In a recent conference call I attended, we started off with an ice breaker about which TV shows we were currently watching. I didn’t recognize most of the titles, but one girl’s response really caught me off guard. She named off the series and said, “I really like it because it gives me nightmares.”
I have never heard that as a reason for liking something, but it got me thinking. The Bible has a lot to say about what we set our minds on. “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth (Colossians 3:2). And there are a lot of other verses as well.
We are called as believers to choose to set our minds on things that are of eternal value and bring God glory. This can be difficult at times, but it is vitally important. And so, these next couple of posts are going to focus upon the subject. I admit, this is something I find myself struggling with, so I’m still learning through this.
Though there is so much wrapped up in it, there is a verse that sums up our call.
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”Philippians 4:8
The word “excellent” stands out to me as I read this. One reason is that it mirrors Paul’s opening prayer for these believers. He says—
“And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”Philippians 1:9-11
His prayer was that they would “approve the things that are excellent.” And as we do approve (meaning to test, evaluate, show what is good quality) those things which are excellent, we are to “dwell on” them (Philippians 4:8). This takes work, absolutely. But the mind is a battle field, and as my pastor explains, it is where the battle really begins. James describes how the physical act of sinning really stems from giving into our “own lust” (James 1:14, 15). Committing a sin didn’t just happen. It is the result of allowing sinful thoughts to remain in our minds, grow, take shape, and effect our behavior.
Think of it like this. You can’t get a cold without getting the infection first. The cough is the manifestation of the infection, but it is not the root issue. Same thing with sin. It comes from not dwelling on what is excellent and God honoring.
So the mind is a battle field and it is crucial for us to guard it. But is the battle too hard? Does God really want us to control our very thoughts? Paul had this to say in another letter—
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.”2 Corinthians 10:4, 5
Yes, we are to guard our minds and bring thoughts in line with God and His ways. Thoughts will appear as the enemy tries to tempt us and our sin nature rises up, but we cannot let those thoughts remain. Remember, Paul talked about letting things “dwell” in our minds (Philippians 4:8).
But these verses from 2 Corinthians 10 are not only our instructions, but they are a promise. He said that “the weapons of our warfare are…divinely powerful for the” task (2 Corinthians 10:4 italics mine). We have the power of the Spirit to help us control our thoughts. If we don’t fight through His strength, that is our fault, not His.
It is so easy to let our minds drift and wander, but we cannot. It’s like jerking back an energetic dog. We used to have a lab that loved to run and play tough with people, and simply telling her to stay on the porch didn’t cut it. When she would start acting up, we had to keep a firm hold on her collar. Same thing with our minds. We must rein in our thoughts, direct them to obey Christ, and intentionally choose to think on good things that God approves. Lord willing, we’ll look at some of those good things over the next couple of weeks.