How to Strengthen Your Mind

As you may well know, human beings are a three-part being; which means that every person is made up of body, soul and spirit.

  1. The body allows us to interact with the physical world.
  2. The soul allows us to respond to the intellectual and emotional world.
  3. The spirit allows us to relate to the spiritual world.

Each part of this system is extremely important!

  1. Without the body, we would have no contact with the world.
  2. Without the soul, we would have no ability to think or feel.
  3. Without the spirit, we would not have the ability to commune with God.

Of course, when we leave this world, the body ceases to be a part of who we are. Even when the body is raised at the end of time, it will be a different type of body than the one we have today, 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.

At death, if you are saved, your spirit will have already been made alive in Jesus and is sealed by Him until the “day of redemption,” Ephesians 4:30.

In other words, the body will drop away and be changed while the spirit has already been changed. What we have left is the soul.

The soul of a person is the seat of the mind, the will, and our emotions. It is where we think, feel and decide. It is also the place where all of the conflicts we face in this life begin!

The mind is the ultimate battlefield of this life. The Lord, our own flesh (that negative base side of who we are) and the enemy (the devil or Satan) are all battling for control of our mind. Why does the battle rage here in the mind? Because the Bible says, “For as a person thinks in his heart, so is he…” Proverbs 23:7, NASB.

We need to understand that the battle which is raging in the mind is a spiritual battle. Ultimately, it is a battle between good and evil for the control of our lives. Since this is a spiritual battle, we cannot fight in our own strength or use the common weapons of warfare, we must fight with spiritual resources, 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 6:10-18.

Today, I want you to know that…

  1. You do NOT have to lose this battle for your mind!
  2. You do NOT have to be defeated in your walk with the Lord.
  3. You do NOT have to be a slave to worry, anxiety, thoughts, feelings, and fear.
  4. You do NOT have to live a life controlled by the lusts and desires of the body!
  5. You can live your life under the control of the Spirit of God. You can win the battle!

How, you might ask? The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t happen automatically! You have to take certain steps that will allow it to happen in your life, Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:23; 1 Peter 1:13.

As we take the step in 1 Peter 1:13 to “think clearly and exercise self-control,” we put ourselves in a position where the Lord may renew the mind. The word “transform” in Romans 12:2 and the word “renewed” in Ephesians 4:23 are both in the passive voice. They are something done to and in the child of God.

Secondly, we need to know that we do NOT have to do this alone. We have the Lord’s promise in 2 Timothy 1:7, that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind, (or of discipline). So, today, I want to take these verses in Philippians 4 and show you Paul’s plan for victory in the battlefield of the mind.

I want to share with you five simple steps that teach us all How to Strengthen the Mind. If followed, these steps will help us to build a wall of protection around our minds. They will help us to achieve victory in the daily struggle we all face.

1. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAISE (Philippians 4:4)

A repeated refrain in Philippians is Paul’s command for believers to “rejoice.” He uses this word in the imperative form, and it is so important that he immediately repeats the command. This word means “to be glad.” I discovered that this word is in the present tense, active voice and imperative mood. All that means is, the believer is commanded to “keep on being glad in the Lord.”

Now, let’s face it, life is tough, and not much of it lends itself to our happiness! In fact, when Paul penned these words, he was bound by chains between two Romans soldiers while in a prison cell. Even in the midst of this hardship, Paul knew that regardless of the circumstances of life, God never changes, God never leaves, God never forsakes. That is why we are told to “rejoice in the Lord.” We don’t rejoice in the circumstances, he says to rejoice “in the Lord.” You see, people will change, circumstances will change and life constantly changes, but the Lord never changes! He is constant, he is faithful, and he will always walk through this life right beside us.

Since this is true, we can learn to rejoice in who He is, what He has done for us, and what He is doing in our lives. Even if the road is hard, remember that

  1. God has a detailed plan for your life, Psalm 37:23.
  2. God has promised to make all things work for good, Romans 8:28.
  3. God has promised to go with you through everything in life, Hebrews 13:5.
  4. God has promised you abiding victory, 1 Corinthians 15:57; Romans 8:37.
  5. God has promised you that the destination will be worth every step of the way, Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17.

