Romans 8: 6-11
6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Today we are focusing on how we might be victorious the area of mental health. Our focus scripture for this series has been Romans 12:2. The New Living Translation puts it this way: 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (emphasis mine)
It’s important to manage our thoughts for several reasons:
Our thoughts control our life. Every action, every behavior begins with a thought and belief. If you believe that you are smart, funny, attractive (reasonably), giving, kind, hospitable, you will act like that. But if you believe the opposite of those things you’ll behave like that too. Your thoughts can be limiting or freeing.
Our minds are the battleground for temptation and sin. Temptation starts in the mind—not somewhere “out there.” We don’t get to blame friends, family, ads and the media. Something wouldn’t tempt you if the desire for it was not already there. Romans 7: 22-23 suggests that there is a battle going on in your brain whether you are conscious of it or not.
Managing our thoughts contributes to peace. Unmanaged thoughts lead to tension and stress. Romans 8:6
We need to make three daily choices to nurture a healthy mind and take control of our thoughts:
Feed our mind with God’s Word which is the truth. Read the Bible! It is the best defense against the lies of the devil. (Junk in, junk out. Truth in, truth out.) We feed our bodies nutritious food to maintain its health. Our minds are the same way. Deuteronomy 11:19; 6: 6-8; Philippians 4:8 (8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.) King David was always filling his mind with God’s word Psalms 1: 2-3; 119:147; 119: 97; 16:7
Free our mind of destructive thoughts. Paul talks about his struggles with his old nature, that which he had before he decided to follow Jesus. Romans 8:5 Satan wants to control your mind because if he’s got your mind, he’s got the rest of you too. Unlike the comedian Flip Wilson used to say, “the devil made me do it,” no, the devil can’t make you do anything. All the devil can do is plant destructive thoughts in your mind (1 John 2: 16) to tempt you to pursue your passions (lusts of the flesh), get more possessions (indulge in materialism and self-centeredness), and gain more power (status). These are similar to the temptations presented to Jesus in the wilderness. Matthew 4: 1-11; Mark 1: 12-13; Luke 4: 1-13
The Mechanics of Temptation (Temptation is a process that involves a number of things before a fall)
Desire. Temptation turns natural desire or drive into a destructive, out-of-control force. Ex. Fire controlled is beneficial. Out of control and it can burn a house down, cause forest fires, etc. Temptation often taps a legitimate God-given drive. (physiological—food, water, air, shelter; safety- employment, property, stability; love and belonging- friendship, intimacy, connection; esteem and self-actualization—achievement, respect of others, creativity, purpose).
Doubt. “Did God really say….” We begin to question essential truths like God loving us and knowing what is best for us. Ex. Adam and Eve being challenged in the Garden of Eden to question God’ clear instructions regarding what and what not to do.
Deception. The truth from God is replaced with a lie from Satan. Again, using Adam and Eve as examples, they were fed the lie that what God said really need not be heeded. James 1: 14-15 talks about how we are “lured” by our own evil desires. (“but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”) A ‘lure’ is a kind of bait. What bait is Satan using to fish for you? It could be negative things from your past that contribute to poor self-esteem and discouragement or even positive things that get twisted to bring about negative fruit like egotism, arrogance, and pride.
Disobedience and defeat. What gets our attention shapes our attitudes and our attitudes become our actions. The best time to win the battle with temptation is before it begins. Psalm 119: 112
Focus our mind on the right things. Take captive, bring under control, conquer every thought and make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10: 3-5. (“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”) We challenge every stronghold based on a lie we have bought into, like these things are going to bring you more satisfaction than following what God has laid out as good for you; or God doesn’t love you or doesn’t care about you or won’t be with you ALWAYS. Recognize these lies and reject them.
How do we do that—take control of our minds which results in taking control of our actions?
Think about Jesus .2 Timothy 2:8. Hebrews 12:3. You are what you eat. Your mind is what it ingests too. If you focus on Jesus, you will become more like him. Again, feed your mind the truth found in God’s Word.
Think about others. Get out of your own head and turn your attention to how you can help others. Philippians 2:4; Hebrews 10:24
Think about eternity. Let heaven and things of God fill your heart and mind. Colossians 3:2; 1 Corinthians. 2:9. Be so heavenly minded, that you ARE of earthly good. Remember that all that’s here and all you’re experiencing right now is not all there is!
After you have taken all these steps, if you are still feeling overwhelmed, and lost in the woods of depression and despair, or having trouble getting control of your thoughts and mind, please seek help! Sometimes all we need is a little help from our friends. Sometimes we need to involve professionals who are trained to walk people through the darkness to the light. It’s ok to not be ok. It’s just not ok to stay that way.
Make up your mind to change your mind. In other words, change your mind, in order to change your mind, and transform your life. Amen.
** This series has been inspired by and adapted from work done by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and is about our potential and possibilities in God with an eye to making the best of the rest of our lives.