David Jeremiah - You Are Not What You Think You Are, but What You Think... You Are!
James Allen's been called a literary man of mystery but little is known about him. He never achieved fame or fortune. He died at the age of 48, wrote 19 or 20 books, most of which nobody's ever heard of. Yet he wrote one book, one little tiny volume that was discovered after his death. It was the second book that he had ever written and perhaps the one which he himself felt that it wasn't very good, and that little book that was discovered from the writings of James Allen has sold millions of copies. And it is influenced countless number of lives. Let me tell you a little bit about him. He was born in England. His father was grappling with a failing business and was almost bankrupt. He traveled to America searching for a new job and, instead, he was waylaid, robbed, and murdered.
And back in England, the family's ensuing financial crisis forced young James Allen to drop out of school at the age of 15 and get a job. He became a personal assistant in the world of British manufacturers and he worked at that profession until 1902 and then, at the age of 38, one day he just walked in, and he quit and walked away. James and his wife moved to a little coastal town in England and he lived there for about 10 years before his early death. He kept a strict routine. Each morning he'd get up before dawn and hike to the top of the nearby hillside and spend an hour in meditation. Then he would return to his house and devote the morning to writing and then in the afternoon he would work in his garden or involve himself in his hobbies.
As far as we know, James Allen was not a Christian, but one little book he wrote was based on a Bible verse from the book of Proverbs. And that small volume almost singlehandedly gave rise to the self-improvement and positive thinking movement of the past 100 years. The book is entitled, "As a Man Thinketh," and it's based on Proverbs chapter 23 and verse 7, which says: "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". Say that with me out loud. "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he". The point of "As a Man Thinketh" is simple: our thoughts are the most important thing about us. All that we achieve or fail to achieve is the direct result of the way we think. Our thoughts are like seeds that produce crops.
James Allen wrote in his book: "Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results, and bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. And this is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world and they work with it, but few understand it in the moral world, though its operation is just as simple and undeviating". His point is that what we think is what we are, and our lives run in the direction of our thoughts. If we think angry thoughts, guess what? We'll be angry. If we think positive thoughts, we'll be positive. If we think negative thoughts, we'll be negative. The mind is like a garden and we have to cultivate it and we are responsible for the kind of seed that we drop into the furrows of our mind.
To quote Allen again: "A person's mind may be likened to a garden which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild. But whether cultivated or neglected, it must and will bring forth fruit. If the useful seeds are not put into the garden, an abundance of useless seeds will fall upon it and will continue to produce their fruit". "Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap". Proverbs 23:7 teaches us that what we think is what we become, and while this is an important principle of the Word of God, I need to tell you it's also been used to build the case for many unscriptural ideas. The positive mental attitude industry has used this verse in almost all of its literature.
Maybe you've heard it something like this: "Whatever your mind can conceive and your heart can believe, you can achieve". Or maybe you've heard it this way: "Think your way to success," and many other such ideas. But this is not what the Proverb is teaching. We do not have the power to think things into existence, no matter what anyone says. This view of thinking is ungodly humanism but to understand that our thoughts are powerful is not humanistic at all; it is very, very biblical. The Bible teaches us that our thoughts are important and that we cannot change our lives unless we change our thoughts. What we do with our thinking determines what we become. We are not what we think we are but what we think, we are.
An anonymous author explained this concept in these terms. He says, "Whatever you hold in your mind will tend to occur in your life. If you continue to believe as you have always believed, you will continue to act as you have always acted. And if you continue to act as you have always acted, you will continue to get what you have always gotten. If you want different results in your life or in your work, all you have to do is change your mind".
Now, this is borne out a lot of times in Scripture and I wanna just use one illustration this morning about a man whose story is told in the book of 1 Kings. We all know this man. His name is Elijah. If you were to chart the life of Elijah, the highest point on your chart would be his victory on Mount Carmel over the prophets of Baal when he mocked the gods of the ungodly prophets, and then after he had won a tremendous victory and the fire of God came down and licked up his sacrifice, we're told that Elijah went and slew all the prophets of Baal. There could not have been a more wonderful, victorious moment against ungodliness than there was that night. Take it in the Old Testament context as you will, that was the mountaintop experience for Elijah.
