(PART 8) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
(PART 8) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
How Can I Avoid Influences That Corrupt My Mind?
In an earlier chapter, we talked about addressing the weaknesses of the flesh. Each of us has a sin nature (the flesh) that has affections [innate forces resident in the evil nature; propensities (a natural inclination or tendency)]48 and lusts (forces reaching out to find expression in the gratification of these desires; to the goings forth of the soul towards objects which it is wrong to pursue).49
We mentioned that now that we are Christians we need to learn how to put ourselves under subjection to the Holy Spirit so that we are no longer under the power of the sin nature. What we found out is that this occurs when our minds are renewed by the Word of God and the union of the Holy Spirit with our human spirits. The renewal of the mind relates to putting off the thoughts of the old man and putting on the thoughts of the new man. This new way of thinking is found in the Word of God and hopefully, is disseminated to us by the leadership of the church we are attending. Therefore, our responsibility is to appropriate these new thoughts and have them be the new way that we think about ourselves and others.
Some examples of this new way of thinking are as follows:
- Thoughts of crediting someone with evil should be replaced with thoughts of believing the best about them unless positive evidence indicates otherwise.
- Thoughts of being critical of others because they were not doing things the way we thought they should be doing them should be replaced with thoughts of minding our own business.
- Thoughts of lust toward members of the same or opposite sex should be replaced with thoughts of seeking to save that which is lost and to know no person after their flesh.
- Thoughts of addiction should be replaced with thoughts of attending the gathering of the saints for the benefits of hearing God’s transforming Word and being impacted by the Holy Spirit’s presence.
- Thoughts of getting even with someone who has done us wrong should be replaced with thoughts of praying to God for the removal of the divine punishment that might come upon them so that they might not perish, but rather for God to open up an opportunity for us to share the Gospel with them.
- Thoughts of slander toward someone who is saying bad things about us should be replaced with thoughts of speaking only of those things which we can commend in them.
Hopefully, as we begin each day, we will put on these new thoughts that provide for us a divine perspective in those areas of weakness that have inhibited us on a day to day basis in the past. As we go about our days, there will be many influences coming at us from the affections and lusts of other people’s sin nature, whether by our personal interactions with them or through media entertainment. I call this life.
We talked in a previous chapter about addressing personal associations, but what about addressing media entertainment? This could come in the form of movies, television, the internet, video games, DVDs, etc. In most cases, what we hear and see in regards to media entertainment is projected to us from the perspective of the sin nature, unless we are watching a broadcast that features a Spirit-filled Christian, probably one in a leadership capacity, conveying to us the Word of God in the power of the Spirit.
Before I was saved, I couldn’t seem to get enough of three specific genres in television. These were science fiction, mysteries, and sports, in particular, wrestling. After I was saved, and for many years after that, I still watched shows in these genre areas without discretion. As you know, when we watch TV our minds usually are in what I would call the passive mode. We take in what we see and hear and in many instances without regard to what is being said or to the images that are being displayed. After these shows were over, some of the thoughts and visual images would come back and replay themselves over and over in my mind. Sometimes, they would trigger my weaknesses, and before I knew it, I would be entertaining memories in this regard. Instead of finding myself meditating on God’s Word, I was now in subjection to the affections and lusts of the flesh once again.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do thethings that ye would. (Galatians 5:17)
However, as I continued to attend worship services and hear messages about the new person I had become, I began to notice that the thoughts of the flesh and the thoughts of the Spirit were contrary to one another. If our minds entertain earthly thoughts and images, then this restrains the influences of the Spirit. Likewise, if our minds entertain spiritual thoughts and images, this restrains the influences of the sin nature. Being opposite in their nature, the flesh and the Spirit are enemies to one another.
With this in mind, I had to make some adjustments as to how I was going to choose to let my mind be influenced. Some of you who are reading this might say, “Oh no, here we go again with legalism; don’t do this and don’t do that.” What is legalism? Legalism is a form of religion that tries to please God by what we do. Under this condition, there is no empowerment by the Holy Spirit, and possibly no indwelling Spirit.
In contrast, spirituality or godliness is having fellowship with God the Father. When we repent to Him and believe in Jesus we receive the indwelling Spirit and are said to have a relationship with God. How is spirituality or godliness developed? Godliness is developed by learning how to have fellowship with God the Father which is through the perspective of the Word of God and ministry of the Holy Spirit. Under this condition, the emphasis is not on doing this or that for God but is on having a change of mind that will provide for us the proper motivation in the actions that follow. I hope this helps to clarify the differences between legalism and godliness.
For me, it didn’t mean that I had to give up media entertainment in its entirety. I suppose I could have, but remember, we still have to live here on this earth. I don’t believe that we are to stick our heads in the sand and be oblivious to everything around us. If that were the case, we might as well go somewhere in the wilderness where no one else lives, build a log cabin, and be removed from society. But remember, we are to be lights that shine in the world and not lights that are to be taken out of it.
What I needed to do was apply discretion and not just total abandonment of media entertainment. I still watch sports, but simply not as much as I used to. The only sport that I am devoted to is football, as I watch my favorite team on a weekly basis. As far as wrestling goes, I gave this up entirely. I realized that the violent images of men toward men, women toward women, men toward women, along with the verbal abuse that was scripted from one wrestler to the other were things that I no longer wanted to see and hear.
