Crossways Concepts

Because it is all about the cross...

Insights from the scripture as lead by the Holy Spirit

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Check Your Mind At The Door Of The Church?

As a youth, I was convinced that the empirical law was the right tool for establishing reality in my world.  The empirical law is the scientific approach to observing the world.  It says that all things should be observable by anybody and that things should be reproducible.  Empiricists believe that all 'real' things in the world should have these characteristics.  Things, like God, that don't have these characteristics, therefore, don't exist.

For me to accept God in the first place, required that I set aside this belief.  This was only one of many things that I 'knew' that had to be set aside in my walk of faith.  The book of Hebrews describes faith this way:

Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

This verse describes faith relative to things that can't be verified, because if something is clearly verifiable, then faith has no purpose.  What faith do you need to believe in the computer monitor in front of you?  None.  But, to believe in God, which many people will tell you don't exist, requires a lot of faith.

To exercise faith may require that you ignore what you learned in school, ignore what people will tell you is the “truth”, and ignore what you see in the media.  In addition, it may require you to suspend logic.

God and Jesus just don't really make any logical sense from a human standpoint.  For example, logic would ask, “why would an all powerful god have to send his son to die, couldn't He just speak it and have salvation accomplished?”  Yet, we aren't God.  The creation can't possibly understand the mind of the Creator.  Insisting on answers to questions like this just leads a person away from God, by undermining their faith and away from what is really important.

Since God works by a logic that is beyond our understanding, it looks all wrong to us.  In order to trust Him we have to ignore what logic tells us.

The Bible tells us how we should approach matters of faith like a child (Matthew 21:31-32).  A child is good at “just believing”, not questioning, not doubting, not felling that they have to understand; just simple 100% believing.    The challenge for us is to believe like a child even though we have all this knowledge, experience and information supplied by the world.

As an example, when somebody we love contracts cancer, it is easy to listen to the doctors saying that there is no hope.  It is easy to believe the science that says that these cancer cells don't go away.  It is easy to believe, based on our prior experiences that cancer is a death sentence.  What is hard, is to trust in God.

So, we might find ourselves half-heartedly praying for healing, while at the same time we are sure that the situation is hopeless.  James said:

Let him ask in faith without doubting.  For the doubter is like the surging sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.  (James 1:6-7)

The need is to trust in the Lord is challenged by so many aspects of life in this world.  When life turns upside-down we want to do something about it.  To stop and simply trust in the Lord is like trying to stop a sneeze, it just goes against the grain.

When we approach a problem, in this world, we want to analyze it, understand it and dissect it, but this may not be the right approach for matters of God.  So often, seeking God is a matter of the heart and the mind just gets in the way.

I have a friend that is a student at a Christian college.  When I hear about her Christian Theology class and what they do to the Bible, it seems like it ought to be illegal. They slice and chop up God's holy word until it bears no semblance to what God intended.  The dissection they perform on God's word would be like taking a beautiful painting by Monet and grinding up the canvas to see what the powder looks like.  But, their hyper-analysis comes out of attempting to seek God using the same mental tools as we approach earthly-problems.

This approach excludes the loving Holy Spirit.  He lives inside us for the express purpose, “to teach you all things” (John 14;26). The hyper-analytical approach also does not recognize that God's ways are above ours and that we are not capable of understanding Him, except as He reveals Himself through the Holy Spirit. (see John 5:39-40)

For me as a scientific, analytical-type guy, this was an incredibly difficult lesson.  My brain was telling me that I had to understand God.  I had to suppress that instinct so I could simply love God, allow Him to love me and let Him have control of my life.  Until I could stop trying to understand and just live by faith, I could never get really close to God.  Closeness to God doesn't happen through great knowledge and intelligence, it happens through child-like faith.

Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned and revealed them to infants.” (Matthew 11:25)

Being a Christian is simple.  That very simplicity has been a trap used by Satan, because it is so easy to make seeking the Lord seem complicated.  However, soon after heading down that road, you will find that you are no longer seeking the Lord, that you are just seeking elusive knowledge and understanding, through mental exercises.  Why is it that we can happily use a computer all day long without understanding how it does what it does, but yet we feel compelled to try to understand our Creator?  This process of making God complicated can totally waylay any real seeking.

Our own mind, intellect and knowledge can interfere with our right-relationship with the Lord.  We can take our reality from what we see and hear.  We can allow our learning, whether through experience or formal training, to limit our relationship with God.  We can also allow our minds to over-analyze and over-complicate the simple truths of God.  These things all can serve to get us off-track with God.

So, what are we supposed to do?  Are we supposed to switch off our minds when we enter church?  Aren't these the minds that God gave us to use?

We are expected to use our minds, but also expected to be in control of our mind.  Where our thoughts go, can either make our mind good soil for the Lord to plant His seeds of faith or can be inhospitable for faith.  To make our minds a good place for faith we need to promote the thoughts that are compatible with faith and discourage those thoughts that are contrary to faith.  This is accomplished by consciously screening our thoughts.  The scripture talks about how we can take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).

Some people feel that they can't control where their minds go, but that is only half true, because we do it all the time.  Although stray thoughts of all sorts may pop into our minds (like doing something illegal to fix finances or causing harm to somebody that made us angry), we can choose whether we dwell on those thoughts or not.  We know that dwelling on such thoughts is dangerous.  In this exact same way, if we recognize that certain lines of thought are bad for us spiritually, we can choose to substitute positive thoughts for unhealthy thoughts.

Consider these influences on our minds:
  • Worry is contrary to God's faith.  When we dwell on our problems we are soaking ourselves in the things of this world.  Worry drives out thoughts of God by making us focus on the bad instead of Him and His goodness.
  • Monitor what goes on inside our heads.  Dwelling on inappropriate thoughts is as wrong as turning them into action.  Jesus describes this in Matthew 5:21-30.
  • Praise builds faith.  We need constant reminders (especially in times of trouble and stress) of who God is and how much He cares for His children.  Our prayers and songs of praise reconnect us with the True God.
  • Immersion in Him.  Spend extra time in His word and prayer.  This time allows Him to fill us with faith.
  • Keep the world's influences in their place.  While we have little choice about living in this world, we can choose to minimize the time spent consuming the world's media and avoid those relationships that pull us away from God.  We are careful about what our children are exposed to, we need to do the same with ourselves.

We can choose what our minds accomplish.  They can be a tool that God can use to transform our life for real, eternal accomplishments or our mind can be something that just pulls us down.  The difference between the two options is a matter of control, do we control our minds or let them control us?

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Lexington, Ky