The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

How to Win the Battle for Your Mind – Part I

Posted on: May 10, 2016

Battle for Mind 1.001

WE MUST GUARD OUR MIND TO PROTECT IT FROM HARM

The Christian life, and the spiritual warfare that it inevitably involves, is a battle for the mind. If that battle goes well, our Christian life goes well. If that battle goes poorly, our Christian life goes poorly. Therefore, a top priority in the Christian life is to guard the mind from that which is harmful, and to deploy the mind in pursuit of that which is helpful.

This week we will look at three steps to guarding the mind. Next week, we will look at three steps to deploying the mind in helpful ways.

We guard our mind in three ways.

  1. Keep harmful things out. (“Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth.” Colossians 3:2).

This seems almost too obvious, but it is the very field on which many Christians lose their battle. It is common for Christians to have biblical goals and unbiblical actions. We want a spiritually vibrant life, but we engage in activities that feed the mind unbiblical values… and then wonder why we struggle. We will make major headway in our Christian life when we just admit the incongruity of our actions and start guarding our minds more carefully.

As you have heard me say before, every moment of every day, something in our soul is being fed and something is being starved. We cannot feed and starve the wrong things and hope to have a vital and satisfying Christian experience.

The greatest culprit for many is indiscriminate exposure to electronic media. If we watch television, play video games, go to movies, listen to music and visit Internet sites that inject toxic values into our minds, we cannot hope to prosper spiritually.  Of course, those media are not, in and of themselves, harmful.  It is only as we are undiscerning in what we expose ourselves to through those media that the problem arises.

Modern neuroscience tells us that the mind is constantly changing, and it always changes in the direction of that which is put into it. In the normal living of everyday life, we cannot avoid a certain amount of mental exposure to harmful things, but we can avoid jumping in the deep end.

We cannot get east by going west. We cannot get up by doing down. We cannot get quiet by making noise. All those things are inherently contradictory. And in the same way, we cannot become spiritually healthy by carelessly injecting spiritually harmful things into our mind.   This is not a matter of legalism. It is a matter of the law of cause and effect. Neuroscience demonstrates that we reap what we sow. It is as fundamental as that.

  1. Don’t create harmful thoughts. (“…everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” – Matthew 5:28)

Not all harmful thoughts come into our minds from the outside. We can create harmful thoughts, ex nihilo. Jesus said that lusting after women was harmful, and we can lust if we are alone on a desert island.

Out of mid-air, we can create thoughts of lust, worry, anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, materialism, arrogance, cruelty, discrimination, disregard for life, and any other sin. They don’t have to come in from the outside. Matthew 5:28 teaches us that such thoughts are sinful, even if they are not acted upon. We must be careful not to give ourselves the freedom to create harmful thoughts.

  1. Don’t entertain harmful thoughts. (“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.” – Philippians 4:8)

Finally, whether the thoughts have come in from the outside, or whether we created them ourselves, if they are not helpful, from a biblical perspective, we are not to entertain them… think about them… roll them over and over in our minds.

Why? Because to do so just continues to reinforce them, making them stronger and stronger.  On the other hand, by being careful to think positive thoughts, such as the ones in Philippians 4:8, we reinforce all those good things in our lives.

To reiterate, it is helpful to understand the rationale. First, we are not to entertain harmful thoughts because they are inherently sinful: to lust after a woman is to commit adultery with her. But second, we are not to entertain harmful thoughts because the brain is always changing in the direction of how it is used. So, the more harmful thoughts we put into it, the more we create and entertain harmful thoughts, the stronger the brain becomes at entertaining harmful thoughts.

The opposite is also true. The more helpful thoughts we have in our brain, the more we entertain helpful thoughts, the stronger the brain becomes at creating and entertaining helpful thoughts. The brain is always strengthened to do more of what it is already doing.

So it is critical, if we hope to have a vital and satisfying spiritual life, that we guard our minds

  • by keeping out harmful thoughts,
  • by not creating harmful thoughts, and
  • by not entertaining harmful thoughts, regardless of where they originally came from.

Next week, we will transition from talking about protecting the mind from harmful things to deploying the mind for helpful things. They are two wings of the same airplane of mental stewardship. This is a battle that we can win. But it begins by admitting any incongruity in our mental activity, and bringing that incongruity into alignment with Scripture.

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