Pastor Craig Carter
In our current sermon series, we’re looking at some English words consisting of four letters that help us live as God intends us to live. But they are not the type we normally associate with the phrase, four-letter words.
Instead, they are Sacred 4-Letter Words that enable us to be holy as God is holy. Today’s four-letter word is MIND.
Last week in his message on the word PURE, Pastor Terry referred to how important it is to “Guard your thoughts.” It’s critical to do that because “you become what you think.”
The Old Testament writer puts it this way: “As a person thinks in their heart, so they are.” (Proverbs 23:7a paraphrased)
The great missionary and author, E. Stanley Jones, makes a similar claim: “Whatever gets your attention gets you.”
Advertisers certainly understand this principle, don’t they? Think about Super Bowl ads … through funny or touching commercials that grab our attention and stick in our minds, we are moved to buy certain products.
Let me illustrate the power of the human mind in this way: Picture a train in which the engine is our mind (our thoughts). It, in turn, pulls the car of emotions (our feelings), then the car of behavior (our actions) and finally, the car of consequences (the results).
Good thoughts make us feel good, which causes us to act in constructive ways that bring about positive consequences. In contrast, negative thoughts affect us in the opposite sort of ways.
Our way of thinking makes all the difference in the world. What we think dramatically affects who we become and what we do. If we want to be PURE and HOLY, our thoughts must be PURE and HOLY.
I have a feeling we’d all agree that doesn’t come naturally. Because of the effect of another four-letter word, SELF, which is how we spell sin, we don’t think the way God thinks or even the way He wants us to think.
As Jesus said to Peter: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33 BSB)
God’s ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts. (see Isaiah 55:8)
But with God’s help, through His Holy Spirit (which we are to be FULL of), we are able to think differently.
It’s why Paul tells the Roman believers: Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)
The Good News Translation puts it this way: “…let God transform you inwardly by a complete change of your mind.”
So, if you and I are going to have the MIND of Christ, as we are instructed to have, we must let God change our minds and the way we think.
But as is usually the case in spiritual matters, while God does the transforming work, we have a role to play … which is to cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit.
In his letter to the Colossians, Paul gives us a pattern to follow…
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (Colossians 3:1-4 NLT)
The New International Version puts verse 2 like this: Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Paul outlines a two-step approach for having the right MIND to follow Christ…
FORGET & FILTER, FOCUS & FILL
Let’s look at what is involved so we can guard our thoughts and live a holy life:
1) FORGET the past + FILTER your mind
Before we come to Christ, our minds are darkened by sin. That causes us to think in ungodly and even destructive ways. But when we are saved, God forgives our sin and gives us a whole new outlook. As a result, we become “new creatures in Christ” and can put the past behind us.
Here’s how Paul expresses it: Everything is else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage… Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (Philippians 3:8, 13b-14 NLT)
Compared to Christ, everything else is garbage … including our ungodly, pre-Christian ways of thinking. These are the “things of earth” Paul talks about in Colossians 3:2 NLT.
So we are to forget the kind of thoughts that filled our minds in the past.
But how do we go about doing that? After all, they are deeply rooted in our brains!
We must realize our new life in Christ puts to death the old self and its ways:
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, Christ lives in me. (Galatians 2:20 NLT)
So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. (Colossians 1:5a NLT)
Paul goes on to list some of these “sinful, earthly things lurking” in our minds. We must consider each them as having been nailed to the cross. Or pitched in the trash. I’m talking about lust, greed, anger, lying, dirty language, desire for worldly goods, or things that don’t really matter.
Forget the past and quit thinking about “earthly things.”
That doesn’t mean those old thoughts won’t still come to mind. But let’s remember who we are now in Christ and not entertain them any longer.
Having gotten rid of the old, we must make sure new “garbage” doesn’t accumulate. That’s why we must FILTER our minds.
Like we tell kids in the children’s song: “Be careful little eyes what you see … Be careful little ears what you hear … Be careful little feet where you go.”
As we used to say in computer programming: GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage Out. You and I don’t have to let every thought enter our minds.
Paul puts it this way in his second letter to the believers in Corinth: We take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV)
In the Message version that same verse reads: We use our powerful God-tools for smashing warped philosophies, tearing down barriers erected against the truth of God, fitting every loose thought and emotion and impulse into the structure of life shaped by Christ.
Our most “powerful God-tools” include the ability to cover our ears and eyes and to use our feet appropriately.
We must guard our thoughts because we become what fills our minds. What do you watch and listen to? Cynical and critical news coverage, racy and lust-filled TV shows, horror movies?
