Last month we began a series of articles on the Mind of Christ - what it is, what it does and how it works. I appreciate all the wonderful comments I've received as a result of my introductory article. This is a series of articles and the things you asked about will be covered in forthcoming issues. Many of your questions are dealt with in the tape series, Be Ye Transformed.
Romans 12:1-2 tells us that having a renewed mind (i.e., putting on the Mind of Christ) is the 'link' to our being transformed into Christ's Image and living the truth. This is saying that if we don't allow God's Life (in our hearts) to flow out into our lives (our souls), then we'll be just like the world - showing forth 'self life' and not God's Life at all. We'll be living a lie, saying we are Christians and yet our actions disproving it.
1 Corinthians 2:16 tells us that we all possess the Mind of Christ to help us get God's Life from our hearts out into our lives. However, since many of us don't understand what the Mind of Christ is or the incredible riches we possess because of it, we have just gone on judging and evaluating everything that happens to us through our own reasoning and our own emo-tional way of thinking. Even though Proverbs 3:5 tells us, "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding," we do it anyway. It's a habit!
Reasons Why We Depend Upon Our Own Thinking
One of the reasons we continue to depend upon our own natural, emotional way of thinking rather than the Mind of Christ is that most of us are not even aware that our own thinking is any different from God's thinking. Isaiah 35:8 tells us that our own natural way of thinking (even as Christians) is not only different than God's, but it's usually totally opposite from God's.
"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." So, we must realize that just because we are Christians, it does not mean we will automatically have God's thoughts in our lives. We won't. Just as God's Love can be blocked off in our hearts (by our own emotional choices), so God's Thoughts (His Mind) can also be withheld.
Another reason many of us continue to depend upon our own thinking and not God's is that most of us seldom take time to "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" as 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to do. How many of you do this routinely? Most of us, unfortunately, don't stop and think before we respond, we just react naturally.
The reason our thoughts are so important to God is that our thoughts are the first to be triggered in the chain reaction of our souls. Our thoughts trigger our emotions; our emotions stir up our desires; and then our desires produce our actions. So if we could catch our negative thoughts when they first occur, we could stop the whole chain reaction before it even begins (and we would be able to prevent a lot of the sin that occurs in our lives). When God says, "take every thought captive," He doesn't mean look at and dissect every single thought we have. He means stop and take a good, hard look at the anxious ones, the hurtful ones, the doubtful ones, the frustrations, the anger, the pride, and all our other 'emotional' and ungodly thoughts.
Romans 14:23 says, "whatever is not of faith is sin." In other words, any thought that we have that's "not of faith" we need to deal with. Another 'barometer' that helps me know which thoughts God wants me to take care of are the thoughts and emotions that "take away my peace." These are the ones I need to "take captive" and do something about. What happens when we don't "take every thought captive" is that we end up being carried on by the 'tide of emotion' (that chain reaction) and quenching God's Spirit and His Life in our hearts.
Example: How Would You Have Responded?
Many years ago, I had set aside one whole week to rewrite some very important material for an upcoming seminar. I marked this particular week on Chuck's calendar months before, asking him to "please save this week for me." As it happened, it was going to be the only week where Michelle and Lisa were both going to be gone and I would have time on the computer to think and write.
Well, unbeknownst to me, my precious Chuck forgot about 'my special week,' and he proceeded to invite the whole office over to our house on Wednesday night of that week for a surprise birthday party for his two business partners. After he had invited everyone, he called me up and said, "Honey, I hope you won't be angry, but...." and then he told me what he had done.
Now, if you were me and you received a phone call like that, how would you have responded to your spouse? Put yourself in my situation. Pretend, if you are a wife and mom, your kids were going to be gone and you had a whole week of shopping planned, relaxing at the beach or whatever is special to you. If you're a dad and a father, say you had the week off and had planned to go to the mountains or on a fishing trip. How would you have reacted to your spouse after a phone call like that? Be honest!
How many of you would have responded with the Mind of Christ? 1) Having run first to God; 2) Having given Him your frustration and anger; 3) Having chosen to unconditionally forgive your spouse; 4) Having sought God's Wisdom and Counsel as to how to respond; and, 5) Then, been willing to go to your spouse and in God's Strength, love them 'wisely' as God would have you to do? How many of you would have responded like this?
No way! Naturally and emotionally (without being taught to take every thought captive and 'how to' put on the Mind of Christ), we all would have reacted in one of two ways: either we would vent and tell our spouses off (which is exactly what I did and I even 'banged' the phone down on him); or we would bury our anger and frustration, give them the 'cold shoulder' for awhile, and then distance ourselves.
By worldly standards, we certainly would be 'justified' by reacting this way. They were wrong. However, in God's plan of things, both these natural ways of reacting quench His Spirit. This is worldly thinking and not the Mind of Christ. Yet, even as Christians, we're reacting this way all the time and not realizing that we're missing God's best. We're being conformed to the 'world' and not transformed out of it!
As we begin to "take every thought captive" and as we become more aware of our thinking, we'll be shocked to see how often we all react in our own self-centered way of thinking and not God's way at all. And this is exactly what happened to me. After the phone call, God tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Nancy, look at your reactions. Take those thoughts captive."
Well, it was quite obvious whose thinking I was depending upon at that moment. I was wild with emotions - I was angry and upset and mad. (Again, lack of peace is a good barometer to see whose life you're functioning on: God's or your own.) It was very apparent that I was not responding with the Mind of Christ or the Love of God.
So I knew I had a choice to make: I could either continue on in the way I was going and end up quenching God's Spirit (Roman 14:23); or, I could choose to "put off" the negative thoughts and "put on" the Mind of Christ (i.e., renew my thinking). Since I have found there is no other way that works (after being a Christian for almost 40 years), I decided to do it God's way, even though it was the last thing in the world I felt like doing at that moment.
First, I went to God and took a long, hard look at all those negative thoughts I was feeling. I cried and told God, "It's not fair; he's wrong. I wanted and needed my week." After I realized just exactly what my ungodly thoughts and feelings were, I then confessed them to God and admitted that they were sin; I told Him I didn't want to follow those emotions anymore, but wanted to do His Will; I chose (by faith, not feelings) to unconditionally forgive Chuck; I gave everything I was thinking and feeling to God; and then, I asked Him to cleanse and heal me. Finally, I read some Scripture and reconciled myself to giving the party the following week.
It's so exciting when you do choose to turn around and do it God's way: you not only get His Love and His Thoughts back into your life actions, but you also free Him to perform miracles and that's exactly what happened in this particular case.
When I called Chuck back to apologize for my outburst, he said, "Oh, honey, I'm so glad you called; I'm so sorry I forgot about your week; I've rearranged everything - instead of having the party at our house, we're taking the whole office out on a boat cruise."
So I got 'my week' after all! And I learned a little more about God's faithfulness to perform His Will in my life, when I choose first to yield myself totally to Him no matter how I feel or what I think. If we can just be 'willing' to do His Will, regardless of our feelings or the circumstances, it's incredible what God will do as a result.
Now, it might take a few moments to "take those thoughts captive" and to recognize exactly what's going on. But if you ask God to help you catch each negative thought and you are willing to deal with them as He desires, I promise you He will be faithful to help you.
Years ago, God gave me a dream. I sat up in the middle of the night and wrote down all that God had said in the dream, and then I went back to sleep. When I awoke the next morning, there written on my pad of paper beside me was, "If you will give me your thinking, I will give you My Life." If you don't remember anything else from this article but this one statement, it's enough to change your life (2 Corinthians 10:5).
To be continued next month: "What is mind renewal, and why is it so important?"