The Sanctified Mind
"Finally beloved, whatever is TRUE, whatever is HONORABLE, whatever is JUST, whatever is PURE, whatever is PLEASING, whatever is COMMENDABLE, if there is any EXCELLENCE and if there is anything WORTHY OF PRAISE, THINK about these things." (Philippians 4:8)
Here is a question so many men despise. When this question is asked by the fairer sex, it strikes fear in our psyche. It is THE dreaded question. The odds are great that most women in relationships with men have asked this question of a man at least once if not dozens of times.
"What are you thinking about?"
The experts tell us that women love to ask this question because they want to be close and intimate on every level. Women are hoping that their man is thinking about them. They are looking for an answer like: "I am thinking about what a great blessing it is to have you in my life," or, "I'm thinking about how wonderful it will be to live the rest of my life with you."
But when asked, most men have the classic "deer-in-the-headlight" look. The timing of the question has a lot to do with that. I sometimes get asked that question when I am watching sports or changing the oil on the motorcycle. I must come up with a complete and satisfactory answer. And, if I don't? Well, I can hear it now:
"You're hiding your true feelings."
The best answer I can form quickly: "Nothing. O nothing. I'm thinking about nothing." She's disappointed. But there's no disappointment like what she will have when she finds out that you were thinking about what time the playoff game starts; or, if the weather breaks and you're going to go riding with the group. If you tell her that, you're dead. There is no way out. If we only knew the "correct" answer!
It is totally different if I ask my wife what she is thinking about. Here's what I'll get from her:
I'm thinking about the first and second grade music program next May, and I'm also thinking about how I can get you to finish the house projects you've started. I am also wondering how we are going to afford the vacation trip this summer, and when you're going to start on the taxes, and what am I going to fix for supper. "
She can out think me!
In another context, however, this is an important inquiry. "What are you thinking?"
- Where's your head?
- What's up?
- Where's your focus?
There's more out there to think about today than there was even five years ago. Consider how inundated we are day by day, hour by hour with new information. Reuters Magazine reports, "In the last 30 years mankind has produced more information than in the previous 5,000. . . About 1,000 books are published internationally every day, and the total of all printed knowledge doubles every five years. 1 Rick Duvall, writing for The Relationship Economy, a website that keeps its eye on the impact of technology on the human network, writes:
The amount of information created annually by businesses and organizations, paper and digital combined, is growing at a rate of more than 65%. It will increase 10-fold over the next five years. In these difficult times we live in, when resources seem scarce, there is still one thing that is widely and abundantly available: information." 2
And not only is there more to consider, but everybody also wants a piece of your mind. Consider just how many people want to shape your thinking on those subjects? We have entire industries devoted to discovering what you are thinking about and what you think about certain subjects. We have industries devoted to shaping positively and negatively what you think about products.
I recently read an article about newspaper advertising in which the author was giving 10 reasons to advertise during tough economic times. Among the 10 reasons:
(a.) Convert wants to needs. During tough times, customers buy what they need and not merely what they want. It is up to you to convince customers they need what you offer.
(b.) Start the funnel. Even if customers are not buying today, advertising is your opportunity to start people thinking about what is important to buy and where they should buy it. It will pay off later.
A plain reading of our text easily leads us to conclude that there must be some kind of value structure in thinking about particular things rather than thinking about other things. "Whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, think about these things."
One way to describe this kind of thinking is concentrated thought. It is thought that pays the right kind of attention to the matter at hand. This kind of thinking answers the questions, "What does it mean to think well?" And, "what does it mean to think responsibly?"
Thinking is hard work. It is hard for several reasons.
- It changes the arena. Thinking is difficult because we have to relinquish working with what we know to working with what we think we know or are thinking about. We are much more comfortable with what we can measure and get our hands on.
- It requires time. Who has the time and luxury to think?
- It is risky. What if what I am thinking requires that I act obediently to God in an area that I'm presently being disobedient?
- It does not give the appearance of productivity, and is not, therefore, highly valued unless it has particular "useful" ends.
The text has content to be dealt with: "whatever is true, honorable, just, purity, pleasing, commendable, and excellent." But these are just some of the subjects for our minds to think about. The controlling act-verb is this: think. Why does it matter? Why is what I think about important? Here are two reasons:
1. Because Jesus cares what you set your mind upon.
There is a place recorded in the gospels in which Jesus lectures the disciples, and more specifically Peter, on the importance of what he is thinking about.
From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you." But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things, but on human things." (Matthew 16:21-23)
This had to be particularly painful to Peter. It was Peter who answered correctly when Jesus asked, "Who do people say that I am?"
"You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. Blessed are you Simon. Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you but my Father. You are now called Peter, which means rock. On this ‘rock' I will build my church." (Matthew 16:16-18)
In one fell swoop Peter moved from the rock upon which the church is built to being called "Satan". "Get behind me Satan. You are a stumbling block to me." The word Greek is skandolos. Your plan, Peter, is a "scandal" to me. Why was Peter's plan a scandal to the Jesus? Because it was a scandal to the plan of God. Jesus had lived His entire life and now planned to die according to the plan of God. Remember: Jesus died for us only once-but he continually lived submissively to His Father. "When the days drew near for him to be taken up" [an obvious reference to the kind of death he would suffer] "he set His face toward Jerusalem." (Luke 9:51) "Setting His face" is a Hebraism which means a fixedness of purpose in the prospect of danger. Jesus was immobile on this point because His mind was set on doing the will of His Father.
