Did you remember to set your alarm last night so that you could get up on time this morning? Just as important as setting the alarm, we need to be just as diligent to set our minds. Let's look at that.
One of the most remarkable capacities of the human mind is the ability to direct its attention to something it chooses. We can pause and say to our minds, "Think about this and not about that." We have the ability to focus our attention on an idea, a picture, a problem, or a hope. It is an amazing gift from God. Think about it, we have the amazing ability to think about thinking and to choose, as an act of our will, to consciously and purposefully, dwell on a particular object of thought.
This is a tremendous gift from God, and is a part of what it means to be created in His image - to be one of the Image-bearers. And it is one of the immensely powerful means God has given to us in order to facilitate our becoming what God designs and desires us to be.
Question. Have you been utilizing this powerful weapon in your arsenal in your war against sin? The Scriptures instruct us continuously to make use of this remarkable God-given gift. Let's take it out, polish it, and put it to use.
For example, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, says in Romans 8:5–6,
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."
Wow! I said, wow! This is stunning. What we set our mind on determines whether the issue is life or death! Beloved, we have become far too passive in our pursuit of change, wholeness, and peace. Because we live in a predominately therapeutic age (not necessarily a good thing), we have succumbed to a passive mind-set of simply "talking through our problems" or "dealing with our issues" or trying to "discover the root cause of our brokenness."
As helpful as these may be from time to time, far too often we tend to slip into a passive way of thinking about change—i.e., we start believing that change will somehow just happen to us one of these days as we talk through our problems. When we fall into the mode of thinking that the answer is somehow linked to understanding what has happened to us, or the circumstances we may find ourselves in, we miss the greater reality available to us – namely, to put into action the spiritual tool God has given us in order to direct our future, and thus our spiritual destiny.
You see, there is a more aggressive, non-passive approach to change for those who live in the light and reality of the Kingdom of God. What is it, you may ask?
"Set your mind..."
"Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth" (Colossians 3:2).
"Enemies of the cross of Christ... set their minds on earthly things" (Philippians 3:18-19).
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh" (Romans 8:5 Emphasis added).
Beloved, I interact with so many believers who live their lives in a state of continuous emotional upheaval. And in many cases, the reason is because they don't understand the ABC's of living in the Kingdom of God. Our emotions are governed, in large measure, by what we are "considering"— what we are thinking, what we dwell on with our minds.
For example, Jesus told us to overcome the emotion of anxiety by what we consider - what we choose to think about:
"Do not be anxious.... Consider the ravens.... Consider the lilies" (Luke 12:22, 24,27).
The mind is the window of the heart, or the human spirit. Let me say it another way. What we set our mind on, what we think about; we open our spirit up to. If we let our minds dwell on the dark, then we open our spirit up to that darkness. If we open the window of our mind to the light, then we open our spirit up to be influenced by the light. Allow me to illustrate.
So much of what passes for entertainment these days, whether in printed form, video games, TV or in the movies is filled with demons and demonic activity. If you go out and watch a horror movie, specifically one that has demons and demonic activities in it, you are setting your mind on that thing. Even if you rationalize that you are a Christian and therefore you would like to naively believe that somehow you are immune to its influence and automatically protected, you can end up having negative demonic influences touching and affecting your spirit because when you set your mind on something then you openyour spirit up to it.
Another related area. I talk to believers that play around a little bit with pornography and they argue, “Well, I’m ok”. But you know, that’s not true, they are not ok. Because what you set your mind on you open your spirit to. What you believe about it isn’t the issue.
Paul says in his epistle to the Galatians,
“Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
Take the word eternal out of there. I realize that it is there in the text, but that is not my point. The point is this; if you sow to the spirit, you will reap life.
Eternal life is not only qualitative it is also quantitative. Eternal life doesn’t begin when you die; eternal life is the quality of life you experience when you are born again before you die. When some people read these verses they say to themselves, eternal, well that means if I love God I’ll go to heaven when I die. Well, that is a true statement, but that is not what these verses mean. What Holy Spirit is saying is that if you sow to the spirit you are going to reap the life of God in your soul and in your emotions – in other words, the life of God will touch you. So don’t let the word eternal cause you to miss the practical aspect of what this verse means for us in this age.
Now let’s look at this verse a little more. “Don’t be deceived.” Why do you think that Paul said that?
Paul, like Jesus and many other writers in the New Testament, warns us often about the possibility of being deceived. Again, why do you think that is? It is because of the very real possibility, in the area relating to this issue of sowing and reaping, there is a real strong possibility of being deceived. Why? Because the Kingdom of God is like a seed (Mark 4:26-29). To understand the Kingdom of God you must understand how a seed operates.
