Reining in the mind

Dear BPCWA worshipper, After last week’s pastoral, have we been more conscious about what has been on our minds? This is a question that has many implications on our holiness, our walk, and our testimony before man. And most surely, it has a significant impact on our love for God. If we can have sinful thoughts without even performing the act, then we cannot fulfill God’s injunction, “Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1Pe 1:16) without minding our minds. This is because holiness is not just doing the external act. Importantly, we will also not be loving God with “all our mind” (Mk 12:30). It is therefore important that we consciously think about what we fill our minds with each moment of each day. Let’s consider how easy it is for our minds to be negatively affected, and what we can do about that.

Ease of feeding our minds today. I wish to visit the verse we mentioned last week, “GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” (Ge 6:5).  If this wickedness in the thoughts of man was so before the age of the internet, access of media devices to mass media, and availability of all these to practically all ages, then how much more easily is evil encouraged and propagated today into the minds of the young and elderly alike! The ease of electronic access to vile material is unparalleled. Through it, all manner of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life are fed to our minds. And all these permeate our thoughts through what we hear, see, and read. Most frighteningly, they not only occur throughout the entire day through the carnality around us but they are fed to our minds without us realising. Social media feeds our fleshly lusts and our pride. Contents are created to appeal to sinful lusts because such topics are bound to get high hit rates. Moreover, search suggestions help you to find the content the promoters want you to see, even if you’re just idly scanning through them.

Careful consciousness of the dangers needed. Hence, be careful of getting ensnared in them because you think, “I know what I’m doing. I know right from wrong, and I know my boundaries.” But God warns, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12). I am not for a moment suggesting that we isolate ourselves from the world around us. But Christians can dismiss far too easily the effects these have on their minds. Job understood this when he said, “I made a covenant with mine eyes” (Job 31:1). What enters your eyes feeds and moulds your thought life.  How do you think fashion becomes fashionable except through seeing? What you see frequently in your mind often eventually becomes the way you want to be seen. Also, what you see of vile and lewd things are difficult to unsee and they become trouble to your mind. Then there is what you hear which also feeds our mind. Speech writers and marketing companies are used heavily in media because the world knows that speech influences and shapes thinking and desires. For example, you see how anger and hate are easily stirred up and fanned by what people say, whether verbally or in writing. So, Proverbs 22:24-25 wisely warns us to stay away and “Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: 25 Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” Your mind becomes what you feed it with. And your character is formed by what your mind is filled with. Garbage in, garbage out, as the world puts it. When you allow it to be filled with the materialism of the world, you will think like the world. When our minds feed on unfounded evil thoughts, should we be surprised when we are cynical, distrustful, vengeful, and filled with hatred and negativity? We must consciously and actively rein in our minds. Let us endeavour to do, as a hymn goes “Help me the first approach to feel, Of pride or wrong desire; To catch the wandering of my will, And quench the kindling fire.”

Active reining in of your mind. Although this is close to the “Renewing the mind” topic that we have been looking at during Seniors Fellowship, it is in fact a subject for everyone, whether you are a youth, adult, or senior. Anyone who is concerned about being holy must be concerned about renewing the mind. Renewing the mind begins with reining in our minds before we can reign over it to renew it, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1Pet 1:13). 1) Rein in with God’s laws. “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word” (Ps 119:9). It is through “the washing of water by the word” (Eph 5:26) whereby we are sanctified and cleansed. God’s Word has a sanctifying influence in the mind and heart of a believer. God’s Word must be a major part of our daily lives against the swirling carnality that we are bombarded with. If we let our minds flit around with distractions, God’s Word will never settle and reign within. The Christian who sincerely proclaims, “O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day.” (Ps 119:97) will have the testimony that “I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word” (Ps 119:101). Notice also that reining in the mind is a process that involves our personal conscious and deliberate actions of living in the Word and acting according to it rather than letting our thoughts run wild and behave without thought. 2) Rein in by fighting against sin. Remember, sin begins in the thoughts of our mind.  Our minds are spiritual battlefields. Satan may shoot his evil arrows into our minds, but man is always responsible for his own evil because he has let that dart stay in his mind and allowed his lust to feed on it. Stay away from temptations and not let our minds flirt with them because “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” (Jas 1:14-15). This requires us to rein in our minds and not to allow it to wander in the same direction that the evil thought is drawing us. We must be sensitive to sin and its corrupting influences as soon as we realise it. 3) Rein in through the means of prayer. Let us not forget last year’s theme that prayer is where the battle is truly fought and is what matters the most. Christ who “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) invites us to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16). 4) Rein in under God’s reign. As we do our part in reining in our thoughts through the day, ensuring ongoing engagement with the Word of God, and praying earnestly for victory, there is yet a most crucial part to ensure. We must depend on and be conscious of the Holy Spirit’s power and working. Furthermore, we must yield to His workings. The Holy Spirit who “will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (Joh 16:8) brings to your mind God’s Word and prompts you of the danger of walking into sin. Yielding means to give in to His prompting instead of giving in to what our minds lead us to desire and want to do. Will you yield to His prompting or grieve Him by ignoring His work? Instead of yielding to sin, we must yield to the Holy Spirit and follow after righteousness instead. Without yielding to God, we can never fully rein in and reign over our minds, because it is a spiritual battle only fought by God’s power.  You will know His power only if you yield because when “ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Ro 8:13). External actions of merely going through the motions but not yielding the mind to God’s Word are fruitless. When our minds are not resolved to yield to God’s Supreme authority to obey Him fully in all things, we will fall again and again.

I hope these 2 pastorals have made each one of us think very carefully about what we allow our minds to feed on through the day. If we are not circumspect, we can find ourselves fighting off sinful thoughts or the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life because we allowed them to enter our minds unreined. We end up needing to struggle with things we need not have struggled with if we only prevented ourselves from allowing it to dwell in our minds in the first place. The purity of our thoughts and desires must be guarded with great care in what we allow ourselves to think, hear, see, and experience. We have no one to blame except ourselves when we struggle with our thought lives because we allow ourselves to be careless in engaging our minds in what we should not. Instead, God gives us the solution of what we should do.

Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Yours in our Lord’s service,