What are the challenges of doing nothing?
Intimacy with God is a life. A life of intimacy with God is to be one of constant interaction, and communication rooted in agape love—His love towards us— that naturally produces Christlikeness. This is a life of joy unspeakable. Last week we learned that silence and solitude creates the space to get free of lesser stories and move into life-from-above, life with Him. It is the quiet heart that hears, “I am the beloved of God”. This is the foundational reality from which all else flows.
This foundation is what we build our life of intimacy upon. We must constantly remember and experience that he loves us, and nothing we do can change his heart towards his beloved. This is true, but our heart—the mind and will—is severely warped by sin even in our belovedness. We understand Paul’s words from Romans because we experience them all the time:
“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…Wretched man that I am.”
Romans 7:15, 24
We are beloved and wretched. We desire our Beloved but continually act in ways that harden our hearts and troubles our conscious. We know we are to be people of joy but hardly ever experience it except in fleeting moments. What a horrible place to be! What can be done?
What we need to know is that intimacy, joy and freedom are inextricably linked together. It is in the mind that we deepen our grip on our belovedness, break free from the sin that troubles our intimacy and find unstoppable joy.
What fills your mind throughout the day?
It all starts in our thoughts
Dallas Willard describes thoughtthis way:
Thoughts bring objects or ideas before our mind in various ways and enable us to ponder them and trace out their interrelationships with one another. Thoughts are what empower our heart to range far beyond the immediate boundaries of our environment and the limited perceptions of our senses. Through them, our consciousness is able to reach into the depths of the universe-past, present, and future-by reasoning and scientific thinking, by imagination and art, and also by divine revelation, which comes to us mainly in the form of thought.
To be human is to be constantly thinking. There is simply no other way of perceiving a human person. We are more than our minds but we are no less. We dream. We worry. We fear. We love. We imagine. We dwell on the past and make plans for the future. These are all rooted in thoughts.
In our mind we encounter images, have thoughtsand both build ideas. As a group, define these three words.
Thoughts are always accompanied by emotions—either negative or positive. Every thought brought before the mind naturally stirs feelings—chocolate cake, starving child, a beautiful sunset. Except in cases of mental illness, the emotional state of a person reveals the thought life of that person.
This coupling of thought and emotion is a profound good that God has created. Jonathan Edwards in his book, Religious Affections, writes:
Holy affections are not heat without light; but evermore arise from some information of the understanding, or some spiritual instruction that the mind receives, some light or actual knowledge
For Edwards, religious affections—joy, peace, adoration, etc..—are born out of knowledge. Of crucial importance here is that our emotional life is dependent upon what the mind dwells upon. This is for good and for ill.
The broken mind
A broken mind, to whatever degree it is broken is a mind that has been decimated by the thoughts that inhabit it. Such brokenness usually presents in one of three ways.
The first is a mind that is characterized by runaway, uncontrolled thoughts—the rabbit-trail mind. Such a mind is, “tossed to and fro.” In a real sense, such a person is enslaved to random neurons firing that create images in the brain. From images come thoughts that build ideas. Any thought can cause this person to spiral into thoughts that bring the dangerous feelings of anxiety, depression and hopelessness.
The second break is the one where the mind is habitually, seemingly uncontrollably, focusing on those thoughts that cultivate temptation leading to sin. Sin, before it is sin, begins in the mind. Thoughts of sin happen (which is no sin). If left to grow, more sinful thoughts come and we feel desire towards that sin which the Bible calls temptation (but still not sin); the more we dwell on the thoughts and allow desire to grow, the more tantalizing the idea and we look for the opportunity to get away with it (lust). Here, we decide how it would be “good” for us to do such a thing. Finally, perhaps months or years after “thinking”, we act in the physical world and, “we are carried away” into sin. And we experience the hell that comes with it.
The third break of the mind is one where our thoughts and are contrary to what God has said about us. Not loved, not forgiven, not protected and not cared for are examples of broken thoughts/ideas running and ruining the mind. The more powerful the hold, the more dangerous they are. It is a real hell when a follower of Jesus believes and lives from a lie of the enemy.
When we see the horror one can do or experience—from suicide, adultery, abuse, murder and abandonment, to name a few—we need not wonder where such darkness comes from. It is not mysterious. It all started with a broken mind, marred in sin, living in the wrong story. It need not be this way.
Discuss: have you heard the saying, “the devil made me do it?” What does a person mean when he says it? Is there truth in this statement?
The mind, defeating sin and JOY!
We have a mind filled with a lifetime of thoughts. These thoughts are where the enemy does his work and where God desires to win us to love.
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,” II Corinthians 10:4-5 NKJV
Here, we learn the secret to defeating sin. To defeat sin, we must notfocus on behavior without first changing the ideas that make such action possible (Matthew 7:18). We must, by God’s help, transform our mind—the very thoughts we dwell upon.
We must first, hold thoughts not worthy of the beloved, “captive”. This means to hold it, stop its movement and keep it from initiating action. Simultaneously, we must replace these “captive thoughts” with the mind of Christ—his images, thoughts and ideas
The scriptures can be used in a variety of ways. But for the transformation of the mind—thoughts, emotions and the decisions that flow from them—it is memorization of large portions of scripture that you can then meditate upon throughout the day that will bring you experimentally to the Land of Promise.
Consider Jesus. Jesus quotes the Bible 180 times in the gospels from 24 books of the Old Testament. These quotations are from memory. We can say with authority that the mind of Christ was saturated with the scriptures. It formed his reality.
We must continually keep before us God’s goodness, love, power and availability
Remember, you are the beloved of God, you have captured his attention. He is pursuing you. God is love! It is this foundational realitythat you need to steep your mind in. As you do, you will find God filling your actual life. The old adage is true: You see what you look for.
In such a thought life, the inside changes. Our very mind begins to hate what God hates and love what he loves. It takes on the aroma of Christ. Sin loses it grips. And we experience deep, unfailing, unquenchable joy:
Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:8–9
What must we do for this to be possible?
Pick oneof these texts to memorize and set an alarm 4 or five times throughout the day to slowly work through the text. Use it to pray; use it when you have time to think. Don’t waste your life, dwell upon God! As time goes, continue to memorize portions of scriptures until you have a reservoir to draw from.
Live in the Word and you will find the Word alive in you.
You can have a life of freedom and joy. From a place of silence and solitude, we fill our minds with the goodness of God found in the Bible. Anyone can memorize scripture. The very act of memorization, intentionally focusing on it, considering it and feeding from it throughout the day, will be the space that a life filled with the goodness of God rushes in like, “torrents of living water”. It will not take very long, you will be changed forever.
This is true in most cases except where there is mental illness such as clinical depression or diagnosed anxiety. Some mental disorders are caused by chemical imbalances. Though probably rooted in trauma and the thoughts that are involved, such disorders are chemical imbalances where medicine can be deeply helpful.
An image is a person, place, thing or moment brought before the mind. A thought is our determination on image(s). An idea is a collection of thoughts that build the framework of reality as we see it. For a fuller discussion on the mind read, Renovation of the Heart, by Dallas Willard.