to be lured into sin. We’ve got to take the fourth commandment seriously (the one about rest). We’ve got to take care of ourselves emotionally, spiritually and physically, and if we neglect these things, we become an easy target of the enemy.

They Believe They Have the Power to Get Away With it.
It is amazing the arrogance of so many men in power, that they can do something so devastating and sincerely believe that there will be no consequences. Adultery is a big deal, why throw your life away on something so preventable?

They Have No Accountability.
This topic is going to be a kick I will be on for the next few months; just so you will understand and realize where I’m coming from. When there is no accountability, we begin to live secret lives: hiding from our wives, kids, friends and other men. Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17). We need each other. How can we move toward more accountable relationships to keep us on track, out of trouble, and living in integrity? Who do you know that needs an intervention or rescue? Do you need help? This can change everything we know about the church.

Men, I want us to make it, so keep your eyes on Jesus. If anyone is struggling in this area and feel like you are about to sin, get help, call me, let’s talk (at least talk to someone).

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Counselors and Friends

In 2 Samuel 14, there seems to be a deep dissatisfaction about Absalom’s encounter with his father, and seemed to fuel a lot of bitterness. Beth Moore points out the fact that reuniting and reconciliation are two different things. Let’s take a look at 2 Samuel 15, where things go from bad to worse. David is no longer the courageous and confident that he once was.

  1. It helps to know people in high places… who do you know who is in a high place?
  2. What is your favorite conspiracy theory? Absalom will be conspiring a lot in this section.
  3. What do “chariots, horses and 50 men” signal of Absalom’s ambitions? (2 Samuel 15:1, 1 Samuel 8:11) What goal do you see behind Absalom’s behavior?
  4. As a victim of injustice, what would you make of Absalom’s two decrees? (2 Samuel 15:3-4) How about his greeting? (2 Samuel 15:5)
  5. Why do you think Absalom waited four years to carry out his plot? (2 Samuel 15:7) When else has he waited patiently in devising evil plans? (2 Samuel 13:23, 13:38, 14:28)
  6. How can David be so gullible? (2 Samuel 15:7-9) What do you know about the significant about Hebron? (2 Samuel 2:1, 4)
  7. How did David respond to the news that “the hearts of the people are with Absalom”? (2 Samuel 15:13, 14)
  8. What was David thinking at this point? What was he feeling? How could he run away since God had anointed him to be on the throne?
  9. What was the significance of the ark? (2 Samuel 15:24, 29)
  10. Where did David go? (2 Samuel 15:30) How would a reporter describe the mood and the scene this day?
  11. What is the significance of this one key verse? (2 Samuel 15:31)
  12. What special assignment did David have for Hushai? (2 Samuel 15:34) Skip ahead to the beginning of chapter 17. How did this work out?

A few questions for your consideration:

  1. How did they all get to this point?
  2. What do you do when someone you love is out of control?
  3. When could this have been nipped in the bud?
  4. This story makes an interesting point: we all need friends we can be sure are on our side when difficult times come. Who did David have on his side?
  5. How can we develop the kind of relationships so that we know we have some friends on our side when the storm comes? How do you determine who is your friend?
  6. What is the difference between an advisor or counselor and a friend? (1 Chronicles 27:33)
  7. In your darkest times, is prayer and church your usual course of action? (2 Samuel 15:31, 32) How does God fit into your crisis resolution plan?

Take a look at Psalm 3… I’ll have some other insights on Sunday.

Top Reasons for Staying Together

I recently read about a professional counselor writing the top 20 reasons he hears on why couples stay together in their marriages:

 

  1. My spouse and I are best friends.
  2. We enjoy our time together.
  3. I like my spouse as a person.
  4. Marriage is a lifelong commitment.
  5. My spouse is interested in me as a person.
  6. Marriage is sacred.
  7. We have common dreams and goals.
  8. Children need a stable home.
  9. My spouse is positive and builds me up.
  10. I want the relationship to succeed.
  11. We respect and appreciate each other.
  12. My spouse encourages my personal growth.
  13. We laugh together.
  14. I trust my spouse.
  15. We have a positive sexual life.
  16. We have built a secure and comfortable life together.
  17. My spouse accepts me for who I am.
  18. We have shared beliefs and interests.
  19. We communicate well.
  20. I respect my spouse.

 

Here are the top passages of Scripture that focus on marriage:

 

  1. Marriage is instututed by God (Genesis 2:18-25)
  2. Companionship and intimacy are at the heart of marriage (Genesis 2:18, 24)
  3. Marriage parallels the relationship between Christ and the Church (Ephesians 5:23, 31-32)
  4. The husband is the head of the home (Ephesians 5:23) and exercises that role in love (Colossians 3:19)
  5. The husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the Church (Ephesians 5:25)
  6. The husband is to treat his wife with respect, which has consequences on his spiritual life (1 Peter 3:7)
  7. The husband must manage his household well (1 Timothy 3:4)
  8. The husband and father is responsible for the training of children (Ephesians 6:4)
  9. God’s design is that the wife be a suitable helper for the husband (Gen 2:18)
  10. Husbands and wifes practice submission as the Church submits to Christ (Ephesians 5:21, 22-24, Colossians 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1-2)
  11. The Bible describes a noble woman (Proverbs 31:10-31)
  12. Fear of God is more important than physical beauty (Proverbs 31:30, 1 Peter 3:3-4)
  13. The couple must not fight and devour one another (Galatians 5:15)
  14. The couple must quickly persue peace (Matthew 5:23-24, Romans 12:18)
  15. A house divided against itself cannot stand (Matthew 12:25)
  16. Parents must keep loving those who are wayward (2 Samuel 18:33 – after all Absalom did to David).

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