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Prayer involves transformed passions. In prayer, real prayer, we begin to think God’s thoughts after Him: to desire the things He desires, to love the things He loves, to will the things He wills.
-Richard J. Foster
What if the government could read your thoughts and began punishing you based on your thought life? In the book 1984 by George Orwell, the “Thought Police” do just that. Orwell’s book (at the time) projected into a future in which the government controls every aspect of people’s lives. All of it. Even their thoughts. It is the job of the Thought Police to uncover and punish thought-crime and thought-criminals. They use psychology and omnipresent surveillance (such as telescreens) to search, find, monitor and arrest members of society who could potentially challenge authority and the status quo, even if only by thought, hence the name Thought Police. They use terror and torture to achieve their ends.
Orwell’s novel has persisted (though the year 1984 has come and gone) because it plays on our deepest fears and anxieties. What if someone could read your mind? What if they could know your thoughts and then proceed to punish you for having them? Suddenly, you are completely exposed. All of your private thoughts are now public fodder. How would you feel?
Chances are you would be horrified and shocked. We fool ourselves into believing that our thought life doesn’t matter much because no one else knows about it. Nothing is further from the truth! Rick Warren says, “ If you want to change your life and your behavior, you need to start with changing your mind. Your mind is like the steering wheel of a car…it directs the course of your life.”
Many of us are seriously impacted, often negatively, by poor thinking. This type of thinking increases self-doubt, negativity, shame, false beliefs and lies.
It even permits ideas and thoughts from the enemy to permeate our daily lives. As Christians, we are called to think differently, to think like Christ. In Romans 12:2, Paul said, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
We tend to remember the negative, those horrible phrases that others have said to us. For example: “You won’t amount to anything.” “You are fat.” “You’re ugly/stupid/worthless/dumb.” A lot of us were told things that simply aren’t true. The truth of who you are lies in who God says you are! It’s time to rely on His Word. Paul spoke to the church in Corinth and he told them “… do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)
This weekend, Tim Butler suggested that maybe you’re thinking that once the world around you changes, you’ll find peace and happiness. Rick Warren says, “I believe God is more interested in my changing the way I think about my life than He is in Him changing my circumstances.” Your thought life matters. Your thoughts control everything you do. Allow God to transform your life by transforming your mind.
MONDAY — Your Mind is a Battleground for Sin
Big Point: There is a war for your mind and victory is within your grasp.
Imagination is the hotbed where this sin is too often hatched. Guard your thoughts, and there will be little fear about your actions.
Whether you are aware or not, there is a constant battle being waged in your mind. Every day, sin wages war on your thought life. The battle isn’t one we can fight with weapons or brute strength; only our mind can do the work. The mind can be influenced by things that we see and hear. All temptation starts in the mind. Much like war, you may not be aware when the enemy is preparing to strike. Because of this, you need to be prepared.
So, how do you prepare to fight an enemy you cannot see? Step one involves making yourself aware of the battle itself. God has given you everything you need in order to stand up to temptation and sin. At some point, you need to make a choice. You can either do the right thing or the wrong thing. Many people don’t even realize they have a choice. If you want to stand up strong against sin, you need to consciously choose to do so.
Pastor and author Rick Warren says, “When we talk about the sins of pride, lust, bitterness, hatred, unrighteous anger, fear, resentment, envy or worry, where are those things? They’re all in your mind. If you can learn how to manage your mind you’ve learned how to manage your life. This is where the battleground is.”
READ and THINK… What does the Bible say?
1. The following proverb was written by Solomon, known during his life as the wisest man to ever live. Solomon wrote and compiled most of his proverbs early in his life. Later in life, he had 700 wives and 300 concubines that led his heart astray. Clearly, listening to his own advice would have been helpful.
Question: How do we guard our hearts and remain on the correct path?
Proverbs 4:23 (New Living Translation) Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.
2. Paul wrote nearly half of the New Testament, but he continued to struggle with his own sinful nature. In Romans 7, Paul discusses this internal conflict between good and evil. Just because someone comes to faith in Christ, it doesn’t mean the desire to sin is lessened.
Question: Describe the two powers that waged war in Paul’s mind.
Romans 7:22-23 (New Living Translation) 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
3. Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, which he established during his second missionary journey. This church was surrounded by corruption and Paul wanted to write to them to lead them away from this.
Question: When temptation presents itself, how can one ensure that he or she won’t fall into sin? Why can you never say, “God made me sin”?
1 Corinthians 10:12-13 (New Living Translation) 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. 13 The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.
LIVE… What will you do now?
How would you describe your current thought life? Would you say you are winning the war in your mind against sin? List some examples.
What are some techniques you can use to guard your heart against sin?
Can you relate to the struggle Paul mentioned in Romans 7:22-23? Describe a situation where you currently feel torn between good and evil.
Think about the last time you were tempted. How did you respond? If anything, what might you have done differently?
PRAY… God, what do you want me to know and do?
Ask God to help you recognize and resist temptation. Pray for His guidance and ask for His help in your battle between choosing right and wrong. Pray for an open mind that is ready to listen so you can see the pathway away from sin. Thank Him for being faithful and forgiving in spite of your continued struggles with sin.
Digging Deeper with this week’s teaching pastor:
For the duration of the Transformed series, we are asking groups to use the provided materials rather than a video from our teaching pastors. To download discussion questions or to participate in the Tuesday night iCampus discussion, visit our iCampus page.