How many of you know that quite often after a mountaintop experience, you have one that's just exactly the opposite? The height of the mountain, sometimes says, often determines the depth of the valley. And the next time we look in on Elijah, he's gone from the mountaintop to the valley. In fact, the queen went to see Ahab, the King, and when King Ahab told Jezebel what Elijah had done to all her favorite clergymen, she was furious. And the Bible says she brought everything to power that she as a queen could bring, and she chased Elijah. And Elijah in a moment's time went from exhilaration to depression; in fact, I don't have time to take you to that Scripture but let me give you some expressions out of the dialog that Elijah had with God.
He's running from this woman, just one lone woman after him. And he says he felt worthless. He said, "I'm no better than my ancestors". He felt hopeless. He ran for his life. He felt isolated. "I am the only prophet left," he said, and he was unable to cope. "I've had enough". In fact, he actually told the Lord, "If it's all right, just take my life. I'd like to die".
This is the prophet who just came down off the mountain. And the Bible says that after God provided some food and rest for his embattled prophet, he restructured his thoughts and gave him some life. He showed himself to Elijah; the Bible says: "The Lord is about to pass by". He filled his future with hope because God would accompany him; encouraged Elijah to go back the way he came. He revealed that he was not isolated as he thought he was. In fact, God gave him some statistics. He said, "I still have 7000 prophets in Israel who have not bowed their knee to Baal. Elijah, you're not alone". And he infused Elijah's life with meaning. He gave him a mission for him to accomplish.
Now, Elijah thought his problem was Jezebel. But there will always be problems like Jezebel in our lives. The real challenge for Elijah wasn't Jezebel. The real problem for Elijah, what was going on between his ears, in his mind. It is surprising, is it not, as we look around, how much we can observe about this principle. And it's very surprising to look into the Bible and to see how much the Bible has to say about the power of our minds and our thoughts. And the more we learn about the complexity of our minds that God has given us, the more we can understand why it's a priority in Scripture. This week in my study, I found a description of the human mind that... I just cannot tell you how awesome this is.
"The human brain's 12 to 14 billion cells are only a shadow of its complexity. For each cell sends out thousands of connecting tendrils so that a single cell may be connected with 10,000 neighboring cells, each of which is constantly exchanging data impulses. These 12 to 14 billion brain cells times 10,000 connectors make the human mind an unparalleled computer. The mind's activity has been compared to 1000 switchboards, each big enough to serve New York City, all running at full speed as they receive and send questions and orders. Put another way, there is more electronic equivalent in one human brain than in all the radio and television stations of the entire world put together. The human brain does not miss a thing. It's capable of giving and receiving the subtlest input, from imagining a universe in which time bends, to creating the polyphonic texture of a Bach fugue, or transmitting and receiving a message from God, a feat that no computer could ever accomplish".
In this first message, I want to take you to several passages of the New Testament that outline the priorities of this incredible mind that God has given to each one of us, and especially to each of us who are followers of Christ. I wanna suggest six things about the mind and we're gonna do this quickly because this is kind of just an outline. Six things about the priority of the mind that come straight out of the Word of God and, since there are a number of Scriptures and they're not together in one place, we'll put them on the screen so you don't get lost and can follow the Scriptures. Write them down in your outlines so that you can look them up later. First of all, I wanna talk to you about the priority of a devoted mind.
In Matthew 22:37, in response to a question, Jesus said, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind". Now, most of us have a pretty good idea of what it means to love the Lord our God with all of our heart and with all of our soul. But how do you love God with your mind? What does it mean to love God with your mind? It means, first of all, to understand that the mind is important. That's a good beginning place.
