Sermon by Pastor Ron Thomas

"The Christian Mind: Ever Learning And Discerning"
Rodgers Baptist Church
801 West Buckingham Rd. - Garland, TX 75040

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Preached 4/20/2008

"The Christian Mind: Ever Learning And Discerning"

Focus passages: Proverbs 14:15. "The simple (naive, thoughtless, undiscerning individual) believeth every word: but the prudent (thoughtful discerning) man looketh well (understands by a thought process) to his going." Matthew 22:37. "Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." Romans 7:25. "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin."

Introduction: On April 3, in San Angelo, Texas, police raided a polygamist compound, owned and operated by the Fundamentalist Church Of Jesus Christ Of Later Day Saints, acting on a phone call made by a 16 year old girl. (There is now a suspicion that this informant was a fraud.) The girl told authorities that said she had been raped and beaten by her 50 year old spiritual husband. Supposedly, the girl had already given birth to one child by this man, and thought she was expecting a second child. The women and children were taken from the Yearning For Zion Ranch, then separated and loaded onto vans and buses to be transported to facilities nearby. As I caught a glimpse of these women and children being shuffled about, I noticed that they were dressed as if they had stepped out of a time capsule. It was obvious that they had been taught about the evil, threatening world outside their compound walls.

Immediately, I was conflicted by what I saw and heard. On one level, I empathize with the desire to withdraw from this present, evil world. American culture is a tough place to live the Christian life, much more to raise a "godly generation." Yet, this is the very world God loves, and has left us behind to reach. If God thought and acted in this manner, He would have never stepped down from heaven, to dwell among the likes of us!

The more I heard these women speak, the more I realized that their withdrawal from the world altogether, had resulted in the death of their minds and their ability to think critically. These women were brain washed. They had been spoon fed with selected information, and then told that anyone who believed otherwise was godless and wicked. They lived in a "no critical thinking zone," a world in which fear reigned and free, independent thought was squelched. No other voices were allowed!

As I thought about this scene, I reflected on my faith and religious training. How much of what I have been taught has remained unchallenged? Have I thought through what I believe, and why I believe it? In my spiritual journey, which is a journey of the mind and objective, critical thinking, I have discovered that there are beliefs that can only exist in isolation and ignorance. I am immediately suspicious of beliefs that I have been taught, but have not personally tested. Truth, especially biblical truth and doctrine, can withstand and bear up to examination.

The idea that becoming a Christian requires that we leave our minds behind, is blatantly unbiblical. No one comes to faith in Jesus Christ without using their minds. Paul in Romans 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." Hearing the Word of God engages not just our hearts, but our minds. What we hear in the gospel message, challenges what we have been taught and what we believe about ourselves. It stirs our minds before it stirs our hearts! Repentance itself, speaks of a change of mind!

This doesn't stop with salvation. Christian growth, spiritual growth, cannot happen without engaging the mind! Sanctification, the process of becoming what we are "in Christ" by putting off and putting on; being "transformed" into the image of Jesus Christ, rather than being "conformed" to this present world, can only take place by the "renewing" of our minds! Spirituality is not emptying our minds so to concentrate on our breathing. Spirituality is filling our minds and concentrating on the truths revealed in Jesus Christ, and then living out, fleshing out, those truths in everyday life!

The Christian life is all inclusive, involving not just our bodies, ...but our minds. We have a need, a responsibility, to cultivate a Christian mind. J. P. Moreland an American theologian and Christian apologist said, "If we are going to be wise, spiritual people prepared to meet the crisis of our age, we must be a studying, learning, community that values the life of the mind."

Harry Blamires in his book "The Christian Mind," written in 1963, made the statement over and over again in his book, "There is no longer a Christian mind." He acknowledged that there remains a Christian ethic and lifestyle in the world, but not a Christian mind. Harry Blamires observes that in the world today, the Christian's thought patterns are no different than the unbeliever's thought patterns. Most Christians are not thinking very deeply about anything at all. Why?

Reason one: Materialism. We are made to believe that life consists in the things we purchase or possess. This works against a thought life and thinking. You get so wrapped up in acquiring things for yourself, that you forget God and others. It tends to deprive us of the "iron to iron relationships" in which we exchange ideas that stimulate growth. Materialism moves us from a world of living ideas, to a world of dead, lifeless things.

Reason two: Philosophical Skepticism. Post modern relativism teaches that there is no such thing as absolute truth. You have your own truth, and another person has his or her own truth. It doesn't seem to matter that these so called truths cannot possibly coexist! This undermines the very goal of education. Why go to the trouble to study when you will arrive nowhere? Whatever you learn or discover will be considered subjective truth at best. >Reason three: Our Fast Paced Culture. American life and culture, gives us little uninterrupted time to think. It takes time to ponder or think. Our culture delivers what is called, "...the barrenness of a busy life." William Wordsworth got it right when he wrote, "The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers."

