Jack Graham - Your Mind Matters
Have you ever seen or experienced so much pressure, so much tension in our culture? Just the brokenness of the culture and in people's lives, being expressed in the streets and the shootings and in the arguments and the agitation that we feel in our communities in our world today. There's just so much of this! And the tension; it's a pressure cooker!
When I was a little boy my mother used to cook with a pressure cooker. And if you've ever seen one of these contraptions, I don't even know if they still have them. They went away with the vinyls. But the vinyls are back, maybe pressure cookers are coming back. I don't know. But I think you poured water in there, put the beans or whatever in there. I do know often I would hear my mother scream a blood-curdling scream coming from the kitchen in our little house. I would run in there after hearing an explosion and the beans would be all over the ceiling! That pressure cooker just exploded!
And maybe you feel like your life is about to explode. So much pressure. So what happens when we come to faith in Jesus Christ is that we still have problems and we still have pain from our past and otherwise, but we are redeemed. And having been redeemed, we are then restored, and we start recovering. And this is a life-long experience as we continue to grow in our Christ-likeness, and gain the mind of Christ as we go. So the Scripture says in Romans chapter 12, and verse 2: "Don't be conformed to this world", don't allow the world to suck you, squeeze you into its mold. "Don't be conformed, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Because the mind matters", and that's the title of this message, "Your Mind Matters".
What does the Scripture say in the book of Proverbs? Proverbs 23:7, "As one thinks in his heart, so is he". As a man (a woman) thinks, so are we! We think and therefore, we are! And our thinking produces our behavior, our actions, and the consequences of our actions, our decisions, but it begins with the mind. It's in the way we think! And as you think as a Christian, you need to begin to think God's thoughts instead of the world's thoughts, and to begin to think according to God's Word. James Allen who was a philosopher of sorts and a writer in the early twentieth century, said this: "A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts. Good thoughts bear good fruit; bad thoughts, bad fruit. Let a man radically alter his thoughts, (watch this) and he will be astonished at the rapid transformation it will affect in the material conditions of his life".
In other words, your thoughts when they are transformed in a positive way radically alter the way you live your life and the consequences of the way you live your life. It can affect your health, your well-being, your family, your business, everything! All in the way you think! "It affects the material conditions of your life. (Watch this.) Men imagine that thought can be kept secret but it cannot. It rapidly crystalizes into habit and solidifies into circumstances". The old saying is: "Sow a thought, reap an action, a deed; sow a deed, reap a habit; sow a habit, and reap a destiny". So it all begins in the mind. That's why the Scripture says (2 Corinthians 10:5), "We are to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ". To control the mind!
Now, how are we going to do that? Well in Thessalonians chapter 5 and verse 23, we're told that: "The God of peace". And He is God our peace, He is God our helper. And we have the Holy Spirit who is our Counsellor, our Helper, our Guide who calms us and strengthens us and corrects us and changes us. But, "may the God of peace himself sanctify you". Now that word sanctify, it means to make holy, to be separate. You see the word sanctify; you think of the word sanctification. Of course, it's a big word but you think of sanctuary, a special place that is set aside. So sanctification is that process. We are being more and more made into the image of Christ, made like Christ.
So God Himself is sanctifying us not just partially but the goal is to completely make us like Christ. And one day we will be like Him as we stand before Him. But watch this: "and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ". Note those three words. Spirit and soul and body. We are body, soul, and spirit. When God made each one of us, He truly gave us physical life. We have bodies. And with the bodies, of course, we have brains, an amazing computer, unlike anything that man could ever make. The mind is a creation of God. So the brain, the body, we have physical life. And with the soul... It says we are body, we are soul, we have psychological life. Say "Where do you get that"?
Well, the word soul is psyche'. We get the word psychiatry, psychology, psychic from that word. It means the soul. And the soul represents the inner person, the inner you, the mind, the emotions, the intellect, the will. So you are born with a body, you are born with a soul and the soul is the inner life, the inner you, the part of you that thinks, the part of you that contemplates, the part of you that can learn and grow and all the rest. That's big picture, your soul. If I were to ask you right now to point to yourself. In fact, let's just do a little experiment. Take your pointer finger, okay, and I want you to point to yourself right now. Let me see it. Alright, I'm surveying. Alright survey says: When you are pointing yourself, you're typically pointing right here.
