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The Battle for the Mind
There is nothing easy about living a Spirit-filled life, no matter how enticing some try to make it to be. Living a Spirit-filled life is a battle, which is why Paul tells us to put on the full armor of God.
He says, “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11 NKJV)
Paul minces no words and lets us know that we are in a battle, but it isn’t against any human foe or human army, but rather it is spiritual and against Satan and his demonic forces.
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV)
What this reveals is that this Christian life is essentially a life of conflict. Jesus made this clear to His disciples and thus to all of us because we are their direct spiritual descendants. For those who seek to commit themselves to follow Jesus, which is the basic definition of a disciple, Jesus says this blessing as He ends His teachings on the Beatitudes.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:10-12 NKJV)
Later, Jesus commissions His disciples, sending them out and telling them that they will be open prey, but no matter how hard or difficult it may be, they need to endure through it all.
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves … And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:16-22 NKJV)
Now, if you think about it, this really isn’t a very popular recruiting technique, “Become a Christian and experience attacks, trials, and persecution.”
But what I want us to focus upon is how the Bible makes it clear that while the true nature of the battle is spiritual, the primary ground upon which this battle is fought is in our thought life. It’s a life and death battle for the control of our minds, which is why Paul tells us to take off the person who we were in all our sins and put on the new person we have become in all righteousness and holiness, which is through renewing our mind.
“And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” (Ephesians 4:23 NKJV)
It is said that a mind is a terrible thing to waste, and this is especially true given the spiritual nature of our battle.
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It is said the mind has 12 to 14 billion cells, and each cell sends out tendrils connecting, exchanging, and transmitting information to at least 10,000 other cells. Some have called the mind the ultimate supercomputer. There is more electronic impulses and data going on in one human brain than all the computers and processors on the Internet today. (That is with the one exception of my brain. It’s more like a CB, you know, “Breaker, Breaker, Rubber Duckie here.”)
And while this is a scary thought about our mind being the battleground, we have the helmet of salvation to protect our thought life, and on top of that, we’ve got the greatest weapon of them all, one that Satan and his demonic forces cannot defeat.
What I am talking about is that as Christians, that is, those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, we possess the mind of Jesus Christ Himself through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Paul speaks about this in his first letter to the Corinthian Church.
“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (1 Corinthians 2:12-13 NKJV)
And he goes on to say that the natural man cannot receive the things of God, or know the mind of the Lord, and that’s because they are spiritually discerned, but we as believers can, because as Paul goes on to say that “We have the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16 NKJV)
Imagine, being able to know God’s mind on a certain matter! Imagine, being able to think the thoughts to the Lord God Himself. This is actually what we were created with in the beginning, but then sin came into the picture and wrecked the whole thing.
But the real tragedy of the church today is that while we may worship and pray as Christians, we’re not really thinking as Christians.
Kent Hughes, renowned pastor and author of numerous books on the spiritual disciplines and preaching through the books of the Bible, he said that “The great scandal of today’s church (are) Christians without Christian minds.”
Now, there is an old expression that says, “We are what we eat.” And to an extent this is correct. In other words, if all we eat is hotdogs, then we’ll end up looking like a hotdog, or if all we eat is turkey, then we’ll end up being one.
But I believe that a more accurate description concerning who and what we are is that we are what we think.
So, the battle begins within our minds. Therefore, knowing this, how are we to fight this battle? The Bible gives us some really good advice that if we avail ourselves of it, that is, if we are doers of the word and not just hearers only (James 1:22) then we can start winning the battle for our minds, instead of always conceding ground to Satan.
Prepare Our Minds for Action
The Apostle Peter said that we have received that which the angels themselves desire to see, and that is the Good News that has been given to us through the Holy Spirit.
And then He said, “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13 NKJV)
By using the expression, “gird up the loins of your mind,” Peter is telling us to prepare our minds for action.
Back in those days, they didn’t have jogging outfits, nor did they wear pants or shorts. Rather they had long robes, so, if they needed to move quickly or fast, they would gather up their robe around their waist so it wouldn’t trip them up when they ran. That is what is meant by girding up one’s loins.
Peter uses this expression then to say that seeing the many and varied trials that we are going to face, we need to put out of our minds all that would impede and trip up our forward progress and growth in our Christian faith.
In other words, we need to have a mind that is uncrippled by worry, hate, fear, unforgiveness, impurity, and the like. If we find that we are weighed down by any of these, along with the cares of this world, then it’s high time we cinched up our minds and prepare ourselves for some holy action.
To prepare is not only shedding ourselves of these things, it’s also putting into our minds those attitudes that will help. Paul spells out these attitudes in his letter to the Philippian church.
“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy–meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:8 NKJV)
Therefore, to fight this battle for our minds, we need to prepare our minds for action by putting off all that hinders and cripples us from thinking clearly and then to think on what is good and true; rather than what is evil and false.
Guard Access to Our Minds
Advertisers compete for our attention because once someone has our attention, through visual or audio stimuli, they can then attempt to direct us.
Again, as I pointed out earlier, we are what we think far more than what we eat or wear. What we put into our minds is what’s going to come out in our lives. To put this into computer terminology, “Input determines Output.”
Solomon said it best.
“As a person thinks in their heart, that is who they are.” (Proverbs 23:7 paraphrase)
So, we need to guard against any access Satan has to our minds. We need to be choosy in what we let in because once gets in, it’s staying. Scientists say that our minds can store a hundred trillion facts, so we need to be picky about what goes in because, unlike computers, there is no delete key.
In Romans 12:2, Paul warns us not to be conformed to this world, but rather we need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.
Now, this word conformed are those pressures that occur externally that exert themselves producing a change, like in nature and how heat and cold, wind and rain, conform the landscape, that is, changing the look of it.