One of the best ways to filter our thoughts is by asking: WWJW? What would Jesus watch…listen to…expose Himself to?
If there is any question about what to watch or listen to or where to go, would you mind your pastor being with you?
Let’s move on to Paul’s second step for having the right MIND to follow Christ:
2) FOCUS on the future + FILL your mind
Paul instructs, “Set your minds on things above” or “Think about the things of heaven.” (Colossians 3:2)
Why? Because it’s our future destiny. If heaven is where we’ll spend eternity, why not start thinking about it now? If you and I are headed to heaven, we need to start thinking heavenly thoughts.
What exactly does that mean?
Visions of angels, dwelling on golden streets, learning to play a harp? Not hardly!
We know how to think about living on earth, but what about living in heaven?
This past week when I shared an outline of my sermon with my wife Lee, she asked, “So how do you focus on the future and set your mind on things in heaven?”
I replied, “I haven’t thought that far ahead … what do you think?” She immediately replied, “Well, in heaven there is worship of God, the work we’ll do for God, and the will of God is done.”
Worship – Work – Will of God.
Side note: It’s not surprising that my wife talks in 3-point sermon language, is it?
That’s a pretty good starting point for focusing on our future life in heaven.
How much time do you spend thinking about eternal things?
I think there’s some excellent guidance provided in Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the passage in Colossians:
So if you’re serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don’t shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ — that’s where the action is. See things from his perspective. (Colossians 3:1-2 MSG)
You and I FOCUS on the future and what it holds when we “see things from [God’s] perspective.” Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face. When you do the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
To help us focus on the future, we FILL our minds with things above or things of heaven. What fits into that category? Here are a few suggestions:
Praise music prepares us for our future as eternal worshipers.
Going outside and enjoying His creation helps us contemplate God’s beauty.
Spiritual conversations with other believers always take us to a higher place and give us a better perspective on life as we now know it.
More than anything, Scripture brings our thoughts in line in God’s thinking.
One of the things that has helped me and my “stinking thinking” is the concept we’re learning in J.D. Walt’s Daily Text devotionals (seedbed.com/daily-text). The current series is called: First Word. Last Word. God’s Word.
Here’s the basic premise: Before anything else (TV, social media, etc.), start the day reading some portion of God’s Word and then end the day the same way.
This study was first presented two years and I started with the Bible getting the First Word of the day. It made a noticeable difference in my spiritual life and promoted godly thinking, at least at the start of each day. But I still let something else get the Last Word, usually inane TV watching. Now I’m trying to end the day with at least a verse or two of Scripture.
I have a friend who, like me, has trouble sleeping and oftentimes wakes up with his mind already in high gear in the middle of the night. So he’s written several scriptures on note cards and placed by his bed. In such a way, God gets First Word. Last Word. Every Word.
I’ve tried this week to apply another principle proposed by J.D. Walt. It’s the concept of meditating on Scripture throughout the day (and even the night). We typically think of meditation as emptying our minds of conscious thought. But the biblical concept is much different.
God blesses those people who … find happiness in the Teaching of the Lord, and they think (meditate) about it day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2 CEV)
The Hebrew word translated “think” or “meditate” brings to mind the image of a lion devouring the carcass of a dead animal that it has made its victim. For us, as Christians, the Bible is our prey, and it feeds our minds.
What if you and I treated Scripture that way and filled our minds with it? This week I took one verse and meditated on it, day and night:
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13 BSB)
That practice has not revolutionized my thinking, but it’s changed my mindset a little bit (and a little bit is better than no bit!)
I’m convinced that if I continue to focus on my future destiny and fill my mind with things from above, God will do His part and completely transform my mind and change the way I think.
How about you?
Are you guarding your thoughts and developing the MIND of Christ?
Here are a few things to consider that should help you with this sacred 4-letter word: First, ask God to make you aware and conscious of your thoughts. Don’t just open the door to every idea that knocks. Consider what’s in your mind. Be aware of your thoughts and filter them. Next, try and focus on God’s perspective in all matters.
Consider this example: Why are you working so hard to make a living? If you hate your job and can’t wait to retire, focus on the fact that the pay you get will enable you to be more generous.
Here’s another one: You’re out running errands. What are you thinking about? Instead of thinking about how you can get in and out as quickly as possible, consider how you can witness or serve someone that God puts in your path.
Most importantly, what is one scripture you can meditate on? Write it on a note card, put it in your phone or] hide it in your heart through memorization. Constantly think about it and fill your mind with God’s truth.
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5 NKJV)
And think the same way that Christ Jesus thought. (Philippians 2:5 CEV)