Now there are few brainacs, you pointed to your brain. I know. But most of us pointed right here because it's the core, it's the being. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he". So, the heart, word used in the Bible thousands of times, of course, it's the inner you, it's the soul of you! It's the center of you. Not just that organ pumping blood that keeps you alive physically but the soul. which is the conscience, the emotions, the will, all that is wrapped up in that word. It's you. And then the spirit. Now there's a difference between the soul and the spirit, and the difference is very small in some ways. In fact, the writer of Hebrews tells us that it takes the sword of the Spirit to divide the soul and the spirit. The Word of God to divide the soul and the spirit.
So it's a fine line there. And we often catch our diseases otherwise, emotional, physical and otherwise from the soul and from the spirit. But the spirit is the part of you that is made for God. It's the spiritual life. It's the part of you that will live forever! Your spirit. Now if you are not a believer and follower of Jesus then your spirit, according to the Bible, is not alive; it is dead. When you are regenerated, that means born again, when you come alive in Christ, when we are risen in Christ, Christ lives in us. That's why we talk about a relationship with Jesus Christ. Some of you have the idea that you are a Christian. You consider yourself a Christian but you don't have a relationship with Jesus Christ. You don't know Him inwardly and eternally. Your spirit is not alive. But when you receive Christ, you receive His love, His life and you come alive! That's what it means to be saved! And saved forever.
Alright so let's review. You have a body, you have a soul, you have a spirit. You have physical life with a body; you have psychological life, emotional, intellectual with the soul; and you have spiritual life with the spirit. So think of it this way: If all is right with the body you are healthy. If your psychological life is right, if all is well, then you are happy. If your spiritual life is well you are holy! Not because of what you have done, but because of what Christ has done and is doing in your life. So, if you are healthy, if you are happy, if you are holy it means that you're whole. And that's what God has promised each one of us. That we can find wholeness and completeness in Him. And all these problems and pressures, toxic emotions, negative things that happen to us and happen in us, and so much of what happens to us is not what happens around us but what happens between our ears, the way that we think.
The Scripture says, "Let this mind be in you which was in Jesus Christ". That's Philippians 2:5. The mind of Christ there represents His sacrifice, His surrender to leave heaven and come to earth, to give His life for us, His humility; He laid aside His dignity but never his deity. But He became a man, accepted our humanity. That is the great emptying of God, and the Scripture says let that mind, this mind which was in Jesus Christ be in you! In other words, because of Christ and Christ alive in you, start thinking and acting as a result like Jesus. The way you think is to think. Here's a thought, to think like a Christian. And if you think like Christ, you will be thinking like a Christian. And the negativity and the hate, the horrors, the pain, the struggles, these can be defeated in your life when you begin to think the thoughts of God. You want to elevate your thinking? Begin contemplating the greatness and the goodness of God.
If you'll write these down it will be helpful to you. Number one, you want to have the mind of Christ, the mentality of Christ and win the battle for your mind? The number one is decide to possess the mind of Christ. Decide to possess the mind of Christ. Make a decision. Make a determination in your life that you will seek those things which are above, that you will begin to listen to God and hear His voice. What you need to do on a personal level if you want to heal, if you want your mind to recover from the past and the baggage and the brokenness that you bring even into a relationship with God. If you want to heal and find hope then make a decision to possess the mind of Christ.
Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, for his soul trusts in You". That's a decision that you need to make in your life, that you will stay your mind and steady your focus. And when your boat is rocking and maybe sinking, when you are going under, that you will be steadied in the storm, anchored in the storm by the very presence of God. This takes conscious effort and concentration. It does. You know what our problem is? So often just mindless thinking. Not thinking! Or thinking the wrong thoughts.
But so often just not thinking about it. Do you seek God? Do you seek God's Word? Do you ask for God's wisdom? How do you expect to heal from your hurts and your pain if you never make a determination to decide to focus, to fasten your mind upon Christ? Because if you will do that then it can happen, the transformation can happen very quickly but typically over time. Remember, it's a process. Our minds begin to change and we begin to think differently than we used to think. And we stop putting all that jive in our head, the negativity, the stuff that disrupts and destroys us and defeats us. And we start putting the right things in our hearts, in our heads. We make a conscious effort.
So that brings me to the second thing which is to discipline yourself to practice the mind of Christ. Decide to possess the mind of Christ. We talked a lot about that, and now discipline yourself to practice the mind of Christ. You can train your brain! Did you know that? Just like you can train and develop and shape and reshape your body, you can train your brain to be healthy and whole, to think rightly. But again, one of the problems we have is this mindless mentality, undisciplined thinking. And so much white noise in our heads. So much racket. And if we don't have enough racket around us, we put our earphones on for more racket! Or ear buds!
