Fix your mind!
In the previous chapter we saw that the man of Romans 7 came to an important conclusion: he might be unable to conquer sin in the flesh but there was one area where he did have control – his mind or, as the famous detective Poirot would say, “those little grey cells”!
Romans 7:25 “So, then, on the one hand I MYSELF with the mind (nous) am serving the law of God, but on the other, WITH MY FLESH, the law of sin.”
This is an important step because as the well-known proverb says: “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” Proverbs 23:7.
The French philosopher Descartes said something similar when he made the famous statement: “I think, therefore I am”.
What is the mind?
The mind, therefore, is very much at the centre of who we are but is much more than just the grey matter of the brain. No, the mind enables us to make sense of the world around us, giving us perception and experience of the physical world through the five senses. In addition, somehow it enables self-consciousness. We are not therefore, just computers and thinking machines.
For example, the mind does the following:
1) It enables us to conceptualise, anticipate, create, remember and imagine.
2) It gives us the ability to experience emotion and pain.
3) It creates a conscience.
4) It gives us the ability to compute and think through problems logically.
5) It enables us to be self-aware.
Therefore, the mind is the inner man, the heart and soul of our being where all the information from the external world is processed. In other words, as the physical senses of the body are a window to the physical world, enabling the mind/soul to experience that world, the spiritual senses of the human spirit are a window into the spirit, enabling the mind/soul to experience that reality.
How did sin affect the mind?
Now that we have some idea what the mind is, how then did the sin and the fall affect the mind? Of course, one of the major effects of sin is that a sinner becomes blinded to spiritual realities. This is what is termed being ‘carnally-minded’.
Consequently, the unregenerate man’s spirit is dead; there is no information coming from that realm. That is why to the lost man the Holy Scriptures are a closed book until the Holy Spirit sovereignly enlightens them because, as Jesus said, His words are Spirit and life.
2 Corinthians 3:14 “But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ.”
Psalm 119:120 “the entrance of your words give light, it gives understanding to the simple”
Likewise, spiritual truths to the carnally-minded, even if highly educated, appear foolishness because they are spiritually discerned:
1 Cor 2:14 “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
Education then, though very important and beneficial, does not change human nature. At the end of the day it just creates a clever sinner. A man therefore, may be totally brilliant and yet totally evil – an inventor of evil things (Romans 1:30). Indeed, even in the thousand years or so before the flood when God wiped out the human race, the mind of man produced nothing but evil.
Genesis 6:5 “And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
How does new Birth affect the mind?
However, new birth or new creation changes not only the spirit of man but also affects the mind. God writes His laws (how He thinks) on our hearts and minds:
Hebrews 10:16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them;”
In point of fact, He not only writes his laws on our hearts but gives us the mind of Christ:
1 Corinthians 2:16:”For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
How is the mind transformed?
This transformation of the mind, though, although it starts at new birth, is an ongoing process unlike the born-again spirit. There is now work to do. We have to learn to co-operate with the Holy Spirit to actually let the mind of Christ operate in our lives. We have to work out (exercise) our salvation.
Philippians 2:5 “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:”
Example – Computer
Imagine a computer that has a brand new operating system installed. Unfortunately, there may be still old applications, picture files and even viruses on the hard drive. Maybe a few careful deletions of inappropriate material and programs need to take place! Possibly, some of the applications need to be upgraded and modified to run under the new operating software.
Example – A new business
A few years back my wife and I bought a ‘ladies only’ gym. The existing staff and membership came with the business. Of course, this meant all the existing problems and attitudes came along, too! So, even though we had fresh vision and ideas for the business, we first had to change the mindset of both the staff and the members many of whom clearly preferred that things remain exactly the way they were. This meant we had to overcome their resistance to change and this ultimately meant a few staff and even members leaving.
This is very much like what happens when we get born again. Mindsets and habits don’t change overnight but the Holy Spirit (our amazing mentor) helps us turn the business around! So, don’t give in to the desire of the flesh. You’re in charge now. Don’t let those unruly staff boss you around!
Romans 6:13 “Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.”
Repentance and renewal
A renewal, a change of thinking and re-education in our lives, therefore, is firmly on God’s agenda. This is what the Bible calls ‘repentance’.
Romans 12:2 “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.”
Before we were saved, for example, we might have had a very arrogant attitude. Well, now we need to change that attitude and learn humility.
Ephesians 4:28 “And be renewed in the spirit (attitude) of your mind;”
We sin because we think sin
A key to understanding the importance of renewing the mind is to understand that we sin because we think or imagine sin. A man cannot sin if he cannot think it first. Cain murdered Abel in his imagination long before he flew into a jealous rage and actually spilled his blood.
That is what Jesus meant when he said:
Mark 7:21-22 “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.”