Therefore, even when you can’t be happy about your life, learn to be happy in the Lord! Build the wall of praise into your life!

2. BUILD THE WALL OF PATIENCE (Philippians 4:5)

The word “gentleness” literally means “considerate or gracious spirit.” It has been translated in a variety of ways:

  1. Wycliffe translates it patience,
  2. Tyndale uses the word softness,
  3. King James uses the word moderation.

It has the idea of being patient with other people; of yielding to the rights and wishes of others in this life. It does NOT mean we are to compromise in our doctrinal beliefs in the name of tolerance, but it does mean that you have a willingness to take the back seat in favor of other people. This is the same idea that Paul introduces back in Philippians 2:4. Thinking of others as more important than yourself.

Paul is saying that the reality of our faith should be demonstrated in how we treat other people. If the focus of our lives is on ourselves, then when people hurt us, slight us, cross us, there will be a desire to retaliate and get even.

Paul wants us to take the focus off of ourselves, and put it onto other people. When we are focused on people around us, we will be less likely to be hurt by what other people do. What they say won’t sting us so bad, because we are not focused on ourselves. How they act can be passed over more easily when we focus on THEIR hurts, their situation or their well-being. It has been said that “hurting people hurt people.” So when people hurt us, we ought to seek to discover what is happening in THEIR life to have behaved the way they did. I’m not saying it’s easy, but it is the right thing to do.

When we adopt the mentality of self-love which is all around us, we will always look at the things people do and say as a personal attack. It will cause us to wear our feelings on our sleeves and to be more easily hurt by the words and actions of others.

This will cause us problems in the mind because we dwell on what was done or what was said. If we can learn to accept other people just as they are and overlook how they act and what they do that hurt us, it will protect our mind from dwelling in negative areas. It will build a wall of protection around the mind that others cannot penetrate!

The bottom line is this, if we can learn to live in genuine contentment, Philippians 4:11, then it won’t matter what anyone says or does to us. The mind will be protected from the evil that it likes to find in others. The devil loves nothing better than to get your eyes off Jesus and onto the faults of others! The flesh loves nothing better than to go along with the devil in accusing others and judging others. When this happens, the mind is in danger!

3. BUILD THE WALL OF PRAYER (Philippians 4:5b-7)

Philippians 4:6 warns us against the dangers of worry. The word used for anxiety in the NASB, is translated in other places as “careful” or “be careful.” The idea of “anxiety” comes from the term, “to be troubled with cares.” It refers to a state of mind that is agitated over the events and circumstances of life. There is nothing wrong with having concerns, we all have them, but it is when your concerns have you that the problems begin to spring up!

Worry is so dangerous because it allows the mind to conceive false notions about God, others and the world around us. Worry says, “God is dead!” Or, “If there is a God, he obviously doesn’t care about me and my situation.” Both of those statements are false! God is certainly alive, Hebrews 7:25, and God does care, Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 5:7.

When the problems of life come our way, we are given some wonderful help in these verses.

  1. The Lord is near (Philippians 4:5) – This refers NOT only to his second coming, but that He is always near to His children – Hebrews 13:5-6.
  2. Exercise the tool of prayer (Philippians 4:6) – Paul speaks of prayer, supplication and requests. These might be thought of as general praying, specific praying and detailed praying. The main point of this verse is that instead of worrying, the believer is to demonstrate his faith in the power and the will of God by seeking the Lord in prayer!
  3. Develop a thankful heart (Philippians 4:6) – Regardless of the situations you face in life, learn to praise the Lord through all of them. Nothing brings Him nearer or drives the devil away any faster than a genuinely thankful heart!

The Lord’s promise to us is that He will replace our worries with HIS PEACE when we come before Him in trusting, humble prayer. The word “keep” or “guard” in Philippians 4:7 means “to garrison, or build a fort around, or to post a military guard.” The Lord promises to post a guard around the heart and mind of the person who trusts Him with the needs of life. Instead of worrying yourself sick about things you can’t change, learn to lean on the Lord in prayer! Build the wall of prayer!