And I say that because during my years as a pastor I have run into many individuals who have denigrated the importance of the mind by saying that we need to be guided by the Spirit and not by the mind. They have even postulated that we are at our best when we put our minds into neutral and let our emotions and our spirits take control. And so we have come up with this term, "mindless Christianity," which describes an anti-intellectualism in much of evangelicalism and the total abdication of the mind in much of emotional Christianity. The Bible does not give us that option. In fact, one of the general principles for all of us who follow Christ is that we're to do everything to the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 says: "Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God".
We evangelicals characteristically pit our heart against our head, and we opt for the heart as being more spiritual than the head. We are like the Tin Woodman in "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz," who chooses a heart rather than a head. If you know that wonderful story you probably remember the dialog that goes something like this: "Why didn't you walk around the hole"? asked the Tin Woodman. "Well, I didn't know enough," replied the Scarecrow. "My head is stuffed with straw, you know, and that is why I'm going to Oz to ask him for some brains". "Oh, I see," said the Tin Woodman, "but after all, brains are not the best thing in the world". "Have you any"? enquired the Scarecrow? "No," he said, "my head is quite empty. But once I had brains and a heart also so having tried them both, I should rather have a heart". "All the same," said the Scarecrow, "I shall ask for brains instead of a heart for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one". "I shall take the heart," said the Tin Woodman, "for brains do not make one happy and happiness is the best thing in the world".
Many Christians have made the same choice as the Tin Woodman, exchanging their mind for their heart. And we know now how unbiblical such an exchange really is for the Bible says we're to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all of our soul, and with all of our mind. This can only mean a determination to develop our thinking process to its fullest potential. We must learn how to love the Lord our God with all of our minds and how do we go about doing such a thing is going to be discussed in one of the messages coming up in the near future.
But before we move on to the next thing, let me tell you about something I read from Benjamin Warfield who was a great scholar who taught for 34 years at Princeton Seminary. He pleaded with his students never to exchange the mind for the heart, or the heart for the mind. This is the greatest statement I've ever read about this controversy. He said, "Sometimes we hear it said that 10 minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than 10 hours over your books. Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? Put your heart into your studies: do not merely occupy your mind with them, but put your heart into them. They will bring you daily and hourly into the very presence of God".
The Bible says that when we study, we should put our heart into it, and when we worship, we should put our mind into it, that we should not play this game of the dichotomy which says, "It's the heart versus the mind". It's both! Listen again to the commandment. "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind". In other words, with all that you are. But then there's the priority of a dedicated mind. Did you ever read these verses from Philippians and Corinthians? Philippians 2:5: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus," or "'Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ".
To have the mind of Christ does not mean that we are infallible and we start playing God. To have the mind of Christ means to look at life through the Savior's point of view, looking at life through his values and the desires in his mind. It means to think God's thoughts and not think as the world thinks. Now stop again and think with me about the power of your mind. The dizzying potential of the human mind reaches its apex in the possibility of possessing the mind of Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. A possibility affirmed by Paul when he said, "We have the mind of Christ". No computer will ever be able to think God's thoughts, nor will any device ever be able to know the heart of God or do his works, but the mystery which resides between our ears has this capacity. It was created for this very purpose: to have the mind of Christ. A dedicated mind.
What about the third one: the priority of a disciplined mind? 1 Peter 1:13: "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, and be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ". And 2 Corinthians 10:5 puts it this way: "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ". The disciplined mind. First of all, 1 Peter says we're to gird up the loins of our minds. It all's about focus. We're to get rid of the extraneous things, the things that get in our way, and focus our minds. Be proactive about the use of your mind. Don't be just kind of mindless, just letting whatever happen. But remember, the screen of your mind is totally under your control and there are choices you can make.
And the Bible says you're to bring every thought into captivity under Christ. That seems like an unreasonable and impossible task. But let us not be discouraged by the fact that it is a goal that is very high but let it motivate us to say that as much as it's possible for me, I'm gonna have a controlling interest in what crosses my mind. I'm not going to feed my mind with things that will be destructive to me or will not be positive or beneficial to me. Oswald Chambers said, "God will not make me think like Jesus, I have to do it by myself. I have to bring 'every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.'"
