A Worldly Mind

Dear BPCWA worshipper, We have been emphasizing the importance of the mind for a Christian from various passages of Scriptures recently. Today, we will touch on another aspect of our minds – what we fill it with.

Living in the world. We spend a lot of time in the world every day. This is natural and inevitable because of life’s duties. God does not expect us to be hermits and isolate ourselves, or we will need go “out of the world” (1Co 5:10). For children, they go through the school system for about 6 hours of the day. For those that work, they typically spend about 7.6 hours a day working, whether from home or at the office. This being so, it does mean that for these hours in the day, the Christians’ minds are occupied with the affairs of the world. The school system will educate the young minds of our children on their school subjects. At the same time, there will be programs that will go beyond the normal academic subjects like English, math, science, etc., into the ideas that they want to inculcate into young minds. Perhaps even outside of school, there are additional programs that our children may have that will continue to fill their minds. Similarly, for the working adult, there may be classes that may be required by the company about the companies’ policies, philosophies, values, and other such programs to guide their thinking processes and work as employees. Even the retiree or mother, though at home, may be reading newspapers, magazines, social media, and other material that affect how they think and view things. Also, they may interact with others during the day as well. There is of course even the radio that we may be filling our minds with. It would mean that at least more than half of our waking hours may be spent thinking about things of the world.

Worldly thoughts make a worldly mind. These inevitable interactions with the world which result from our necessary vocations may not be sinful. God expects us to work, and even says very emphatically “that if any would not work, neither should he eat” (2Th 3:10). It is certainly not sinful to send our children to school. The Lord uses these to build up skills that may also be needed and useful for His work. It is not wrong to interact with others so as to be able to share the gospel with them. But amid all these engagements with the world, we need to be very careful of what we allow into and allow to continue to occupy our minds. This is because even the best of Christians will face the flesh desiring to take control of us, just like the Apostle Paul was very conscious of, “I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me” (Rom 7:21). While the new creation in the Christian desires to be holy, the flesh is still subject to its former lusts. What is the bottom-line issue? The analysis of the cause is not so much just due to just the flesh itself, but the battle for the mind, “But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23).  The more you feed the mind with the world without exercising caution, the more the flesh is fed by what you allow into your mind. You will end up eventually being held captive i.e. being under the leading and control of the flesh because of what the mind feeds on.

The solution to a worldly mind. You can sense the great frustration the Apostle Paul felt when he exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). How can godly desires overcome the fleshly desires? Through the Holy Spirit’s illumination, Paul understood that since the problem starts in the mind, then the solution is to be addressed there also, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Rom 7:25).  What does this verse mean? Paul is not saying that he continues to merely obey God’s laws in his mind and just allows his flesh to continue to serve sin. He is not saying that as long as his mind has the right ideas and desires to obey God’s laws, he can let his flesh do what it wishes at the same time and not be too concerned.  How can Paul possibly thank Christ for that?!  What Paul was thankful to Christ for was that there was spiritual victory in this spiritual warfare. How? As long as we continue to ensure that our minds serve the law of God while living in this flesh of ours, we will keep growing in sanctification rather than sin. What does it mean to have our minds serve the law of God? It means that you are conscious of what your mind is engaged in. The mind serving the law of God is not just about avoiding sin in the mind. But it is an active engagement and occupation of the mind in God’s commandments and ways. It is only by actively filling the mind with God’s Word coupled with a desire to serve the law i.e. subject ourselves to obey what we learn that the Christian overcomes the flesh.  So how do we win the war which is “. . . warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom 7:23)? By not allowing the flesh to go wild and let it feed on whatever it wants to lead you to spend time on, look at, talk about, and listen to. Instead, you must embrace and follow the solution of God’s Word – which is to occupy your mind with God’s law! So, we need to be carefully and honestly watching and regulating what we let our minds be occupied with during the day.  This is because what our minds are engrossed in, we will become servants of. Yes, we need to make a living to care for our family, we need to study, we need to fulfil our home duties, and to take care of our health too. But in doing so, we must not get waylaid and carried away by going beyond what is necessary. Some may oppose such thinking by retorting “Is doing such and such a sin”? The answer is whether the additional that is beyond necessity is heading you towards more thoughts about the world or God. We must realise and balance what we feed our minds with those outside of the necessary, like work and school. It is ultimately filling more of our already filled minds with worldly thoughts and preoccupations. The temporal affairs that we permit into our lives are still to serve our spiritual purpose, i.e., to enable our minds to serve the law of God. A worldly mind is simply a mind that is engrossed with the temporal affairs of this life to the point where the temporal affairs are not serving this spiritual purpose any longer. We certainly need to consider and plan for our daily lives – mothers need to think about the meals for the family and those going to work need to think about what they’re going to wear the next day. So, outside of your work or school hours, how much of the thoughts of your mind are upon the things of this world and how much are upon the things of God? A worker, even after office hours, can be thinking (or worrying) very much about their work. A student, after school hours, can be thinking very much about their studies (or other non-Christian activities that they may have after school). For most of us, even our hobbies are not spiritual in nature. Whatever it may be, the fact is that our thoughts on these things are an indicator of our care and how much we serve them. When we do not moderate and be careful, we can end up serving these fleshly “necessities” to the point that they overtake our minds’ duty to serving God’s law. We can engage unbelievers. But when the engagement becomes an affection that occupies our minds such that we would rather use our minds and thoughts for earthly and carnal engagements with them, then we know what our minds are truly serving. In other words, the more time we spend with unbelievers, the more we will become like them in our thoughts and values. Soon, we will find that serving the law of God is burdensome and without joy.

A worldly mind is not just about desires for the sinful things of the world. It can be just being earthbound and minding the mundane things of life to the point where our minds are what the world makes it. The spiritual mind is about the mind serving the law of God while we continue in our struggles to keep the flesh under control. But when we allow our minds to be mainly occupied with just the mundane and fleshly aspects of life, the latter will eventually become the idols that we serve, and the things that we like and set our affections upon. We become anxious and care for them more than our spiritual priorities. But when we keep our minds on serving the law of God while minding the necessities of life, we will prevent ourselves from developing a worldly mind.

Yours in our Lord’s service,