When are we ever quiet? When are we ever still enough to hear ourself think, much less hear God speak? Try meditation, which means to probe the Scriptures, it means to ponder the Scriptures, think clearly about what the Scripture is saying; it means to personalize the Word of God to your own life; it means to pray the Word of God in and through your life, and practice the Word of God. That's meditation! Transcendental meditation they say. What you are to do in transcendental eastern mysticism and meditation is to empty your mind. Oooommmmmmm! Like that. Doesn't work. Because you know what happens if you empty your mind?
Bad stuff can get in there! We're never told to empty our mind. We're told to fill our minds with God's Word! You need to nourish your soul, your psyche with God's Word. The Bible says, Proverbs 17:22, "A merry heart does good like a medicine". And there's joy and there's Jesus and His Word. So, discipline. Make sure you are devoting and disciplining your mind. Discipline yourself to have the mind of Christ. Isaiah 30:15 "In quietness and trust shall be your strength". Psalm 46:10: "Be still and know that I am God". This is all discipline. Gather up the loose ends of your thinking and run with Jesus. This means disciplining your thought life.
Thirdly, dedicate your mind to pursue Christ. Dedicate your mind to pursue Christ. Like your body, your brain belongs to God. When the Scripture says, we read Romans 12:2 earlier. When the Scripture says, "Present your bodies as a living sacrifice wholly acceptable unto God your reasonable service. Don't be conformed but be transformed by the renewing of your mind". When it says give your body to God. Would you say that your body includes your brain? Of course, it does. So if it includes your brain, your mind, your soul, it includes the way you think. I often hear people who dedicate their lives to God, their bodies to God, their service to God.
When was the last time you heard anybody say, "I give my mind, I dedicate my mind, the way I think to God". That would be a good prayer for all of us to pray today and every day. I give you my thoughts, I give you my words because out of the heart, out of the mind the mouth speaks. Dedicate your mind to pursue Christ. Sanctify my mind, O God, my thoughts, O God. Let my mind, Jesus, be filled with beautiful thoughts of you! Philippians 4:8 we'll get to that in a message next week actually. But in talking about peace, indescribable, undeniable peace that passes understanding in our lives, what does the Scriptures say?
It says focus your thoughts and your mind on things that are lovely, on things that are good, on things that are praiseworthy, on things that are virtuous, on things that are positive. Focus your mind; train your brain. And settle your soul in Christ. And then when you're attacked by anxiety or you're facing fear or you're dealing with depression, or you're trying to overcome an addiction in your life or you are overwhelmed with grief, then you will have an inner strength and your thoughts will steady you instead of destroying you. This is more than a good idea to me.
When I was twenty years of age my father was brutally murdered. And I can tell you... You say, "Well, pastor, you know, all these tragedies are so depressing; they're so disturbing, it's so much, how can I think good thoughts and positive thoughts and helpful thoughts and praiseworthy thoughts and positive thought, how's that possible? You even know what you're talking about"? Yeah, I actually do. I've had some tragedy and that was a big one. And I can tell you in the darkness and the depths of that disappointment, discouragement, depression, death, even as a young Christian I was steadied by the presence and the power of Jesus in my life!
Have I had times of depression and anxiety and discouragement along the way? Absolutely! But every time, because through the years, I tried not to make just one grandiose decision when I was a teenager, but through the years my prayer has been to claim God's promises, to live in God's truth, to obey them and to accept them. And so, when the tragedy comes, you're not mastered by your emotions, you're mastered by Christ, and controlled by the Master who made you. When crisis occurs, we're grateful for those who give comfort and aid. Our church is big on that. I appreciate Franklin Graham and Samaritan's Purse and other organizations like that that run to the crisis and give comfort and aid to people in the midst of a storm, in the midst of a crisis.
All good and needed and helpful. But I am more thankful for the presence and the peace of God that comes when we have crisis and trouble and tribulations in our lives. This peace keeps us from falling apart. Did you hear me? It is God's peace that will keep you from falling apart. And if you do fall apart, and sometimes we do, it will be His peace and His presence that will restore you to life. This is a troubled world. And Jesus says, don't be surprised about that. Because, "in this world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer because I have overcome the world". John 14:27, "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives. My peace. Do not let your heart be troubled".