Romans 12:1-2 clearly teaches that there is a mental aspect to being a godly Christian. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your MIND, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” It’s our mind that plays a key role in keeping us holy, and helps us avoid adopting a lifestyle of the world.
If we adopt a lifestyle of the world, we will have a hard time fellowshipping with God and living any kind of life that would be worthy of His blessings. James 4:4 gives the reason why, “Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” Whether that is the mindset of an individual or an entire family, we risk being disqualified from receiving the blessings of God, as it’s likely that God won’t bless His enemies.
The “Promised Land” that was promised to Abraham all the way back in Genesis, was a very real, physical land that would flow with milk and honey, and was meant to be enjoyed in this earthly life by the Israelites. This Promised Land was a place where they could live and enjoy the continued blessings of God. But it is also a place that Christian families can enjoy today, only on a different level. However, the same stipulations given to Israel for entering and enjoying the Promised Land still hold true today. We have to draw parallels to the Nation of Israel and our family to see what God expected out of that group of people and apply it to what God still expects out of your family…a smaller, but similar, people group.
We have to remember that God promised this land to the forefathers of Israel, but it was only available to those Israelites who were redeemed from the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt (a picture of Satan). Through the deliverance of Moses (a picture of Jesus, our deliverer), and under the power of God, Israel was redeemed from the bondage of slavery (sin) and set free. God had freed the Israelites from a horrific life under the rule of Pharaoh, and set them on a path to get to the Promised Land (blessings). The only stipulation to entering the Promised Land was obedience. That was all. Follow God. Obey God. Trust God. This was available only for saved people. We, as Christians, have been set free from the bondage of sin, under the power and rule of Satan. Now, we are able to pursue our Promised Land because of the fact that we are saved.
Sadly, a journey that should have taken less than two weeks to get to the Promised Land, took forty years instead. Imagine that! Forty years it took Israel to reach the threshold of the Promised Land. In a family, that is enough time for babies to be born, and those children to be raised up to adults, to have their own children. If we’re not careful, we can forfeit God’s Promised Blessings on our families for potentially two whole generations (or more really). Imagine raising your children for twenty years and then enjoying your grandchildren for the next twenty years, all the while missing out on God blessing your family the way He wants to because your family just isn’t being and living the way it should, and therefore isn’t worthy of God’s blessings. What a wasted opportunity!!!
But back to the role the mind plays in all of this. The mind is where most sin and disobedience starts. For example, if we’re not careful, our minds jump right to a myriad of inappropriate things that only a fool would share out loud: “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards” (Proverbs 29:11). After what does a wise man keep his words in, you may ask. After he brings into captivity every thought to the OBEDIENCE of Christ (2nd Corinthians 10:5). In other words, this wise person is not controlled by his mind, but rather controls his mind. This man can then practice the command in James 1:19, to be “…slow to speak…” And obedience to this brings blessings, such as, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stirreth up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). And what’s more of a blessing, holding your tongue and controlling your mind before you speak, thereby avoiding an argument, or shooting your mouth off impulsively and stirring up anger and getting into a fight? I’d say being obedient to the command to think before we speak brings the blessing of peace in our interpersonal relationships.
The mind will lead us to sin, and Jesus knew this when He was giving His sermon of the mount. In Matthew 5:28, Jesus goes beyond warning His followers to not commit physical adultery, but also to not even look upon another woman in lust, as that will get the MIND going to places it shouldn’t. Once the mind is involved, it becomes very easy to obsess over the thoughts one is having and eventually those thoughts may lead us to commit the very physical act of adultery. Consider another example in 1st John 3:15 where we are told under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that if we hate our brother, we are guilty of murder. Why? The reason is that if we think about those feelings of hate against another, it becomes a very small step to committing the actual act of killing that person (for some people). Another example of the mind leading us to sin is in the Ten Commandments where we are asked not to steal, and then later on, not to covet. Coveting, or wanting something that is not ours, may eventually lead us to want to steal it to have it for ourselves. Our minds have the capability of obsessing, and those obsessive thoughts can lead us to commit the actions most explicitly forbidden by God in the Old Testament and Christ in the New Testament.