How do seeds work? You plant a seed in the ground on June 1st, you come back on June 2nd and there’s no sign of growth. You come back on June 10th and there is still no sign of growth. And depending on the type of seed you planted, you may come back on June 30th and still there’s nothing. And if you don’t understand how the seed principle operates you might get discouraged.
But you know what? The farmer is not deceived. He says “I’ve been doing this for 50 years. And though I don’t “see” any sign of growth, I have no doubt that by October the harvest will be there.” He is not deceived at all, because he knows how nature works.
But even if we understand the seed principle in the natural, in spiritual things we can still be deceived. Example. We pray and pray and pray and nothing happens. Our life doesn’t appear to be changing, so we get discouraged and we give up and quit praying. We forget the nature of the Kingdom, the nature of the seed.
The farmer might say to us, “Why are you giving up?” We don’t give up when it comes to natural seed because we understand the nature of the seed, because we know in the natural realm how the seed works. Beloved, the nature of the seed is the same in the spirit realm. The seed takes time before it manifests itself that is the point.
Now this principle works both ways, it works both negatively and positively. Let’s use pornography again because I know so many men (and women) who have dabbled around with this and because it is so destructive and so prevalent.
By the way; pornography isn’t just x-rated DVD’s, magazines or internet web sites. Pornography is the commercials you and your children watch on television. Pornography is the ads used to sell everything from toothpaste to automobiles. It isn’t as obvious, but it is the same spirit. Many people who have never watched an x-rated DVD are consumed with a spirit of lust due to what they have allowed their eyes to behold and thus opened their spirits up to.
I’ll talk to someone and they’ll say, “You know, it doesn’t really affect me, I’m kind of mature and I’m bigger than that.” I always respond, “Don’t you be deceived, it will work in you, and it will hurt you. You may not feel it at work within you for a while, but I assure you, it says right here, ‘Do not be deceived!’ If you sow to the flesh, the sinful nature, you will reap corruption.” There is a corruption that sets into your emotions. If you sow the seed, you will reap the harvest!
So I warn those who dabble in pornography, do not be deceived. If you continue to set your mind on pornographic things, even though you may not see a change or feel a difference, in two or three years, and it might not take that long, you won’t be able to respond to your spouse emotionally in a healthy way. You won’t even know when it started changing, but it will change and it will hurt you, and it will hurt your emotional responses, it will hurt your spiritual responses, and it will affect how your spirit reacts towards God. Corruption will begin to work in your members and in your emotional makeup, but you’ll never know when it started because you can’t trace it, it’s deceptive. It looks like, for a time that you can get away with it. Do not be deceived!
Parenthetically, this seed principle works in a positive way as well. If you pray and pray in the spirit, you may say it doesn’t feel like its working. It may not seem to be enjoyable at the moment. But don’t be deceived, God will not be mocked. If you sow to the spirit, if you plant the seed, you will from the spirit reap life, in this age. God cannot be mocked, so don’t you be deceived. If you sow things that please the Spirit you will reap life in your mind and in your emotions in due time. That is the fact of God’s Word.
There is an old axiom that goes like this: God said it, I believe it and that settles it! Have you heard that one before? Well, I have news for you, that’s not a true statement. God’s Word is true and it is a settled fact whether or not you ever believe it! When something is true, what you believe about it or feel about it is irrelevant. Why? Because, regardless of what you believe or feel, it is still true. Related to spiritual things, you don’t have to feel it, or agree with it, it still works.
Spiritual realities are like an x-ray. You don’t feel x-rays when you are exposed to them, but regardless of what you do or don’t feel, an x-ray will affect you and your body. If you are exposed to strong enough doses, or are exposed for a long enough time, even though you don’t feel anything, you are being affected.
This is what Paul meant in Philippians 4:8,
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Beloved, be very, very careful what you set your mind on and what you open your spirit up to. God will not be mocked; don’t you be deceived. Get it?
Above all, this great capacity of our minds to focus and consider is meant for considering and encountering Jesus:
"Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus… Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted…" (Hebrews 3:1; 12:3 emphasis added).
This is the God-given path that is guaranteed to lead us to change. We are called to take it and not to wait passively while our minds are drawn away with all kinds of passions that come back to wage war against our souls (1Peter 2:11). It is when we focus our minds on the glory of Christ that we are transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18). Take this moment to resolve that you will be intentional about what your mind considers. It will dwell on something, and what it dwells on, it will become like.