Now let me just stop for a moment and say: In this culture, when we are bombarded by so many impulses from so many different places, this is much more difficult than it's ever been in any culture in the history of the world. And it is not something that will happen naturally. It will take action on our part, discipline on our part. I don't know if you remember this. When I was growing up, this really dates me, but I remember when television kind of came along. My father was a pastor and my father was really concerned about TV, even though the one we had was so small, you had to be almost sitting right on top of it to see it and it was all fuzzy.
I remember that. Every time a commercial came on, especially if it was a beer commercial or a cigarette commercial, my father would get up and either turn the channel or turn the volume down. We didn't have remote controls back then. But as time went along and things got a little bit more relaxed, we who were the children, we became the remote controls. Dad would say, "Turn that off. Turn that off. C'mon, turn it off". He didn't want that stuff going through our mind. He didn't want us to be impacted by the commercials that were on TV that he thought could be hurtful to us.
Now, how many of you know we've come a long way from that? I mean, the commercials we've got on TV right now are not fit for anybody to see, some of them, let alone children. I've always been impressed with my kids. We have them at our house a lot and I never have talked to them about this but they are so protective over what our grandchildren are allowed to watch on TV. And sometimes I'm watching a mystery or something and they'll come in and Donna will say, "You've got to turn that off. We don't want kids to be watching mysteries at their age". That's kind of a picture of how we have to function with our minds, isn't it? We have to decide.
You know, obviously, the Internet is a real big problem today. You'd be better off not to have the Internet than to be brought in to some of the filth that is available on the Internet. You'd be better off if that's an issue with you just to disconnect it and say I don't need it. But what the Bible is saying is that if we're going to have a mind that's devoted to God, it's gonna have to have some discipline behind it. You can't just float along and let stuff happen. You've gotta stop and say, "This mind that I have that God has given me is the most incredible thing that he's given me beside my salvation". And it is worth spending some moments and thoughts about how you're gonna program that mind as you go forward. The priority of a disciplined mind.
Notice, number four, the priority of a determined mind. Colossians 3:2: "Set your mind," it says, "on things above, not on things on the earth". This is just a further development of the previous principle. We discipline our minds by an act of determination. We have the power to set our minds. We train our minds to think Christianly and in many instances we can determine not only what enters our mind but what is not allowed to enter our mind. Thinking Christianly is more than just that. Thinking Christianly is the substance and spirit of what it means for the follower of Christ to grow in the mind of Christ.
Think about this for a moment. Isn't it absurd to affirm that Jesus Christ is the Lord of all, that he's Alpha and Omega, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Judge, the source and guide and goal of all there is, and then not be allowing him to be Lord over our minds and our thinking? We as evangelicals, we get all excited about all the new things in the gospel: the new birth, the new people, new powers, but we've gotta go back and put in the missing component and that is a new mind. Nowhere is the Lordship of Christ and the power of gospel more needed today than in the renewing power of the Christian mind.
Do you know that you can be a Christian, going to heaven absolutely forgiven and if you don't take initiative, you can be a Christian with a secular mind that sees everything as the world sees it, even though Jesus Christ is living in your heart. I would say that the vast majority of evangelicals tend toward that as opposed to devoting their minds to the Lord Jesus Christ. Then there's the priority of a discerning mind, number five. In Philippians 4:8, we see that word again: "Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are of a good report, if there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate," or think, "on these things".
Now, put that verse in context. Paul is trying to help people who are struggling with anxiety and worry. He's already told them that one of the things they need to do in order to overcome that is to pray. And he tells them that if they will pray, God will hear them and he will answer them, but he doesn't end with the prayer. He says, "After you pray, there's one more thing you need to do and that is you need to get involved in what you allow to happen in your mind". And he gives them a list of characteristics that should be the judge on the kind of things we try to think about. And you can go through them. You've seen them before and I've preached on them before.