The heart and mind in many cases are virtually synonymous. Consider these following verses. “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” (Proverbs 23:7a). “But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). Whether or not the mind and heart are synonymous in every instance is up for debate (though I do believe there is a small but distinct difference), but CERTAINLY, the mind plays a key role in controlling the heart, whatever the “heart” is. And in some cases, the mind makes decisions that the heart is not even involved in. I, myself personally, believe the heart is actually the portion of our minds that is capable of being in tuned with the Holy Spirit’s influence. The part of the mind ruled by the conscience is what I believe the heart is in the Scriptures.
In Deuteronomy 5:29, God stated, “Oh that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever.” I believe that in this verse, the heart is referring to the part of the mind that is influenced by the Holy Spirit. In Romans Chapter Seven, Paul talks about not doing the things he wants to do, and doing the things he doesn’t want to do. There are clearly opposing influences at work here. Perhaps the mind refers to the fleshly aspect of our capacities to make decisions, where as the heart refers to the spiritual aspect of our capacities to make the correct, God honoring, God obeying decisions…like what He is looking for in Deuteronomy 5:29.
James 4:8 reads, “Draw nigh unto God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” It almost appears that the mind, according to James, can not only flip-flop in decision making, but also be very much responsible for leading the person to sin. Very different than Deuteronomy 5:29, where God asks us to obey with our hearts. So, again, I believe that the heart is the decision making mechanism within us that is influenced by the Holy Spirit and is directed by our conscience…our minds, it would appear, are not that way at all.
Perhaps that is why in Moses’ discourse on the threshold of the Promised Land in Deuteronomy Four, he warned about the use of the mind. See, Moses knew the mind wasn’t all bad. It’s the first place information gets processed and the mind is also responsible for remembering. It is part of the God-created body. So it isn’t all bad. In fact, if used properly, it can work WITH the heart. In Deuteronomy 4:9, Moses pleads with Israel, “Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou FORGET the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life…” In Deuteronomy 4:23, Moses basically implores Israel the same way, “Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye FORGET the covenant of the Lord your God, which He made with you, and make you a graven image, or the likeness of any thing, which the Lord thy God hath forbidden thee.” In other words, when the mind starts going, and the tendency is for your mind to lead you to sin, take a moment to stop and think.
In the wilderness, Israel had seen with their own eyes God’s blessings upon their nation for obedience and God’s chastisement upon them for disobedience. In chapters one through three of Deuteronomy, Moses reminds them of all the things God has done to them and for them as a result of either their obedience or disobedience from Egypt to the shores of the Jordan River. Chapter four of Deuteronomy is Moses’ call for obedience once inside the Promised Land, so they will be able to enjoy all of the things God has brought them there to enjoy…a land filled with continuous blessings. A state of being constantly blessed, but for obedience to God’s statutes, and precepts, and principles, and laws.
What Moses knew about the mind back then still holds true today. Our mind will have the tendency to make us act impulsively and can, in many cases, lead us to sin. That is why today, before we act, we must do two things. First, we must stop and pause a moment and evaluate if what we are thinking about doing violates our conscience, and would our heart want us doing those things. Remember, the mind can lead to physical adultery, stealing, and murder in extreme cases. The heart doesn’t want us doing any of those things. Therefore, acting on the thoughts created in our minds act contrary to our heart and conscience and the Holy Spirit’s urgings…therefore…we must bring every one of those wrong thoughts and conform them to the obedience of Christ (2nd Corinthians 10:5).
Secondly, we must utilize the mind’s capacity to remember. If we pause to remember all that we have personally seen or experienced first hand, or at least heard about second hand, all the things God has done as a result of obedience or disobedience, it will help us put those thoughts into conformity with the way Jesus would have thought…and eventually done. And once our minds are in conformity with what Christ would do, the next step is to actually do what Jesus would have done…not sin. According to 2nd Corinthians 5:21, Jesus never sinned and it’s spoken of Him in John 8:29 that He always pleased His Father.
The takeaway for this lesson is this. Think before you act. Don’t dwell on fantasies or daydreams of sinful acts, as that’s a slippery slope to sin. Be sensitive to whether or not what you are thinking of doing violates your conscience. If it does, bring your mind’s thoughts in line with the intents of the heart. Lastly, use your mind’s capacity to remember all the times you personally received a blessing from God and suffered chastisement from God, and that will help you make the right decision. Once the right decision is made, act upon that decision accordingly.