Reason four: The Influence Of The Media And Television. If you think about it, television is a mindless medium. Television is mostly entertainment. While it can be a source of information, it is rarely educational. The media gives a lot of information, but does not encourage or even allow critical thought or examination. Those who report the news are no more than talking heads, reading from a teleprompter, parroting the same information and opinions as other networks, given them by the same secularized, authorized source.

Neal Postman in his book "Amusing Ourselves To Death," focused on the reality that television's format with it's commercial interruptions and time based, capsuled stories, limit any in-depth or objective coverage of a story. He speaks of television's introduction of the phrase, "now this." When you hear that phrase, it isn't connecting you to more information about some news story, or to commentary about the same news story. Instead, "now this" connects you to a whole new, totally unrelated story. We are not given the time to think, much less think critically so to evaluate what we have just heard.

All of these things and more, tend to numb and neutralize our minds, rather than nurture them. In II Corinthians 4, Paul speaks of Satan as the "...god of this present world system," who is "...blinding the minds" of lost people everywhere, "...lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." The late astronomer and secular humanist Carl Sagan, once looked into the heavens and said, "The cosmos is all that is, or that ever was, or all that ever will be." The psalmist looked into the same heavens and said, "The heavens declare the glory of God." This is the difference between a secular mind and a sacred or Christian mind. We can look at everything in a secular way or in a Christian way.

What is a Christian mind?

First: The Christian mind is God centered.

Whoever or whatever wins our minds, ...wins our hearts. The Christian mind is one that is filled with the knowledge of God. Jesus said that the greatest commandment is to " the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." If we are going to love someone, we must get to know him or her, not on a physical, sensual level, but on an intellectual, emotional, and spiritual level. This is what is wrong with the dating game in America. It begins on the physical, sensual level, and never gets around to the intellectual, emotional, spiritual level!

It is no different with knowing and loving God. The better we know God, the more we are going to love Him with all our hearts. Loving God is not merely about feeling. A true love of God involves investigating who He is, how He is, what He has said. A Christian mind is a mind that thinks in terms of God's revelation, the Bible. A Christian mind has a biblical world-view, that is, it sees life and the world the way God sees it. The only way to do this is to fill our minds with God's thoughts and perspective!

To begin to think in a Christian way, we must start with God Himself. We call this theism. The Scriptures teach us basic things about God. For example, God is a person who reveals Himself and actually speaks to people like Moses and Abraham. God is holy and cannot accept anything less. A holy God cannot tolerate sin and indeed must judge all sin or cease to be. God is sovereign with a determined will which cannot be controverted. This view of God has prevailed and permeated the Western world for hundreds of years! People believed that there was a personal God who was guiding history, a God who one day would judge the world. This is what we have lost in our beloved America!

History reveals that some time ago, we moved from theism, the belief of a personal, moral God who is involved in creation; to deism which believes in a passive, impersonal God who is not involved in creation at all. In time, from deism, people logically moved to naturalism, and secularism which deny the existence of the supernatural or transcendence. If God is uninvolved, He must also be uncaring, who needs Him. Since we do not have to answer to God, we can do anything that we want. This sounds great at first, but the problem with naturalism is that ultimately nothing matters. It doesn't matter if I am good or bad, so I might as well be as bad as I want to be. This is nihilism, which believes nothing matters at all! Having run its course, this opens people up to all sorts of eastern religions or new age thinking, leading people to say, "I am God!"

This is where our culture has gone! Romans 1 reveals that when people repress the knowledge of God revealed in creation, they are left with narcism, or the worship of self and pleasure, particularly sexual pleasure. We end up with a society that calls good evil and evil good! Isaiah 5:20 warns us, "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" A godless society is one that has lost its mind!

We need to get back to Biblical theism, a mind that is centered on the God of the Bible! We need to get back to the basics! In Jeremiah 9:23-24 God said, "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: 24 But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD."

Second: The Christian mind is active and engaged. There is a two word sentence that is heard often today. The two word sentence is, "I'm bored." When you say that, it is more a commentary about yourself than anything else. It is a self-revealing, self-inditing statement. It says, "I have yet to learn how to use my brain. I am a shallow, unmotivated individual." You may be boring, but the world isn't! Louis Armstrong is known for singing, "It's a wonderful world." Our world may not always be wonderful, but it is wonder filled! There is so much to know, so much to discover, so much to learn, which requires engaging your brain!

Edmund Burke once said, "The only necessity for the triumph of evil, is that good people do nothing." Passivity in the midst of evil, is sin! A mindless Christian is a sinful Christian! There were many times I heard my dearly, departed father-in-law say, "God gave you some gray matter, so use it." You must work at developing and engaging your mind. This means that you must do three things.

