“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NIV)
This is the final devotion in this four part series of being a new creature in Christ. We talked about how a true follower of Christ should be generous—-not greedy; then we talked about how being a new creature in Christ means that you are kind; last week we examined the habits we should be forming along with the customs we should eschew. And today I wanted to conclude by talking about the greatest challenge, and perhaps the mightiest fight we have in being a new creature: The battlefield for our minds and our imaginations. It’s the the things we ought not to hope for or dream about, and the good things we should being considering, but often neglect. This war is fought each day over who or what will invade our minds and our wandering thoughts. The notions that consume our conscience and idle imaginings during the day are, in fact, our “gods” or our “God.” He has saved my soul, but He will not do for me what I am able to do for myself—i.e., discipline my time, thoughts, and secret times with Him in prayer.
But as a new creature in Jesus Christ, here’s something we can be certain of: We can choose our thoughts and the things upon which we day-dream. We don’t have to just think about whatever falls into our minds—we can be selective. Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” That is, “where the mind goes, the man follows.”
What we think about should be of the “new creature” variety, not the “old creature” garbage. But this is something we have to desire within our heart. Yes, God will discipline us for the choices, actions and decisions we make, but He’s not going to make us discipline ourselves when it comes to what we imagine and hope for. God will not keep our every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ— that’s our job—we have to do it. And so, as Oswald Chambers once said, “Don’t say, “Oh, Lord, I suffer from wandering thoughts.” Don’t suffer from wandering thoughts. Stop listening to the tyranny of your individual natural life and win freedom into the spiritual life.”
Our inner life and sub-conscious is determined by what we think about , watch and read. The way we think determines how we live. That’s why we need to think about what we’re thinking about. What to think about? Consider Paul’s counsel: Philippians 4:8. ...Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” If you think about bad things, horrible endings, the end of times, disaster’s coming soon, your life and outlook will reflect it. My youngest son loves to watch zombie videos, horror movies, and all the blood and gore he can see on TV. But then he asks me why he has bad dreams!
We’re told in Proverbs that, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” Proverbs 28:26, NIV. It’s so important for us to understand this because if we don’t learn how to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, we’re fooling only ourselves. We will NOT live the life Jesus died to give us – a life of peace with God, peace with ourselves, great relationships, real joy and the ability to become all God has created us to be. It comes down to choosing to believe what God says (the truth) or believe the lies the enemy and the world offers.
So if you want to be that obedient son or daughter, fully blessed by a heavenly Father and a blessing to others, “Set your minds and keep them set on what is above.’(Colossians 3:2 AMP). This is the key to resisting temptation. And when we make up our mind, ahead of the time of temptation, what we will and won’t do, then when temptation comes, we have laid a foundation to make right choices and are more likely to successfully overcome the temptation.
Get all the garbage out of your minds so that you can keep running the race in Christ Jesus and have the victory God wants us to have. Then we are ready for action to follow God’s plan for our lives. And don’t say you can’t do it! You can! “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7, NIV. He HAS given you and me what we need to run the race, keep our minds clear and finish the marathon before us!
To have the mind of Christ, to dwell on good things, to beat Satan for control of our wandering thoughts and lusts requires the purposeful decision that we’re going to do it!
Each morning pray about the fight for your mind remind yourself of this truth: God loves you and wants to bless you. Only you can stop it or stand in the way. His plan is to give you the desires of your heart—but you’ve got to take control of those wacky thoughts that corrupt your heart first, and we have to admit our own propensity towards sin. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8.8, NIV. As long as we live on this earth, the urge and temptation to sin will surrounds us, and we will fail at times. Our part is to not walk headlong into sin by day-dreaming about it!
My mind and thoughts have the power to paralyze or inspire me, to thrust me into the depths of despair or propel me to the heights of spiritual ecstasy. They can secure me in truth or lead me down the destructive path of deception. I have to guard my hearts and protect it from the spiritual disease, imaginations of sex (abominations God never intended), the non-stop attempt of the enemy to tempt me to peak at what is ugly and ungodly, and endless ideas that have nothing to do with a Christians’s new life. Solomon was right when he said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23, NIV. Above all else! Now why would he say that? Because our hearts are so easily compromised, confused and broken….
Where would our nation’s capitol be, or our churches and our families, if we exercised the power to rise above our petty, contrary, and harmful thoughts and pandering. What if every congressman, senator and Presidential candidate viewed this world and what happens in it…… as God does?
We have the ability to maintain the same focus and values as Christ has, but we must fight the battle of our minds and our thoughts. We can feed our deceived, self-centered, and self-destructive thinking until we become enslaved by Satan or we can feed it God’s truth, and watch Satan, the coward that he is, run away to find some other fool to destroy.
In other words, we have the power to choose who we trust—God or Satan. We can choose which thoughts we will entertain and which ones we will discard. God invites us to focus on things beautiful and of good report. Satan tempts us to focus on things that temporarily make us excited, or vindicated, or pitied or envied. It’s such a simple choice….
A follower of Christ is under a cosmic battle—-and the greatest and final battleground in the world today is not the Gaza Strip, the Taiwan Strait or the fight in Ukraine—it is the mind of the believer. It’s not enough to simply expel negative or deceptive thinking. If that’s the extend of our efforts, we’ll find ourselves fighting the same battle again and again. To truly walk in freedom and begin to think as Christ does, we must counter and replace falsehoods with the truth found in Bible—you’ve got to read it.
Our culture is constantly being bombarding us with messages that are contrary to Scripture. If we’re not careful, we can easily become desensitized to the things of God, until our perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes begin to conform to the culture—-God forbid! We will become like the movies we see, the video games we play, the books we read, the fantasies we entertain, and the friends with which we spend the most time. I am a failure in many regards as a father, but the one place—-perhaps the only place—where I believe I have succeeded, and where I would tell any parent to follow my example, is when it comes to the friends I allow my children to keep, and those I prohibit. I am old-fashioned, too old, judgmental-call me what you want. But I am not going to let me sons associate with peers that pull them towards hell. I love them too much and I do not care if they hate me in my judgment calls—-God knows my heart, and one day, perhaps over my coffin, my sons will say, "Thank you, you were right.”
If we want to view the world as Christ does, we must spend consistent time with Him in prayer, worship, and meditating on His Word. And yet, throughout the day, the culture and norms of Hollywood, and all the temptations of hell rallies against our ultimate purpose of knowing God and making Him known. To live—and think—victoriously, we yield to Christ. In John 15:5, Jesus said, "Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in Me (some translations say abide) and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from Me you can do nothing" (NLT).
Thinking as Christ did, DOES NOT come naturally, nor easily. In fact, more often than not, our thoughts and perceptions are totally contrary to the things of God. Unless we counter our lives with truth and take intentional steps to develop the mind of Christ, we’ll begin to live contrary to God as well, leading to depression, discouragement, loneliness, and isolation. But by focusing on Scripture, surrounding ourselves with godly people, finding trustworthy Christian best-friends, and staying deeply and vitally connected with Christ, we can see our world, others, and the things we encounter through Christ-centered glasses.