This is the point for us as Christ followers. What you have your mind settled on-devoted to-influenced by, etc., matters. Jesus cares if your mind is securely set on the will of God or if there is some fluidity and instability. He knew He could not fulfill the plan of the Father if he wavered in His mind. And He knows that we cannot fulfill the plan of God for our lives if we have allowed our minds to waver.
2. Not only does Jesus care if your mind is "set" instead of wavering, it also matters because it demonstrates your love / devotedness to God.
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your mind." "This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40)
"To love the Lord with all your... mind" is to make some decisions not only about the "what-ever's" your mind is going to think about and the concentration of focus in your thinking, but to use your thought life-you mental concentration life-as an expression of your love for God. Ultimately, a Christ-follower has to come to some determination concerning the use and misuse of your thought life, your attention or focus, about the "what-ever's", etc
Let me tell you what you already know. We live under the "restriction"-if you will let me say it like that-of the "law" that governs humanity. We are different from rabbits. As a human being, I have responsibility to myself and to others. When I hear that I am to have "the mind" which was in Jesus, I am often troubled, deflated, perplexed. The fact of my humanity, and its accompanying restrictions and responsibilities, can make it a troubling thing to take at face value: You ought to have the mind which was in Christ Jesus. (Phil 2:5)
After all, God is omniscient. He is all-knowing. I am not. I cannot have His mind in the sense of possessing His omniscience. But I am created in His image. "What does that mean? It means that we could be the sometimes-knowing knowers of some things. I could know what He thinks about any certain subject or issue.
In that sense I have His mind on something; I have the mind of Christ. Should I move? Buy this car? Make this phone call? Give that amount of money? Should I marry that person? Should I get married? What is God calling me to do with my life? What is my purpose? What pleases Him the most?
The degree to which having His mind on the issues of my own life is directly and proportionately related to the degree to which:
(1) my mind is settled on doing the will of God and
(2) how much I want to live my life as an expression of love for God.
This is what is encompassed in the reply Jesus gave in response to the question, "what is the greatest commandment?" "The great commandment is: To love God with all your entire heart, soul, mind, and strength."
My duty to God is that all of my capacity to comprehend and understand and be responsible, all of my will and affections, be fused with strength and determination. One can hardly claim to love God "generally speaking."
Yet, while thinking is hard work, thinking is often the very best work.
- It can be hopeful. This kind of concentrated thinking presumes that there is something else more to be learned, to be heard, to be discerned; there is something that has yet to be considered that needs to be considered before the subject under consideration is put away.
- It is a characteristic of Jesus. He is, after all is said and taken into consideration, our pattern.
- It is a faith experience when Spirit anointed.
John Piper writes,
"Thinking is not an end in itself. [Only] God himself is finally an end in itself. [But] thinking is indispensable on the path to passion for God. 3
Thinking under the mighty hand of God, thinking soaked in prayer, thinking carried by the Holy Spirit, thinking tethered to the Bible, thinking in pursuit of more reasons to praise and proclaim the glories of God, thinking in the service of love-such thinking is indispensable in a life of fullest praise to God."
A "double-minded" person, unstable in all he or she does. (James 1:8) But the person whose mind is "set on God" will be kept by God. "God will keep in perfect peace (the one who has) set His/her mind on Him." (Isaiah 26:3) I know your thought life can be a confusing place that is very troublesome. Who doesn't know of thoughts and impulses that are dark and troubling? The mind is the place of moral reflection. The mind is aware of evil and the perversion of moral impulses. But the mind can be renewed by the Holy Spirit. (Hebrews 8:10) God has promised: "I will put my laws in their minds." (Jeremiah 31:33) Oh, the sanctified mind!
- A mind that wants to be singularly focused, not double-minded.
- A mind that is set for the purposes of God.
- A mind that is given over to the impressions and directions of the Holy Spirit.
- A mind that seeks to fight off all the incredible amount of data flowing back and forth daily in order to concentrate on God's plan for your life.
What might it mean to you over the years and decades of your life to have consecrated your mind to God and allowed him to sanctify your mind, to fill it with His plans, His desires?
- what pain might you be spared?
- what pleasure might you enjoy?
- what accomplishment might you see completed that otherwise would have gone unaddressed?
People may know they are Christians, may know that they have pled the blood of the Christ, may know they have asked for and received His forgiveness and further, they have the assurance of that forgiven relationship that Christ is in them. He is their hope. Yet they find a contrary principle - an argumentative spirit - still present. Like the apostle Paul, we do not do what we want. There is a war within. I know of the grace of God. And yet I know I am unstable and often at odds with the plan of God for my life. It is as if there are two contrary natures present. That you are aware of this "double-mindedness" that is at work in your life is a testimony to God's Holy Spirit faithfully bringing conviction that there is war in your mind with God.
Until you commit yourself to stand ‘strong in the Lord,' to set your mind squarely on God and to live ONLY in the power of His might,' you will ‘wrestle with these two environments or natures. 4 The inward sins...temper, passion, affection, pride, self-will, love of the world, lust, anger, etc., these dispositions are a frame of mind that is contrary to the mind which was in Christ.
In conclusion, let me ask you the following questions:
- Is my mind set squarely?
- Are you intent on the will of God?
- Do you "will one thing" (Kierkegaard)?
"Father, True worshipers worship You in spirit and truth. That time is now here. You are seeking that kind of worship. Send out your light and your truth, which will bring us to your holy hill and to your dwelling. May we be glad when they say, ‘Let us go to the house of the Lord'. Amen"
1 Information Overload Causes Stress. (1997, March/April). Reuters Magazine
3 John Piper, Think, Wheaton: Crossway Publishing, 2010. P.27
4 J. A. Wood, Christian Perfection as Taught by John Wesley, p. 29.