Living Life Over Before It’s Over, Pt. 8
Study Guide, February 21, 2016 – Pastor Clay Olsen
Prov 4:20-23- “My son, pay attention to what I say. Listen closely to my words. Don’t let them out of your sight. Never stop thinking about them. These words are the secret of life and health to all who discover them. Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.” ERV
‘Be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life’. Isn’t it ironic that one of the disciplines that people tend to think least about is this ‘discipline of thinking’? In fact, no doubt the most undisciplined area of life in people is this area of the thought life. And we’re not talking about imagination and creativity or wonder and reflection and all of these great capacities that God equipped us with and intended for us to use. We’re talking about the human habit of just regularly resorting to the practice thinking according to natural Humanism and falsehood instead of thinking according to righteousness and truth, and having a disciplined thought life; letting righteousness and truth guide them in their adventure of imagination and creativity and wonder and reflection and such.
As we have stated before: Life was never intended to be a ‘self-guided tour’. Life was designed to be a ‘Holy Spirit guided tour’. For if God the Holy Spirit does not guide your steps in righteousness and truth, beginning with guiding your thoughts, then you will surely fall into the ditch of Humanism and falsehood time and again in your walk of life.
Remember, the wisest man who ever lived said: “Be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.” Proverbs 4:23 (Solomon)
A recent article was praising what they thought were some great thoughts about life, like:
‘Leap and the Universe will catch you’…I’m not sure about the Universe, but the ground will sure catch you. Another one was ‘Make today so awesome that yesterday gets jealous’…I did like this one about the world in which we live: ‘You live, you learn, you Upgrade!’ Actually, the Bible is the ultimate and final upgrade for life. And this one was pretty good: ‘Laugh loudly, laugh often, and most important – laugh at yourself.’ Right, take life seriously, but take yourself lightly. And then there was this one: ‘Change your thoughts and you’ll change the world.’ Now they’re on to something!
So people can come up with some helpful and positive principles for living. That’s fine. But God’s people are called to step it up concerning not only the source from which we are drawing out our principles for living, but also to step it up as to ‘Who’ we are first seeking to please in our lives, our God. And to please our God not only in what we do, but even in what we think. What we are trying to get to is what the Psalmist got to in how he managed his thought life: “May my words and thoughts please You. Lord, you are my Rock—the one who rescues me. Ps 19:14 ERV So the first question we need to be asking ourselves about our words and even our thoughts is not are these good thoughts for living, but are these thoughts pleasing to God? Are not only the works of my hands, but also the meditations of my heart, or my thoughts, pleasing in the sight of my God? The Psalmist reveals to us that the Biblical discipline and goal for our thinking is to be this: ‘PGF’, or: ‘Please God First‘. Having ‘God Pleasing Thoughts’ is what we are to set as our goal of our thought life. Remember, words and thoughts are ‘deeds’ just as are actions and works. Our thoughts are ‘deeds of the mind’ and these ‘deeds of the mind’ are to be disciplined as much as our actions and works are to be disciplined.
Now, we are certainly free to think and do as we choose, however, we will be held accountable to God for what we have chosen to think and do. Remember, we reap what we sow…and that includes our thoughts. Free range chickens are good, but ‘free range thinking’ is not good! The Apostle Paul pointed this out as clearly as it could be stated: Phil 4:8-9- “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and excellent, and are worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” NLT
Paul describes having a disciplined thought life, or having a planned thought life. And if there is one area of life most of us need to focus on living out before our life is over it’s right here in practicing or developing a ‘Thinking Plan’…one that is guided by the ‘Thinking Plan’ that God has outlined for us here in Philippians 4 and elsewhere. In fact, this is how the book of Proverbs starts; by calling for us to develop this thinking plan in order to develop our mind the right way, or the ‘righteous way’. Prov 1:1-3- “These are the proverbs of Solomon, the son of David and king of Israel. They will help you learn to be wise, to accept correction, and to understand wise sayings. They will teach you to develop your mind in the right way.” ERV
What is the implication from this? The implication is that if we do not learn from our Maker how to think wisely and to be teachable and to seek understanding and to commit to this habit for our minds, then our minds will not develop the right way. In fact, not only will they will develop the wrong way, but they will develop in a ‘harmful’ way…harmful to us as well as to others. Note a later Proverb about this: Prov 15:32- “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself; but if you listen to correction, you grow in understanding.” NLT
How often have you heard the saying, “He’s his own worst enemy”? Well, the thing is, many of us are our own worst enemy, simply because we do not practice a disciplined thought life, and as such our thoughts tend to trample over many good things; trample over the things that we are to be developing or growing in our mind and life. These undisciplined thoughts are like a cattle stampede running through a field of crops…trampling over the things that are true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and excellent, and are worthy of praise.
I was thinking that we all need to learn some ‘Cowboy’ skills so that we can learn to lasso the wild steers and wild horses of our thoughts that are often running around loose in our minds doing more harm that we often realize. We need to learn to break these unbroken thoughts in our minds, and then to simply “run off” from the ranch other critters, like wolves and such; the kind of thoughts that don’t belong there at all. Isn’t that part of the implication we get from 2 Cor 10:5- “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” NASU
So we are to capture and control our thoughts in order to not only have an obedient life, but to have an ‘obedient thought life’. An obedient thought life? My, this concept is simply foreign to the world, isn’t it? Isn’t it odd how the Humanistic mind will practice some form of discipline either in career training or athletic pursuits or personal health goals and such. But when it comes to their thought life, there are no boundaries or disciplines at all! Or, their disciplines are open to all kinds of falsehoods and deceit. And they convince themselves that this habit is okay because they couch it in terms of: “Well, people have to keep an ‘open mind’, you know?” But as has so aptly been said, “Most open minds need to be closed for repairs!” Actually, an ‘Open mind’ is really an ‘Unguarded mind’. And we ought to know by now what the enemy of Man’s mind is trying to do. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy.” John 10:9 NLT When the enemy of souls finds an unguarded mind he steals thoughts of truth, he kills thoughts about real life, and destroys the sensitivities of that person concerning the sovereignty of God over their life. And when you look around at our culture of so-called ‘open-mindedness’, which is simply ‘unguarded minds’…how successful do you think he’s been? How successful have Satan’s tactics been? He’s having his way with so many people, isn’t he?