When it comes to our minds, such pressures are found in what we watch and what we read. Therefore, we need to be careful with what we read in magazines and books, and what we watch on TV and the Internet, and that’s because they pressure us to be and do what they say, and not what God says.
It goes to what the Bible says.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.” (Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV)
What I find sad is the statistics where the Christian divorce rate is equal to that of the world, and that Christians are committing adultery and fornication with equal regularity to the world. In fact, it’s hard to tell who a Christian is anymore, not because the morality of the world has gotten better, but because the morality of the church has fallen so low.
What we are being exposed to on TV and the Internet is one of the biggest perpetrators of this moral downfall. Do you realize that on average we watch over 1,000 hours of TV and Internet yearly? That’s 9 ½ years if we reach 65 years old. Now compare that to the time we spend reading God’s word, praying, and attending Bible studies and Church services. It is estimated that over those same 65 years that these averages out to only 4 ½ months.
How are we ever going to be transformed by the renewing of our minds when we watch what the world is feeding us so much more than we are taking in God’s word?
Take Captive Every Thought
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NKJV)
Even though we have been “born again,” forgiven, and are now new creations in Christ, our minds are still programmed to live independently from God, and since we have no delete buttons, we need to be careful what we put into our minds.
We need to be in a continuous process of renewing our minds, that is, reprograming them. What that means is that we need to replace all the lies that we have accepted as truth for all these years, along with those strongholds and arguments that exalt themselves over the knowledge of God that prevents us from fully obeying Him. And we need to replace them with the truth of God’s word, this will help defeat Satan.
Such a battle was fought at the start of Jesus’s ministry. As He was in the wilderness being tempted by Satan, all of Satan’s arguments were defeated by Jesus quoting God’s word. In other words, Jesus took captive every thought to the obedience of God’s word.
Now, compare that to Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve. They succumbed to Satan’s temptation because they didn’t take captive every thought to the obedience to God’s word, which was simple, don’t eat of that tree!
Therefore, we need to be careful with what we fill our minds with.
King David said, “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” (Psalm 101:3a NKJV)
We need to be careful not to allow the poison of the world to get in, because once it’s in it stays, like a bad relative. And not only that, but it also starts living itself out through us. I find this in my own life. I’ll let bitterness take root, and soon it begins to live itself out through me, in my words, and in my actions.
Now, besides filtering out all the bad stuff, there’s also just a lot of stuff we don’t need to get involved in or let in.
The Apostle Paul said, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.” (1 Corinthians 10:23 NKJV)
In other words, while some things are not necessarily wrong, they’re just not necessary. There’s a lot of shows and books that are not necessarily bad or hurtful, but they are just stuffing, that is, stuff that we fill our heads with, but they don’t build up our faith.
What we should be doing is renewing our minds with God’s word.
King David said, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!” (Psalm 119:11 NKJV)
Today, the church and Christians need to start taking captive our thought life to the obedience of God’s word. Only then will we live out what we say we believe in.
Now that we’ve looked at what we are to do, what are some biblical tips to help us get there.
Bible Tips to Renewing Our Minds
Never Stop Learning
Jesus said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:29 NKJV)
Jesus called those who followed Him, “disciples.” The word literally means someone who is a learner. A disciple is a learner, and if someone isn’t learning then by the word’s very definition then they aren’t a disciple.
Therefore, as disciples of Jesus, we are never to stop learning. We are never to stop growing, expanding, developing, and learning new insights into His word. And the reason is because we cannot be influenced by what we do not know. And so, if we want the Lord’s guidance, to have His influence in our lives, then we need to get to know more about Him, His will, and His way.
When we stop learning, then we stop being an effective disciple. One of my sincerest desires is to see everyone continue to learn and grow in their faith, or as our vision states, “Building Up the House of God Within Each Person.”
“Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5 NKJV)
“He who walks with wise men will be wise.” (Proverbs 13:20a NKJV)
We need to surround ourselves with those who can help us grow and who we can ask whatever questions we may have. The disciples continued to ask Jesus questions about what they didn’t understand.
For myself, I often ask the other pastors that I know when I am faced with a question or something I’m going through. I also hit the books and those authors that I have come to trust over the years.
I take my lead from what the Bible says. “Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” (Proverbs 15:22 NKJV)
Use Time Wisely
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV)
To redeem mean to buy back, but we cannot buy back time, because once time is gone, it’s gone for good. So, what Paul is telling us to do is to seize every opportunity for the Lord.
We are always in danger of becoming pre-occupied with things that do not matter, things that are not eternal, things that are not in the will of God. Therefore, to make the most of our time, we have to bring it under God’s control, making the most of every opportunity He provides.
This is exactly what Solomon tells us.
“In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening do not withhold your hand; for you do not know which will prosper, either this or that, or whether both alike will be good.” (Ecclesiastes 11:6 NKJV)
We need to use every ounce of time God gives to us to be in His word, prayer, worship, and fellowship because we don’t know when God will shed light on that area in our lives that will change us forever.
When God gave us our minds, He gave us a great gift, and as such, we are responsible to use, develop, and renew it on a daily basis. Because it is in the mind that the battle for our souls is fought.
Over the years, some of us have allowed all sorts of stuff into our minds. We have left our minds unguarded, and as a result, we’ve become undisciplined in our thinking.
Therefore, let’s start preparing our minds for action now. Let’s start guarding the access to it, in what we see and hear, that is we need to guard both our ear and eye gates. And then let’s start taking captive our thought life to the obedience of God’s words and start to do what it says.
Let me end with this statement. As we have seen, that while the battle we are in is spiritual, the primary ground that this battle is fought is in our minds, that is, our thought life. But what ultimately determines the victory is the place we give to Christ in our hearts. This is why then next week we’ll be looking at the battle that is taking place for our hearts.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study