4. BUILD THE WALL OF PURITY (Philippians 4:8)

All of these words Paul uses in this verse are a clear picture of the Word of God. God’s Word is true – John 17:17. Since the Bible is true, everything it says fits within these categories mentioned by Paul. It is honest (honorable), it is just (right), it is pure (holy, clean), it is lovely (beautiful), it is of a good report (good reputation), it is full of virtue (excellence) and worthy of praise (that which leans toward worship).

What we must do is fix our minds upon the things of God, things that are from above. The source for discovering these things worthy of filling our minds is the Word of God. In other words, if we will fill our minds with the Words of God, there will be no room left for evil, no room for worry, no room for fear, no room for vengeance, no room for immorality, no room for confusion or trouble. A mind filled with the Word of God and a mind led by the Word of God is a stable, fortified and strong mind!

So, if you want a stable, strong, and godly mind, the best place to develop it is with the Bible. We must take the initiative and force the mind to dwell on the Bible and what it says, instead of allowing the mind to run toward evil, or gossip, or slander, or sexuality, or immorality, or other people and what they are doing, or our problems. A mind saturated with Scripture and fixed upon the Word of God is a stable mind.

This is something that you must do for yourself!

  1. The church cannot fortify your mind.
  2. The church cannot keep you from dwelling on negative thoughts.
  3. A Sunday School class or a small group cannot build a wall of protection around you.
  4. No one is ever transformed when the motivation is external.

Just like running a marathon, I can surround myself with encouragers cheering me on toward the finish line, but if I am not inwardly motivated to finish, I will give up and will stop short.

The Christian life is very similar. If I am told what to do in order to grow spiritually yet fail to have the inward motivation of pleasing God in all that I do, or fail to walk in a manner worthy of being called a child of God, I WILL live a mediocre life.

How long will I be obedient to God if my motivation for Christianity is to avoid hell rather than loving and serving God out of a grateful heart and mind? Fortifying your mind is something that YOU do to yourself, it is not something done TO you or FOR you.

5. BUILD THE WALL OF PRACTICE (Philippians 4:9)

These things you have LEARNED and RECEIVED and HEARD and SEEN in me, PRACTICE these things; and the God of peace shall be with you.

Do you notice how relational this verse is? Sometimes we think it reads, “If you want the peace of God, do the things I taught you.” This is not like a class or a sermon where we take notes; it involves walking through this life with other people. The Christian faith is caught more than it is taught.

Paul tells the Philippians to practice the things you have seen and heard in his own life. For us, it’s NOT that we have it all together, like we’re perfect in this life. Perfection is a goal, but it will never happen this side of heaven.

You’ve heard the phrase, “Practice makes perfect?” Well, statement is wrong. If you practice it wrong, you will NOT get it right. Ask any musician. The real truth is in the phrase, “Practice makes permanent.” As you practice the rift on the guitar or the violin, you may start out slow, even at half speed, but you MUST get it right before you practice, practice and practice some more. If you learn it wrong, you will play it wrong.

If YOU want permanent change in your life, you may start out slowly, but the more you practice it under the accountability of a trusted mentor or friend, the more permanent the transformation will become.

NEXT STEPS:

  1. Which wall is needed most in your life right now?
  2. Name a person who is spiritually mature that you will seek out to help you grow in this area.
  3. How will you begin to make a change in your life to fortify your mind?
    1. Challenge: Who will you tell about this commitment?
    2. Covenant: When will you seek out this accountability person?
    3. Commandment: Love God with ALL your heart, soul, and MIND (Matthew 22:37)

Your mind is a precious gift from God. It can be used for good or for evil and all the forces of good and evil are battling for your mind all the time. Who wins the battle is always determined by you! No one can control your mind, but you. We are told in the Bible that we need to fortify the mind, it is our job, individually, and it cannot be passed off to another person.