In other words, the sinful behaviour comes from a sinful heart and sinful thinking.
A few examples of fleshly attitudes and mindsets:
Andrew Wommack ‘helpfully’ calls this type of fleshly thinking: “stinking thinking”!
If you are depressed – ask yourself the question, what am I thinking about? Depressed emotions generally come from negative thinking.
If you are full of sexual lust- what are you thinking about? What are you looking at? If you often look at pornography then this is going to reinforce lustful images in your mind and objectify others.
If you are constantly worried and fearful about the future – what are you listening to? What is your mind fixed on? Maybe you need to switch off the news channel now!
So then, you can’t necessarily change your fleshly appetites overnight but you can change what you think about. You can choose what TV programmes you watch.
What are we filling our minds with?
Accordingly, what we put into our minds is what is going to come out. In other words, we are the product of our education, the books we read; the films we watch and the music we listen to. So, if someone looks at pornography every day then is it any wonder that they have a big problem with lust?!
One of the major things that is lacking in many people’s lives is peace. God’s supernatural peace is a gift that guards our hearts and minds. However, it’s also a product of what we think about:
Philippians 4:7-8 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Therefore, even though to the believer all things are permissible, clearly not all things are beneficial. (1 Corinthians 6:12, 1 Corinthians 10:23). This should give us wisdom that maybe that it would be better not to watch that horror movie! Is it pure? Is it lovely?
Consequently, the fruit of peace is a result of what we put into our hearts and a major way we can have peace is by reading God’s Word. The Holy Spirit can’t make us read it, we have to do that but He is pleased to give us understanding of it.
Luke 24:45 “Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,”
What is your mind fixed on?
Hence, one way to have peace is to fix our attention on the Prince of Peace:
Isaiah 26: 3 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
Most of the time, the mind can only really concentrate effectively on one thing at a time – yes, ladies, even you! Maybe you can drive a car at the same time as eating a sandwich and listening to music but try working through a maths problem at the same time as writing an email to your bank!
What we set or fix our minds on can be likened to the rudder of a ship – it sets the direction of our lives. We can choose. We can either focus on the flesh and its desires or we can set our minds on the Spirit and have the fruit that results: life and peace.
This is what is meant by the expression ‘walking in the Spirit’.
Galatians 5:16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh”
It’s in the mind and heart that belief or unbelief takes place. A double-minded or uncertain man is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8). The believer, however, is urged to be unwavering and single-minded. We are to set or fix our minds:
Romans 8:5 “For those who according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the spirit the things of the spirit”
Romans 8:6 “For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the spirit is life and peace.
Colossians 3:2 “Set your mind on the things above not on the things on the earth”
Of course, that is easier said than done because we have an enemy, the devil, who does his damnedest to distract, divert or deceive you. In fact, that’s really the principal power he has over you. Consequently, spiritual warfare is mostly between the ears! Just don’t give in to the devil’s mind games!
2 Corinthians 2:11 “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (thoughts, mind games)”
So, the devil can’t make us think in a certain way but we are susceptible to suggestion and temptation. Think of TV advertising. Your kids would never have had the desire for that latest gadget, if they had not first seen the advert on the TV!
Hence, the devil is not just interested in getting you to sin but he wants you to believe lies. This is the way whole people groups have been deceived and put under the bondage of philosophies such as communism. Some Christians, too, have shipwrecked their faith because they have not tested what they were reading, hearing or experiencing against the Word of God. This means, we must test the spirits to see if they are of God. (1 John 4:1)
Colossians 2:18 “Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind”
2 Corinthians 11:3 “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
How does God want us to fight the enemy? It is not with carnal weapons but with spiritual weapons: the word of God, prayer, speaking in tongues, prophecy and so on.
2 Corinthians 10:5 “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;”
How are you reckoning?
Lastly, there is another important way we renew our minds: it is to reckon ourselves according to what the Bible says about us rather than how we feel.
Romans 6:11 “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
In other words, when the Bible says we are dead to sin, even though our experience may contradict the Word, we continue to reckon according to the Word rather than experience.
Likewise, by faith we put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Is that an act? Are we being a hypocrite? No, because this is who we truly are and we are renewing our minds as to that fact.
Romans 13:14 “But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.”
Questions for discussion
1) What is the mind?
2) How did sin affect the mind? – 2 Corinthians 3:14
3) How does new birth affect the mind? – Hebrews 10:16
4) Explain how the mind is transformed.
5) How is Romans 12:2 repentance?
6) Explain how thinking sinful thoughts is the precursor to sinful actions.
7) Why is it important what we fill our minds with?
8) Why is the mind the battleground in spiritual warfare?
9) Explain how we renew our minds by the principal of reckoning.
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