First: Eliminate. Eliminate things that tend to make you vegetate mentally.

Wean yourself away from the television. Remove those ear plugs for a while! Silence the noise. Be still! Eliminate the need to be constantly entertained! Learn to entertain yourself with better things, which leads us to the second thing.

Second: Concentrate. Concentrate on activities that will develop your mind.

One way to become a thinking Christian is to read! What better way to activate your mind and learn about God, than to read and study God's Word, the Holy Bible! II Timothy 3:15 says, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."

Third: Initiate. Initiate conversations that stimulate and elevate your mind and ability to reason.

Initiate friendships and relationships that make you a better person. Our choice of friends either lift us up or drags us down mentally and morally. Cultivate relationships with individuals who are actually living to please God!

The Christian mind is battle tested and ready.

A Christian mind doesn't mean to just think about Christian things. A Christian mind is thinking about everything in a Christian way. We must not view life as compartmentalized. Life isn't two separate bookshelves, the sacred on one side and the secular on the other. What we learn in church must meet and interact with what we learn at school, college, or on the job. This requires discernment! To discern means to separate, to distinguish between one thing and another. It is the ability to think clearly and biblically in determining what is true and what is false, what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is bad! I Thessalonians 5:21-22 says, "Prove (test) all things; hold fast that which is good. 22 Abstain from all appearance of evil." When Christians fail to apply their faith to every sector of their lives, they tend to slowly sink into the world's way of thinking!

America is becoming increasingly secular, that is, viewing life apart from God. We live in a world in which we are continually bombarded with ideas and philosophies. Many if not most of these ideas and philosophies are contrary to Christian teaching and thinking. What about issues such as abortion, euthanasia, homosexuality, cloning, the use or embryonic stem cells, capital punishment and so on? What light can the Bible give on these issues?

In Ephesians 6, we learn that the first piece of spiritual armor the Christian soldier is commanded to put on, is the belt of truth! Ephesians 6:14 says, "Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth." An active, engaged mind is a prepared mind. Filled with the knowledge of God and having developed the ability to discern between the good and the evil, right and wrong, it is prepared for battle. If we are to successfully carry out the Great Commission, we will have to interact with people who think differently from us in many fundamental ways! Read the book of Acts, and you will discover that the apostle Paul debated, reasoned, quoted secular poets, persuaded and defended the message of the gospel at every turn! We must do the same! Peter said in I Peter 3:15, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer (ap-ol-og-ee'-ah in the Greek, which means a verbal defense, a reasoned answer) to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." There are people waiting to hear good reasons and arguments to believe in God. We must turn our Christian mind and biblical world-view loose in an increasingly secular world!

Fourth, The Christian mind is others focused. A Christian mind is one in which Jesus Christ has been given the right to rule!

When we become Christians, we give our hearts and our minds to Christ! What does this say about our focus? Philippians 2:3-5 gives us the answer. "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." When Jesus comes into our lives our focus shifts from off of ourselves, and onto pleasing Jesus Christ, and the welfare of others!

What about the Yearning For Zion Ranch? Is it an example of living together as one big happy family? Do they have the "mind of Christ," and are we the odd balls? I believe one look into that community will reveal an order and harmony that is delivered by fear and intimidation.

This is not what Paul is describing here. The "mind of Christ" harnesses our will and turns our value system upside down. Getting ahead, climbing the ladder, getting even, no longer dominates our minds. These are the things that create tension and strife in relationships. A biblical world view teaches us that everyone is to be treated with respect and dignity. All human beings, no matter their nationality or race, were created by God and therefore bear His image and likeness. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are all adopted into one family as the children of God, with Jesus as our brother and God as our Heavenly Father.

There is a song entitled "The Mind Of Christ" which says it well: "To receive when others reject, to treat each one with true respect, To shield when others throw stones, to be with one who is all alone, To think and choose to see the very best, To live like this is nothing less than to possess. (the mind of Christ.)

To build up when others tear down, to seek the lost until they're found, To give grace where its needed most, rejecting pride when others boast, To sacrifice my all without regret, To live like this is nothing less than to possess. (the mind of Christ.)

The mind of Christ, my highest goal. The Lord's delight, the desire of my soul. The Fathers heart will always guide my life. If I will have in me the mind of Christ."

One thing is for sure, if you possess a Christian mind, the people around you will notice! You will stand out in the crowd. This is what we are called to be, a light in a dark world! We must let the mind of the Master, be the master of our minds.

This is the challenge for each and every generation of Christians. It is the reason we are losing a whole generation in our churches! Rise up and Take the Challenge. Get off the couch! Don't just drift through life! Everyday is precious. Become what you are, Christian! Escape a "herd mentality" and engage your mind for God's glory and true personal happiness!

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