This is a very critical matter, because how you THINK determines how you will LIVE your life, Proverbs 23:7 (As a person thinks within himself, so is he, NASB). Until the mind is settled, all of life is out of control – James 1:8. (a double-minded man is unstable in his ways), so I challenge you to strengthen your mind!

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The Conquest of Evil

These are notes from my reading John R. W. Stott’s classic book, The Cross of Christ.

The Bible holds promises like overcoming, victory, conquest, triumph; this was the first century vocabulary of followers of the risen Lord.

The cross disarmed and triumphed over the devil, along with all the powers and principalities at his command. They believed in Satan’s downfall, yet were victims of such violence for little more than having faith in the resurrected Jesus. So how did God triumph and have victory over the enemy? Stott explored six stages:

The Conquest Predicted: it all started in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15) with the promise of the Messiah.

The Conquest Begun: this comes in the ministry of Jesus. As Satan recognized Jesus as the future conqueror, he made every attempt to get rid of Jesus (Herod’s rage, wilderness temptations, the crowds and leaders attempts to kill Jesus, Peter’s contradiction of the way of the cross).

The Conquest Achieved: this is the binding of the strong man, the Savior actually on the cross. Paul addresses two aspects of the saving work of the cross (Colossians 2:13-15):

  1. The forgiveness of sins: there is cancelling debt, the written code or IOU, (Romans 7:12) a broken Law of judgment. It was a signed confession, cancelled, wiped away, nailed to the cross.
  2. The overthrow of powers and authorities: three graphic verbs to explain their defeat.
    1. Stripped like foul clothing.
    2. Made a public spectacle, exhibiting powerlessness.
    3. Triumphed over them by the way of the cross; a captive’s procession through the victor’s city.
  3. What Christ did:
    1. Disarming them.
    2. Total resistance of the enemy.

The Conquest Confirmed and Announced: we cannot regard the cross as defeat and the resurrection as victory. The cross was where the victory was won, the resurrection was the victory endorsed, proclaimed and demonstrated. It was impossible for death to keep him because death was defeated on the cross, not the resurrection.

The Conquest Extended: the church is now out on its mission to preach the resurrected Lord. People are called to repent and believe in the risen Lord. People move from darkness to light; from death to life, from idols to the living God.

The Conquest Consummated: at the parousia.
The death and resurrection belong together in the New Testament, they go together. Seldom is one mentioned without the other (Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:34, John 10:17-18, 2:19, Acts 2:23-24, 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 1 Thessalonians 4:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Romans 6:1-4, Luke 24:30-35).

Remember that it is by his death that our sins are dealt with, not the resurrection: the blood brought propitiation, redemption, justification, and reconciliation. Nowhere in the Bible does it mention that Christ rose for our sins. True, had he not been raised, our faith would be in vain and our preaching would be futile. Nothing would be accomplished by his death if he had not been raised from the dead. The gospel emphasizes the cross, since that is the place of victory. The resurrection did not achieve our deliverance from sin and death, but it brought us an assurance of both (1 Peter 1:3, 21).

Entering into Christ’s victory: although the devil has been defeated, he has not yet conceded defeat. He is overthrown but has not been eliminated. Stott mentions a tension between our theology and our experience:

  1. On one hand we are alive, seated and reigning with Christ with powers and principalities under God’s feet.
  2. On the other hand we warned that spiritual forces have set themselves in opposition to us (as in Ephesians) and have no hope of standing against them without the Lord’s strength.

There is an element of “already” and “not yet.” Triumphalists see the victory and command the dark forces, while defeatists see only the malice of the devil and overlook the victory of Christ. Jesus literally came to confront and defeat the devil and undo the damage he has done.

  1. We are no longer under the tyranny of the Law.
  2. We are no longer under the tyranny of the flesh.
  3. We are no longer under the tyranny of the world.
  4. We are no longer under the tyranny of death.

Men and Accountability, Part 7

Ok, here’s another thought from this passage of Scripture… from an event in the life of Moses and Joshua dealing with accountability and men. (see also Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6).