Once in a while, I might watch a sci-fi movie. As far as mysteries go, I don’t watch them anymore. I find that there is an infatuation with violence and sex in most of these kinds of movies where people are being exploited and abused by others. Once in a while, there will be a series that will portray someone’s life that I might find interesting. I watch the news to keep up with current events both locally, nationally, and internationally. And last, I no longer play video games. I used to like the First Person Shooters, but these engage the mind in a kind of live or die mentality.
We could extend this conversation by including some other topics. For example, what kind of clothing is appropriate for Christians to wear? Should a believer abstain from drinking alcohol? Is a Christian allowed to gamble? In our attempts to answer any of these questions, what we need to do is ask ourselves if the decision is going to bring us into subjection to thoughts and images that will eventually corrupt our minds?
I hope this helps you in your walk with God. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that we should separate ourselves from everyone and everything in the world. What it does mean is that we should apply the discretion which we receive from the Word of God to the choice of our associations, where we go to church, and to the influences of the thoughts and images that we allow to enter our minds.
Before we close this chapter, let’s take a look at a couple of sections of Scripture in this regard.
Please go to Colossians.
Set your affection on things above
Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
We are commanded to choose to set our minds on heavenly realities and values, which should be influenced by the presence and power of the risen Christ, and not set our minds on earthly realities and values. On which of these heavenly realities and values should our minds be centered? Some might say that if our minds are occupied with heavenly realities and values, then we are of no earthly good. Just because we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we can’t own a home. Just because we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we can’t own a car. Just because we are Christians, this doesn’t mean we can’t have a savings account.
Being Christian means that we have a new nature, a new mind, and a new perspective about ourselves and others which serves as the catalyst for the Holy Spirit to empower us, to guide us, and to teach us. As we choose to listen to the transforming Word in the power of the Spirit, we will have divine discretion concerning what we should and should not allow to influence our minds.
Let’s take a look at Galatians 6
Reap life everlasting
Galatians 6:6, 8
Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things. (Galatians 6:6)
For if we are so entirely devoted to the flesh (to its bodily appetites or natural desires), as to direct all our thoughts to its interests or
convenience,50 then we shall receive the physical and moral decay or rottenness that follows sins of the flesh.51 But if we expend thought, time, effort, money, upon the furthering in ourselves and in others of the fruit of the Spirit, we shall receive from that Holy Spirit, to whose guidance dwelling within we resign ourselves of that quickening of our whole being, body, soul, and spirit, for an everlasting existence in glory.52
In this instance, the apostle Paul is saying to the Galatian believers that those, who are being taught in the word, should support financially those who teach.
For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. (Galatians 6:8)
I am using the idea of sowing to the Spirit in relation to financial giving as an application concerning what we as believers should allow to influence our minds. Discretion comes from sowing to the Spirit. As we choose to put on the mind of Christ, the fruit of the Spirit and the guidance by the Spirit will be operative in our lives. Because of this, we can go to God the Father in prayer and request assistance to help us discern what thoughts and images we should entertain and those that we shouldn’t.
Finally, I would like to leave you with a couple of verses from the book of Proverbs.
So is he...
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
For as a person is in his heart, so is he in action. The person being referred to here is portrayed as a host, who watches every morsel which his guest eats, and grudges what he appears to offer so liberally.53 He estimates his meats and the cost of the entertainment, more than he does you; and is ill at ease if you eat much of his food.54 What we who are Christians think in our hearts will determine who we are in our actions.
This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. (James 3:15)
If in your thoughts you find yourself contemplating a desire to physically assault someone who has said something that you didn’t like, wanting to ruin someone’s reputation by making up false stories about them, taking what someone else owns, having sexual relations outside of your marriage, going over to someone’s house to hang around with those who are knowingly engaging in addictive behavior (e.g. alcohol, drugs, pornography, etc.), or committing fornication with someone of the same or opposite sex, then what you are allowing to influence your mind is wisdom from below. Such wisdom is earthly, sensual (unspiritual), and devilish (demon-like).
But the wisdom that is from above … (James 3:17)
If this is the state of your mind, what you need is an increase of divine influence. This can come through personal study and attentiveness to the gatherings of the saints for the purpose of hearing the word of God and being impacted by the presence of the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, if you notice that in your thoughts you are contemplating wanting to see your neighbor respond to the Gospel, bringing an unbeliever to a Bible study or church worship, thanking God for your family and all that he has provided to you, asking God to help you address certain areas of weakness, speaking good things to others who have spoken bad things about you, being a witness of Christ by doing good toward those who don’t like you, trying to arrange a home visitation to help those who are enslaved by an addiction, etc., then what you are allowing to influence your mind is wisdom that is from above.
… is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (James 3:17)
Those are spiritual thoughts which are pure (free from self-interest), peaceable (helping others settle their grievances), gentle (the kind of attitude that is tolerant and accepting of other people's different ways), easy to be entreated (someone who is always willing to listen to other people's views and ready to be persuaded), full of mercy (showing compassion to those in trouble and in need), good fruits (exhibiting just, benevolent, and kind actions toward others), without partiality (not being partial toward others), and without hypocrisy (not hiding or concealing anything that is wrong). If this is the state of your mind, then you are at a good place in your walk with God.
51Robertson’s New Testament Word Pictures Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 12 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
54Jamieson, Faucet, and Brown Commentary Pc Study Bible version 5, 2005, 13 Feb. 2016 ˂http://www.biblesoft.com>.
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