Christianity is a thinking religion and thoughts are powerful things. The godly are often troubled by their thought-life and seek a greater degree of sanctification in this area.
The Word of God has much to teach us about the mind. Jesus said, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:36-37); the state of unbelief is the exact opposite of this.
In Colossians 1:21 the sinner is described as being an enemy of God in his mind and in Ephesians 4:17 he is described as walking in the vanity of his mind. He does not think rightly about God; indeed, he cannot, for ‘the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God’ (Romans 8:7).
Moreover, ‘The god of this world’ (the devil) ‘has blinded the minds of them which believe not’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).
The call to the Christian is to ‘be renewed in the spirit of your mind’ (Ephesians 4:23), for ‘as a man thinks … so he is’ (Proverbs 23:7). Christianity is indeed a thinking religion. One of the greatest things a Christian can promote is the blessing of a sanctified mind.
And this is not a once-for-all exercise; it is part of the daily and hourly giving up of our minds to God. But be sure to remember that the devil will fight every inch of the way.
The sins of the mind are the easiest to commit because they can be kept the most secret. There are many sins which soon become public, but those of the mind like to keep themselves at home.
How many would be in church on Sunday if all their thoughts the previous week were on public display? Not too many! The first sin of Eve was not eating the forbidden fruit; it was thinking about it.
When banks are robbed, murders committed, adulteries engaged in, they seldom happen in the immediate. They are first thought about. Often, the act will be in the mind for weeks, or even months, before it is put into practice. Sometimes the mental sin never leaves the mind, but festers and corrupts the person all his days. We must beware the sins of the mind.
Without a word being spoken or an act committed, the mind can harbour soul-destroying sins, such as bitterness, envy, malice, impurity, resentments, jealousies and the like. Such rob us of joy and peace and usefulness, and cause havoc, all within the secrecy of the mind. How vital to repent of such sins before they destroy us!
The devil aims to capture the mind before anything is done in public. He ‘doesn’t want us to do it’ (of course!), but just to think about it! It is to the mind that the words ‘resist the devil’ are addressed. Victory there must be the aim of everyone who would see victory anywhere else.
The potential of the mind is stunning. We are sometimes overwhelmed at the ability of a genius, and then wonder what poor things we are in comparison. But we should never underestimate the potential of our own minds for good or evil.
And we remember how the Lord Jesus taught so plainly that, ‘The Lord of heaven has hidden these things from the wise and prudent and has revealed them unto babes’ (Matthew 11:25).
How amazing that things hidden from many great minds in the world are known by humble Christians, some of whom can neither read nor write. Why should it be so? Jesus answers, as he continues his prayer: ‘Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight’.
The psalmist writes: ‘I have more understanding than all my teachers, for thy testimonies are my meditation’ (119:99). What understanding is given by the Word of God!
Many worldlings are intelligent, of course, but not toward God. In fact, many use their God-given intelligence to fight against God. Not that the Christian knows everything; much is mystery to him, but he knows that there is a day coming when, as Isaac Watts wrote,
Then shall I see and hear and know
All I desired or wished below;
And every power find sweet employ
In that eternal world of joy.
The religions of the world, for all the knowledge of their adherents, are clouded in darkness. Consider, for example, the Hindu and Buddhist outlook on ultimate things. What are they aiming for? Nirvana. And that word means ‘the permanent extinction of one’s personal existence’ or ‘the journey into nothingness’.
Their aim is silence, death and the end. And in our highly sophisticated, knowledgeable society there are millions who are ‘Buddhists’ without knowing it. The time was when the average unbeliever aspired to a heaven of some kind or other. That is no longer the case. Now he hopes for, in fact is desperate for Nirvana, dying in oblivion!
He didn’t want any dealings with God in life and certainly doesn’t want to have any with him in any after-life. All his intelligence has led him to believe in ‘nothing’ after death. This brings the oft-repeated saying, ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead!’
Liberation, so Buddha taught, is realising the unreality of your existence; and multitudes love to have it so. But for the child of God there is something so different. Our minds are called to be engaged in the great things of God, to ‘increase in the knowledge of God’ (Colossians 1:10). And, in that, what a world is opened to us!
Our school is the school of Christ, our book the Word of God, our teacher the Holy Spirit, and our faculty for learning the mind. Little wonder that Peter writes, ‘Gird up the loins of your mind’ (1 Peter 1:13).
Britain, like all the other nations, once lived in a world of almost complete darkness and religious superstition. Romanism dominated these islands with all its priestcraft and false teaching.
But then something dramatic happened. The Bible was translated into English. The Christian mind was opened up as never before. Vishal Mangalwadi’s The book that made your world is well worth reading on this subject. Brought up in Hinduism, he traces the difference between countries that had the Bible and those that didn’t. And what a difference it is!
The term ‘Bible study’ is for the genuine Christian a daily, life-long exercise. This is where his mind is furnished with the great things of God. The Christian learns not only his need to be saved from sin, but that God actually offers to do it, and how God does it, and who God sent to do it for us.
There are a thousand subjects to feed the mind and, the older the believer gets, the more he learns how much there is still to know. The spiritual man is hungry for the knowledge of God. He cannot get enough of those things that thrill his mind with matters eternal.
He marvels that, while he may be ignorant of many things in this life, his mind is alive toward those things that have to do with the spiritual, divine and eternal.
To this end, his mind feeds on the Bible. He reads, loves, learns, carries and strives to live it. One of his chief delights is when he sees others having their minds turned to the same things.
He is grieved when he sees minds closed to that which would most satisfy them. This is why preaching, under the enabling of the Holy Spirit, should be addressed to the mind as well as the heart.
What we think is what we are (Proverbs 23:7). If someone says ‘I want to be a better Christian’, what sort of an answer would he expect? Read a particular book or go to special meetings? But what would he think of the answer, ‘Labour to think biblically’?
In 2 Corinthians 10:5 the apostle writes about the mind, briefly but powerfully: ‘Bringing into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ’.
This verse teaches us the discipline of the mind’s exercise — ‘bringing into captivity’. It tells us that it is not going to be easy. Thoughts are elusive; they have to be captured, reigned in and subdued. The mind wanders, sometimes just when we are trying to concentrate on holy things. It is hard work.
It teaches the extent of the mind’s task — ‘every thought’. Now this is some challenge; not just our thoughts in public worship or private devotions, but every thought. The spiritual mind is faced here with one of its greatest tests. Only the grace of God, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can enable us. ‘Who is sufficient for these things?’
Third, it teaches the object of the mind’s aim — ‘the obedience of Christ’. O Christian mind, what a glorious ministry has been given to you — ‘the obedience of Christ’ in every thought!
What better end to all our spiritual work than our minds so engaged in full obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ? What worship will such a mind offer! What churches we would have if the minds of all our members were truly cleansed! May God grant it!
The author was for many years pastor of Dudley Baptist Church