It is simply saying, according to Paul, worry and anxiety can be exchanged for the peace of God through the powerful process of thinking the right thoughts. Read this any way you like, it cannot be teaching us anything else that if we meditate on the right things, it gives us the best opportunity to overcome the evil things that the enemy would come to distract us. Now let me tell you what not to do. If you have a problem thinking wrong thoughts, you don't say, "Well, I'm not gonna think about that anymore. I'm not gonna think about that anymore. I am not going to think about that anymore".
So what are you doing? You're thinking about it anymore. You're laughing because you know I'm exactly right. The best way to get rid of bad thoughts is to replace them with good thoughts, to flush them out with good thoughts. If you ever have seen anybody go through dialysis, this is a good picture of it. They take the blood that has not been purified by an effective kidney and they run it through a machine and they purify that blood and they run it back into the human body. The Bible tells us that the way we deal with evil thoughts and difficult thoughts and anxious thoughts is to replace them with the thoughts that are judged by the principles of the Word of God.
And then finally, the last one and this is the one I get most excited about because it's the "What do you do now"? one. It's the priority of a developing mind, Romans 12:2. Listen to this: "And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable perfect will of God". What is the renewing of your mind? Paul says that, by the renewing of our minds, we are transformed. That when we take this seriously, the way that we allow our mind to be programmed will be the difference between whether we are conformed to the world, pressed into the mold of the world, or we are transformed to live beyond the world. The renewing of our minds.
The Holy Spirit has chosen to achieve the transformation of the believer through the process of renewing his mind. When I talk about transformation, I mean growth in godliness. It doesn't happen without the mind. In other words, the outer transformation of what we become is affected by the inner transformation of our mind. This means that the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to transform us by changing the way we think through the input of the Scripture. That's what David meant in the Psalms when he said, "Thy word have I hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against thee". In other words, David said, "The way I keep from sinning is, I have filled my mental computer with the Word of God and I allow that Word of God to stay there in my mind, to dwell in my mind, and it is that which keeps me from doing things that I do not desire to do".
In his letter to the Ephesians and the Colossians, Paul speaks about this renewing process. In Ephesians 4 he talks about "being renewed in the spirit of your mind". And in Colossians chapter 3, he talks about, "the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of him who created him". Now, listen, if we cooperate and we choose to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and we say, "Lord God, I'm gonna read your Word today and use your Word to change me, to transform me, to renew me," to be renewed means that you jettison some old thoughts and replace them with some new ones. You renew your mind.
The way you used to think before you became a Christian is not sufficient for the Christian walk. You need a new way of thinking and how do you gain that new way of thinking? You gain the new way of thinking through the renewal process that comes when you input God's Word into your heart and mind. The only way to prevent the outward shape of our life from being fashioned by the world is to take care that the inward spirit of our being is being transformed by the renewing of our mind. I've tried to think is there any other way for this to happen and I can't imagine that there is. You say, "I want to be a better Christian. I want to walk with the Lord. I wanna have a more godly life". That's a goal that we all have.
Well, the way that works is not by coming to church although I'm glad you do that. It's not by going to a discipleship class or even getting in a Small Group. The way you are changed according to the Word of God, you are transformed through the renewing of your mind which comes from the Word of God. So we read in Colossians 3:16: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom and teaching and admonishing one another". Our minds are far more important, you see, than we are often led to believe. And today we have learned that God's priority for our mind is that it be devoted and dedicated to him, disciplined and determined and discerning about what it does in our life. And we have discovered that there's a process that God uses to accomplish all of this.
It is the very developing and renewing of our mind every day, being changed because of the Word of God that is being absorbed into our inner being. Isn't that the way it is? You gotta pump God's Word into your heart. You say, "Well, how do you do that"? Well, friends, if you don't get it, we got so many tools now that we've never had before, don't we? You can listen to the Word of God on tape. You can read the Word of God in all kinds of different translations and paraphrases. You can memorize the Word of God in all kinds of memory programs available. Over the Internet, you can find ways to take the Word of God and constantly be pouring it through your mind and your heart. That's what God expects us to do and he tells us that if we allow that process to happen, it will begin to change the way that we think and the way that we function. We will literally be coming more and more into the mind of Christ through the renewing of the Word of God.
