Thursday, March 19, 2020

Set Your Mind

We live in an information age.

The amount of information that is available at our finger tips through the internet is amazing. There is no library in the ancient world that can rival what is available online.

I am sure that our ancestors would be jealous of the tools and the information we have at our disposal. Many of them had access to only a few books, which they read dozens of times.

The problem we have with this constant access to information is that it can give us information overload. Much of the time it is hard to discern what information we should pay attention to and what information we should ignore.

Our constant online connection is like having a buffet available for every meal. Sure there is good stuff there, but it is easy to binge on that junk that seems tasty.

In other words, because of social media and entertainment outlets, our information consumption tends toward the junk food side of the buffet. The consequence is that the information that fuels our thoughts is just empty calories. It brings a little big of enjoyment, but it isn't going to change our lives.

Even though our ancestors had access to far less information, they were able to use what they had to develop a more robust way of thinking. They knew Latin, Greek, and could talk about different philosophers. They developed a philosophy of limited government and individual rights. They knew Scripture and applied its lessons to their lives. What they thought about not only changed their world, but continues to influence us today.

Always remember: Out thoughts determine the direction of our lives.

It is no wonder that the Bible has so much to say about our thoughts. For instance:
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2; NLT) 
We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:5; NLT) 
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (Philippians 4:8; NLT)

To follow Jesus requires that we change our old ways of thinking. Transformation begins with changing the way we think.

Changing the way we think takes work. Our entire lives, you and I, have developed ways of thinking that have shaped the way we see the world. This means our thought patterns are second nature to us, we don't give them a second thought, but they are responsible for our moods and our outlook on the world around us.

We need to change the way we think! How do we do that?

Colossians 3:1-4 gives us a couple of insights into what we must do.
Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand.  Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.  For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory. (NLT)

In this passage there are two steps we must take in order to change the way we think.

First, Paul told us to "set our sights", or to focus on, what is real. The reality that Paul wanted us to focus on is that we have new life with Jesus. Through our faith, repentance, and baptism we have been raised to a brand new life with Jesus. He is our life, the way we are to live. He is our life, our hope of what is promised to us. Our focus is to be on him. To change our thinking requires us to shut out what is happening around us and focus on Jesus. This is why worship, prayer, and Bible reading are crucial to Christian spiritual formation. These disciplines help us to focus on Jesus.

Second, Paul told us to "think about the things of heaven." The "things of heaven" are not gold streets and eternal life. The "things of heaven" are the values, the rules, the standards, and the morality of heaven. In short, they are the qualities that make up God's character. We think about these things and how they apply to our lives. Instead of basing our standard of truth off what the world says is right, we hold fast to what God has revealed to us. We think about His promises, His word, and His truth and let these thing form our world view.

Taking responsibility for our thoughts allows us to develop new and healthy ways of thinking. It gives us a chance to create a world view that is more in line with God's truth, and it allows us to live with hope and faith.

Failing to take responsibility for our thoughts means we will continue to respond to the world through the old thought patterns we have adopted. These thought patterns often lead us to wrong conclusions and cause us to spend our lives in ways that are not beneficial.

We can change the way we think, but it takes the effort to set our minds on God, His purposes, and His ways. This is the starting point of our spiritual formation.

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