After the victory, the Lord instructed Moses, “Write this down on a scroll as a permanent reminder, and read it aloud to Joshua: I will erase the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Exodus 17:14)

When the victory is over, many men have the tendency to forget, right? If people want me to do something, I tell them to write it down and give it to me because I am going to forget, count on it. I even ask Kim to send me an e-mail with an important date or event, just so I remember to put it in my Palm Pilot (Yes, I still have such old technology).

God tells Moses exactly what to write: “Write this … as a memorial and recite it.” Where did this shepherd, wanderer and deliverer learn to do all this writing? Moses would have learned writing and record-keeping in Pharaoh’s school of government. Official Hebrew records other than Scripture were also to be kept, and in this case especially for the purpose of remembering the victory of the very first battle in which they fought. God referred to “a book,” so Moses had evidently already begun writing one. This was not, then, the initial entry into what perhaps became known as the “Book of the Wars of the Lord” (Numbers 21:14). Writing it was essential, so the facts could be verified and it did not need to depend upon human memory or just oral tradition.

God also said He was going to blot out the memory of the Amalekites (Exodus 17:14). This is similar to the death sentence (or national extinction) which the Amalekites pronounced on Israel (Psalm 83:4–7). The sentence was partially realized in Saul’s and David’s day (1 Samuel 15:1–9 and 2 Samuel 1:1; 8:11, 12), after which the Amalekites are scarcely mentioned again.

However, due to Saul’s disobedience in sparing Agag, the Amalekite king and some of his people (1 Samuel 15:7, 8, 9), he lost his throne (1 Samuel 15:23). The prophet Samuel killed Agag (1 Samuel 15:33), but some Amalekites remained to return a few years later to raid Israel’s southern territory, even capturing David’s family (1 Samuel 30:1–5). David killed all but 400 (1 Samuel 30:16, 17) who escaped. Fast forward a couple hundred years, and it was a descendant of Agag, the wicked Haman, who tried to exterminate the Jews later in Esther’s day (Esther 3:1, 6).

My point in writing all this? First, write down your victories. In the midst of defeat after defeat in our spiritual lives (or relationships), it is so important to remember the times that God came through and allowed us to experience victory. If we don’t write them down, we are not going to remember them. We can even use these victories to trash-talk the enemy when he’s trying to bring us down.

Next, God tells Moses to “recite” the stories. It is a great thing to brag on God’s provision, protection and promises… just to tell others about His faithfulness. As believers, we have a story to tell of how God brought into our lives a victory over sin and death. The fancy church word is that we have a testimony. Let’s tell of his wonderful deeds, so that the world may know who He is and what He has done (1 John 5:13, 1 Chronicles 16:24, Psalm 96:3, Exodus 10:2, 31:13, Joshua 4:24, 1 Kings 8:60, Isaiah 37:20).

Third, Moses was to recite these stories to Joshua, the next generation. I read that any civilization is only 2.5 generations from extinction if they do not remember the stories of who they are or how they got to where they are. It goes for Christianity, too. Pass on the stories so the next generation will know about our exceptional God.

Fourth, just as Saul did not do as he was told, and spared the life of Agag the Amalekites king (1 Samuel 15:9), don’t ever allow the enemy to have a foothold in some area of your life, only to have that vice come back and attack you at some later point in your life. As Barney Fife used to say, “Nip it. Nip it in the bud. It’s time to do a little bud-nipping.”

Finally, just as the Amalekites were to be blotted out, it did not happen right away. The same familiar enemy will continue to attack you until the time God completes His work in your life. Don’t expect to live a life free of the enemy relentlessly pursuing you. When this enemy gets hold of you, it brings only death and destruction; so be on your guard at all times. He jumps out of nowhere to cause a lot of harm (Numbers 14:45). But there will come a day when the enemy has no power over you in these areas in your life. Remember, there may be only a single family member that makes it through to cause so much grief, as in Esther’s day (Esther 3:1, 6). Be on your guard.

The best part of Men of Steel is that we don’t go through this life alone. There is safety in numbers and wisdom in many counselors (Proverbs 13:10, 15:22). Have a great week.