I don't know which hotel room we were in but I remember the first night I turned on the rescue from Chile and we were all captivated by the rescue of this group of 33 miners who seemed to have been entombed in the earth. And one of the stories that came out of this dramatic event is that of a relationship between Marcelo Leiva, a Baptist pastor, and Jose Henriquez, one of the miners. Henriquez was an encouragement to his co-workers as they struggled to stay positive during confinement. As an evangelical Christian he held daily Bible studies down in the cavern for the miners as rescue efforts were developing up on the surface.
When Henriquez requested an evangelical pastor to aid the miners and their families at the site, Marcelo of Vallenar Baptist Church, in Vallenar, Chile, was contacted and he arrived at Camp Esperanza which means hope in Spanish. As the crews were planning the eminent rescue, Marcelo read from Henriquez's letter to him that was dated October 6th: "Dear Pastor Marcelo, I thank you for each and every one of your words of encouragement directed to the 33 of us. Tomorrow I will be reading your letter which will certainly be a blessing. Thank you for writing in hopes that the Lord fulfills his purpose in us as well as in you on the outside. Well, Pastor, may God continue to bless you. We will be seeing each other soon. Until then, please excuse my handwriting. Jose Henriquez".
Marcelo sent his final handwritten response to Henriquez, October 11, in the paloma, the name given to the device that was used to transport little objects between the mine chamber and the surface. I found out that the word "paloma" means pigeon or dove in Spanish so they had a carrier pigeon that took the messages down to the mine. Marcelo said, "I encouraged him for the remaining days of confinement". Recalling what he wrote, he said, "This is what I said to him. I told him that he should remember the promises of the Lord, to have hope and confidence and that he would also convey to the other 32 miners the message that the same God who guarded them is the one who is going to guide them in the rescue. And so the anxiety can be dissipated with prayer and with confidence in God".
Now, the news doesn't report any of this. This was in the Baptist news, and there's more to it. There was a conversion that took place in the mine because of what was happening around them. I don't know about you. When I watched the Chilean miners being rescued, I had to ask myself the question, "What would I do if I had been entombed in a dark mine for 60-some days"? Wouldn't you be going crazy? What kept them from losing their minds down there? Well, I don't know everything but I know one thing. I know one of the reasons was their minds were filled with hope and encouragement from an outside source. And that is what God wants to do for us, isn't it? He wants to encourage us. He wants to fill our mind.
What is the reason for the renewing of the mind? To fill our mind with the kind of truth that will help us in the cave that we are living in today, in the craziness of our generation, in the problems that we face. How do we do it? I mean, sometimes, don't you look at people and say, "I'm surprised they don't go crazy"? There's someone up there who sent down truth to us through the paloma. And he didn't send down just a little message. He sent down the whole deal, everything he wants us to know while we're living on this earth.
And men and women, I want to encourage you, this is not about the obligation to read the Bible. This is about the privilege and opportunity to so program your mind with God's truth that no matter what happens, you have the mind of Christ. You have a devoted mind to God and you're ready to face whatever happens. People ask me all the time: "What do you think is gonna happen"? And you know what my answer is? "I do not have a clue". But what I do know is this. If I have the mind of Christ and I program my mind with God's truth, I'm ready for whatever happens.
And I'm gonna make myself even more disciplined than that going forward. And I just wanna challenge you to do that. Not because it's an obligation. If you don't do it, I'll never know. But if you do it, and we're gonna give you some reasons for doing it as we go forward, you're gonna find that God does some wonderful things in your life. You're gonna start doing things and you think, "I don't even know why I did that". Well, you did it because your mind was reprogrammed and now your mind is thinking the way God wants it to think. And I challenge you today. How many of you listening to this message, say, "Pastor Jeremiah, I get it". Say this, "I get it, I get it". All right now, now that you got it, go do it, all right?