This is another joint article Michael Clark and I wrote which springs from our own experiences and from what the Lord has been teaching us lately.
Paul signed off his letter to the Philippians saying,
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Phil 4:8-9, nrs)
How opposite this is to our human natures! We search the news looking for the latest terrorist attack or natural disaster. We even listen to gossip hoping to get some information that will make us feel superior to someone we know. Someone pointed out that Christians seem to have a vested interest in the misery of this world. We truly need new hearts and minds from God.
Have you ever observed how our moods quickly change when we think of good or bad events in life? Whether we mull over the past which we cannot change or we ponder the future which we cannot influence, there are influences going on in the spiritual realm around us we rarely are aware of. Just yesterday the Lord nudged me (Susanne) to watch my feelings when I had an exchange with someone about really bad things they wanted to talk about. Before this I had felt relaxed and joyful, but suddenly it was as if something began to pull me down as the talk went on. So I prayed for help and waited on God for an answer and God finally brought our conversation back in line with His will. Isaiah prophesied,
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength…” (Is 30:15 ESV)
The word translated “returning,” the footnote defines as “repentance”, which means to turn about and go the opposite way. Indeed, if our minds keep going back to bad events, it will make us feel bad. Why can’t we change that? It seems that our fleshly minds do not like being inactive in God’s rest and will find some way, even an old wound or offense to grab onto, rather than remaining blank and obedient, trusting in His presence and strength. It is an amazing thing how our minds gravitate to negative things when they get a chance and God is not in them directing our thoughts. Along this same line Paul wrote,
Indeed, we live as human beings, but we do not wage war according to human standards; for the weapons of our warfare are not merely human, but they have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle raised up against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor 10:3-5, nrs)
In other words, we as fleshly humans cannot beat this problem with human reasoning. We must rely on the Spirit and call upon Him to take dominion in our carnal minds which proudly desire to be in control at all times. We need His help to take every thought in our minds captive in obedience to Christ. We cannot do it by ourselves. Paul wrote,
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, (Phil 2:1-5, ESV2011)
The mind of Christ is one that seeks to edify all the saints in His love. If His mind is in us we will be encouraging, comforting and loving one another in the Spirit. We will be of one mind in humility seeking to always lift the other person up. Paul says that we can have this kind of mind among us if we are IN Christ.
Our natural mind is a great obstacle in the race which we are running, cropping up all the time with its complexes, its arguments, its interests and its methods. When the Corinthians were brought into the Church they left behind their obvious sins, but they carried over into their new realm the old, natural ways of thinking and reasoning which belonged to the world and not to the Spirit of God. But the apostle remonstrated with them: “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16), so urging them to allow the Cross to be planted between the natural mind and the spiritual. We shall only come to the fullness of Christ as we leave behind the mind of the natural man and move on more and more in the progress of the mind of Christ. On everything; every judgment, every conclusion, every analysis, every appraisal; we must ask the Lord: “Is that Your mind, Lord, or is it mine?” We may sometimes feel that we have the strongest ground for taking up a certain attitude or coming to a certain conclusion; we may feel that we have all the evidence and so are convinced; and yet we may be wrong.
The man who wrote the letter to the Corinthians knew from deep and bitter experience that this was the case. “I verily thought… that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth,” he said (Acts 26:9). There was no man who had stronger convictions as to the rightness of his course than Saul of Tarsus. The great revolution which took place in him when he came to Christ was that he had to say: “I have been all wrong in my fundamental way of thinking.” After that confession he made good headway in the race because he was always ready to subject his thinking to the jurisdiction of his crucified Lord. This is the way of spiritual progress. We shall not get very far while we hold to our own opinions and our own conclusions, even though we may have the support of others; we have to learn to conquer our natural mind by submission to the mind of Christ. This is most important if we are concerned about spiritual progress. And spiritual progress is the increase of Christ – there is no other.
T. Austin-Sparks http://www.austin-sparks.net/english/openwindows/003004.html
Imagine someone all of a sudden makes you angry by doing something of which you had thought they should know you hate it. Our fleshly tendency is to always seek revenge in some way or other. Our carnal mind keeps revolving about the wound received and on how to avoid such offenses in the future. Indeed, our futile old Adam nature permanently projects our bad experiences into the future and looks for a way to escape from something we both have not yet experienced and of which we do not know whether it might happen at all. Crazy, isn’t it? But that is not the way it should be. Actually, if we want to experience the joy of the Lord on a daily basis, we must be enabled by Him to live in the HERE and NOW, not in the past and future. God as the Eternal ‘I AM’ wants to draw us into His continued PRESENCE. Yes, God lives in the present tense, not in the past or future tenses. Our old mind that has been used to its thought habits for years and decades is neither able to live in the here and now nor can it take our bad thoughts captive – ever. How so? The answer is quite simple. Our carnal nature never wants to think or do what God wants. Therefore God is not pleased with us when we walk after the flesh as the apostle Paul described it,
“For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom 8:6-8 ESV)
So, it is not difficult to find out whether our thoughts and deeds are pleasing to God. If we follow the nudges of His Spirit, we will experience life and peace in our own spirit. But if we follow the desires of our flesh instead, we are even DEAD to God’s life. Ouch!! Who wants that? 🙄 Oh, may God enable us to eventually do what He wants to be done! Brothers and sisters, you may believe that He will do it, “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Phil 2:13 ESV) As we perceive that we really yearn to do His will, we can be sure that we will be working for His good pleasure soon… 🙂
By the way, the inspiration about the ‘I AM’ issue has begun to flow with the following comment by Jack Helser on a Michael Clarks’s “A Wilderness Voice Blog”:
Thank you, Jack!