The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. Romans 8:6 NIV
Years ago in my search for fulfillment and truth, I became involved in the Zen Buddhist philosophy of meditation. The idea was that our minds are like monkeys jumping around from one idea to another. In order to obtain true peace, we need to completely control our minds by clearing them of everything.
I tried this practice only to become more distressed and surrounded by darkness than ever before. In fact, most of those around me who practiced this idea were also the most miserable people I knew. I thank my patient Savior who allowed me to experience this heartache in order to push me toward the truth of the Bible.
Similar philosophies are still popular now. We hear a lot about meditation and how good it is for us to clear our minds of all the stress and worries of the world. While this is true for the most part, what we meditate upon is extremely essential.
Set your mind on the things that are above, not on the things that are on the earth. Colossians 3:2
It is completely possible to control our thoughts, and what we think is the key to becoming a Christian. That is why the Zen way of meditating is wrong. It is impossible for us to empty our minds. It teaches empty-headedness which causes nothing but trouble.
Instead we are to fill our minds with the things of God, and He lets us know this by this verse in Colossians. Even the very first words that Jesus uttered when He began to publicly preach were about how we think. Here’s what He said, “Change your mind! For the kingdom of heaven is near.” You can find this in Matthew chapter 4 verse 17. I did not use a specific Bible version because almost every one of them uses the word repent, and this word is unfortunately very misunderstood.
The actual Greek word means "to change your mind" and that is what repent means. Most of us think that it means to be sorry for what we have done and to try not to do it again. This understanding makes the idea of repenting to be something that is difficult to do. We could be very sorry that what we have done has caused hurt, but we don’t necessarily dislike what we have done. We just dislike the outcome. This makes stopping the behavior difficult.
But changing the way we think toward anything including our behavior makes stopping or starting anything easy.
Let me give you an example: I used to love beef jerky. It was one of my favorite snacks. We would buy it every time we found it on sale. Well, one day I sat down to enjoy a bag of jerky while reading. I reached into the bag and took out a piece. It tasted funky, so I looked into the bag….and almost had a heart attack. There was a large and absolutely disgusting white spider’s nest right in the middle of the bag attached to a big clump of jerky! It was the grossest thing I had ever seen. Needless to say, my mind was instantly changed regarding beef jerky. It’s been several years, and I have never even had the least desire to have any ever again.
This is what changing our minds is all about. If we change our minds, then what we do will always follow suit. It’s very easy and really the only thing that Jesus requires of us. He even said so. Christianity is an easy faith, but we tend to make it difficult. This includes when we try to give up or start things that we haven’t changed our minds about.
Let’s face it, we never do anything without thinking about it first. That is why what we think matters. Following God requires us to think about Him more and more every day. He wants all things God to consume us. Do you know that God wants us to become fanatics about our faith?
You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You. Isaiah 26:3 ESV
Our minds are to be constantly on God. But we have a tendency to shy away from this because of the bad reputation that comes with being a God fanatic, better known as a Jesus Freak.
Those who are accused of being Christian fanatics are thought of as religious nuts and weirdos. The people who display the worst behavior in the name of Jesus are always the ones who are used as an example. Yet, no one seems to notice that these bad behaving people are not following the commands of Jesus. They are not Jesus Freaks, they are just acting like freaks and ruining the name of Jesus. Of course, we don’t want to be like that.
But when we do try to do what is right and follow God’s commands, we will often be lumped in with these people. This is to be expected.
Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 2 Timothy 3:12
God is letting us know that people will give us a hard time when we want to live for Him, and the more we live for Him, the more we will be persecuted. So what’s the answer? Should we take the easy way out and just kind of live for Him to make others happy? Of course not!
The number one way that most people will give us a hard time is to make fun of us. There is an account of this very thing happening in the Bible to the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts. Paul is defending himself before a king and the governor who is in the hearing interrupts Paul’s defense and calls him crazy. But Paul doesn’t back down. Here is just a portion of the conversation:
As he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are crazy! Your great learning is driving you insane!” But he said, “I am not crazy…” Acts 26:24-25a
Paul stands his ground when he is being embarrassed in front of many high-ranking people. And he even has the audacity to say that he wishes everyone in the room were just like him! So, when this happens to us, just remember what Paul did, and do not back down from doing what is right.
We also have to remember that being a fanatic is not always a bad thing. Athletes devote their entire lives to training for a sport with little room for much else. When they achieve their goal of winning a medal or moving on to professional sports, these people are applauded and admired for their devotion to their goals. They are never made fun of. We as Christians should take our relationship with God with the same attitude of these people. Again, changing our minds about being a fanatic for God is all it takes. When we think that it is a good thing, we will be more apt to do it.
A very practical application of changing our minds toward God would be to care more about what He thinks than what others think. Reading the Bible to get to know Him better will push our thinking in that direction.
What are some thoughts you've had in the past that you now realize are wrong?
Are you willing to change your mind if you realize something is not right in your relationship with God?