Also, a so-called ‘Open mind’ is a ‘vulnerable mind’. It is vulnerable to the sicknesses of false teachings and immoral activities. Again, when you look around at our country which has swallowed the lie of keeping a so-called ‘Open mind’, which is really a ‘vulnerable and an unprotected mind’, how successful do you think our enemy has been in infecting those minds with falsehood and immorality? This is part of the reason for the Biblical caution, the neon blinking sign, of “If you reject discipline, you only harm yourself…”!
The Bible doesn’t call for us to have an ‘open mind’, as if we have the ability to discern and decide and to evaluate all truth by our own completely trustworthy judgment. What deception, what arrogance, and what a lie from the pit! No, the Bible calls for us to have a ‘Humble mind’. And a humble mind listens to what God says is the truth about the human mind and heart. It is a striking diagnosis: Jer. 17:9-10- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruits of his deeds.” ESV
What is more deceitful on Earth than the human heart and mind? Nothing! So for any human being to trust in his own heart and mind is the pinnacle of foolishness. But our world, our own culture, says just the opposite. The mantra of nearly all movies, television shows, and songs in our culture is: ‘Trust your own heart’. But God calls out to us with this warning: Prov 28:26- “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, But he who walks wisely will be delivered.” NASU
A humble mind does not trust its own mind or heart to be the standard for discerning truth from error or for judging right from wrong. No, the humble mind looks to God and God’s Word to help him discern truth from error and looks to God and God’s Word to help him judge between right and wrong. The humble mind says “Yes Lord” to this: “Trust the Lord completely, and don’t depend on your own knowledge. With every step you take, think about what the Lord wants, and He will help you go the right way. Don’t trust in your own wisdom, but fear and respect the Lord and stay away from evil. If you do this, it will be like a refreshing drink and medicine for your body.” Prov 3:5-8 ERV
The person you should distrust the most is the one who looks back at you in the mirror each day. We have a mind that is susceptible to great deception and we have a heart in which we are not to trust. But what we also have is we have the Lord as our Savior and the indwelling Holy Spirit as our guide. And He will guide us into all truth, His truth, and into the very mind of Christ. In the Bible we have the mind of Christ. We have the thoughts of God. This is the mind we are to learn from, and His is the heart we are to trust, and His thoughts are the thoughts we are to follow. And our thoughts are to then be taken captive and to be led by God’s Spirit that He has made to indwell us. And when we do this, as the Proverb 3:8 tells us, “it will be like a refreshing drink and medicine for your body.” Or as Jesus put it in His ‘Sermon on the Mount’, this way of thinking and living is what truly causes us to ‘be happy’.
Remember that catchy song a few years ago that was sung by Bob Marley, “Don’t worry…Be happy”? It was a fun little jingle, but the basis for ‘being happy’ was a little hard to figure out, as some of the lyrics to the song said: “Ain’t got no place to lay your head…Somebody came and took your bed…Don’t worry, be happy…The landlord say your rent is late, He may have to litigate…Don’t worry, Be happy…Look at me, I’m happy!”
I guess you can ignore life’s problems, but actually, life is not about ignoring life’s problems… it’s about facing them head on with God’s promises, thinking about life from God’s viewpoint and acting on God’s authority. Again, life is not about going your own way, thinking that is the pathway to happiness. No, you can’t get to the destination of ‘Be Happy’ without taking God’s road of ‘Be Holy’. We should be singing: “Don’t worry…Be Holy…that’s how you, Be happy.” But really, that’s what the ‘Be Happy’ Attitudes are all about. In Matthew 5:3-12 Jesus told us how to be happy: “Happy are the poor in spirit: for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. Happy are those who are sad: for they will be comforted. Happy are the gentle: for the earth will be their heritage. Happy are those whose heart’s desire is for righteousness: for they will have their desire. Happy are those who have mercy: for they will be given mercy. Happy are the clean in heart: for they will see God. Happy are the peacemakers: for they will be named sons of God. Happy are those who are attacked on account of righteousness: for the kingdom of heaven will be theirs. Happy are you when men give you a bad name, and are cruel to you, and say all evil things against you falsely, because of Me. Be glad and full of joy; for great is your reward in heaven: for so were the prophets attacked who were before you.” BBE
So ‘happiness’ is directly connected with ‘holiness’, not only in our words and works, but also in our thoughts; in the discipline of how we think. The key is this: Are we taking our thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ? To live as a disciple of Jesus Christ requires thinking as a disciple of Jesus Christ. It’s joining in with the Psalmist and each day consecrating the words of your mouth and the thoughts of your mind and heart in order to be pleasing to God first. Remember, ‘PGF’! ‘Please God First’! And when your thoughts are pleasing to God, you can be sure they will be pleasing to you, or they will be a blessing to you and also a blessing to others.
God calls us to develop a disciplined thought life, to have a ‘thinking plan’, a Biblical filter through which we can then discern truth from error, and to then judge with righteous judgment, which is using God’s Word and not our own opinions. We are to offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, which includes our minds, so that we will not be conformed to the world around us, but transformed in the renewing of our minds. And in doing so we can be sure that God is well pleased, and that He will gladly lead us in a life of worship and service throughout this life; before our life is over.
Isa 26:3- “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” KJV