A blog series on being Transformed into the Image of Christ
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Philippians 4:8
We play this silly little game in our family which has resulted in many interesting conversations over the years. If one appears to be in deep thought, we quickly say, “What are you thinking about right now?” Ironically, the boys and men appear to be in deep thought, but their answers may be something like food, shoes, a tv show, etc. On the other hand, my and my daughters’ answers are rarely simple or singular. Most of the time I am thinking, “whew, I don’t have time to tell you everything I’m thinking right now.” If I had a penny for every thought that crossed my mind every day... well I would have a truckload of pennies one hour in. Think about all the many thoughts you have had in the past thirty minutes. It could have been what you want for breakfast, a work project, the weather, plans for the day and so many more. Healthline.com shared the results of a recent survey where they found that “people typically have more than 6,000 thoughts per day.” Heck at that rate a penny for my thoughts would offer me over $20,000/year all for just thinking.
Our thoughts may seem meaningless compared to our actions. But the reality is that our actions typically result from our thoughts. Don’t believe me –think through your thoughts again. Think about what resulted from those thoughts. Did they motivate you to act or behave in a particular way?
Here in the book of Philippians, Paul is writing to the Church in Philippi explaining to them the aspects of the Christian life. A great deal of this letter covers the effects that their thoughts and attitudes affect their faith. I would not be hard-pressed to explain to you what is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent things are because my guess is that regardless of what stage of life we are in, they probably have very similar meanings to both of us. Now Paul says that these are the thoughts we think about.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
If your days are anything like mine, some are better than others. There are mornings that from the moment I wake up, I am faced with difficulties. On those days, I find myself having to search hard for true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, and excellent things. And in full transparency, sometimes they just are not on this earth. More times than not, the world outside of my home greets me with everything but that. And for those of you who know much of Paul and his life after his conversion --his life was most definitely not spent playing candy land and eating bon-bons. Therefore, his solution doesn't come from creating the perfect surrounding for ourselves, they instead come from surrounding our circumstances with the truths of the Bible. So when faced with difficult and bothersome thoughts, we set our minds on Christ. We remind ourselves that the reason that we feel so out of place and out of sorts is that we are just visitors on this earth for a short while. Home – well that is a different story. Our eternal home is where we belong. We were not created to find our total happiness and fulfillment in the things that reside on this earth. If that were the case, we would have no craving for something more. That something more is where you set your mind. On the good days and the bad, we rest in the ways of the Lord.
“We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.” 2 Corinthians 10:5-6
You may be thinking, “You have no idea the difficult circumstances or people that I deal with each day.” You are right, I do not know each of your circumstances. I do not know the problems and struggles that you are facing. I do however know that we are all handed our struggles daily just as a result of living in a broken world. Mine may be different than yours and yours different than mine, but the outcome is not dependent on the struggle. Because regardless of what is trying to drag us down and defeat us, we serve a God who is always more powerful than the problem that we are facing. So, what do we do with our negative thoughts that are the result of an unfortunate situation? What do we do when our cravings and desires seem to be winning the tug-of-war match going on in our minds? You take those thoughts captive. Not one or a few – all of them!
Take every thought captive to obey Christ. So, what does this actually mean? Take control of your thinking and hand it over to God. All who have surrendered their lives to Christ have been set free from sin. So, if it is sinful thoughts that you are having, remind yourself that you are no longer a slave to anything, hand those thoughts over to Christ, hold your head high and walk in the freedom that He promises. Maybe it is worry that crowds your every thought. Goodness, I have been there. It is overwhelming. But take those worries and thoughts captive to God and set your mind on the things above.
“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:8-9
Many of you are still probably thinking – “she has no idea how many thoughts run through my head every hour.” Again, you are right, I do not. But I do know that I am just as human as you and we have all established that a penny for our thoughts would probably feed our family for a year if not more. The secret is not removing your thoughts, instead, the secret is replacing the useless negative thoughts with life-giving thoughts. This is a daily process for me, and it is only possible with the living Word of God. We need a solid, steady, and constant source of help to remain steadfast in our thoughts being grounded in the Word.
Memorizing scripture has become necessary in my life. These verses refuel me with life and help me to set my mind on Christ and not the temporary circumstances with which I am dealing. As I say this, I realize that there are people reading this who are probably dealing with circumstances that are truly heartbreaking. The last thing I want to do is attempt to minimize your pain. Your pain is real and most certainly devastating, to say the least. But friend, it is temporary because it is earthly. The things above –they are perfect and eternal. So as much as your current days bring about agony and despair, set your minds and your thoughts on Christ and His beautiful promises of a better day coming for all who have surrendered their lives to Him.
I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word. Psalm 119:15-16
Memorizing scriptures allows us to meditate on them. Meditation, simply put, is acquiring a deeper level of the Bible. When we meditate on Scripture, we do not just read it –we read it and soak up every word as well as make it personal and applicable to our lives. This understanding of scripture allows us to fill our minds with the truths of Christ. It brings us peace amid worry, healing in the broken, joy in the sorrow, and perseverance in the fight.
A transformed life is not inclusive of only our actions and our words. But this new life lived in Christ is about our thoughts too. As a follower of Christ, we must understand the huge part that our thoughts play in our walk with God. Are they thoughts of worry, shame, regret, fear, anger, and guilt? If this is the case, take them captive, and ask God to replace those with the His eternal truths.
My challenge to you today is to really think through the thoughts that you allow to reside in your mind. Your thoughts matter – probably more than you realize. Put away the negative thinking habits and patterns of the past and refuel with God. Get up and let God’s Word saturate your thoughts the very first thing in the morning. This time has a way of weeding out the worries of the world. Memorize and meditate on scripture. It is amazing how His Word springs forth like new life at the exact moment that you need it the most. There is no more effective tool to fight off the enemy than the magnificent Words of our Creator.
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Our Bible Reading plan this week will cover meditation and the importance of our thoughts!
Many of us have mastered the disciplines of gathering as a church on Sunday morning, but what does the rest of your week look like? What would it look like for you to have a tool that helped you grow in your relationship with the Lord every day of the week? I can tell you what it looks like because I’ve experienced it! Your relationship is going to grow. You may even realize that you are forming a true relationship for the first time! That’s what Growing in God is all about! Are you ready to take the next step? I want to walk along beside you. Purchase your Growing in God book today and being implementing spiritual disciplines into your life for the purpose of growth in Christ.